By Lorraine Anderson
Nyota Uhura stared at Admiral Post. "You must be joking."
Admiral Post's lips quirked upwards. "The proper answer, Nyota, is 'you must be joking, sir.' " She sat back in her chair. "To be honest, this wasn't my idea. I'm just the bearer of bad news."
"That planet is the last one I want to see." Uhura sank into a chair, then stared at the dark-haired woman across the table. "But you know that, Carol."
"I do," she nodded. "And I'm sorry. I know what the Guardian of Forever did to you."1
"Not only to me," Uhura said. "Everybody who has gone through the portal. I saw Captain Kirk come back through changed. Depressed. I never found out why, but the scuttlebutt was that he fell in love with somebody that he had to give up."
Carol smiled ruefully. "He fell in love every other month, from what I hear."
Uhura stared at her. "Not like this. I saw him fall in love two times. Both ended disastrously." She smiled. "He was quite the flirt, but he was always a gentleman with me." She looked down at the Padd in front of Carol. "But we're getting off the point. Who can I …?"
Carol held up her hand. "You're going to ask who you can argue with." She shook her head. "Unless you want to argue with the President of the Federation …"
"Ra-Ghoratreii wanted me?" she said, startled.
"Actually," Carol said, "I'm told that the Guardian requested you."
Uhura blinked. "The Guardian is a machine. How does the Guardian know who I am?"
"You've been through the portal once, and you've been with it a couple of times." She shrugged. "We've been studying the Guardian for years, and it still surprises us."
Uhura sighed. "What's the situation?"
"We caught a scene with a man and a woman. The woman is sick, looks very weak. An older man is sitting with her. She says something about Trionic Radiation, and says that she may never meet Picard on the Enterprise."
"You're getting voices now?" Uhura said.
"No. We applied software that reads lips."
"A program could be wrong."
"The Guardian says that if things are not changed, the future will not include him. And he showed you coming up to the woman's bedside with a man we have identified as Dr. Albert Zimmerman, a civilian medical research scientist."
"And if you think you are hard to persuade," Carol sighed, "try pulling a research scientist from his research. We finally got him to sign a non-disclosure agreement before he would even agree to consider looking at what we wanted him to do and where." She frowned.
"Doesn't sound pleasant."
"He's not a pleasant person."
Well, Uhura thought to herself, Carol certainly had a talent for understatement. "I believe," Uhura said, "that the woman said Trionic radiation."
Dr. Zimmerman pursed his lips at his reflection, then turned toward Uhura.. "And I purport that Trionic radiation was not discovered until the last year or so. And must we wear this clothing?"
Uhura glanced at herself in the habitat's mirror, ignoring his last comment. "But you do have the proper treatment for the radiation?"
He sniffed. "Of course." He looked down with distaste at the leather bag. "And must this …" he said, picking it up gingerly, "be made of leather?"
"It's important that we dress in period costume." Uhura pulled at the neck of her dress. "No matter how uncomfortable it may be." She looked at herself in the mirror again. She absolutely hated the corset, but she had to admit the green dress fit her well and complimented her skin tone. She glanced over at her companion. He was tall. He was not bald yet, but his forehead was going high. He had dark eyebrows and startling blue eyes, a Roman nose, and a perpetually sour look on his face. He was dressed in a brown coat, with matching vest and trousers, with a floppy tie at his neck. His bag was leather, with hidden pockets to conceal the modern technology from the casual investigator. Both of them wore wrist communicators, disguised as bracelets.
They emerged from the habitat into the wasted plain in front of the Guardian. Montgomery Scott looked at her. "Ach, lass, I wish I were going with you."
Uhura smiled tenderly. "No, you don't, Scotty. But I'm glad you came here with me."
"I'm finding retirement—rather boring," he said. "I was on my way to the Norpin Colony, anyway—why not take a side trip?" He came close to her. "I wish you would come with me."
"Scotty," she said. "I'm just not ready to retire. I'm just not sure why you want to."
With that one word, she understood. Kirk's death hit them all hard. Even though they had drifted apart—in fact, she wasn't sure where Chekov was right now, and Spock—she heard that he was with the Romulans—Kirk had kept them all together. Even with no Enterprise, without Kirk, one of the things that had bound all of them had dissolved, and they drifted apart. She sighed. "I know what you mean," she said. "But Captain … Admiral Kirk wouldn't want us to give up."
"Technology is going past me," Scott said.
"And that is why you keep up with technology." She laid a hand on his arm. "I wish you would give it another year."
"Nae, lass, it's time."
Zimmerman rolled his eyes. "I already said goodbye to my wife and child a week ago. I don't understand why you brought your lover along."
They both stared at him, and Uhura started giggling. "My lover?"
"Aye," Scotty said. "Because we had that passionate love affair, right?" They both started laughing. With a "hum!" Zimmerman walked out onto the plain, drifting over to another scientist. "Not for lack of trying," Scotty said.
"We love each other, Scotty," Uhura said. "Just not in that way."
He smiled sadly.
"Well, I should go," Uhura said. "You had better be here when I come back."
"I'm sorry you have to do this, love."
She thought of her lovely Will, whom she lost the last time through the Guardian's portal.1 "Yeah. Me too."
Dr. Zimmerman grabbed a young child in front of him. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Let me go!" The dirty boy stared up at the doctor, who still had a firm grip on his shoulder.
"Yes, Albert," Uhura said firmly. "Let him go."
"I couldn't let him run out into the street, could I?"
Uhura stared at him.
"Oh, all right," Zimmerman said. "Go. Kill yourself someplace else."
The boy kicked Zimmerman's ankle and disappeared into the crowd. Uhura grabbed his arm and steered him down the street. "What did you think you were doing?" she hissed. "Or did you not listen to the historians?"
"I couldn't very well let that boy get killed by a runaway cart, could I?" Doctor Zimmerman said, too loudly for Uhura's taste.
Personally, Uhura agreed, but she grabbed his arm even tighter. "You don't know what can change our future."
"I never subscribed to the butterfly theory," Zimmerman scoffed.
Uhura sighed. "You should."
"Where are we going to find this mysterious woman and man?"
Uhura sighed. "Well, it looked like they may have been at a hospital, so I think we had better find it soon."
"Where is it?"
"Didn't you look at the map?"
"Who needs maps? I never used one before."
"Never had to find your way back from someplace?"
He stared at her. "I just asked the computer."
"Of course you did."
"Hey," Zimmerman said. "Not all of us can be in Starfleet." He suddenly looked pensive.
Uhura raised her eyebrows. "But you wanted to be, didn't you?"
"Didn't pass the psych or the physical."
Uhura blinked. "You seem fine now."
"Mostly the psych. Said I was too arrogant." He sniffed. "Can you imagine that?"
Uhura looked around. "That's our street, over there." She steered him around the corner.
"Do you think they're there yet?"
"I don't know," Uhura said. "Sometimes the Guardian sets people down a couple of months before the time."
The doctor looked alarmed. "A couple of months? In this primitive time?"
"But—what about my family?"
"The Guardian always takes us back a moment after we left." She sighed. "And you can keep us as clean as we need to be."
"Just don't sit down."
"Oh, for …" Uhura said. If she said anything more, she was going to kill him. "We'll be fine," she repeated. "We've had all of our inoculations. We won't even catch a cold."
The doctor shivered. "They were having a cholera epidemic during this time."
"Which cut off abruptly right about …" she looked up, startled, "now."
"You don't think that couple had anything to do with it …"
"I wish we could have seen that man's face. We would have had double the chance to find the right person."
"He was wearing a white suit," Zimmerman said. "I would think that would be enough to identify the man in this …" he looked around on the street and down at himself, "time."
Uhura looked around at all of the brown, black, and blue men's suits. He had a point. "Let's go in."
They opened the doors to the hospital. "Sir?" Uhura said. [who is she talking to? A doctor passing by? Someone at a desk?] "We're looking for a friend of ours."
The man looked her up and down. He turned to Doctor Zimmerman and at his bag. "Patient of yours, Doctor?"
Uhura raised her eyebrows, but stood back. She had almost forgotten in what time she was. The Civil War was only thirty years before, and equality for people who weren't male and Caucasian was many years in the future in America.
She realized that Zimmerman had gone silent, and kicked him in the ankle subtly.
Of course, it was too bad his reaction wasn't subtle. "Ow!" He glanced at Uhura, and Uhura glared at him. "Why, yes," he turned to the man. "Yes, she is my patient."
"What's her name?"
Doctor Zimmerman widened his eyes. "Why …" He glanced at Uhura. "I never learned …"
"Patient confidentiality," Uhura said. There was a disturbance at the door, and Uhura noticed a stretcher being carried in. "She's there," she said.
The two men hurried over to the woman's side. An elderly man hurried in behind her. "Now, be careful with Madame Guinan. She's hurt bad."
"What hurt her?" Zimmerman said, rushing up.
"Doctor," the other man said, "this may be your patient, but this is my hospital." He glanced at the doctor, confused. "How did you know this person was going to be at this hospital before she came in?"
The pair focused their eyes on Doctor Zimmerman. "Oh, Doctor!" Guinan said, reaching out her hands. "I'm glad you made it here from the accident before us." She pulled his hand towards her. "Have you told them of my special needs?"
"Why, no," Uhura said, when Zimmerman looked gobsmacked. "We just got here ourselves."
"Madame Guinan," the man said, "do you know these people?"
Guinan opened her eyes wide, then moaned. "I need …" Her eyes closed, and the orderlies rushed her into a ward. Doctor Zimmerman followed after her closely.
Uhura turned to the man. He looked very familiar. "I'm Nyota Uhura. That was Doctor Albert Zimmerman."
"Samuel Clemens," he said, "at your service."
Uhura looked closer at him. "Samuel Clemens, the writer?"
"The very same." He glanced at her sharply. "Madame Uhura. You have a very exotic name."
"Swahili, Mr. Clemens. It's an honor to meet you."
"The honor is all mine." He hesitated. "Are you a friend of Captain Picard?"
Uhura felt confused. "Who?"
"We know everything. The alien beings? The cavern?"
Uhura's eyebrows knit together. "I'm afraid …"
"So … you're not from the future?" Clemens leaned forward confidentially. "Because I believe you are."
Uhura's eyes widened. "You've had visitors from …"
"You are from the future, aren't you?" Clemens crowed. "I knew it. Picard sent you."
Uhura chewed her lip and pulled him to one side. "Okay, Mr. Clemens. Yes, I'm from the future, but no, I don't know a Captain Picard."
"I knew it! I knew it!" He hesitated. "But if you don't know Captain Picard, how the devil did you know to come back here?"
"I'm afraid, Mr. Clemens, that there is more than one way to travel through time." When he opened his mouth, then she said, "and we won't risk changing anything while we're here."
"But," he shook his head, "I'm finding myself powerfully curious about your future time. I saw a blue skinned man. I saw a mechanical man—an automaton—who was one of their officers."
A mechanical man? Did that mean that they came from a future time? "I'm afraid that I must ask you, Mr. Clemens, not to say anything more. I believe that they came from my future."
"Is time travel commonplace where you come from?"
Uhura laughed. "Not at all. I can name the number of times I know of on one hand."
"Then why do you seem to be traveling to this time?" Clemens frowned. "What's so special about 1893?"
Uhura thought. "I'm not sure. I'm not a historian. We were sent back to cure Madame Guinan so that your doctors wouldn't realize that there's a space alien in your midst."
Clemens looked at the door. "Shouldn't we go in and see what's going on? Your Doctor Zimmerman didn't seem too certain of himself."
"But he is the preeminent researcher in Trionic radiation and …" Her voice trailed off. "Yes, we should get in there."
They opened the door. Guinan was staring at Doctor Zimmerman. "What kind of doctor are you?"
"I'm the one who's going to save you, if you let me."
She was staring at him, her lips pursed. "And if you think I'm going to let a doctor from this town save me …"
Clemens rushed forward. "Madame Guinan," he whispered, "they tell me that you are infected with something called Trionic radiation."
"Trionic radiation?" she said back to him, and Uhura realized that this was the scene that was pictured in the Guardian's presentation of time. "Nobody from this place or time can treat …" She shut her eyes. "Oh." She glanced at the hypospray in Zimmerman's hand. "Mr. Clemens, can you confirm this?"
"I can tell you that I've never seen one of my doctors hold one of those things before."
She looked up at Zimmerman. "You don't know my physiology."
"Because you won't let me scan you," he hissed.
One of the hospital's doctors peered into the room. "Is there a problem?"
"No!" the four of them said at the same time, Zimmerman quickly hiding the instrument with his body. "Miss Guinan was just complaining about how much she hurt," Zimmerman said. "I was explaining her treatment."
"Ooooh," Guinan said convincingly, her eyes rolling back.
"We'll be fine," Clemens said.
"Why are you in here?" the doctor said.
"Moral support," Clemens said. "Lord knows I don't always trust doctors."
"Mr. Clemens," Guinan said weakly, "you don't trust much of anybody."
"That's so," he said. "Most people live down to my expectations." He turned to Uhura. "Miss Uhura, if you could close the door?"
"Of course, Mr. Clemens," she said. She closed the door in the face of the suspicious Doctor, then walked up to Guinan. "Guinan," she said, "we are from the future. We're not from as far in the future as your Captain Picard, but we can help cure you—or, if you wish, we can try to contact your people to come."
"Oh," she moaned. "Don't contact my father."
"Then let us treat you."
She sighed and nodded. He pulled out a scanner. "Trionic radiation, as I suspected. Nothing in your blood chemistry to indicate a reaction to our cure. In fact, with a few shifts in the organs, your internal organs are basically the same as the humans—except for your six-chambered heart. Hmmm … A couple of ribs out of place, but nothing I can't fix."
"So you can heal her."
Doctor Zimmerman stared at her. "I believe I just said that."
"I see," Clemens said drily, "that your doctors are as insufferable as ours."
Uhura sighed. "Where do you think ours learned the attitude?"
"Here's the hypospray for the radiation …" The hypospray hissed against Guinan's skin. Doctor Zimmerman pulled out another instrument. "And here's the analgesic for the ribs."
Guinan sighed and closed her eyes.
"You've killed her!" Clemens broke out. Uhura laid a hand on his arm.
"My dear Mr. Clemens," Guinan said, with her eyes closed, sounding stronger. "I am still breathing; therefore, I cannot be dead."
"In fact, I feel much better." She looked up at Doctor Zimmerman. "I'm sorry I doubted you."
"You had good reason. I understand the doctors in this day and age still use …" a look of distaste came on his face … "chloroform."
"I thought you were about to say leeches," Clemens said.
"Oh, no," Zimmerman said. "Leeches are commonly used to get blood into limbs."
"Well," Clemens said. "Maybe the future isn't as advanced as I thought.
Uhura glanced at him and wasn't certain whether to be insulted or amused. She decided on the latter. "We've discovered," she smiled, "that sometimes the old ways are best."
"As long as you don't go too far back …" Clemens muttered. "But I suppose you know about that."
"Once we encountered a being who took on the form of Abraham Lincoln," she said. "The being called me a Negress, then was rather surprised that I wasn't insulted. As I told him, I cannot be insulted by words—or attitudes."
Clemens shrugged. "How are you doing, Madame Guinan?"
"I'm feeling better all of the time, Mr. Clemens. I do believe that I shall live."
"I'm happy for that."
"Are you almost finished, Doctor Zimmerman?" Uhura said.
He didn't answer, but took a scan of Guinan. "The radiation level is receding, and her muscles and bones are healing." He started putting instruments away. "I believe that I'm done."
Uhura sighed. "Then our mission here is finished. We can go back."
"Why, you just made it here," Clemens said. "I would love to show you around this fair city."
Uhura smiled. "I'm quite familiar with San Francisco, thank you. And I believe that you only wish to squire me around to gain more information about the future."
Clemens' face fell. "People in the future are too smart. I suppose you have no people like my Tom Sawyer or my Huckleberry Finn."
"Not at all," she said. "But consider that you have only encountered the best of us. We've eliminated poverty and want, but there are still some rascals and thieves for you to consider."
"You've encountered a few?"
"Oh, yes," she said. "Doctor, are you finished packing yet?"
He closed the top of his bag. "More than ready to leave." His expression made his point clear.
"May I …"
"We," Guinan said, sitting up.
"Accompany you back to your debarkation point?"
"Of course," Uhura said. "I would enjoy that."
They exited the hospital, leaving a very confused Doctor Smith behind. "Now, you be sure to tell me if you start feeling weak, Madame Guinan."
"Mr. Clemens," Guinan said. "I do believe you care for me."
"Of course I do!" he exploded.
"Mr. Clemens, you are a married man."
"I wasn't planning on marrying you," Clemens said. "But I do consider you to be a friend."
"Then I suppose I'm your friend, also."
Zimmerman snorted. "I'm surprised, Mr. Clemens, that you're not bugging me for the date of your death."
"Oh," Clemens said. "I already know that."
"You do?" Uhura said.
"I came in with Halley's Comet; I shall go out with Halley's Comet."
"Did someone tell you that?" Uhura said.
"Oh, no," he said. "I've known that as long as I remember." He snorted. "Of course, that may be a self-fulfilling prophecy."
"You can never tell," Uhura said, although she knew his prediction was right. She wondered if that other crew had told him, or whether he had had other visitations in the past.
"Here we are."
Clemens peered down the alley. "But …"
"What were you expecting?"
"Well, the other group left through a cave."
"We're not that other group," Zimmerman sniffed.
Clemens rolled his eyes. "You remind me of a lawyer I had once." He took a cigar out, chomped off the end of it, and spat it into the alley. "I wasn't sure I liked him, either. But thank you for saving Guinan."
Guinan went up to Zimmerman and clasped his hands. "He's actually thankful," she said. "And I am, too. Thank you."
Zimmerman looked down on Guinan, and his face softened. "You're welcome." He strode up the alley.
"And it was an honor to meet you," Clemens said.
"I look forward to reading your autobiography," Uhura said.
"How did you know …?" Clemens started. "Right."
"Will I meet you in the future?" Guinan said. "Picard told me that he and I were friends." She smiled. "I should tell you that my people are long-lived."
"We haven't met yet," Uhura said. "But look me up at Starfleet Academy."
"I shall," Guinan said. She stepped back, and they both watched as the pair went down the alley.
Uhura and Doctor Zimmerman reached the end of the alley.
"Shouldn't we have been retrieved by now?" Zimmerman said.
"Yes," Uhura said, "we should have."
"We healed Guinan. Was there something else we were supposed to do?"
Uhura had a sinking feeling. "You remember that boy that you saved?"
"Yes," Zimmerman said. "Oh, no. You don't suppose …"
"You shouldn't have saved that boy."
Zimmerman's face fell. "But what are we supposed to do—hunt the child down and kill him? Push him into the street?" He folded his arms. "Because I'm not going to do it."
Uhura sighed. "Neither am I. We're going to have to figure out another way to fix time."
"And how are we going to do that?"
Zimmerman's voice seemed a little panicked, so Uhura pulled out a tricorder and a Padd and said calmly, "I'm going to study this. In the meantime …" She looked at Guinan and Clemens, who were talking to each other and looking at them, concerned.
She motioned to him. "Let's go and tell them."
"Is there something wrong, Madame Uhura?" Clemens asked as they returned.
"It appears, Mr. Clemens, that this door home is closed. I think we must have changed something we shouldn't have."
"Do you know what?"
"My first guess is the child we saved from being run over by a runaway horse."
Clemens shook his head. "It would be a cold future if the future hinges on the life or the death of a child."
"Perhaps," Guinan said, "the child was not meant to die but to be scared enough to be more cautious in the future."
"I won't know," Uhura said, "until I study the records I have."
"Then you must be my guests," Clemens said.
"I'm afraid that we have no choice," Uhura said, "until we find jobs."
"As it happens, I know an apartment that has just been vacated," Clemens said, "and I need to visit the landlady to settle their debt."
He nodded. "And crew. So do not worry; there is more than one bedroom."
"I was rather hoping not to sleep in this …" Zimmerman said. Uhura glared at him. "What about bugs? What about germs?"
"You can disinfect the bed before you use it," Uhura said, "but I'm getting rather tired."
"Come with me," Clemens said. He led them down a few streets and stopped in front of a boarding house. He knocked on a door.
A white-haired, slightly overweight lady answered the door and looked at him suspiciously. "Mrs. Carmichael, I presume?"She looked him up and down. "I do not have any rooms available,"
"As a matter of fact," Clemens said, "you do. I was sent by Mr. Picard and his troupe to settle his debts, as they were called out of town suddenly. And I should like to install, in their place, two of my friends, for which I will pay a month in advance."
"Mr. Clemens!" Uhura said. "I can't let you …"
"And I shall help," Guinan said. "It's the least I can do."
"Are you two also actors?"
"No," Zimmerman said. "I am a doctor."
"And I am," Uhura said. A what? What should she claim? "A telegraph operator."
"Huh. You're an odd couple, aren't you?"
"Yes," Uhura said shortly. "I can also sing. Are there opportunities for entertainment in San Francisco?"
Mrs. Carmichael snorted. "If you're not too choosy where you perform." She looked Uhura up and down. "I would suggest that you stick with the telegraph operating."
"Perhaps you're right."
She still glared at them.
Clemens pulled out his wallet. "Shall we close the deal?"
"Hmm, yes." Mrs. Carmichael set a price, and Clemens paid it with only a comment of "robbery."
"I dare you to find a nicer accommodation in San Francisco."
Clemens rolled his eyes.
"What about Picard and company's effects?"
"We shall take it," Uhura said. "I only hope that something there fits, or else I'll have to wear this dress for a while." On the other hand, she had heard that Spock and Kirk had worn the same stolen clothes for a month, straight, so she supposed it couldn't be that bad.
Mrs. Carmichael led them to their room. "I suppose," she said, "that Picard took the key with him."
Clemens frowned. "I believe that returning your key was the last thing on his mind. There was a death in his family."
"Then the lock will have to be replaced," she said, without a reaction.
With a little mutter of "Shylock," Clemens handed over some more money. She opened the door. "I'll let you in and out until the lock is replaced. In the meantime, I ask you not to stay out late."
"Agreed," Uhura said.
Mrs. Carmichael looked at Zimmerman.
"Oh. Yes." He looked around the room, with a face that was trying to be a poker face, but wasn't succeeding.
"I'll leave you then."
"And," Clemens said, "I shall call on you in the morning."
"As will I," Guinan said.
"I would like to see how you're healing," Zimmerman said to Guinan. "Please get a good night's sleep. Do you need a soporific?"
"No," Guinan said. "I'm good."
The door closed, and Uhura and Zimmerman looked at each other.
"Well," Uhura said. "Let me start looking at the footage." As if to belie her words, she yawned widely. They had sent them through after a long day of prepping and wardrobe fittings and briefings. "I just wish I had some coffee."
Zimmerman was poking around a small kitchen. "How about some tea?" He looked at the wood stove with some bewilderment. "But I'm not sure how we're going to boil water."
Uhura laughed. "I know how. Don't worry. Wilderness training is part of Starfleet."
"But—we're not in the wilderness."
"No, of course not," Uhura said. "But making a small fire in a cook stove is easier." She opened the damper and put in a couple of small logs, then looked around for a teapot. She filled the pump with some water in the sink, then put it on to boil. She sniffed at the tea and raised her eyebrows. "Earl Grey. Good taste."
"Be sure to disinfect the cups."
"This room has been occupied by Starfleet Officers," Uhura said. "At least, I presume so. So I don't think we need to worry about germs."
"I have to worry about germs," Doctor Zimmerman said. "I'm a doctor."
Uhura sighed. She hoped she could find the footage soon.
Mr. Clemens came by the next morning as Uhura was searching the cupboards for food. She let him in. "Mr. Clemens," she said, "I'm afraid all I can offer you is some tea."
"Where's my head?" Clemens said. "I never even thought to bring anything."
"It's a good thing I brought something." Guinan appeared in the doorway with some bread and cheese. "I don't know what you like, but I thought this would be a start."
Uhura went up to Guinan. "Thank you. You are too kind. I shall have to find some way to pay you back."
Guinan waved the problem away. "The good thing about being from another world is that I could bring some valuable things with me." She looked rueful. "I just hope my father doesn't find out what exactly I took. I suspect he'll run short in making up some of his instruments."
Uhura smiled. "Gold?"
"Of course. But gold is still valuable in this place."
"I did wonder," Clemens said drily, "how you supported yourself. The lecture circuit doesn't pay all that well, in my opinion." He chewed the end of the cigar that he pulled out of his pocket, but he didn't light it.
"Yes, but Mr. Clemens, you are broke, aren't you?" Uhura said.
"You have an unfair advantage, Miss Uhura. My future is your past."
"I know it doesn't seem fair."
"No," Clemens said. "It's not. But nothing in my life is fair. I was onto something with my investments, but I backed the wrong pony."
"Actually," Guinan said, "I was wondering if I might help you."
"Are you technical?" Uhura said.
"Oh, no," Guinan said. "But I can listen, and I can observe. My people are a race of Listeners."
Uhura decided that she really liked Guinan. "I'd be honored."
She glanced at Clemens. "Mr. Clemens," she said, "I'm not sure that you should be here."
"Surely," Clemens said. "You could allow me to watch."
"But you'll need to leave when I tell you to."
"Yes," he said. Uhura thought he might be crossing his fingers behind his back."Or at least, turn away,"
"I'll do that," Clemens said. "I have not much else to do for a few days, and then I head home to Livy."
"Livy?" yawned a voice at the door.
"My wife," Clemens turned toward Zimmerman. "Good God, man, did you sleep at all?"
"I kept thinking about bedbugs."
"And what does worrying about bedbugs get you?" Clemens said. "Just a raging case of insomnia."
"Exactly," Uhura said. "Doctor Zimmerman, you know we aren't going to catch anything."
"Yes, I do."
"Is this an example of one of your officers?" Guinan said, looking at him sideways.
"No," Uhura said. "He's a civilian."
"Ah," Guinan said. "Explains that."
"Why? Were you an officer someplace?"
"Me?" Guinan sounded surprised. "No. But I was as young as he was once."
"I once asked her how old she was," Clemens said, chewing on his cigar. "My—heart was handed back to me, quartered and filleted."
"Mr. Clemens," Guinan said. "I don't believe we were talking about your heart at the time."
"Ah, but there's a lady in the room."
Uhura laughed. They made a strange pair, the humorist and the alien, but they seemed to be the best of friends. "How did you two meet?"
"Well," Guinan said. "I had run away from home. I came to a planet where I knew my father would not look."
Zimmerman looked at Uhura. "Earth was proscribed since we hadn't achieved warp drive," Uhura explained.
"But it has the advantage of having occupants who look like my people." Guinan smiled ruefully. "Unfortunately, this country had enslaved people of my particular shade of skin. But I represented myself as being from France, and that seemed to calm many of the people I wanted to associate with."
"Somehow she ended up with me," Clemens said. "I was forced to go on the lecture circuit due to my bad investments. Otherwise, I would be at home, smoking cigars and being with Livy."
"Mr. Clemens, you know you get the wanderlust, the same as I do."
He looked sour. "Okay, I do." He pointed with his cigar. "So, are you going to play with your instrument there?"
"Mr. Clemens!" Guinan looked shocked, then grinned.
"I didn't mean it that way, and you know it."
Zimmerman looked from one to the other. "I think I'm going to have some …" He looked at the woodstove. "Oh. That's right."
"He doesn't know how to light a fire," Uhura said.
"Or, for …" Clemens went to the stove and started a fire in the oven. The water was soon boiling.
In the meantime, Uhura had set the tricorder to a few years before the scene of Clemens and Guinan in the hospital. She saw battles of the Civil War, then she slowed it down. Various scenes went by—of various people, famous and not famous, then she saw herself and Zimmerman arrive in San Francisco.Zimmerman stood behind her. "That's the boy." He pointed.
Clemens looked. "Moving pictures." He chewed his cigar. "Interesting." He hesitated a moment. "He would not have died."
Uhura blinked. "How do you know?"
"Because I played this game myself. He had plenty of time to duck under the horse's head."
"So the change wasn't that the boy was saved," Uhura said. "The change was that the boy was stopped."
"Can you follow the boy?" Guinan said.
Uhura shook her head. "We can only watch what the Guardian shows us."
"The Guardian?" Clemens said.
"The Guardian of Time."
Clemens shook his head. "Ask a stupid question …"
Uhura forwarded the images slowly. "There you are in the hospital." The scene went forward, and she turned the instrument from Clemens. "Sorry."
"Bah," he said, but he didn't try to peek.
The next few images followed the boy—he seemed to be living on the streets. Then they saw him murdered in a knife fight in an alley. Uhura winced. They saw horseless carriages. She saw airplanes dogfighting, and she decided that must be World War I. The next few images were standard—the Depression. World War II. The Korean War. The Vietnam War. The peace protests. Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan. Then …
Zimmerman blinked. "George W. Bush? President? Who's he?"
"Somebody who apparently got us into a war in the Middle East after the Twin Towers in New York were destroyed." She thought of the times she had visited the Twin Towers, which were still standing—in her world. "I don't think I've ever heard of Barack Obama," Uhura said. She sat back. "No World War III. No Eugenics wars." Something had obviously changed.
"No Zephram Cochrane," Zimmerman said.
"No, there he is," Uhura said. "A … businessman?"
"Who's Zephram Cochrane?" Guinan said.
"In our time, the inventor of the Warp Drive. He was doing that because he was living in a refugee camp left over from World War III."
"No World War III, no warp drive."
The world got grimmer and grimmer. Soon, diseases spread over the world. Uhura saw the last human—an elderly woman—pass away. The earth was still, left to the animals.
The record ended.
"No World War III, no expansion to other planets—no humans."
"For want of a nail, the horse was lost," Zimmerman said.
"So what do we do?"
"We … find the boy and hope we can keep him from living on the streets."
"And how are we going to do that?"
Uhura backed up the display to the picture of the boy. She showed the picture to the group. "I don't know." She looked at Samuel Clemens and Guinan. "May I ask you to look?"
"Of course," Clemens said. "I don't want to support you for the rest of our natural lives."
"But," Guinan said, "this is San Francisco. There are a ton of small boys running around. Do you have a name?"
Uhura went to a news item in a paper of the results of the knife fight where he was murdered. "Smith. Robert Smith."
Clemens snorted. "Oh, that makes it simpler. We'll just go around every neighborhood and yell 'Bobby!' "
"Mr. Clemens, you are a pessimist," Guinan said.
"Tell me something I don't know."
"I was thinking the same thing," Doctor Zimmerman said. Uhura and Guinan glanced at each other.
"I'll work on mine," Guinan said, "if you'll work on yours."
"First," Uhura said, "I think we should find jobs. Doctor, your vocation is obvious. I suggest you apply for work in a hospital."
"But I have no papers."
"Yes," Uhura said. "You do. Trust Starfleet to be thorough. What you're not going to be able to do is to use any advanced instruments."
"But," Clemens said, "if you are not supposed to change time, how can Doctor Zimmerman work in a hospital without changing things?"
Uhura winced. She hadn't thought of that. "I'm not a time travel specialist, but I believe that we can't change the timeline any more than we have."
"And you?" Guinan said.
"I'll … find a job in a saloon."
"You do not want that," Clemens said. "Trust me. You are a lady."
"I could use an intelligent assistant," Guinan said slowly, "if you will consider taking a job with me."
"That doesn't exactly help with separating and looking."
"I doubt that you'll find that child in a saloon," Dr. Zimmerman sniffed.
"You were obviously never a child," Clemens said wryly, chewing at his cigar.
"Done," Uhura said.The next morning, Uhura walked to Guinan's apartment. "I believe I told you," Guinan said, "that I was going to pick you up this morning."
"I asked about your address from Mr. Clemens after you left," Uhura said, hanging up her shawl. "I wanted the walk." She looked around. The apartment was richly decorated in greens, reds, and golds. She only knew Guinan for the day, but the place fit her. She smiled at Guinan. "Well," Uhura said, "what does the assistant to a lecturer do, Madame Guinan?"
"Please call me just Guinan." She smiled. "My people don't use two or three names. At most, we just have modifiers as to who we are."
Uhura smiled back. "I look forward to finding your people in my future."
Guinan shook her head. "We're very secretive—which is why I wanted to get out of there."
"And your race is …"
"If you don't know us, I'm not sure I should tell you," Guinan said, gently.
Uhura inclined her head. "Fair enough. And please call me Nyota."
"Nyota. I like that."
They heard a knock on the door. Uhura raised her eyebrows. "Now, who do you suppose?"
Guinan smiled. "Your first challenge."
"Oh. Right." Uhura got up and answered the door. A huge white man was standing, with his fist up, preparing to knock again. "Yes?"
"No," Uhura said. "Do you wish to see Madame Guinan?"
"I do. I have a proposal for her."
Uhura remembered something. "May I have your card? I will see if Madame Guinan would wish to see you."
"Oh," he rumbled. "Yes." He reached in a pocket and got out a card.
"Please, take a seat."
Uhura went into the other room, where Guinan was waiting. "Very impressive," Guinan said. She took the card.
"Have you ever met the Klingons?"
"Hmmm. Yes." Guinan smiled.
"If I can deal with Klingons, I believe I can deal with large human men."
"I can insult Tellarites with the best of them."
Guinan smiled. "It's too bad you have to go home." She glanced at the card. "Ah. I think I should see this man. Please stay handy. Can you get us some brandy?"
"Of course," Uhura said. She went to the kitchen, quickly found the brandy bottle, and poured a couple of fingers in some small glasses she saw there.
"Mr. Hearst," Guinan was saying, "I really don't wish to talk about my early life. As I told your reporter."
"Madame Guinan," Hearst said. "People are interested in how other people come to prominence. I believe that a story of your background can do nothing but cement your reputation as a lecturer."
"And, Mr. Hearst, have you ever heard that I talk about what I have done in the past?" She shook her head. "I enjoy my privacy."
"But you are not private, Madame Guinan. You are a celebrated lecturer, only eclipsed by Mr. Clemens."
Guinan laughed. "Mr. Clemens is a successful writer of fiction," she said. "I suspect that no matter what I do, the esteemed Mr. Clemens will remain in the public consciousness more than my small contribution."
"Were you a sla …?"
Guinan held up one finger. "I will reveal this much of my background. I was never a slave." She shivered. "What this country did to those poor people …."
"So," Hearst said, smiling, "you were not born in this country."
"And that, too, is common knowledge." Guinan looked at Uhura, waiting in the doorway with the drinks. "Thank you, Uhura." She held out her hand. "Brandy, sir?"
"Yes," Heart said. "Of course." He took a sip. "Very nice."
"I am a connoisseur of liquors," she said.
"Non." Guinan smiled. She took a sip. "Mr. Hearst, it was my impression that the San Francisco Examiner dealt with more important matters, like financial or political corruption."
Hearst laughed. "Guilty as charged. Yet a newspaper cannot exist on corruption alone."
Uhura caught Guinan's eye and slipped her Padd out of her pocket a quarter of an inch. Guinan's eyes widened slightly, and she nodded. "However, I will give you an article if you are willing to give me a concession. I need to find a particular small boy."
"A … boy?" Hearst said, "That is a rather odd request."
"I believe he might have … inadvertently stolen something of mine."
"Do you have a name?"
"Robert Smith. He's dark haired, white, with a small mole on his chin."
"And you'll give me an interview if I help you find him?"
Guinan nodded. "I will give you an interview."
"Done." Hearst rose.
Guinan rose with him. "Done."
Hearst hesitated. "You do, of course, realize that there are many, many dark-haired boys in San Francisco. And I'm sure there are many Robert Smiths."
Guinan smiled. "And I'm sure that you have many resources in this town."
"I'm merely a manager of a newspaper," Hearst said.
"And I'm merely the person you wish to interview."
"Touché." He picked up his hat from the hat tree, and with a tip of the hat, he was out the door.
"You have interesting friends."
Guinan was staring at the door. "Oh, I wouldn't necessarily call him a friend. But he has his uses." She smiled at Uhura. "It wouldn't surprise me if he became a millionaire."
Uhura raised her eyebrows and thought of the restored San Simeon, which had fallen into disrepair during the Eugenics Wars and the following century. "It wouldn't surprise me, either," she said slowly.
"I … see," Guinan said, raising one eyebrow.
"I didn't say a word," Uhura protested, amused.
"Well," Guinan sighed, "I may not remain around here long enough to see Mr. Hearst get his riches. I believe I'm going to leave after Mr. Clemens passes away," she raised a finger, "no matter when that is. I realize that your species only lives a fraction of mine."
"And your species is?"
Guinan smiled. "Private. But great listeners."
Uhura picked up the glasses to take them back to the kitchen. She noticed that Guinan hadn't touched hers and shrugged. A good way of listening was to imply a shared experience. "I hate brandy," Guinan said.
"I can tell." Uhura hesitated. "We told Doctor Zimmerman to come here today, didn't we?"
"You're feeling rather uneasy leaving him with Mr. Clemens, aren't you?"
"Yes. I am. He is not only a civilian, but he also seems to be so naive."
"You said he was a researcher?"
"In my experience, researchers can be so focused on their projects that they rarely live life."
They heard a person hurrying up the stairs outside of Guinan's lodgings, then a banging at the door. "Madame Guinan, Madame Uhura!"
Uhura flung open the door.
The man was panting. Uhura looked at him. He was in good shape for his age, but he wasn't young. "Sit down, Mr. Clemens!" Guinan said.
Clemens looked wide eyed at Uhura, and Uhura's heart sank. "Is it Doctor Zimmerman?"
"Out of the apartment?" Uhura was alarmed. She doubted that Zimmerman would even move a step out of the apartment unless it were absolutely necessary—unless he had to use the water closet, and even then, she suspected that he would hold it all night rather than move.
"Out of the apartment," Clemens confirmed. "Mrs. Carmichael, bless her larcenous heart, saw him being taken away by men in black cloaks. She said he was struggling. The police were there when I arrived in the morning. Mrs. Carmichael was hovering around them, then," he smiled wryly, "she asked me who was going to pay for the damage to the door."
Uhura closed her eyes. "Did the police have any idea who the mysterious figures were?"
"No," Clemens said. "The police in San Francisco are slightly useless. They think he was shanghaied."
"And you don't?"
"Hell—excuse me ladies—no." He pulled the cigar out of his pocket and started chewing on it. "It was my understanding that those pirates harvest their crop from the local saloons, not going around and breaking down citizen's doors. But try to convince the police of that." He chewed on his cigar again. "I do wish we had Mr. Data around to help us."
"Mr. Data?" Uhura said.
"One of Captain Picard's crew," Guinan said, shooting daggers at Clemens.
"Well," Uhura said, "we may not have your Mr. Data, but we do have an advantage over the police."
"Yes?" Clemens said. "What?"
She held up her wrist and showed off her bracelet. "This is a long-distance communicator that lets us communicate with each other. And even if that was destroyed, we have a piece of technology implanted under our skin." Normally, this sort of tracking technology was proscribed and fairly useless in a high technology society. But in dealing with the Guardian, the scientists recommended the tracking device. She turned on her tricorder …
… and stared down at the results. "Oh."
"Is there something wrong?" Guinan said.
"I have—multiple trackings on our same frequency, and even more on other frequencies. There are thirty in San Francisco alone." She looked up at Guinan. "Are you sure you are the only alien here?"
"Well," Guinan said. "I had thought so."
"We shall have to go to each signal," Uhura said.
"And," Clemens said, "there's no guarantee that any of these signals are your doctor."
"Should I get Mr. Hearst back?" Guinan said.
"And tell him we're looking for space aliens?" Clemens said.
"I told you, Mr. Clemens," Uhura said, "that you don't need to help us."
"Try to drive me away," he said. He put his unlit cigar into his pocket. "When do we start?"
"This may be dangerous," Uhura said. "In fact, Guinan …?"
Guinan smiled. "In the words of Mr. Clemens, Nyota," she said, "try to drive me away."
Uhura looked. "The first signal is just down the block." She glanced up. "Do you have anything that will hold the tricorder?"
Guinan pulled a book from the bookcase, and opened it up, revealing two dueling pistols. She took them out carefully and laid them on a counter.
Clemens grabbed one. "We may need these."
Guinan smiled ruefully. "We could use them if they actually worked. I couldn't stand to have them in the apartment if they worked. Bullets seem … so final."
Clemens laid them down on the counter. "Call me Samuel. I think if we're going to hunt space aliens, we should be on a first name basis."
"Nyota," Uhura said.
Guinan shrugged. "Guinan is my only name, Samuel. But you can drop the Madame."
Clemens pursed his lips. "Ah."
Guinan handed Uhura the empty box. "Will this do?"
Uhura fit the tricorder inside the book. It was a mite smaller than the opening, but it was better than holding it out in the open. "It will." She looked up. "Let's go."
She picked up the "book" and headed down the hall. When she reached the street, she turned to her left. She walked down the street, trying to act casual, with Guinan and Clemens beside her, but she could tell that they were still garnering some curious looks. She supposed that an elderly Caucasian man escorting a couple of Negro women was still rather unusual in these days.
The signal grew stronger. "Here." She was facing a brick building. The tricorder seemed to indicate that the signal was up on the third floor. They walked into the building.
"May I help you?" said an older white gentlemen.
Clemens grabbed the elbows of both ladies. "Yes. I have an acquaintance up on the third floor. Could you point us to the stairs?"
Clemens looked slightly befuddled.
Uhura had glanced at the boxes for the mail. "Mr. Logan," she said. "You remember."
"Oh, yes," Clemens said, shaking his head. "You know, the older we get, the more forgetful … He glanced up at the man. "You know what I mean."
The other white haired man nodded his head. "I'm just surprised that Mr. Logan has friends. He's an odd duck, Mr. Logan."
"I know," Clemens nodded his head sagely. "Trust me, we know." He stared at the man. "The stairs?"
"Ah. Back there."
They went through the dark halls to the stairs. Uhura supposed, at one time, the wallpaper was in high fashion, but now the wallpaper was dark, stained, and peeling off of the walls, and the spiders had seemed to take control of all of the corners. Going up the stairs didn't help any; the windows, intended to let in some light into the stairway, were darkened with grime.
They moved to the third floor. Uhura nodded, then knocked at the door.
A saturnine face appeared around the door jamb. Uhura raised her eyebrows. If she didn't know any better … "Mr. Logan," Clemens said.
The man inclined his head. His dark hair hung around his ears, and his eyebrows slanted upwards. He seemed very sallow. Uhura had no doubt that if she touched his skin, it would be extremely hot.
"You, sir," she said baldly, "are a Vulcan." She turned to Guinan. "Do you concur?"
Guinan raised one eyebrow. "I'm afraid I haven't met your people yet," she said. She cocked one eyebrow. "But you are quite telepathic, aren't you?"
The Vulcan raised both eyebrows. "Mr. Logan, I presume?" Clemens said, moving forward. He turned to Guinan. "Do all space aliens look like us?"
Uhura laughed. "Not all of them." She turned to Logan. "What is a Vulcan doing on Earth?"
"How," said the Vulcan quietly, "does a human woman know about Vulcans, and," he looked at her book, "why is she carrying a tricorder?" He stepped back and gestured the trio into his room. "There can only be one of two logical conclusions. One is that you are alien to this world, as I am. The second is that you are from this world's future." He steepled his fingers and stood, looking at the three.
"Well," Clemens said, "you're two-thirds right. I was born in Missoura."
"Which leaves the other two."
"That isn't important," Uhura said, "and I must ask you not to report this. We are seeking another one of us who has gone missing."
"Rather careless of your companion."
"We have evidence," Guinan said, "that he was taken by men in black cloaks. Humans would have no reason to kidnap this man. But there are a number of aliens in this city,"
"More than I would expect in San Francisco in 1893," Uhura added.
The Vulcan's expression changed slightly. Uhura would never have noticed, but years of service with Mr. Spock had trained her to his minute changes of expression—and this was shock.
"You thought you were the only one in this city," she said.
"I did not say that."
"You didn't have to," Uhura said. "I've worked with Vulcans."
Logan inclined his head. "I must inform you that I am here as an observer, only."
"Yet," Guinan said, "as an observer, you do not wish for outside influences to get into your formula."
Logan stared at her, and she dropped her eyes. "I know, I should talk. I hadn't thought my actions through."
"Are you saying that you shouldn't have come to this planet?" Clemens said.
"Yes. I really should go home … one of these years."
Clemens looked slightly relieved. "I would miss …" He pulled his cigar out and looked at it. "… on the other hand …"
"I would miss you too, Samuel," Guinan said.
"That said," Logan said, "this is very disturbing."
"Will you help us track these other aliens down?"
"Why should I?"
"Because I know Vulcans," Uhura said. "I realize that you are presently fighting the Andorians, but you are, by and large, an honorable race." She hesitated. "There will come a day …"
The Vulcan held up his hand. "Do not say anything more. I do not wish to know the future." He looked out the window. "I shall help you."
He pulled a book down from the wall. "I suspect Suliban."
"But the Suliban …" Uhura closed her mouth.
"Wise choice," the Vulcan said wisely.
"Suliban?" Clemens said.
"Of course," Guinan murmured to herself.
"The Suliban lost their home world in the year of our Lord 1850," said Uhura. "Most settled in the Tandar sector." She shook her head. "But that doesn't make any sense."
"It does," the Vulcan said, "if you aren't the only ones who are attempting to change the timeline."
Uhura wrinkled her forehead. "Captain Archer said," her mouth dropped open. "The Temporal Cold War. They started earlier than we ever imagined."
"Who the devil are the Suliban?" Clemens said.
Uhura looked grim. "Aliens. Aliens who were given the ability to shapeshift."
"So that they look like humans, Samuel."
Guinan turned toward him. "Yes, Mr. Clemens?"
"The future is apparently even weirder than I can imagine. And I can imagine quite a bit."
"The perils of being a writer, Samuel."
"This," he said, chewing the end of his cigar, "trumps anything I can imagine."
The Vulcan was staring at them curiously. "Was there a reason for this illogical exchange?"
Uhura smiled. "It's just us, being human."
The Vulcan shook his head, looking so much like Spock that Uhura laughed.
He opened the book that he had gotten down from the shelf. "It is fortunate that you found me first."
Uhura blinked. "Right." What were the odds that they found a Vulcan first? "Would you consent to being scanned? And may I ask that you prick your finger?"
Uhura scanned the Vulcan. Well, although she was not medical, she compared the results to an average Vulcan, and it was within reasonable limits. While she was doing this, he calmly pricked his finger with a pin and smeared some blood on a piece of paper.
Clemens peered at it and made a strangled noise. "Is that … normal?"
Uhura smiled, then took a scan of the blood. "Vulcans have copper based blood. Humans have iron based blood. So yes, that's normal." She lowered the scanner. "Do you wish to take scans of us?"
"I would. But I will not need to take your blood."
"I would ask," said Guinan slowly, "that you do not share your findings of me with your Vulcan colleagues. Doctor Zimmerman has already taken readings of me, and that's contamination enough."
"What about me, Guinan? You don't seem to be concerned about me contaminating things."
Guinan smiled. "Samuel Clemens, you are a professional liar. If you mention any of this, people are either going to suppose that you are working on your next book, or that you've gone mad, like other writers."
Samuel Clemens contemplated this, chewing the end of his cigar. "There is some truth in that."
"You are Mark Twain, the author?" Logan said.
"Guilty as charged. You have heard of me?"
The Vulcan pointed to the bookcase, and Clemens peered at it. "A few of mine, a few of some hacks …"
"I have found you to be an excellent observer of human behavior."
"Now you are trying to butter me up."
The Vulcan looked at Uhura. "False praises, to gain favor," she translated.
"Ah, yes. No, I am not trying to butter you up."
"He isn't," Uhura jumped in. "Most Vulcans of my acquaintance are very literal."
"Well, Mr. Logan, I write what I see." Clemens smiled. "And I have been known to exaggerate a few things.
"If we are finished," Logan said, after nodding at Clemens, "I should like to see if we can track these Suliban."
"Down to work," Clemens said. "You aren't a chatty character, are you?"
"Vulcans are known for their control of their emotions and their devotion to logic," Uhura explained.
"Right. But they don't have much fun, do they?"
Logan ignored him. "I have an anomalous reading four blocks away from here." He stared at his instrument. "The reading has disappeared."
"Disappeared?" Uhura said. She reset her tricorder and gave a scan. "I don't pick up anything."
Logan and Uhura looked at Guinan. "If you expect me to grab a scanner out of my bustle," she said. "You'll be severely mistaken. I arrived here with the clothes on my back, a bunch of gold, and not much more."
"Not even a communicator?"
"Well, yes, of course, but it's just for me to flag down a passing ship—if I ever wish to leave. Which I don't plan on doing for another ten or twenty years."
"So, Logan, it's you and me." Uhura considered. "We should go to the last known coordinates."
Logan stayed silent.
Uhura looked up at Logan. "Excuse me, I am presuming. Mr. Logan, will you help us?"
"I will," Logan said. "If these Suliban attempt to interfere with the time stream of this planet, they shall, perhaps, start to interfere with Vulcan."
"These Suliban are, likely, shapeshifters, able to take on the likeness of anyone they wish," Uhura pointed out.
"So how the devil are we supposed to spot these people?" Clemens said.
"Carefully," Guinan said.
"Well," Clemens said, "are we going to stand around, jawing at each other, or are we going to hunt down some Suliban?"
Uhura smiled. "You're right. It's time for action."
"And maybe we can find this young man of yours," Clemens added.
"Young man?" Logan said.
"We're looking for a young man that my companion from the future saved from the streets. A black haired young man named Robert Smith."
"I do not know a Robert Smith."
"Hearst will find him," Guinan said confidently.
"You have greater confidence in him than I have," Uhura said.
"William Hearst?" Clemens said.
Clemens snorted as he opened the door. "If he can't find the young man, then nobody can find him." At Uhura's stare, he added, "I've done some work for him. He's a … shrewd man." Uhura had the feeling that he was about to say something else.
They tromped downstairs, past the astonished landlord, then reached the street. Logan pointed the way to the East. They covered the blocks in a couple of minutes, then Logan pointed at a market. "The reading came from there. There are some very odd readings."
Uhura adjusted her tricorder. "Chronotron radiation."
"Radiation?" Guinan said.
"Not dangerous," Uhura assured her. "Not like the Trionic radiation." Uhura studied the market. It was a fresh vegetable market and seemed to be run by an elderly oriental man, probably Chinese, considering the neighborhood. He glanced up at the group coming towards him.
"You wish vegetables?" he said, glancing between Clemens and Logan and ignoring the women.
Uhura considered his dialect. His background was apparently Chinese, but his diction appeared to indicate his English was far better than what he was saying.
"We want information," she said. "And drop the accent. You're second generation."
"How did you know?" the man said.
"Your accent. I'm a … linguistics expert."
"What do you want to know?"
"You just had somebody here about ten minutes ago who disappeared suddenly."
The man shrugged. "A lot of people disappear suddenly around here. I can't keep watch of everybody."
"Do you know who was just in your market?"
"I told you. I don't."
Uhura noticed that he looked down and to the left—a good tell. "You're lying."
He looked up at her, and his eyes narrowed. "I don't stay long in this business by letting you know what my customers do."
Clemens stepped forward and sniffed. "Opium," he said.
The man's eyebrows raised. "You've never been here."
"I can smell it on you."
"How do you know, old man?"
"I was in the gold rush. I never partook in the opium dens, but I walked beside enough of them." Clemens chewed his cigar. "Dirty business." Uhura wondered randomly how many cigars he had in his pocket.
The Chinese man looked at him steadily. "But it beats washing clothes for a living." He glanced around the market. "Or running a market. Not many opportunities in this country."
"That will change," Uhura said.
"Trust me," Guinan said. "She would know. And look at me. Do I look like I'm a maid in a house?"
The man shrugged.
"My friend, Logan, can make you talk," Uhura said.
Logan stared at her.
"Vulcan nerve pinch," she said
"Ah." Logan reached over and grasped the man's neck. He went down as if pole axed.
Guinan's eyes went wide. Clemens started forward.
"He is just unconscious," Logan said calmly.
"He'll be all right in five minutes," Uhura said. "In the meantime, we should look concerned."
"I'm concerned with all of my might," Clemens muttered. "Can you do that with everybody?"
Logan inclined his head.
"Well, that makes me concerned," Clemens said. He bent over the man. Gradually, the man's eyes started blinking. "What happened?"
"My friend here made you go unconscious."
His eyes went wide. "I'm not sure who I'm more afraid of—them or you."
"We're here," Guinan said, smiling like a cat. "And they're gone."
"Right." He sat up. "There were two men here. One had black hair and blue eyes, the other had brown hair and brown eyes. But—when they thought I wasn't looking, I thought I saw that they had bumpy skin. They were from someplace I don't want to know about. The last time I saw them, they had an older, balding man with them, but he looked like he was drugged. They guided him into the back room, but when I went back to check on them, they were gone."
"Take me to the back room," Uhura ordered.
He got up. "I told you. They're not there."
"I'm … magic," she said. "I'll be able to tell where they've gone." She hoped. She took her book in with her, opened up the book, and scanned the room. There were Chronotron particles, but as she scanned, she noticed something on the floor.
She bet that somehow, they had transported out. Then she noticed something: a small transporter pad, almost hidden by a curtain.
"Interesting." She called out to the others, "Bring him in."
They pushed the Oriental man into the room. "Do you know what that is?"
"No. They paid me good money and then installed it into my floor. I thought it was decorative.""We need to get him out of here," Uhura said
"Gladly." He glanced at them. "When you go, can you take that thing with you?"
"Do you know what that thing is?" Guinan said.
"No. And I don't want to know. These guys are very …" He shook his head. "I don't know what word I want to use, but I don't deal with kidnappers."
"Says the manager of an opium den," Clemens said.
"I give the people what they want." The man shrugged. "I don't partake, myself."
"Lead them to hell, but don't jump in," Clemens said under his breath. Uhura resisted the impulse to grin, but Guinan smiled slightly.
"I'm not sure that I can take it with me," Uhura said. "But we can make sure that no-one ever uses it again."
"Disable the circuitry?" Guinan said.
Logan glanced at it. "Do you have a phaser?"
"Oh," Uhura said. "No, I don't. Do you?"
"Yes." Logan pulled it out of a pocket and aimed it carefully at the transporter device.
"Wait!" Uhura said. He jerked his arm up and glanced at her. "Perhaps we can tell where they went."
"I would doubt that," Logan said. "I do not see the control panel. I suspect that the activation is portable."
"Well," Guinan said, "that would prevent any of the locals from using technology beyond their comprehension."
"Right," Uhura said. "Sorry, Logan. Go ahead."
Aiming carefully, he targeted the first pad. A pop and a thin trickle of smoke rose from the remains. Swiftly, he dispatched the other pads. "This will not prevent someone from coming back and fixing them."
Uhura nodded and went out of the shop. "No one will come through your shop that way again."
The shop owner sighed. "Thank you."
"May I give you a hint?" Uhura said.
"I can't guarantee I'm going to follow it."
"Get out of the opium business. Get into the restaurant business, using some of the recipes from China. People will love you."
The man looked around pointedly. "In this area?"
Uhura sighed. The Chinatown of this era was somewhat of a ghetto. "Build it, and they will come. This won't be a ghetto forever."
"You, ma'am, are an optimist."
Guinan smiled. "Let's just say that she's a seer."
The man inclined his head.
The four exited the den. "All right," Clemens said. "We know where Doctor Zimmerman was; now we need to find out where he's gone."
"Yes." Uhura looked at Logan. If she didn't know better, she would swear that he was conflicted. She continued to stare at him. "Do you have a suggestion, Mr. Logan?"
"Madame Uhura," he said, "I was scheduled to contact my ship."
"I believe that we should avail ourselves of the Vulcan technology."
"Yes," Uhura said. "But what is the likelihood that they will actually help us? Vulcan High Command doesn't want to interfere with a culture until it achieves warp speed."
"But they also will protect a culture from other outside influences," Logan said. "I have told them that I believe humankind will achieve warp speed within the next two to three hundred years. They will protect that. They will not ignore us, however …."
"Neither will they help us much. But they may steer us in the right direction."
"Something is better than nothing, Uhura said. "Thank you, Mr. Logan."
"I believe the phrase is 'you are welcome.' "
"Indeed, it is."
They walked back to Logan's apartment. "Forgive me for asking," Uhura said. "But is your name really Logan? I would like to call you by your proper name."
"My name is Logan," he said. "If it were not, I would have told you so."
"I thought maybe you had changed your name to fit into Earth culture."
"I shall never truly fit into Earth culture." He stared into the distance. "This planet is too cold and too humid."
Clemens barked a laugh. "Then you've never been to the Holy Land, have you?"
"Indeed. Some locations are more welcoming for my people than others. I believe that we have a person there, also."
"Are you all over the planet?" Clemens said. "For what reason?"
"For observation," he replied.
"See, Guinan?" Clemens said. "I wasn't so far off, after all."
"The difference is," Uhura said, "that they do not and will not take over this planet." Although, she thought, there was a time when humans thought so, including Zephram Cochrane and Jonathan Archer.
"Do I have your word on that?" Clemens said. "I shan't sleep easy thinking about this."
Uhura smiled. "My dear Samuel, I swear that the Vulcans are not trying to take over the planet. That's not to say that this planet will not have some hard times coming and that some of them will not have to do with extraterrestrials. But none of this will happen in your lifetime or for many, many years after that."
"This planet was born to adversity," Clemens snorted. "What else is new?"
They tromped up to Logan's building. "I prefer to tell them alone," Logan said.
"No," Uhura said. "I'm going with you."
The other two stared at her.
"I remember my history," she said. "They are very apt to pull you out of the building without a warning. I am going up with you."
Logan raised his eyebrows. "You are, indeed, a persistent human."
"My world's future is at stake," she said. She put her arm in his. He stiffened. "Forgive me for touching you."
"You do know my people, do you not." It was not a question. He almost seemed amused.
"Indeed," she said. "Please, Guinan, Samuel. Wait down here."
"But—" Clemens said.
Guinan placed a hand on his arm. "Samuel, this is important."
"Oh, all right." He looked at the pair sternly. "If you don't come down again …"
"We will," Uhura said. They walked into the building together. The landlord glanced at them, then stared, transfixed. Uhura grinned slightly. Let the landlord think what he wanted; at least Logan would not raise suspicions for being a space alien.
They reached his apartment, and he pulled another book from his library. "Logan to Halan'tor."
The answer was almost instantaneous. "Halan'tor. Logan, you were not expected to check in for another hour. Status?"
Uhura indicated that she wanted to speak. Logan glanced at her, then continued, "I wish to speak to Sestok on a secure channel."
Uhura could hear the hesitation in the voice. "Sestok is in meditation."
Logan looked at her. "Interrupt him."
"We will call you back."
They stood for about five minutes. "Sestok to Logan."
"Commander. I have a situation."
"We will transport you aboard."
Uhura spoke into the communicator. "Not unless you want to take me, too."
"I am Commander Uhura of Starfleet Command—based out of San Francisco."
"That is impossible."
"I am from the year 2294."
"Again, that is impossible."
"Commander, she has technical equipment that is far beyond the technology of this century. I have scanned her, and she is human, beyond all doubt." Logan hesitated. "The logical conclusion is that she is what she says she is."
Sestok hesitated. "What is the reason for your communication?"
"I do not expect you to believe my word, but I would ask you to believe the truth of your instruments. An alien race called the Suliban are attempting to disrupt both of our people's futures. I only ask that you scan this world for non-human intrusions. And I beg you that you not tell your crew the reasons for your scans."
"Logan. Tell her." The voice was disapproving.
"Yes. It is only logical." Logan turned toward Uhura. "We are not from the Vulcan High Command."
Uhura blinked. "You're not."
"Those on our ship are members of a civilian organization, looking at emerging civilizations, and reporting to Vulcan High Command."
"We are not under constraints to report everything to Vulcan High Command."
She raised her eyebrows. "I see. Subterfuge?"
"We have discretion in what we report."
"Doesn't the High Command have a representative on your ship?"
Uhura had a feeling that Logan was a bit smug. "I am the representative."
"I choose not to report this aberration to Vulcan High Command," Logan said into the communicator. "Please do as Miss Uhura says."
"Understood. Halan'tor out."
"Thank you, Logan," Uhura said to the Vulcan.
"No thanks are necessary. We both wish the same thing." Logan hesitated. "But what if your doctor's kidnappers have turned off his transponder? His readings will read as human as everyone else on this planet."
"I'm hoping that we can narrow that down by finding Suliban life signs."
"And if you cannot find him?"
"That's … not an option." Uhura chewed her lip. What if they couldn't find him?"
Was this a dream? Dr. Albert Zimmerman felt around him. Something was wrong. What was going on?
More importantly—at least to him—why had he agreed to this mission?
He knew there was a reason he never liked history and preferred the achievements of scientific research—the past was dirty! He had no doubt that when he passed under a 2nd-floor window, somebody was going to empty a chamber pot on him, and was rather surprised when they made it to the hospital without that even happening.
And even when he made it to the hospital, he itched. He had no doubt the hospital was full of roaches and bedbugs and germs and other nasty things. Why anybody would go to a hospital, he wasn't sure.
And then that room. He longed to go over that whole apartment with antiseptic, even though Uhura assured him that the last residents were Starfleet officers from the future. He had no doubt that they had also de-vermin-ified the room. Yet …
Then there was …
He woke up slowly from his nightmare of germs growing legs and pursuing him down the corridors of his pristine lab. He put out his arms and felt …
What the hell was that?
It felt like …
He had felt straw many, many years ago when he was in school. His class had visited a farm. It had cows and horses and chickens and rabbits and …
This felt like straw. What was straw doing in his apartment?
His eyes opened with a jerk. He couldn't see anything, then he realized that his eyes were covered with some sort of cloth. And his legs and arms were tied down. He tested the restraints. They didn't even feel like rope or metal, they just felt like he was in an all body cast. There was about two inches of give, and beyond that it felt like he was pushing sand uphill. He gave up the effort with a gasp.
"Ah. Doctor. I see you are awake," came a silky voice. "Do not bother to test your bonds, you will be utterly unable to bend or break anything. The technology is far beyond your comprehension."
"Where am I?" Zimmerman snapped. "And who are you? You obviously aren't one of the primitives around here."
The voice laughed. It was low and melodious, and he decided that it was female.
"As to where you are—you are relatively far away from your companions, at least by this society's standards. As to who I am, I don't believe that I wish to reveal that yet."
"Well," Zimmerman said. "You obviously aren't from around here, because I know that the United States of America didn't have technology like this at this time."
"And you're not from here," the voice sounded amused, "because you are fully human, and humans didn't have the technology that you're carrying in your little black bag. Or on your wrist. Or the beacon in your body."
Zimmerman inclined his head, conceding the point. "We are here trying to fix the timeline."
"Because we are here, trying to mold the timeline in our own fashion."
"I see," Zimmerman said. "Which, I gather, is not the timeline we prefer."
"Which," she said, "is why you are here with us."
"Do I have to spell it out?"
Zimmerman thought hard. Temporal mechanics gave him a headache, which is why he preferred medical research. He had taken a beginning temporal mechanics course as a lark, but soon discovered that he had no aptitude. "I suppose because," he said slowly, "it's either something I've done or am supposed to do."
"Good job, Doctor," she said.
"Then why don't you just kill me?"
"Because," she said, "it's not just you who needs to be distracted."
"Oh. May I ask who …?"
"Actually," she said, "you may ask, but I'm not going to tell you. And no, it's not your companion."
"Then this is a useless conversation."
"Correct," she said. "And, in case you're wondering if your companions can track you, the answer is no, we turned off your tracking device."
"Ah," Zimmerman said. "Well. That's a complication." His stomach growled. "Are you going to feed me?" And then another pressure mounted. "And I'm going to need a call of nature."
"Call of nature?"
"I need to urinate and defecate. Unless you are willing to smell me for the next day or two."
"I think we can arrange that."
He certainly hoped so. He felt the restraints come off. "You will have an escort."
"Why not?" She sounded as if she were grinning. "No, I'll be sensitive to your masculinity."
"I would appreciate it. I am married."
She hesitated. "What does that have to do with anything?"
Zimmerman sat up experimentally. He felt a couple of arms on each side propel him off—a table? He looked down, but his blindfold was on too tightly. "Can I take the blindfold off? I have no idea where I am and probably will have no idea where I am even if I can see."
"Ah," the woman said. "It's not the scenery, but it's who you see that concerns us."
"So—you're not human?"
"Did I say that?"
"Well," Zimmerman said, " 'not human' encompasses a lot of races."
"Yes," she said drily. "It does." The other arms led him out of the—barn? Cabin?—And into another small room, presumably an outhouse. He dropped his pants, pressing on his stomach slightly, hopefully activating his secondary transponder—one he had installed himself after finding out that he had been recruited to go back into the past.
He finished his business, then felt around for toilet paper. "No paper?"
The men laughed nastily. "Here's a page from a catalog—that's what the natives do."
"Euw," Zimmerman said. "I don't suppose there's any antibiotic wash."
"Now, boys," came the female voice, "I refuse to let any human bugs in the house." He felt a sonic wash on his hands, and he relaxed.
"And," he said, "you're having me lie on straw?"
Zimmerman could almost hear her shrug. "It's been decontaminated."
"Thank heavens for small favors," he muttered, but secretly, he was relieved.
"It occurs to me," he said. "That if you just killed me, whatever I did or didn't do would be achieved." He was secretly amazed how calmly he said that. In fact, he was surprised that he wasn't gibbering in terror. He was a researcher, damn it, not a maverick Starfleet officer.
"Our—benefactors wish that you be left alive. Apparently, something you do is vital in any timeline."
"How—comforting." He wished that he could break away from this insane group, but he knew himself—the most he could accomplish was not to do something stupid, which was extremely hard, and wait for rescue.
As he laid down back on the straw, he hoped it would be soon.
"New Orleans?" Uhura said. "You've got to be kidding. That's thousands of miles away from here." Now she wished that they hadn't destroyed the transporter pads.
"That is," Sestock said, "the greatest concentration of alien life signs, apart from San Francisco." She heard a voice behind her and looked up at Logan. "The alien life signs have now left San Francisco."
"Have they shown up in New Orleans?" Uhura asked.
"No. The life sign disappearance was preceded by an energy burst."
"They were recalled," Uhura said.
"Possibly," Sestok conceded.
She hesitated. "May I ask for a lift to New Orleans?"
The communicator was quiet for a second.
"Look. I already know your future. Vulcans and humans do become fast allies. But what we haven't realized until now was that Vulcans were spying on us longer than we ever suspected."
"And your people don't do cultural studies?"
She waved that off. "Of course, we do. But at least we have the grace to admit it to our allies when they've achieved warp flight." Uhura was glad that he couldn't check the last; she wasn't aware if any cultures had achieved warp flight while being studied. "Once I take this back, this may cause trouble to Vulcan/Human relations."
"You are attempting to blackmail us," Sestock said.
"But your argument is logical. We shall transport you and your party to New Orleans."
"Go to the usual site, Logan," Sestock ordered.
"Of course," Logan said.
"And your usual site is?" Uhura asked.
"Twenty miles out of town." Logan hesitated. "We should not take Madame Guinan or Mr. Clemens."
"No, we should not," Uhura agreed. "Which is why, against my better judgment, we are going to allow them to come."
Logan stared at her. "I have read about human instinct. I suspect that what you call instinct is a seminal application of logic that you do not wish to acknowledge."
"Although," Uhura smiled, "human instinct could be wrong."
"Yes," he nodded. "But I shall abide by your human instinct."
They walked downstairs together. Guinan and Clemens were in conversation in the front of the building, and the subject seemed to be … "Politics?" Uhura asked.
Guinan smiled. "We enjoy talking about politics. Although I don't suppose you could tell me who will be elected President in the next election …?"
"Sorry," Uhura smiled, "I can't tell you, and, actually, I don't remember so I'd have to look it up."
"Which she won't do," Clemens said. "Told you."
"So our bet will have to be deferred until the next election," Guinan said. Clemens glared at her. "So where's our Dr. Zimmerman?"
Uhura sighed. "New Orleans."
"Well," Clemens said. "I've been meaning to get back to New Orleans and take a gander at the Mississippi again. When's the next train?"
"We aren't taking a train," Uhura said.
"Oh," Guinan said. "Oh!" She glanced speculatively at Logan.
"Once again," Uhura said, "I should leave you here in San Francisco. This could be dangerous."
"And, if you do," Clemens said, "I will take the fastest train to follow you. Or, even worse, I will report to the paper what you are doing."
Guinan made a small noise.
"What?" Clemens asked.
"Hearst. I forgot to check with Hearst."
"I think we're beyond that boy named Bobby."
"Are you sure?" Guinan said. "I'm not." Uhura looked askance at her. "Look, my race sometimes have these instincts. And I have a feeling that we need to find this young boy."
"Logic, huh?" Uhura said to Logan.
"What is the significance of this small boy?" Logan asked.
"When we first came to San Francisco, Dr. Zimmerman pulled a ten-year-old boy back from ducking into the street in front of a couple of horses. When we weren't recalled into the future, we assumed that saving that boy was the problem."
"I see." Logan gazed into the distance. "Your assumption is logical. We shall have to find this young man."
"Before we find Doctor Zimmerman?"
Guinan spoke up. "Perhaps I should go and visit Mr. Hearst." She looked around. "Come this way."
They walked a mile up the street until they reached the Examiner building. "Uhura and I should go in alone," Guinan said.
"Oh, no," Clemens said, "I'll need to come in, too, and if I go in, our friend Logan would be out here by himself." He smiled ruefully. "And I don't think we want to tempt San Francisco policemen by giving them another exotic looking person to harass."
"Oh, come in, Samuel," Guinan said. "All you would have needed to do was ask. Right, Nyota?"
"Correct," Uhura agreed, while wondering how a Starfleet operation had managed to go to pieces so fast.
Guinan led the way. "Madame Guinan to see Mr. Hearst," she told the man at the front desk.
The man looked up at Guinan, astonished. "Mr. Hearst doesn't see anybody."
"He'll see me," Guinan said firmly.
Clemens stepped forward. "And," he said, "I believe that he'll want to see me, also."
"And you are …?"
Clemens stared. "You don't recognize me?"
"My dear Mr. Clemens," Guinan smiled, "perhaps the claims of your fame are exaggerated."
Clemens pulled out his cigar and chewed on it angrily. He heard a gasp come from another desk. "Petey," the other voice said, "you don't recognize Mark Twain?"
"That's …? But she," he pointed, "called him Samuel."
"Of course. Mark Twain is his pseudonym." Clemens started to puff up like a turkey as the other man came over. "And as a matter of fact," the man said, "Mr. Hearst does want to see them."
He turned to the party. "My pardon. Petey is a very young man who has yet to read Tom Sawyer."
"Not everybody can read," Clemens said, "but I'm going to recommend my books to you."
"Oh, God," Guinan said under her breath, "he's going to be unlivable for months."
"Let me bring you to Mr. Hearst." He led them down the hall to an office.
Hearst was looking at the latest paper, and he glanced up when they entered. "Madame Guinan. I was just about ready to search you out."
"We were just about ready to bring you the young man you were talking about," Hearst said.
Guinan looked at the others. "That didn't take long."
Hearst smiled. "Come to find out, he was one of our paperboys."
"Well," Clemens said, "that explains why he got away from you, Zimmerman. Some of those paperboys can pursue you down the street and not leave hostages. I've bought five papers from two different boys just to keep them away."
Hearst looked at his employee lingering in the doorway. "Can you bring Bobby up here?"
"Yes, sir." the man said. In a few minutes—in which Hearst arranged for chairs to be brought up for his guests, Hearst looked at Guinan. "So—Mr. Clemens I'm well acquainted with. And I believe I met your assistant the other day." He looked at Logan with frank curiosity. "But who is your friend?"
"This is Logan. He's from …" Guinan started to look a little lost.
"China, sir," Uhura said. "He looks a little different from your normal Chinese person because he was caught in an automatic rice picker …" Really? Of all the stories to give a reporter, her mind had to come up with the automatic rice picker? In her mind, she apologized for laughing at Kirk's story.
"I … see …" Hearst said, looking at Guinan. "Is that why he looks slightly green?"
"I have not been well," Logan said. "I have been cold."
Uhura almost smiled. He had started out lying, then turned it into a truth. Who said Vulcans couldn't lie?
"Here's our young man," said the assistant. He pushed the boy into the room, and the boy scowled at the adults.
"Yes," Uhura said. "That's him."
"I didn't do anything," Bobby said. "That man that was with her," he pointed at Uhura, "stopped me from getting my papers on time, so they were gone when I got there."
"Did you have the money to buy the papers?"
Uhura's eyebrows rose, involuntarily. The boys had to buy the papers to sell them? No wonder they were as mercenary as Clemens had described.
The boy rolled his eyes. "Of course, I had money to buy the papers. What do you think I am, an amateur?" He looked at Uhura. "But because of that man, I didn't have enough money to buy the next day's papers."
"Have you eaten today?" Uhura said.
Bobby shrugged. "I don't need much."
Guinan leaned over to Uhura. "What do you think?"
"I think," she whispered, "that we have too many variables to the equation. I'm not sure what we should do with him now." She sat up straight and spoke to the boy. "If you could go anyplace," she said, playing a hunch, "where would you go?"
The boy shrugged. "Oh, that's easy. I'd go to New Orleans. I read a book once that was all about the Mississippi, and I want to see the river that started it all."
Samuel Clemens puffed up a bit. "What would you say if I told you I've written books about the Mississippi?"
The boy looked at him. "You, old man?"
Guinan smiled, and Hearst laughed.
"I wasn't always as old as you might think." Clemens frowned. "In fact, in here," he pointed at his head, "I'm as young as you are."
The boy looked doubtful.
"And," Guinan said, "that's the truest statement he's said in years."
"We'll take him with us," Uhura decided.
"Where?" Bobby said, suspiciously.
"You have any family, boy?" Hearst said.
"No," the boy scowled. "Don't need none."
"Because," Hearst said, "it sounds to me like these folks are going to give you an opportunity that you should take."
"What would you do in New Orleans?" Guinan asked.
"Sell papers, I suppose." Bobby shrugged.
Guinan nodded. "What if I could get you an apprenticeship?"
"Of course, you," Guinan said. "I have some friends down there that run a restaurant. You could learn how to cook."
"Okay," the kid said.
"Shake on it?" Guinan said.
The boy looked at Hearst and shrugged. "Can't be any worse than selling papers for you."
Hearst's lips twitched. "Yes," he said shortly, "go get your belongings and come right back."
Logan was looking concerned at Uhura—well, okay, he was sitting there with his eyebrows up. After years of sitting next to Spock, Uhura could read Vulcans. "Yes, Logan, I know what I'm doing."
He glanced at Mr. Hearst, who was watching with interest.
"We're taking him to New Orleans with us. We'll be leaving shortly," Uhura explained.
"Yes, Miss Uhura," Hearst said, "I rather gathered that." He turned to Madame Guinan. "I look forward to our interview."
She looked a little nonplussed and glanced at the rest of the party. "Perhaps I should give you that interview before I leave town."
Hearst waved that off. "Will you be back?"
She looked at Uhura. "I promise."
"As will I," Clemens said.
Hearst shrugged. "Then I can wait a few weeks."
"Really?" Uhura said.
"A good story," Hearst said, "can always wait." He looked at Guinan sharply.
She stared back. "You're making me feel guilty." She glanced at the rest of the group. "Do we have half an hour?"
"I thought she was your servant," Hearst said.
Guinan smiled, back in her element. Uhura wondered what stories she was going to feed Hearst. "Ah, my dear Mr. Hearst, that's where you're wrong. She is my guest."
"Perhaps we should retire to another room," Hearst said. Uhura could almost feel his eagerness. Guinan smiled, looking a bit like a cat after a mouse as he opened a door and motioned her through.
Clemens pulled out his cigar and chewed on it. "I'm not sure which person I feel sorrier for. Hearst can be a shark."
"And Guinan seems like she could be a grizzly bear."
"Shark? Bear?" Logan said.
"A shark is a fish with sharp teeth," Clemens said.
Uhura added, "And a grizzly bear is a wild animal like a seh'lat. But with short fangs and a lousier disposition."
"Ah," Logan said, "I must talk to you about this young man. I do not feel comfortable letting him aboard the Halan'tor. The more people who know about us, the less effective we can be observing you."
"Which is why we're going to render him unconscious during the trip."
Logan raised both eyebrows. "You're presuming that we have the medicine."
"You don't?" Uhura said.
"Yes, we do."
"He just doesn't know how he's going to explain this to his commanding officer," Clemens said.
"Look," Uhura said, "I know you're putting your neck out because of me. And I have no way of proving that what I say is the truth."
"I can vouch for her," Clemens said.
"What?" Logan said. "How?"
"I have seen that future you described," Clemens said to Logan, waving his cigar. "And, in fact, I have been to a further future than the one Miss Uhura comes from. Now, I realize that I can't tell you anything, and I know that you know that I'm a professional liar." He chewed his cigar again. "You seem to be a logical person. Tell me, sir, is it logical for me to make up a story like this?"
Logan stared at him. "If you thought it might make you some money, very possible."
Clemens snorted. "You have me there."
"But," Logan said, " I can only go by my logic. And my logic tells me that since you have not done stories like this previously, you would not start now."
Once again, Clemens snorted. "Are you sure?"
"Mr. Clemens," Logan said, "I suspect that when it comes to what you will do or not do, anything is possible."
Uhura saw some movement at the door. "And here's our young man back!" He was carrying a couple of books and another shirt. "Is that all you have?"
Bobby nodded. "You don't save much stuff living on the streets."
"But you've saved books. Commendable," Clemens said.
"I actually read the papers, too," Bobby said.
"Who taught you to read?"
The boy stood up straight. "I wasn't always an orphan."
Uhura chewed her lip and wished that she could take him with her when they returned. If they returned. She wondered how Zimmerman was doing.
"So," Zimmerman said, "is anybody planning on feeding me?"
"Is that all you think about," the female voice said, "eating and eliminating?"
"In fact," Zimmerman said. "I am a research scientist and a medical doctor."
"Yes, we know."
"So why did you kidnap me?"
"Two-fold, actually. We need somebody not to go someplace, and we need to keep you from doing something in the future."
"Do you think we're going to tell you?"
Zimmerman shrugged, as much as he was able to shrug in the force field. "I can try."
"Yes, you can."
"So … why don't you just kill me?" he asked again.
"Because—we need to have you make one of your breakthroughs in medicine. Just not the change you may make here in this year."
"So—what you don't want me to do has nothing to do with medicine, but it's either something I've done or will fail to do."
"Yes. It's a delicate operation."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because—I like you."
"Me?" Zimmerman was surprised. "I'm married."
She snorted. "I wasn't planning on marrying you. You don't fit my species' ideal of beauty."
"Hell," he said. "I don't fit my species' idea of beauty."
"At least, you're honest about yourself, aren't you?"
Somehow, this struck him as terribly funny. "You've never met my wife, have you?"
"Why are you laughing?"
"I don't know." He chuckled. "Probably because I'm still rather scared."
"I've been thrown into the past because someone saw me treating a woman, I've been exposed to God knows how many diseases, I've just about been run over by overly large domesticated animals, and now I've been kidnapped and thrown onto dirty straw." He took a breath. "Why shouldn't I laugh?" He lurched up into the force field, which only seemed to extend about six inches above his prone body Even though it didn't really hurt, he said, "Ouch!"
"Don't hurt yourself."
"Maybe I should hurt myself. Maybe I should try to kill myself. Maybe …" Zimmerman knew he was starting to sound hysterical—in fact, he was betting on it. He lurched backward and forward into the force field.
"If I kill myself, I won't be a part of your nefarious plans."
"Release him," said a male voice. "We can keep watch on him without the force field."
"But," the female said, "what if he does try to kill himself?"
"I've read about his life," the man said. "Suicide has never been a part of his nature."
"And maybe," Zimmerman said, "I've never been in a situation like this before. How do you know?" Actually, he didn't know, either, but he was getting so he didn't care. Lying flat on his back in straw, held by a force field, was getting very tiring, and if he was held much longer, with the bandanna over his eyes, he might consider suicide.
"Shift, then," the female said, disapprovingly.
The man grunted.
"Sit up, Zimmerman," the female said, no longer as friendly. He did so, then reached up to take the blindfold from his eyes. He looked over at his captors. The woman had brown hair and brown eyes, and was dressed in a yellow dress with lace at the neck. The male had black hair and mutton chops, and wore a three-piece suit, similar to Clemens's suit, only in a brown. They both looked completely human.
"I thought you said you weren't human," Zimmerman said, stretching.
The man glared at the woman. "You talk too much."
"I believe in playing with my prey," the woman said, baring her teeth.
Zimmerman looked at her nervously. Had she really just said that? And was she talking literally, or was that just for the man?
He pursed his lips and looked at Zimmerman. "You were told to kidnap him, not make friends with the enemy."
"Who said I was making friends?" she said. "I was bored."
Zimmerman looked around. He hadn't seen any other people here, but he figured there were more around. Which made any possibility of escape rather impossible—at least for a middle-aged researcher. Perhaps the late legendary Captain Kirk could make it out of this situation; he doubted if he could.
On the other hand, if he didn't look for any possibility of escape, he would hate himself for the rest of his life. He wanted to get home to his wife and his boy. He couldn't guarantee that Uhura would come—if they weren't in San Francisco, could they even find him? How far did his transmitter reach?
For the first time, he noticed the temperature. Warm, slightly humid. What was the plant life like outside? Did he see … damn, he did see. Spanish moss. Last he knew, Spanish moss didn't grow in San Francisco. So—somehow he was going to have to escape and find his way back to San Francisco—if nothing else, to meet up with Uhura. And Guinan. Probably the only two in this time who could possibly help him.
He thought of Clemens—no, no help there, unless he wanted to be talked to death.
He looked back at the woman. "I still can't figure it out. You don't look alien. That's amazing plastic surgery."
Her eyes crinkled in amusement. "We are masters of illusion."
His eyes narrowed, and suddenly, he had a thought, which he tried not to show on his face. He had studied these people.
Why were they here? As soon as he thought that, he remembered. They were adapted to be shapeshifters by some mysterious benefactor in the far future—and they had conducted a time war. Suddenly, a lot clicked into place.
Another man came into the—hut? Barn? "We've been discovered."
"Discovered?" the man said. "By whom? And how?"
The second man had blond hair, with clear blue eyes. "The local police. I was standing on the street corner and somebody told them we were living out here."
The black haired man thinned his lips. "We need to move."
"Haven't you ever heard of money?" Zimmerman said, sarcastically.
"Of course, we have. You have some?" the black haired man snapped.
"I don't think much of your operation here," Zimmerman said.
"Your approval is not our problem." He pulled a phaser out of his pocket. "Move."
They exited the barn and walked down a road. After a time, the blond man and—his twin, apparently, fell in line behind them. Presumably, they were emptying the barn of any incriminating technology.
Zimmerman was not a hero. He had never pretended to be. The only reason that he was on this trip was that he was pretty much forced to go by his supervisor, who was a friend of Uhura's from the old Enterprise.
Which was why the next move he made surprised him as much as his captors.
He let himself go limp and collapsed on the road. The woman made a noise of surprise and rushed forward, trying to lift him. The man moved forward, staying just out of reach. "We're going to have to carry him," he said, then turned to his lackeys. With a swift move, Zimmerman reached up and grabbed his phaser, then tripped the woman. The guards moved forward, and he shot them before they got their weapons out of their pockets. He then jammed the phaser into the man and shot him.
He turned to the woman, who held her hands up. "You realize," she said casually, "that you just stunned them."
Zimmerman's hand had just started to shake in reaction, but he kept the phaser trained on her. "I didn't want to kill them," he said, "so I'm glad I just stunned them."
"Why?" she said wonderingly. "I would have killed them."
"Maybe I'm not as bloodthirsty as you are." He hesitated. "Why aren't you attacking me?"
"I'm not part of the Suliban Cabal," she said. "I'm a spy. I was sent in here as part of the resistance."
"So, are you going to help me?"
She sighed. "If I go with you, I risk breaking my cover. But I will tell you that town is that way." She rifled through her companions' pockets and handed him three phasers and approximately one hundred dollars in cash. "This should help you." She stood in front of him. "Now, you need to shoot me."
"I need a cover. Shoot me, now!"
He shot her, then shot the other three again, for good measure. He pulled the four of them to the side of the road, then walked swiftly down the road towards town. After what seemed to be a couple of miles, he started seeing houses, then larger buildings.
He had one hundred dollars in his pocket. What could that get him? Hopefully, a place to stay overnight, while somebody tried to find him. He walked until he saw something that looked like business buildings. "Pardon," he said to a passing person who looked friendly, "where might I find a place to stay?"
The man looked at him. "Je ne parle pas Anglais," he said.
Zimmerman knew that the universal translator would kick in at this point, so he tried again, knowing that the other man would hear it as French.
"Ah. Oui." He pointed. "You can find a good boarding house a mile that way."
Zimmerman groaned to himself; his feet were getting tired. "Would you know how much it costs?"
The man frowned. "A couple of dollars a day, I think."
The man shrugged and went the other way.
A couple of dollars a day, and the Suliban woman had given him $100. So he might consider that basic food was somewhat less. Did he dare eat the food?
Did he have a choice?
If he could defeat a Suliban, he guessed he could eat the local food.
He walked briskly, thanking his wife in absentia that she made him exercise every day. Soon, he was at the hotel. He looked up at it. It was wood—it had been a long time since he had been in a real wood house. Probably had termites and mold and other pathogens. He shrugged and walked into the lobby.
A man looked up at his entrance. "Can I help you?"
"Do you have a room?"
The man smiled. "We have a lot of rooms."
Zimmerman closed his eyes. "I've been walking for I don't know how long, trying to escape some people who tried to kidnap me. Please don't joke with me."
The man frowned. "Are you trying to escape from the law?"
"No, I suspect that I was kidnapped because of my companions."
The hotel owner cocked an eyebrow. "Who were your companions?"
Zimmerman supposed that he shouldn't tell the truth, but he was too tired to lie. Besides, it might help. "A woman named Nyota Uhura, and another woman whose name is Guinan." He decided to leave Samuel Clemens out of the equation; he knew the man was already famous in this era, and that might strain the hotel owner's credulity.
The man contemplated that. "They sound Negro."
Zimmerman blinked. "Their skin is darker than mine, yes. I suppose that you would call them Negro, because that's a word for black, is it not?"
It was the hotel owner's turn to blink. "What country are you from?"
Zimmerman frowned. "San Francisco."
"No wonder," he said. "I'm Joseph Allen, owner of this hotel. And I don't know how things are in San Francisco, but certain people around here don't care for Negroes."
"Really? What difference does the color of your skin make?"
"Exactly!" Allen said. "What difference does it make?" He shook his head. "It's a good thing my parents are gone, because I would have gotten a smack on the side of the head for that."
Zimmerman wrinkled his nose. "Your parents abused you?"
"Abused? No. Knocked some sense into me, for the most part. But they fought with the South in the Civil War, and they had a couple of slaves."
"Tom and Martha. Two of the smartest, kindest people I've had the privilege to know. Which is why I finally threw off the old attitude about 'niggers.' "
Zimmerman still was puzzled. He guessed that he should have paid more attention to history in school, but shrugged. "May I rent a room?"
"Oh! Here I've been, jawing about things, and you're tired, aren't you?" Allen turned around and picked up a key. "Drop it off here when you go out. Curfew is at midnight. Payment in advance."
Zimmerman approached the desk apologetically. "You are right; I am not from around here, and transactions are different where I live." He pulled out a hundred dollar bill. "Is this enough?"
The man pulled his head back. "Brother, it's a good thing I'm honest. That is more than enough. Do you have any smaller currency?"
"Then, with your permission, I will keep it in my lockbox."
Zimmerman looked at him, tired. "And I shall know if you lie." He pulled out a phaser, turned it to disintegrate, targeted a chair, and fired. The chair disappeared.
The man's eyes went wide. "I don't think you're from San Francisco," he said slowly.
"Actually," Zimmerman said tiredly. "I am."
"You can keep your hundred," the man said.
"I'll break it in the morning."
Allen came out from behind the counter. "Just so you know, I wouldn't have stolen your money. I am honest. And I do have a lockbox where any of your valuables would have been safe."
Zimmerman just about said that he was sorry, but he firmed his resolve. He grunted.
Allen showed him to his room and opened the door. He shuffled around the room, extolling its various accessories, but all Zimmerman could see was the bed. Finally, Allen wound down. "If you need any food?"
Zimmerman realized that he was incredibly hungry. "Do you have any bread and cheese?"
Allen snorted. "Normally, I don't feed my guests at this time of night. I was about ready to tell you of the establishment down the street …"
Zimmerman stared at him. " …. but under the circumstances, I do believe I have some bread and cheese left. I'll bring it right up."
"All right." The owner left, and Zimmerman sat on the end of the bed. Slowly, he collapsed backward and didn't even hear when Allen brought in the bread and cheese. Allen smiled, covered the food, left a key on the side table, and locked the door behind him.
"Zimmerman must be panicked out of his mind," Uhura said, as they entered the spaceship. She turned towards Logan. "How close can we get to him?"
"We don't even know if he's in New Orleans, Nyota," Clemens said. He looked around him. "You green guys sure like things bright, don't you?"
"Our home planet is lumens brighter than most of Terra," Logan explained. He was carrying the unconscious boy.
A Vulcan came in. "Logan."
"You should not have brought the humans," he said, glancing at the boy and at Clemens.
"I'm human, also," Uhura said, wryly, "in case you've forgotten."
"Hardly," Sestok said. "If it weren't for the inconsistencies that you and your companion—"he glanced at Guinan—"present, you would hardly be here. Humans are not ready for contact with Vulcans—or any other race."
Guinan pursed her lips and glared at him. "And," Guinan said, "I was doing quite fine as a human until a different alien race decided to feed on the humans, and other people from the future rescued them. And where exactly were you?"
"We have a non-inter—"
"Interference policy," Uhura said, rolling her eyes. "I know. Trust me, I know."
"Non-interference?" Clemens said.
"We can't interfere in a society that doesn't have warp drive," Uhura explained. "We can't save them from themselves; we can't even let them know we're watching."
Clemens snorted and grinned. "Really? It seems all you've been doing is interfering."
Uhura smiled. "This is different. We're setting time back to the way it should be." She sobered. "We hope."
Guinan gave her elbow a squeeze. "We will," she said. "Even if I have to call my father." Her face fell.
"I think we can avoid that," Uhura said.
"Who is your father?" Sestok asked.
"Someone you want to avoid," Guinan said. She shivered.
"Well," Clemens said. "Are we going to get going?"
Sestok touched an intercom. "Status?"
"We've just set down."
"In California, yes," Clemens said. "But what about …?" The door opened behind him, and damp Louisiana air poured in. "Oh," he said, closing his mouth. He turned to Guinan. "You know, I can never write a book about this. No-one would ever believe it."
"You could call it Science Fiction," Guinan said.
He chewed his cigar. "It would never pass muster."
Uhura smiled to herself and went to the door. "Sestok, Logan," she said, "you had better come over here."
They moved to the door. Four people were lying in the glow of the doorway, unconscious. She looked down at them. "Suliban," she said. "Do you have a brig?"
Sestok looked somewhat constipated. "We have rooms that can be converted into jails."
"I think your doctors will find that these Sulibans are genetically enhanced."
"Fascinating," Logan said.
"But where's Doctor Zimmerman?" Clemens said.
Uhura looked around the area. "He doesn't seem to be around here."
"And he took all of these Suliban out by himself?" Clemens said skeptically. "That doesn't seem to be in character for your fussy doctor."
A couple of Vulcans had slipped past them and were scanning the aliens. "Commander," the Vulcan woman said, "these Suliban have been stunned."
"Oh," Guinan said, "I have a bad feeling about this."
"I do, too," Uhura said.
But where was Doctor Zimmerman?
Doctor Zimmerman awoke slowly. He had been having dreams about his wife and his child. He was thinking that he should get up; he would be late to the office. Then he opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling.
"Oh, God help me."
He was still in 1893.
He sat up and looked around. The sunlight was streaming in, despite the heavy curtains, and he was developing a sweat. He didn't suppose he could get a water shower around here, much less a sonic shower.
There was a covered plate next to the bed. He lifted the cover up. Bread and cheese. He had asked for that last night, hadn't he? Ravenous, he ate it swiftly, then sat back and looked at the wall. Then he shook his head. A sudden thought alarmed him, and he reached into his pockets, sighing with relief when he felt the hundred dollar bill and all four of the phasers.
He supposed the Mr. Allen was honest, after all. He could've stolen all of this from Zimmerman in his sleep.
He got up, then realized he had a more pressing problem. Where did these ancients keep their outhouses? Oh, yeah, Mr. Allen had pointed out back, hadn't he?
Swiftly, he walked down the stairs and out the door. Mr. Allen looked up from his newspaper and pointed. Zimmerman ducked his head in thanks and almost ran to the outhouse.
When his visit was ended, he looked around the yard for water so that he could wash his hands. The only thing he saw was a kind of a pump, so he moved it up and down experimentally. Nothing happened.
Mr. Allen leaned out the back door. "Need some help?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact," Zimmerman said. "I want to wash my hands."
"Come in here," Allen said. He steered Zimmerman to a sink, which had a small version of the pump outside. He pumped it so that some water was coming out of it, and pointed to the soap alongside it. Zimmerman bared his arms and washed up and down, then splashed some onto his face.
He noticed that there was a lady in the kitchen, and he nodded to her as he moved away from the sink. She smiled as she moved to the sink to fill a pot. He noticed some meat and vegetables off to one side.
"Thank you," he said, to Allen and to the lady.
She smiled back. "No problem, sir. You come back for lunch now, cheri."
He smiled back and wondered how many germs were in the food, then shook himself mentally. He had more important problems than germs—like Suliban, who were trying to kill him.
"I was beginning to wonder if you would ever get up," Allen said. "You've been sleeping twelve hours."
Zimmerman looked outside. "I have?"
"Bank's open. You can get your change now." He pointed down the street. "A hint? I would get some coins, too, along with your dollars. Get at least one dollar of coins in varying denominations, some dollar coins, and varying bills. Tell them I sent you."
Zimmerman hesitated. "Don't you want to come with me to make sure you get your rent?"
Allen shrugged. "You'll be back."
Zimmerman stared at him. "Thank you." He ducked his head. "I'm sorry I disintegrated your chair."
"And I'm not going to ask you how you did that," Allen shook his head slowly, "because I don't want to know. But it's obvious to me, at least, that you're in over your head about something, and you need some help, and, as a good Christian, I'm obligated to give it to you."
"I'm a Christian, too," Zimmerman said. "Although I haven't been to church lately."
"Well," Allen said, "we could fix that."
"I don't think I should stay here that long," Zimmerman said. "What—day is it, anyway?"
"May 26, 1893. Friday. Are you sure you can't stay until Sunday?"
"I'm afraid that the people who are after me will find me by then."
Allen sighed. "Come back. My cook will be in by then; I'll give you a good meal before you go."
His stomach growled. "I'll be happy to. Thank you. You are too kind." He sighed. "And you're right. I am beyond my depth."
"Go get your change. We'll figure something out."
Zimmerman walked swiftly to the bank and changed his bill. It felt odd to have coins in his pocket, yet it was oddly comforting. At least, he could support himself for a while in this primitive culture.
He walked into the hotel. The smell of beef was starting to overpower any other scents he had picked up from outside. "That does smell good."
"Martha cooks the best gumbo in New Orleans," Allen said. "I was fortunate to hire her after my parents freed her."
Zimmerman's eyebrows rose. "She was the slave you were talking about?"
"She—and her husband—are free people," Allen said defensively. "Their children have gone to college. Like I said, the smartest people I know."
"The only gumbo I've ever had," Zimmerman said, "was in a place called Sisko's." He stopped. He had best not say where the place was—New Orleans, at least 300 years in the future.
"Why, that's the name Martha and Tom took!" Allen exclaimed. "I wonder if they're any relation."
Oops. "I never heard the first names," Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman stared at Allen. Could he trust the man? He decided that he had to trust someone—after all, this man had hired former slaves and had barely blinked when his chair was disintegrated. "How much do I owe you for your chair?
"My chair?" Allen looked nonplussed at the sudden change of subject. "Oh. That chair. Don't worry about it. Of all the chairs in the lobby, you managed to pick the one I was going to throw away."
"Where are you going to go from here?"
"I'm not sure."
"What can you do?"
"Well," Zimmerman said, "I was a scientist and a doctor. But I suspect I had better not practice my trade."
Allen nodded. "The people following you know that." He looked his suit up and down. "You should wear a less conspicuous suit."
"And wear what?"
Allen looked puzzled. "You have a point. You look too bookish to be a common laborer. Do you have another talent?"
"Well," Zimmerman said, looking down at the table, "I sing and play the piano to my child."
"Probably nothing you've ever heard of."
"Well," Allen said, "that can be remedied." He looked thoughtful. "I have this cousin who swings into town every once in a while who runs a traveling show. In fact, I think he's in town. You could travel with him."
"I don't want to put anybody else in danger."
Allen snorted. "Johnny is also a gambler and has any number of people chasing after him at any given time." He smiled. "Can your guns do anything else than make things disappear?"
"Oh, yes," Zimmerman said. "They can stun people without actually harming them."
"All right, then. You can be his bodyguard and his backup piano player." He hesitated. "Can you sing?"
"I sing in the shower," he said.
"Shower?" Allen said. "None in this hotel."
"Never mind." He hesitated. "My wife likes my voice."
"Can't hurt. Let me send Tom to see if he's around."
Allen pushed him back into a chair. "No, you need to eat before you do anything. You look positively gray."
Zimmerman's stomach growled.
"Right." The gumbo smelled heavenly. He supposed it wouldn't hurt to stay a while … He looked out onto the street. For a moment, he saw a Suliban walking down the street, then it was a man with longish brown hair. Another man seemed to be chastising him. "Did you see that?" he said.
Allen was staring, his eyes wide. "Yes."
Martha was behind them. "I did, too, cheri." She turned around. "Tom! Get in here, now."
"I think I'll need to get going," Zimmerman said.
Allen nodded, his mouth open. Then he closed it and nodded again.
"They're not interested in you or anyone here—I think."
Allen nodded ironically. "You're inspiring me with confidence. I don't suppose you can leave me with one of those new-fangled pistols."
A man rushed into the parlor. "Martha! What?"
"We need you to lead this man to my cousin Johnny."
"He's in town?"
"I think so. Take him to the club, anyway. Somebody there can take Doctor Zimmerman in." Allen looked out the window. "But he needs to go the back route, and he needs to be hidden."
Tom nodded. "I'll hitch up the buggy." He went out the back room.
"But I'll—be in the open."
Martha grinned. "Not in this buggy, cheri. This buggy has been around since before the war."
"Oh?" Zimmerman said, then he recalled that she was talking about the Civil War. "It was used for smuggling?" he guessed.
"Of a sort," she said.
"Let's put it this way," Allen said. "It went all the way to Canada a couple of times."
"Huh," Zimmerman said.
The buggy came around the back. Allen opened up a section, revealing a false floor big enough for a couple of men. "Get in," he said.
Zimmerman started to climb in. He hoped that there were no bugs … ah, to hell with it. For a second, he turned around to face Allen and clasped his hand. "Thank you." He reached into his pocket. "I want to give you a five …"
"Don't worry about it," Allen said. "Just save us from—whatever those things are."
Zimmerman smiled. "I will."
He turned to Martha, who was handing him more cheese. "Thank you, Martha. I'm sorry I never got to eat your cooking."
Martha smiled. "You're eating it right now." She nodded at the bread.
"Quit all of your thanks, let's get you to Johnny," Tom said.
"Right," He laid down and let the innkeeper close up the floor above him.
This should work.
"Those are ugly devils," Clemens said, looking down at the Suliban. "All green and bumpy. I've seen prettier slugs." He looked up. "And you say that there are aliens who look less human than this?"
Logan raised his eyebrows.
"My dear Samuel," Guinan said. "There are a great many races who don't look human. There are some that look like rocks." She glanced at Uhura, who nodded.
"I know of the Horta," she said. "There is one civilization who look like giant bees. I'm certain there is another that looks like the humpback whale, although we haven't actually encountered them yet."
"You haven't?" Guinan said.
"They visited us," Uhura explained. "It was … not a pleasant experience."
"Why, they're perfectly pleasant people!" Guinan exclaimed.
"They didn't realize that there were other races of intelligent life on Earth."
"Oh," Guinan said. "Oh, yes. They are a bit shortsighted that way."
The Suliban started to stir. The Vulcans, who had already pulled their phasers, became more alert.
"Why don't you put restraints on them?" Clemens said.
"They can shapeshift," Logan said.
Clemens still looked puzzled.
"Which means that they can get out of their restraints," Uhura explained.
"I believe that was inferred," Logan said.
Uhura and Guinan shared a smile.
"We will take them into custody," Sestok said.
"Have you determined where Dr. Zimmerman is?"
"We do not believe that he is in the wilderness," Sestok said. "The closest collection of humans is in the nearest settlement, around 10.46 kilometers in a southeast direction from here."
"Which means what? Kilometers?"
"He means," Uhura said, checking her tricorder, around six and a half miles that way," she pointed.
Well," Clemens said, looking down the road. "I don't fancy walking into town at my age. Can't you get a tiny bit closer?"
"We do not dare to risk detection by any further humans," Sestok stated. He looked at Logan and managed to look vaguely displeased.
"As I have stated, the humans found me," Logan said. "I have endeavored to keep them isolated from the natives."
"Yes," Sestok said.
"Are you in trouble?" Clemens said, under his voice.
Logan remained silent. Clemens nodded. "Mr. Sestok, let me reassure you that I will not say anything to anybody around here." He smiled. "However, I do reserve the right to write thinly disguised fiction about this encounter."
"I am not sure I believe you," Sestok said.
"Well, use your logic, man," Clemens said. "If I came back from this adventure, telling people I had been to the future, and after I had been to the future, had gone on an adventure with a woman from the future and two space aliens—well, you may as well give me my strait jacket right now."
Sestok managed to look puzzled.
"He would be hospitalized for being mentally disordered," Uhura explained.
"But he is not mentally disordered," Sestok objected, mildly.
"No, but, you see," Uhura said, "he would not be believed. The Earth of this era does not have the advanced psychological techniques that you and I have."
"I understand," Sestok said, nodding, although Uhura was not entirely sure that he did.
"Well," Clemens said, "I guess if we are going after your Doctor Zimmerman, we had better get cracking!"
Guinan smiled at the puzzled expression on the Vulcan's faces.
"Slang," Uhura said.
"You'll find that slang is my second language," Clemens said. "Along with cursing and exaggeration."
"Samuel," Guinan said, "you're confusing the Vulcans. Quit while you're behind."
"Oh," Clemens said, straight-faced, but with a twinkle in his eye. "Not very intelligent?"
The Vulcans stiffened slightly.
Clemens pretended to puff his cigar and smiled slightly under his mustache,
"Thank you," Uhura said. "We do appreciate that you were willing to bring us here."
"It is only logical," Logan said. "We wish to preserve the timeline. No phrases of appreciation are needed."
"We will need Bobby," Guinan said. "Is he now under conscious sedation?"
"Of course," Sestock said. "I will have him brought out."
"Well," Clemans said, "at least we won't have to carry him."
The Vulcans started to herd the Suliban into the aircraft. One Suliban, a female, looked as if she wanted to speak, but with a glance from one of the males, shut her mouth with a crack. When her companions weren't looking, she smiled and nodded at Uhura.
What did that mean?
Uhura shrugged and moved down the road, herding Mr. Clemens before her. Guinan took Bobby's hand.
When they had walked a few miles down the road, Uhura noticed that Clemens was fidgeting. She exchanged a glance with Guinan. "Is there something bothering you, Samuel?" Guinan asked.
"Well," he said, slowly, "yes." He hesitated again.
Uhura made an encouraging noise.
"You do realize," he said, "that the residents of New Orleans are not as—enlightened—as the literati of San Francisco society."
"Why, Mr. Clemens," Guinan said, smiling slyly. "I do believe that you are displaying a rare form of gallantry."
"It's not just that," he said.
"I do believe," Logan said, "that Mr. Clemens is referring to the color of your skin."
"Ah," Uhura said.
"Many … and please excuse the term … darkies are not as informed and well educated as you are. And being female puts you at a double disadvantage."
"I'm aware of the prejudice in this era," Uhura said.
"But are you prepared to be ignored or dismissed?" Clemens said.
"I believe so," Uhura said.
Guinan shook her head. "I'm not so sure you are," she said. "Samuel, do you believe that you and Logan should take the lead?"
"At this point, yes," he said. "We can pass you two off as maids. But if we do, be prepared to be thought of as …" he colored slightly.
"A lady of the night?" Uhura suggested.
"Wa'al, yes," he said. "But what will Livy think?" he said, under his breath.
"Tell her the truth," Uhura suggested.
"Or," Guinan said, "make sure to tell her that it must have been a lookalike. After all, how could you get from San Francisco to New Orleans in an hour?"
Samuel sighed. "That may be easier. She might suspect, anyway. She knows that I'm a professional liar."
"Mr. Clemens," Uhura said.
"No." Clemens pointed his cigar. "All writers are professional liars. Didn't you know that?"
"I see," Uhura smiled. "Well, Mr. Logan, shall we go?" She held out her arm.
He looked at it. "I would prefer—" he started.
"I'm aware of what you would prefer," she said. "But if you wish to act human, you will need to hold my arm as Samuel is holding Guinan's."
He looked at Samuel and Guinan. Reluctantly, he held out his arm and Uhura draped her arm around it.
After another few blocks, Guinan motioned them to stop. Leaning down, she talked to Bobby, who still seemed to be under the sedation. She put a note in his hand, and another note in his pocket, then gave him a hug and pointed down the street.
"Your friends?" Uhura said.
"I didn't want to answer uncomfortable questions as to why and how I ended up in New Orleans, so I gave him a cover story and pointed him to the restaurant." She looked down the street until he opened a door and walked in. She sighed. "And he's found the place. Good."
"Worried about him?" Uhura asked.
"He seems to be able to handle himself." She shook her head. "I'll follow up on him later."
They walked downtown, passing by brick buildings, looking for Zimmerman. "Where do you think he would go first?" Samuel said, looking around.
"I'm not sure," Uhura admitted. "But I suspect he would try to find a hospital."
"Well, then," Clemens said, "we'll find the hospital." He glanced around. "Excuse me, sir," he said, catching a policeman by the arm. "Where is the hospital here?"
"You're Mark Twain, aren't you?" the policeman said.
"I get that all the time," Clemens said. "But I think you'll find that Mark Twain is in San Francisco right now." He winked. "I keep good track of my doppelganger."
"I apologize," the policeman said.
"I'm Thomas Bixby," Clemens said smoothly. "The hospital?" he prompted.
"Yes, Mr. Bixby. The hospital is that way." And he pointed.
"We are looking for a man named Doctor Albert Zimmerman," Logan said.
"He's a bald man," Clemens said, "about yay high," he held up his hand, "wearing a brown suit. He probably acted a bit lost, and maybe a bit proud."
The policeman shrugged. "I don't know anybody like that," he said. "But I can escort you to the hospital." He looked at the ladies. "Perhaps the ladies would like to rest someplace?"
Uhura could see Guinan's arm tighten painfully on Clemens' arm. "No. They'll come with us," Clemens said, glancing at Guinan.
"I see," the policeman said, glancing at them, shrugging. He led them to the hospital. "What about someplace to stay?" Uhura whispered.
"I know of a place," Clemens started.
"No, you don't," Guinan said. "Not as Thomas Bixby."
"We'll ask inside."
"May I help you?" said a harried looking man, as soon as they stepped inside.
"We're looking for someone who may have stopped here to get help," Clemens said.
"What's the name?"
"Doctor Albert Zimmerman. Bald, around forty, brown suit."
Actually, Zimmerman was a bit older, but Uhura wasn't going to correct him. She knew that people looked older in these days.
The man was shaking his head. "Only people that have come in today have been children and elderly people. Sorry." He moved as if to hurry off.
"If you see him, can you tell him that Uhura is looking for him and to stay in town?" Clemens glanced to Uhura.
"Odd name." The man shrugged. "If I see him, I'll pass on the message."
"Can you tell us a place to stay?" Clemens asked.
He looked them over. "Try the Prentice house, over on Bienville Street. It's a family house. Your ladies will have to go through the back door, though."
"I understand," Clemens said. "Thank you."
They went back out on the street. The day was just starting to get dark. "Bienville Street is about a mile that way," Clemens said, with a gesture.
"Samuel," Guinan said.
"Can we please take a cab?"
"If you need to," he said. "But," he added, "you're going to the front door, with us."
In the end, they walked to the hotel and walked in the front door. The front desk person popped up. "You can't bring them two in the front door,"
Clemens looked around. "Seems as if I just did, boy," he said. He got out his wallet. "We would like two rooms for the night." He flashed around a large bill.
The man's gaze was fixed on the bill.
"Plus room service."
"Yes, of course," he said. "We're having chicken tonight."
"That is fine."
"Is there any luggage?"
"Of course," he said, his gaze glancing back and forth from the bill to the people. Uhura wondered how much Clemens was overpaying.
The clerk hustled up a bell boy, who took the foursome up to the rooms. The two ladies took one room, the men, another, much to the bell boy's surprise, but with a word and another slipped bill, and the boy was backing out, one finger in front of a smile. "Think he'll stay quiet?" Guinan said.
Clemens shrugged. "At least until we leave." He sat down on one chair. "Nawlins is a big town. Where would you suggest we look next?"
Guinan sighed. "I'm not sure. I would have sworn that he would head to a hospital first."
Logan took out his tricorder and scanned the area. He blinked. "This is very unusual."
Uhura pulled out her own tricorder. "What?"
"I'm getting a fading signal."
"What's the signature?"
Logan showed her the signal. She flipped on her tricorder. "Why, that sneaky little …"
"He had a second homing device injected. He knew he wasn't supposed to do that."
"Wa-al," Clemens drawled. "It sounds like it was a good idea that he did, whatever you're talking about."
"I can locate him," Uhura said. She stared at the tricorder. "He seems to be about twenty miles away, going vaguely north. Now. East," she waited a minute. "Now North again."
Clemens laughed. "He's on the Mississippi!" Then he looked pensive. "At one time, I could tell you exactly where he was. But the river has changed too much." He went silent, then murmured wistfully, "Too much."
"So—how do we catch up with him?" Uhura said. She looked hopefully up at Logan, but Logan shook his head. "I cannot ask my commander to do more. He has done too much as it is."
"We need to take land transportation."
"Or boats," Clemens said. "A faster boat. And, you know, eventually the Mississippi comes to an end, and he'll stop running."
"But," Uhura said, "that could take weeks."
"So," Clemens said, "you have another appointment?"
"No," Guinan said. "But you do. How would it look to have the great Mark Twain missing from his own tour?"
Clemens smiled. "That's where I have the advantage of you. I left a letter in my rooms explaining that I might be gone a few weeks and that no-one should worry my wife."
Guinan smiled at him, puzzled. "When did you have a chance to write that?"
"Oh," Clemens said. "I wrote that a couple of days ago, when you were in the hospital, and Picard had just left." He shrugged. "I had a notion that my adventures were not quite over."
"Shouldn't we try to find a boat tonight?" Uhura said.
Clemens smiled. "We can wait until morning. If I know my pilots, they're probably either drunk or asleep by now." He yawned. "Besides, I'm an old man. I need my sleep."
Guinan looked at him, incredulous. "Since this morning, you've been transported 2000 miles, been in a spaceship, dealt with Randolph Hearst, taken a young boy under your wing, and walked at least twelve miles. You're only human. No wonder you're tired." [Speaking of which, where the heck IS the boy during all this?]
Clemens grinned. "Are you so sure I'm human?"
Logan looked almost puzzled. "I have taken a scan of you, Samuel. You are human."
Uhura laughed. "He was speaking metaphorically."
Clemens' eyes twinkled. "Are you so sure?" He glanced at Logan, who was still puzzled. "Come, Mr. Logan. Let's leave the girls to their sleep."
"I have never understood why humans believe that unmated males and females need to sleep in different rooms," Logan said, as Clemens led him across the hall.
"You don't? Well, let me explain a few things to you." Clemens turned to Uhura and winked.
"Oh," Guinan said, smiling, "Samuel is a bad, bad man."
"I can hardly wait to hear what Logan says in the morning," Uhura said, stripping her outer dress off and loosening her corset. She sighed in relief. She hadn't had it on tight, but it was still binding. Still, since the brassiere wasn't in use yet, she didn't dare wear anything that wasn't period.
Guinan had stripped down to her knickers. "I agree," she said.
"What are you used to wearing?"
"Many of us wear robes and headdresses, mostly in bland colors," Guinan said. "I usually love this way of dressing, but not after I've been traipsing around half the world."
"We could wear slacks," Uhura suggested, not entirely seriously.
"I don't think so," Guinan said. "This Listener refuses to wear plain clothes, not as long as I'm on this planet."
"We could wear the clothing of the average person of our color," Uhura said slowly. "We would fit in better. But I'm afraid we'd be taken less seriously."
"We would be invisible," Guinan said. "Although in some ways, that might not be a bad idea."
"Let's see what Samuel says in the morning," Uhura said.
"And," Guinan said, laying down, "I'll make sure he gives us a straight answer."
"You really like him, don't you?"
"Not romantically," Guinan said. "Although I'm much older than he is." She smiled. "He's a good friend. He makes me laugh."
"Good friends," Uhura said, yawning.
"Good friends." A second later, Uhura heard yawning. Two seconds later, she didn't hear a thing.
Zimmerman looked across the Mississippi to the bank sliding by. He had never visited the river when he was on Earth—he had never seen the use of vacations to sightsee. After all, he could just ask the computer to project any scene he wanted on his screen. And he didn't have to deal with bugs or weather or anything he didn't want to see. He swatted absentmindedly at a mosquito, then looked down. Mosquitoes carried diseases, such as West Nile disease, and Lyme disease, and other nasty things. He suppressed the impulse to go into his tiny cabin that he shared with another man and try to construct a netting. After all, like Uhura said, he was inoculated against all of the diseases this era could throw at him. Besides, it was time for him to go in and play the piano.
He shook his head. He still couldn't believe that this barge had a piano. Allen's cousin had led him to the river, and he had expected to see a giant riverboat with workers hustling all around it and brightly befrocked ladies and southern gentlemen, until he was informed that riverboats hadn't traveled the Mississippi in thirty years, since the "War between the States." Instead, he saw prosaic, rough looking, rough talking, strong armed men of all ages, and many of the ladies were the same. There were some passengers on these ferries, but these were certainly not the grand boats of his imagination. He knew he should get up, but watching the shore go by was—restful. He hadn't had rest in a long time.
"Hey!" Johnny Allen said. "You going to lollygag out here all day?" He sat down beside Zimmerman. "We do have to pay for our passage."
Zimmerman sighed. "I know. I was just thinking how life has changed for me."
"Joe said that someone was chasing you?" He shook his head. "None of my business."
"Yes. Something was chasing me," Zimmerman said. "And before you ask, it wasn't the security."
"Security?" Johnny asked, puzzled.
"The police, I believe you would say. Sheriffs."
"No. They don't like me because I exist."
Johnny looked puzzled. "That doesn't make much sense."
"Doesn't it?" Zimmerman said. "You said you didn't like what you called 'niggers.' I'm presuming that means people with brown skin."
"Where'n'th'hell did you come from?"
"But you like Tom and his wife. You said they were the smartest people you know. And they have brown skin."
"Well." Johnny fell silent.
"Exactly," Zimmerman said. "These people don't like me for a similar reason, even though I, personally, have done nothing to them. Don't you do the same to brown skinned people?"
"Don't you have any prejudices, Al?"
"Oh, yes," Zimmerman said. "I wouldn't be human if I didn't."
"Klingons," he said. "But that's because I don't know any."
"Never mind." Zimmerman got up. "Let's go and work for our supper."
"What songs do you know?"
"Well, I know the old classics—Mozart, Joplin, Gershwin …"
"Do you know 'My Old Kentucky Home'? 'John Brown's Body'? 'Goober Peas'?"
Zimmerman sighed again. "No, but if you give me the music, I'm sure I can play them."
"And maybe you can fit that other music in there," Johnny said. "By the way, your turn to tend the fire is after the performance."
"Tend the fire?"
"I'll show you what to do."
And so my vacation ends, Zimmerman thought. He wondered if the Suliban were close behind him and walked into the galley of the boat. Lost in his thoughts, he just about walked into a table.
"Hey! Watch it," a man with large arms and a larger nose said.
"I'm sorry," Zimmerman said. He looked down. "You're playing poker?"
The man grimaced at his cards. "What gave it away?"
"I'm a bit of a poker player, myself," Zimmerman said, thinking back to his college days.
"Yeah?" the man said, interested. "Perhaps you should get in a game. You have any money?"
Zimmerman examined the table. He didn't see any money and looked at the man questioningly. "Some." He saw his employer looking impatiently at him. "But not now. I'm playing the piano, and then, after that, I'm taking a shift at the fire."
"We're not playing for money here," the man winked. He looked at the other players. "Yeah? Maybe we can take the game down to the fire."
"Not enough room," one of the other men snorted.
"Won't you get in trouble?" Zimmerman said, thinking back to the late night games in the basement of his dormitory.
"If we're caught," the man said. "You ain't a snitch, are you?"
"A snitch," Zimmerman said, thinking it was some kind of animal.
"You know, turn us in to the captain? He's real religious."
Well, then, see you later." He turned back to the game.
Zimmerman raised his eyebrows and moved to the piano. Johnny leaned over. "They invite you to a game?"
"Don't do it. They'll clean you out."
Zimmerman smiled. "I think I have a few tricks that they don't know about."
The man shrugged. "So? Your loss." He turned his attention to the piano. "You said you can play. So play."
"What do you want me to play?"
"Guess we should have practiced this afternoon."
Zimmerman didn't mention that this afternoon was spent on loading the boat. He agreed docilely.
"You know 'Dixie's Land'?"
Zimmerman frowned. "That one—I think I do." He started playing. "Is this it?"
Johnny dropped his jaw. "Yeah, it is." He started singing, and the rest of the table started along. Crewmembers and the few passengers started popping into the gallery.
"What next?" Zimmerman said after the song was over.
" 'Battle Hymn of the Republic'?"
"I know that one, too." He started playing. "To make the Northerners happy."
When they finished, Johnny looked at him. "Next?" said Zimmerman.
"Your choice. Something fast."
"Ever hear this before?" He started playing the "Maple Leaf Rag" by Scott Joplin.
Johnny frowned. "Can't say that I did."
Zimmerman kept playing, then noticed a young black man slide up beside him. "You like it?"
"I do," he said. He stared down at Zimmerman's hands. "May I try?"
"You know it?"
The young man shrugged. "I watched you do it." He sat down at the piano and started playing, adding flourishes that Zimmerman couldn't manage.
When he finished, Zimmerman shook his hand. "You have talent."
"I'm going to Chicago to try my hand as a musician."
"What's your name?"
"Scott. Scott Joplin." He smiled at Zimmerman.
Zimmerman felt a shock of recognition. "Tell you what," he said. "You publish that."
Joplin snorted. "I can't do that."
"I give it to you," Zimmerman smiled. "I think you should write songs like that."
"Are you sure?"
"Well, I have had a tune like that in mind …"
Joplin ducked his head, then glanced up at him, looking suspicious. "Why don't you publish it?"
"Because," Zimmerman said. "I'm not planning to be here … in this country that long. I can't take the time to publish."
"Oh." Joplin reached out, then pulled back. Zimmerman grabbed his hand, and he pumped it enthusiastically. "Thank you." Zimmerman suspected that not too many people were willing to shake his hand—especially a Caucasian man.
Johnny walked back up. "What was that about?"
"He was complimenting me on my piano playing," Zimmerman said smoothly.
"Ah." Johnny looked at Joplin suspiciously. "I see." He shrugged and walked away again.
"Look," Zimmerman said. "Can you help me? I'm having trouble finding songs that everybody knows."
"Let me help." Joplin sat down at the piano again and played a few tunes. "You got that?"
"Yes," Zimmerman said. "I do." He sat down and played one of them back. "Why aren't you the piano player on this trip?"
Joplin looked at his arms. "Why do you think?" He looked back up at Zimmerman. "I'm heading to Chicago. Things will change there."
"Ah." Zimmerman didn't know Joplin's biography, except that he had passed away young, so he couldn't be too reassuring. "Well, good luck."
"Thank you." Joplin looked around and out the window. "Well, I think we're coming up to a landing. We need to get to work."
Zimmerman sat at the piano. The captain poked his head in the room. "We need you, too, Mr. Zimmerman."
"Doctor," Zimmerman said, under his breath, but he followed.
He followed them to the cargo hold. "We just need to get the cargo out where the boom can take it."
"Ah." He followed the crew to the hold and started pulling boxes and throwing them on pallets. Then a boom came over, picked it up, and hoisted it over to the land. After they were finished, Zimmerman started to go back to his billet, but Johnny stopped him.
"You forget about your turn at the fire?"
"Yes. I did." Zimmerman was beginning to think he should have hidden in New Orleans and waited to see if Uhura would come eventually. Then he remembered the Suliban, who were all through New Orleans. He looked at his hands. He supposed that he should sanitize them, but if he were going to re-stock a fire, he couldn't see the point. He followed Johnny down to the boiler room. "Joe!"
An older man popped up from behind a wall. "This is your fire monkey for tonight."
"Yeah?" The man moved slowly around the wall, and Zimmerman saw that he had a broken leg. "You know how to feed a fire?"
Joe blinked. Well, he supposed that most people in this era knew how to feed a fire.
"You've had servants to do it for you?"
"Of a sort." Zimmerman was ever so glad for clean, renewing energy. "But I can learn."
Joe nodded. "Well, then, I guess I don't need you to unlearn anything."
The man settled painfully in a chair and started instructing Zimmerman in how to make a fire. After a time, he allowed Zimmerman to sit down. "So," Zimmerman said, "what happened?"
Joe spat. "Fell off the dock. I was drinking too much."
"May I see?"
Joe looked at him under bushy eyebrows. "Why?"
Zimmerman sighed. "I'm not letting too many people know, but I'm a doctor."
"A doctor, huh? Why don't you advertise it?"
"I'm trying to get away from some people. I don't exactly want them to follow me up the river."
"Ah." Joe pulled up his pants leg.
Zimmerman looked closely at it. "This leg is infected."
"You need treatment."
Joe spat again. "They'd just put leeches on it."
Zimmerman closed his eyes. Did he have anything in his bag? He did. The trick was getting it to Joe without him noticing. He did have a cream, though …
"Can I go get my bag?" Zimmerman continued to look at the leg. "I think I have something that will help."
Joe looked at the fire. "I think I can tend it for a couple of minutes." He shifted his leg uneasily. "It does hurt like the devil."
"I'll be back in a minute." Zimmerman ran to his room. His roommate grunted and turned over in his bunk as he opened the door, letting the sunshine in. "Sorry," he muttered, as he grabbed the bag from under his bunk. No time to sort through it. He jogged back to the fire room and found Joe in the same position that he had left him. For the first time, he realized that the man's complexion was red because of fever, not because of the fire.
He looked at Joe for a second. Was he supposed to save this man or let him die? Would saving this man irrevocably change the future?
Damn it, no. If they wanted somebody who was trained in temporal mechanics, they would have sent somebody. The Guardian of Time, for whatever reason, showed Starfleet that it was him—Dr. Albert Zimmerman—that was to go to the past.
His second hesitation was the Suliban. Would using modern technology set them off? He pursed his lips, then looked in his bag. Most of what he had brought had to do with Trionic radiation, but being Starfleet, they had insisted that he over pack—and thank God they did. He rummaged around … yes, there was an antibiotic. In a hypospray. Damn.
"Joe," he said slowly. "What I'm going to show you may put you in danger, but it will heal you. I need your solemn promise under all you believe that you will never disclose what I am going to show you."
"You mean," Joe said, "I can't blab about what you're about to pull out of your bag." He smiled slightly. "How about if I close my eyes?"
"Well, yes," Zimmerman said, disconcerted. "That will do." He looked at the man. His eyes were closed, and he pulled out the hypospray, adjusted it for Joe's estimated weight, and shot him with the antibiotic. He put the hypospray back in, then looked for the cream. Squeezing out a generous amount onto his hand, he put the tube back in and closed the bag with his free hand. "You can open your eyes," he said. He started slathering cream on the leg.
Joe sighed. "That does feel good." He eyed the cream suspiciously. "That ain't that snake oil stuff?"
Zimmerman stopped. "The basis of this cream has nothing to do with snakes."
Joe chuckled. "You ain't from around here, are you?"
"Snake oil is a term used for bad medicine." Joe spat. "I put some snake oil on my leg at the last port, and it got worse."
Zimmerman blinked. "Shut your eyes again and ignore what you're going to hear." He pulled out his medical tricorder and scanned the man. Human standard. Infection and a high fever, but he already knew that. Nothing else seemed to be a problem, except a tending toward cirrhosis. He pulled out another hypospray—yes, it was loaded with that medicine, too. He injected Joe, then scanned him again. His liver was already healing, but …
"Joe, you need to stop drinking and smoking."
Joe's eyes popped open. "What else is there to do on this God-blessed river?" He spat again. "It's not exactly like I have any qualifications to do anything else." He stared at the doctor. "How did you know I drank?"
The doctor blinked. "Um … you were slightly yellow, which indicates cirrhosis. You shouldn't need to worry about that for a while."
"Thanks, Doc—I think."
"Don't call me doctor. Call me Al."
"Al." Joe held out his hand, and after a moment's hesitation, Zimmerman took it and shook it heartily. And he didn't even wipe his hand. Joe then glanced to the fire. "You need more wood for the fire."
"Ah." Zimmerman smiled and picked another log to throw in.
"You'll do," Joe grunted.
"I thought we were going to take a boat," Guinan said.
Clemens grunted. "Much as I would like to take a boat up the Mississippi, I'm afraid it would break my heart. Again." He chewed on some bacon. "No, in order to get to a place quickly, we need to take the train."
Guinan looked up from the meal in front of her. "But, Samuel, what if he departs the boat before we get to the destination?"
"All boats end up in St. Louis," Clemens said, "And there are stops between here and St. Louis. Nyota can keep watch with her thingy …"
"My tricorder," Uhura said.
"Far as I'm concerned, it's a thingy that I have not the least idea how to run, nor do I want to." He took another bite of bacon. "We'll just get off at the nearest stop and hire a hack."
"I wonder if we can find out how he got aboard that riverboat," Guinan said. "That's the one thing that bothers me."
"We are being observed," Logan said. He took a bite of his eggs.
Uhura blinked at him. The others tensed up. "Where?" she said.
"Over outside the window," Logan said calmly. "An elderly man is looking in at us."
"Are we finished?" Clemens said. "The other natives are restless, anyway." Uhura noted that he had overpaid the hotel owner to ensure that the party sat together. They were still over in one corner, partially obscured from the other diners, but they were still getting glared at.
"I believe I am," Logan said. Guinan and Uhura pushed their plates away. Clemens got up to settle their bill, but when Guinan and Uhura went to go to the back entrance, he firmly took Guinan's arm in his, and they went out the front door.
The dark-skinned man stared at them, then followed them down the sidewalk. "Sir," Clemens said. "You've been observing us."
"That I have," he said. "Would one of your companions happen to be named Uhura?"
"Yes," Uhura said. "I am Uhura."
"A Doctor Zimmerman told my employer that you may be trying to find him."
"You've seen Doctor Zimmerman?"
"Yes." The man grinned. "Follow me."
He led them down a few streets to another hotel, around to the end of town, then walked in the front door. The man behind the desk got up as they entered. "You've found Al's friends." He looked at Clemens critically. "He didn't tell me that one of his friends was Mr. Twain."
Guinan squeezed his arm when Clemens' face darkened. "Perhaps he didn't believe we would be along."
"That is very true," Clemens said. "Nor would he know our Mr. Logan."
The man stared at Logan. "You're not from around here, either, are you?"
"No," he said. "I am not."
He shook his head. "You are not related to what Al called the Suliban?"
"You've seen the Suliban here?"
"Yeah." He looked at the ladies. "Which one of you is Uhura?"
Uhura stepped forward. "I am. My name is Nyota Uhura." She hesitated. "My companions are Samuel Clemens …"
"Mark Twain, to you."
"Mr. Logan, and Miss Guinan. They have no first names."
"I … see. My name is Joseph Allen, and this is Tom Sisko. His wife, Martha, is in the kitchen."
Uhura started. She had dined at Sisko's in New Orleans in the future. When she got back, she would have to look up the family.
"We helped Al escape from the Suliban."
"You put him on the riverboat?" Uhura said.
Allen blinked. "How did you know he was on a riverboat?"
Clemens looked at Uhura. "Best not ask these things, son," he said, chewing his cigar.
"How was he when he left?"
"Tired," Tom said. "I took him to the river in my buggy with the false bottom."
"He's with my cousin Johnny Allen, who does entertainment on the riverboat, and who also needed to get out of town."
"Do you know if any of the Suliban followed him?"
"I don't know," Allen said. He looked at Tom. "I don't think so."
"There are always suspicious characters around the docks."
Clemens snorted. "I know that."
Tom smiled. "Yes. You would."
Clemens looked puzzled at him. "Have we met before?"
"Oh, no, sir. I've read your books."
He raised his eyebrows. "Really?"
"Both of us read and write. Our sons went to college. One is planning to come back here to start a restaurant."
"You don't need to go to college to do that," Clemens said.
"No," Tom said, "but it does give him a leg up."
"I should like to invest in your restaurant," Clemens said.
Tom stared at him. "But you haven't even eaten Martha's cooking."
"Nonetheless," Clemens said.
Uhura wished them well, and wondered if it was the same Sisko's she had eaten at. She shrugged. "Where was the riverboat heading?" she said, trying to distract them from their conversation.
"St. Louis, ultimately," Allen said. "Then my cousin was heading for Chicago."
"And he just decided to rescue Dr. Zimmerman?" Clemens said.
"Oh, no," Allen said. "Al's working as a piano player."
Uhura blinked again. "I didn't even know that he played the piano."
"Your doctor is apparently full of hidden talents," Clemens said.
"What are your talents?" Allen said, looking at Guinan and Logan curiously.
"Oh," Guinan said, "I debate Mr. Clemens on the lecture tour."
"I am an observer," Logan said, after hesitating.
"Looks as if you are doing more than observing," Tom said, astutely.
"I am also ensuring that this planet remains intact from outside influence."
Uhura blinked. Had Logan just admitted that he was an alien?
Clemens harrumphed. "These two are space aliens," Clemens said, pointing with his cigar.
Guinan gave Uhura a startled look. "Samuel," Guinan said. She laughed hollowly. "Always a joker."
Allen looked sober. "Actually, I believe Mr. Logan. I've seen what Al called the Suliban."
"And nobody is going to believe him, as nobody will believe me," Clemens said.
"True," Allen said.
"Logan," Uhura said, "can you persuade Sestok to place an observer in this hotel?"
"Yes," Sestok nodded. "That would be wise."
"Will he have one of those disintegrator gun thingies?" Allen said. Uhura looked at him, shocked. "Al shot one of my chairs. He was a bit—paranoid—when he first arrived."
"And you took him in?"
"It was the Christian thing to do." Allen shrugged. "He apologized."
"Sounds like your boy is growing a backbone." Clemens cackled.
"Thank you for your information," Uhura said, glancing at Clemens.
"Where are you going from here?" Allen said.
"The train station."
"Tom will give you a ride."
"Thank you!" Guinan said, enthusiastically. Uhura couldn't help but agree. Guinan then stared pointedly at Clemens.
"Good grief, woman, do you think I'm made out of money?" he said, as he pulled out his wallet.
Allen shook his head. "Keep it. Al already paid us."
"Where did he get money?" Uhura said.
Allen shrugged. "He had it when he arrived," he said. "He had a hundred in his wallet."
"Well," Clemens said. "That's a puzzlement." He grabbed a card from the hotel counter. Then he turned to the rest of the party. "Shall we go?"
"Before you go," Tom said. "Could you do a couple of things for me?"
"Of course," Clemens said.
Tom disappeared into the kitchen. A woman's voice came clear. "Tom, he can't be here; I just read that he was in San Francisco."
"Yet," Clemens said, chewing his cigar, "here I am." He stepped forward. "You must be Martha Sisko."
"How can you be here?" Martha said, looking at him wide-eyed.
"The reports of my location are greatly exaggerated," Clemens said, looking at Allen and Tom. "I trust you will explain it to her." He held out his hand. "I'm very pleased to meet you."
Tom had disappeared, then came back with a couple of books. "Could you sign these for me?"
Clemens smiled broadly. "Of course," he said. "May I have a pen?"
"Oh, my sweet Lord," Guinan groaned. "Once again, he'll be insufferable."
Uhura smiled at her.
Zimmerman was back at the piano, Joplin beside him. "I don't think it's fair," Zimmerman said, "that you can't play the piano full time here."
"Well," Joplin said. "I don't think so, either. But you can't change people."
Zimmerman got to the end of his song, then flexed his hands. "You know what," he said. "My hands are cramping up. Why don't you take the next few songs?"
He looked around as he said that loudly. The few people that were in the dining room looked up at them, then turned back to their own concerns. "You know," he said softly, "I don't think anybody here cares."
Joplin sat down and started playing. Zimmerman sat back. Now, that was the difference between a dabbler and a master. The people in the dining room sat up straighter and started tapping their toes. Johnny stepped in, glanced at Zimmerman, then looked at Joplin. He stepped up beside Zimmerman and leaned over. "I thought you were supposed to be playing the piano," he said.
Zimmerman snorted. "I can play tunes," he said. "But Scott here can play the piano."
The man nodded slowly. "I catch your meaning," he said, looking at Joplin. "That boy is going far."
"Yes," Zimmerman said. "That man is."
"You should back that man."
He shrugged. "It's not like I'm rolling in riches."
"You must know somebody."
"I'm predicting that Scott Joplin will go far."
"Well, I might know somebody at the Chicago World's Fair."
Chicago World's Fair? What was that? "It's a start," Zimmerman said.
"You'll tell him?"
"I'll tell him."
Johnny looked around. "We're coming up to a stop. Best get ready for loading and unloading again."
Zimmerman shook his head. "I can't figure out how you know that with no …" He cut himself off; he was about to say tricorders—"instruments."
Johnny shrugged. "I may not be a river man, but I do know the river." He got up, and then Zimmerman heard the boat slowing down.
He got up and looked out the window. He had taken to carrying his tricorder in his pocket, so, as the boat glided up to maneuver a stop with the dock, he dropped back and surreptitiously scanned the crowd. Normally, the dockworkers scanned as one hundred percent human, so he waved them back and forth.
He swore under his breath. There was a Suliban—no, three Suliban on the docks. And he had no doubt that the Suliban were looking for him. Could he hang back …?
"Well," Joplin said. "Guess nobody is going to be listening to the piano now." He got up to move to the docks.
Zimmerman grabbed him. "You don't want to go out there."
Joplin looked at him. "What do you mean? I have to go out there, and so do you."
"There are people out there who are looking for me." For the first time, Zimmerman regretted turning on the transponder in his stomach. Had they discovered the electronics? Or were they just watching everybody?
"But," Joplin said, "they aren't looking for me. I can cover for you, if you want."
"No, I'd prefer that you not go out there, either."
Joplin shrugged. "Why?"
"Because you're not expendable."
"You're going to be famous."
"Look. I know about you. You were raised in Texarkana, Texas. You were taught music by a German tutor. You taught guitar."
"How did you know that?"
"I'm …" Zimmerman couldn't tell him that he was from the future, could he? "I'm psychic."
"Right." But Joplin still looked spooked. "Let's say I believe you. And I do believe that you need to stay away from those dock workers. What are we going to do?"
"I'm a doctor, not a …" He stood back on his heels. "I'm a doctor." He fingered the phaser in his pocket. "I'm going to make you pass out."
Quickly, Zimmerman drew his phaser and shot Scott Joplin. "God forgive me," he muttered, as the other man slumped to the floor.
The captain came by. "Why ain't you …?" He stared at the two men. "What happened to him?"
"He fainted," Zimmerman said. "I think he needs some more food." Come to think of it, the other man did look a little scrawny.
"He gets as much food as all of the other darkies on this …"
"Yeah, Captain," Zimmerman said. "I've seen what you feed them. And you would get more work out of them if you fed them better."
"Better? They don't need …"
"They need as much food and water as any other man."
"Zimmerman," the other man said. "You sure got you some odd ways."
"Did Joe tell you what I did with his leg?"
The captain hesitated. "Yeah. Joe doesn't even look like he has a scar."
"Then do you think that I might know what I'm talking about?"
"Help me get him to a bed."
Together, the two carried Joplin to his bunk.
"Look," Zimmerman said. "There's some men on the dock I don't want to see. Can you make sure they don't board the ship?"
"I had heard that you had some gambling debts," the captain said. He sighed. "First you got me giving more food to the darkies; then you want me to protect you." He pursed his lips. "I'll do it this once," he said. "Don't expect a lot more."
The captain spat on the ground, then left.
Joplin groaned again and opened his eyes. "What did you hit me with?"
"You'll be fine," Zimmerman said. "You'll have a little headache for a while; then it will go away."
"A little headache?" He looked around. "When did we get to my bunk?"
"While you were unconscious."
"How long was I …?"
Zimmerman held up a hand. "We're pulling away from the dock." He picked up his tricorder and tried to obscure it from Joplin.
"Something that will tell me if we're moving again," Zimmerman lied.
"I've never seen …" Joplin stared at the tricorder. "You're not from this Earth, are you?"
"Actually, I am," Zimmerman said, "just not from this time." He heaved a sigh of relief. The Suliban readings were fading away. "We're gone from the dock." He got up. "I would suggest that you lie down here for the rest of the day. I have the captain convinced that you need more food, and that was why you fainted."
"Well," Joplin said, "I have been hungry a lot on this trip, but that wasn't why …"
Zimmerman held up his hand. "That's your story."
"Oh. Right?" Joplin grinned. "So I can expect another piece of bread at night."
"Honestly," Zimmerman groused. "So many carbs."
"Carbs?" Joplin grinned. "And you're from the future, huh?"
"I said too much. Never mind." He looked at his pocket watch. "I need to help Joe in the fire room. Lie down."
"Gladly." Joplin laid back down. "But someday you have to tell me more."
Zimmerman smiled slightly and nodded. "Someday." He slipped out the door and went to the furnace room. He had avoided the Suliban on this landing, but what about the next?
He really needed to get to Chicago.
He entered the boiler room. Joe was poking around the room. "You know, Doc," Joe said. "I really don't need the help any more. You've healed me."
Zimmerman shrugged. "Where else am I going to go?"
"The piano?" Joe said.
"We have a better piano player than I on this ship."
"Joplin?" Joe said. "Yeah, I heard him."
"We need to get to Chicago."
"Chicago!" Joe said. "What's there?"
"Something called a World's Fair?"
"I've heard of those," Joe said. He nodded. "Yeah, I suppose that would help Joplin, but what about you?"
"I need to get back to San Francisco."
Joe grunted. "You can do that from St. Louis."
"I need to see Joplin to Chicago."
"Well," Joe grunted, "I suppose you can take the train from Chicago to San Francisco, if you got enough money."
"When will we get to St. Louis?"
"A couple of days from now." Joe smiled. "I'll miss you, Doc."
Zimmerman grabbed his hand. "And I'll miss you." He surprised himself by admitting to himself that it was true.
Guinan leaned over to Uhura. The train lurched, and she accidentally hit her shoulder. "You shouldn't be looking at that here."
"I know," Uhura said, while scrolling back and forth on the tricorder. "But I get the feeling that I missed something."
Logan put down his newspaper. Clemens was snoring slightly in one corner of the seat. "If you wish, I could operate your device for you."
Uhura smiled. "I appreciate the help, Mr. Logan, but I'm afraid I can't let you do that. In spite of your advanced technology, you are all contemporaries of this time. I am not."
"Yes," Logan said. "But perhaps I can spot your Mr. Zimmerman, if you operate the machinery."
Uhura glanced at Guinan. Guinan frowned. "My eyes are no better than yours. Look, I can't tell what you have there without looking under the cover, so Logan won't be able to tell, either."
"We'll change seats," Guinan said. "Come over here."
"I will need to see a picture of your Mr. Zimmerman."
Uhura dialed up a picture. Logan studied it. He nodded.
"I'm going to go from when we first arrived to a year from now."
"I am an observer. I will not act on what I observe."
Guinan grinned. "Aren't you doing that right now?"
Logan looked nonplussed.
Uhura shrugged and ran the Guardian's footage slowly. Events flowed by. She stopped at every few frames.
"Wait," Logan said.
"Go back two frames."
"I had been stopping at every ten." But she went back two frames and studied the picture. "I don't see anything."
"The mirror. Can you isolate the bottom right corner?"
"Yes." The bottom of the mirror came into focus. There, on the side, was Dr. Zimmerman and a young man in a suit.
"Can you identify his companion?"
Uhura looked at the picture, puzzled. "That looks like someone I should know."
"Will your computer identify him?"
She manipulated the tricorder. "Oh. Oh, my."
"You know him?"
"He's famous. Or he will be in the future." She took the picture out of the focus. "Let's see where they are." She looked up. "Have you ever heard of a Chicago World's Fair?"
Guiana grinned. "I've heard that Chicago is pouring tons of money into this fair." She sighed. "But I don't think that you and I will find a welcome there."
"Well, apparently they don't call it the 'White City' for nothing."
"Hmmm …" Uhura sighed. She hadn't realized that the color of her skin would cause so many problems.
"Logan," she said. "Can you tell where they were?"
"I thought I saw a sign that said 'The Midway.' "
"Which would make sense," Guinan said. "I understand that the Midway is the entertainment center."
"What is a World's Fair?" Uhura said.
"It's an over bloated festival for people to boast about their supposed achievements," Clemens said, his eyes still closed. "I heard that this White City is supposedly lit up by artificial lights."
"Samuel," Guinan said, "I heard you praise artificial lights last week."
"That was last week. And besides, I don't put up a million artificial lights just to make sure everybody sees me." He opened his eyes. "A small, dim bulb is quite enough for that."
"Would you rather that people still use candles or better yet, oil lamps that tip over and cause fires?"
"Electric lights can also cause fires."
"But not as many."
"We have used artificial lights for five hundred of your years," Logan commented.
"Which goes to prove," Clemens said, pulling his cigar out of his pocket, "that technology doesn't necessarily indicate that a civilization is advanced. Don't you people ever enjoy things?"
"Certain activities do create satisfaction."
"That's not what I said. Don't you ever laugh? Don't you ever smile?"
Uhura grinned. Clemens winked at her.
"We do not. We eschew emotions."
"You chew emotions?" Clemens said.
"Samuel," Guinan said, "don't bait the Vulcan. It's not classy."
Clemens snorted. "And, as you well know, I have never been classy." He looked at her with frank curiosity. "In all seriousness, why do you never smile?" he asked Logan.
Uhura looked at the Vulcan. "Samuel, the Vulcans were warriors until they realized that their world would not survive. One of their philosophers taught that the suppression of emotions and the pursuit of peace would help save the Vulcan people."
Clemens raised an eyebrow. "Is that right?"
"Essentially correct," Logan conceded. "I am surprised that you knew of this."
"The Vulcans of my era—and the one particular Vulcan I like to call a friend—are a bit more open in their dealings with humans," Uhura explained.
"Please keep that to yourself."
Logan nodded. "Of course."
Clemens looked at the countryside. "So—where are we?" He stared out the window. "Oh, I know where we are. We're in Missouri."
Uhura glanced out the window. "How can you tell?"
Guinan rolled her eyes.
Logan looked down at the tricorder, then stiffened. He pointed at a blinking red dot. Uhura swore under her breath. "Suliban."
"Two of them. On this train." She looked up. "Two cars down."
"How many of these Sully things are there?" protested Clemens.
"I suspect," Uhura said. "As many as there needs to be to prevent us from changing the timeline back."
Uhura looked at Logan. "Shall we?"
"Indeed." They got up.
"Oh, no," Clemens said, "you're not going without us."
"Mr. Clemens," Logan said. "You would only be in the way."
"I may be old," Clemens said, "but I'm not dead."
"What exactly do you have in mind?" Guinan said.
"I plan," he said, "to throw around my celebrity. Shall we have a debate in the dining car?"
"My dear Mr. Clemens," Guinan said, "that would be a wonderful idea."
"What would a debate accomplish?" Logan said, managing to look stoic, yet puzzled.
"You've never heard of a distraction, Mr. Logan?"
"Of course," Logan said, nodding. "And the Suliban, being only human …."
"Hey," said Clemens. "You should not insult the Suliban." He offered an arm to Guinan. "Shall we, my dear?"
"Of course," she said.
"You know, I met an attractive young lady on the Enterprise. I thought she was human, but she informed me that she was half human. She called herself …" Clemens scratched his head while they walked. "Oh, what was it? Something started with B."
"Betelgeuse? Bratovian? Betazoid?"
Clemens snapped his fingers. "Betazoid," he said. "That was it. They called her a counselor."
"Best not tell me any more," Guinan said. "I think I'm fated to meet her." She pursed her lips. "What an interesting choice for a half-Betazoid to go into."
"Betazoid are telepathic and empathic."
"She could tell your thoughts or tell your feelings. One or the other, probably, being half Betazoid." She looked sideways at Clemens. "Why did you bring her up?"
"Oh," Clemens said. "It seems like lately if I have a beautiful woman on my arm, she seems to be an alien."
"Why, Samuel," Guinan said. "Flirting with me. And you a married man."
"I'm married," Clemens said. "And will remain faithful to my wife. But that doesn't mean that I'm dead."
"Well, thank you, good sir," Guinan said. "And here's the dining car."
Uhura looked down at her tricorder, surreptitiously. "They are in the dining car." Walking cautiously between the cars, they entered the dining car and looked around. It was packed.
"No wonder," Uhura muttered, "I couldn't get a clearer reading.
"Now, Mr. Clemens," Guinan said loudly, with a glance at Uhura, "I don't believe that you're as big a pessimist as you represent yourself."
The people in the dining car looked up, their eyebrows raised. Uhura saw a few murmur to each other. Some of them looked away, clearly uninterested.
"Humph, non-readers," Clemens said, under his breath. "Miss Guinan, I can find no reason to change my opinion. Why, look at our supposedly virtuous President, Grover Cleveland. Even he found it necessary to deny a credible journalist who claimed that the president had surgery on his supposed," he held up his fingers for emphasis, "fishing trip."
"And what reason do we have to doubt the president?" Guinan said. "His doctors say that he didn't leave office."
"The country's going into a depression, and the president takes a fishing trip?" Clemens chewed his cigar. "Sounds mighty suspicious to me."
Uhura could see more and more people being engaged by the two debaters, and she walked down the aisle, followed by Logan. At the end table, a couple was fidgeting in their seats. Uhura nodded. Logan came up behind the couple. He hesitated. "Vulcan nerve pinch," she said, sub-vocally, knowing that Logan would hear her. He nodded slightly, and reached to both people at once, as if in a friendly gesture. They both collapsed. Quickly, Uhura and Logan pushed them over on the bench. Logan, who was looking at Guinan, nodded. "Well," she said loudly, "we won't solve the country's problems here."
Clemens shrugged. "I suppose we should eat." He looked around. "I don't suppose there's any decent food around here."
"There's a galley," Guinan said.
"As I said, I don't suppose there's any decent food around here." They took the table behind Uhura and Logan. Uhura looked down at the table. "Oh," she said. "How convenient." She held up a steak knife and slipped it close to her companion's ribs.
"I prefer the more direct method," Logan said. He reached into an inner pocket and pulled out a small phaser. He held it in his hand so that the dining car could not see it, but the two Suliban could. "I didn't know you had that."
"This is a savage world," Logan said.
"I meant," Uhura said, "that it would have been convenient to know that you had that earlier."
Logan looked at her. "I could see no reason before this to display my weaponry."
"He has a gun?" Guinan said, talking over her shoulder.
"No," Uhura said. "A phaser."
"Really?" Guinan said. "A sneaky Vulcan. Who knew?"
Logan managed to look a tiny bit discomfited. "They should awaken momentarily."
The two stirred. Their skin, which had remained human while unconscious, suddenly turned blotchy for a second, then as they woke up more fully, back to human.
They both spotted the phaser at the same time and stared at Logan.
"You are not from this time, either," the male said.
"You are wrong on that assumption," Logan said. "I am an observer, but I am indeed from this time."
"I, however …" Uhura said. "What is your objective here?"
They remained silent.
"Well," she said, "let me tell you what I know. You are, undoubtedly, part of the Suliban Cabal. You are attempting to disrupt this timeline so that Earth never gets to space, and the Federation never forms."
"My people know of your people," Logan said. "Our evaluation was that you are, by and large, peaceful."
"Yes," the woman said. Her anger was evident. "And you wish to keep us docile and non-threatening by denying us technology."
"We do not deny you technology," Logan said. "We only feel that you should achieve a certain level of technology on your own before we will trade with you at the most basic level."
"And the Federation would not have contacted you at all, had you not been given the technology to threaten us."
"Our planet was gone. How are we to achieve technology, when all of our resources are spent on maintenance?" the man said bitterly. "We wander from star to star like beggars. Is it any wonder that we're bitter?"
"But not all of you were bitter," Uhura said. She closed her mouth before she could say anything. What had happened to the Suliban? She wasn't sure. The history books never said. She liked to believe that the Federation had found them another planet, then placed the planet under interdiction.
But she didn't know whether that was true so she couldn't say a thing.
"I agree," she said slowly. "You have a right to be bitter."
Logan stared at her.
"But I learned from a great man that we need to get beyond the bitterness. His only son—a son he barely knew and was just getting to know—was killed by a warlike race just to make a point."
"Like the Klingons?" one of the Suliban asked.
Uhura forced herself not to have a reaction. "Yes," she said. "Just like the Klingons." She held up a finger. "But—later he was able to make a treaty, even though they accused him of murdering one of their leaders."
"And your point is, Nyota?" Clemens said. "Seems as if he had a great excuse for hating them all the more."
"He realized that as a race, they were warlike, but, on the whole, they were honorable. So he was able to forgive them to a certain degree."
"Yes," Clemens said, "but I'll bet they didn't trust him." He turned around in his seat. "Neither would I. So what's your point?"
The male Suliban frowned down at the table. "You don't think we should be bitter at our lot?"
"No," Uhura said. "I think that, rather than changing time to suit your needs, you should apply to the Federation for asylum and a chance to find a planet of your own."
The woman looked up. "And what would we do on a planet? We're used to shipboard life. I can't grow crops."
"You have arboretums, don't you?" Uhura shrugged. "So learn."
"Easy for you to say."
"Yes. But you can do it."
Guinan, who had been listening to this without a word, suddenly spoke up. "If they're looking for asylum, Nyota," she said, "why doesn't one of your member planets take them in?"
Uhura stared at her. "But that would mean that their culture would die out. They would be part of our culture, and we'd lose their unique diversity."
"Diversity, hah," Guinan said. She got up and looked at the two. "You're both time travelers, right?"
"What time do you come from?"
They looked at each other. "About two hundred years from now."
"Look," she said. "I'm going to go home before then. Come to my planet. We'll take you in."
"Are you an official representative of your people?"
Guinan pursed her lips. "No—but my father is, and he will take you in."
"You can speak for him?"
"Oh," she said, "it will cost me something, but I can guarantee it. And if I'm around …"
"Wait a minute," Clemens said. "You're planning to be around two hundred years from now? More to the point, you expect your father to be here two hundred years from now?"
"Samuel. You keep assuming that I'm human," Guinan said. "I thought I disabused you of that silly notion."
"Then how old are you?" he pointed at Logan.
Logan inclined his head. "I believe I'm around ninety of your earth years."
"Well, Miss Nyota," Clemens said, "it seems that you and I are the youngsters around here." He shook his head. "Well, I'll be jiggered."
Uhura didn't tell him that she was pushing sixty herself because she knew that he wouldn't believe it.
"I have something in my trunk that you can present to my father when you get back. And I'll explain to you how to use it." Guinan turned to Nyota and smiled. "If I'm not there, it will broadcast some embarrassing things about my father that he would not want to be known."
"And on that basis, he would allow a whole race to join with yours?"
Guinan shrugged. "It won't be the first time."
"So will you stop chasing after our Doctor Zimmerman?" Clemens said.
"Well," the male said, "we certainly will, but we don't have communications with all of our operatives."
"And our benefactor may still send other operatives."
"But we can certainly help you." the male said.
"Yes," the female agreed.
"Damn." Clemens chewed on his cigar. "If we get any more people tagging along, we might as well join a circus and start charging admission."
Uhura blinked, then considered him.
"I was joking," Clemens said with alarm. He motioned to a waiter. "Now—how about if we all have something to eat? I'm starving." He looked at the two Suliban. "And I think you are, too."
"Why, Samuel," Guinan said. "Are you going to buy us all supper?"
"Well," he grumbled, "I said so, didn't I?" He looked out the train window. "Me and my big mouth."
"That's St. Louis?"
Joplin looked at Zimmerman. "You sound so disappointed."
"It's so dirty." He stared at the city and could see coal smoke. He sniffed. "And it smells."
Joplin looked again, but towards the city. "Oh, I don't know. I can see myself living here."
Zimmerman looked again, trying to understand what Joplin was seeing. He was watching the people. Zimmerman shrugged. They looked like people to him; he couldn't see what Joplin saw. What he missed was the Gateway Arch. "Where's the arch?"
"The gateway …"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Zimmerman sighed. He was a doctor, not a historian; he wasn't sure when the arch was built. Obviously sometime after this. "We need to find the train station. Can you ask?"
"Al, you know that they aren't going to talk to me."
Joplin grinned at him and exaggerated his accent. "Y'all know they don't talk to me, boss."
Zimmerman blinked. "Oh. Yes. I forgot. Well, when we depart the boat, we'll have to have somebody take us there."
Johnny came up beside them. "So—you're leaving us?" he said to Zimmerman.
"Yes," Zimmerman said. "I'm leaving with Joplin and going to Chicago."
"To the World's Fair?"
"So why are you going?"
"Because it's important that he actually arrive there."
"Because the World's Fair is there," Zimmerman said, "and it's important that he go to the World's Fair."
Johnny raised his eyebrows. "Really? Important? A piano player? But you have no stake in his career."
"Actually," Zimmerman sighed, "I do. But I can't explain any more than that. And besides," he went on, "you heard him play the piano."
"Mmm. Yeah." Johnny stared at the shoreline, coming up rapidly. "Well, good luck."
"Thank you," Joplin said.
"Unload us, and you can go."
"Of course," Zimmerman said. He looked at Joplin. "Well, best get down there."
The boat was unloaded and loaded rapidly, and the two found themselves on the dock, watching the boat pull away. They wandered toward the city and soon found themselves downtown. "Which way?" Joplin said, looking a little lost.
Zimmerman looked around. He saw a youngish man dressed in a finely tailored suit entering a building. "Pardon me, sir," he said. "Do you know where to find Union Station?"
The man cocked his head. "I'm a stranger here in this city myself. But if you can wait for my presentation, I'm going there myself and heading to Chicago."
"We're in no hurry," Zimmerman said. He stuck out his hand. "Albert Zimmerman. This is Scott Joplin."
The man shook his hand. "Nikola Tesla." He turned to Joplin and shook his hand, as well. "Pleased to meet you."
Zimmerman's eyebrows went upwards. "You work in electric, don't you?"
"I'm an admirer of your work, although electrics is not my field." Zimmerman thought a second before speaking again. "Your work will revolutionize the field."
Joplin glanced at him, his eyebrows raising. "The doc here knows what he's talking about," he said, "so I'm much honored to meet you."
"Are you in the field?"
"No," Joplin said, "I'm a musician."
Tesla nodded his head. "Indeed." He glanced at his pocket watch. "I must go in."
"We'll wait out here."
After he had disappeared into the building, Joplin glanced at Zimmerman. "Will he be famous, too?"
"Oh, yes. My gun that I showed you is based on the base work that he laid down."
After an hour or two, Tesla came back out. "Ready, gentlemen?"
"Yes, sir," Zimmerman said.
"Let me obtain a conveyance." Tesla walked off, then came back with a man and a hackney. They got in and settled back. "Do you mind if I travel to Chicago with you?"
Zimmerman and Joplin glanced at each other. "It can be rather dangerous to travel with me," Zimmerman said, slowly. "I don't wish to put you in danger."
A little gleam came into Tesla's eye. "What kind of danger?"
"Some very odd people are after me," Zimmerman said.
"Yes, they are," Joplin said.
"And you are a very important person. We should separate on the train." Zimmerman shook his head. "In fact, we should take different trains."
"Not unless you want to spend another day in St. Louis," Tesla said. "And if people are after you, I'm sure you don't." He smiled slightly. "I experiment with electricity. I'm used to a little danger."
They rode for a little longer, and he looked out of the hackney. "Union Station. The new station is scheduled to open next year. I will be glad."
Zimmerman looked. It seemed like a beehive of activity. Did he dare take his tricorder out of his pocket? He studied Tesla, but didn't seem to have a choice. "Mr. Tesla, sir," he said quietly, "I'm about to pull something out of my pocket which is extremely top-secret."
"You work for the United States government?" Tesla said.
Zimmerman sighed. He didn't want to lie to the man, but he didn't want to tell the truth, either. "I don't work for the United States government, but I'm friendly to the United States government."
"A civilian contractor?"
"Not exactly." Zimmerman stepped to one side, turned to the wall, and pulled out his tricorder.
"What is that?"
Zimmerman squinted his eyes shut. He would have made a lousy spy. "I'm afraid I can't tell you, sir, exactly what it is, but it will detect if any of the people who wish me harm are here."
"It looks electrical."
"It is, to a certain extent."
"Al," Joplin said. "Just tell him. If anybody can handle it, he can." He smiled. "Hell, if a lowly musician such as I am can handle it, surely a scientist can."
Zimmerman pursed his lips. Damn. He hoped that he wasn't doing irreparable damage to the timeline. "I'm from the future, a couple of centuries from now."
Tesla was staring at the tricorder. "I believe you," he said slowly.
"Some of what this instrument uses is based on your early work."
"I see." Tesla smiled. "I would love to take this apart, but I don't believe I would understand it, would I?"
"Possibly more than you think," Zimmerman said. "But I am not an engineer, I'm a biological research scientist, so I would never be able to get it back together again." He pulled it closer to himself. "So I won't let you touch it." He sighed. "And it probably would do irreparable damage to my future, if it hasn't already."
"Oh," Tesla said, "I'm not so certain. That," he said, pointing at the tricorder, "gives me hope that I'm on the right track."
"Huh," Joplin said. "He had to knock me out before I really believed him. But, then again, I'm not a scientist." His mouth set. "Not that I ever wanted to be."
Tesla opened his mouth, then shut it. Zimmerman wished that Uhura was here—he had never been conscious of skin color before coming back to this unenlightened era, and he didn't want to offend inadvertently in case Joplin was alluding to that.
"Could you two please stand in front of me? I want to check the station for my … enemies."
Tesla looked around. "How can you tell?"
"This instrument searches for their biorhythms," Zimmerman said. "They're not human."
"Not human?" Tesla said.
Joplin grinned. "They're from space. Or so Zimmerman says. Haven't seen one myself yet."
"Oh." Tesla looked bemused as he stood in front of Zimmerman. "I suppose that would be logical that there are other beings from other planets." He looked down. "And that you could detect them."
Zimmerman finished his sweeping. "Nothing."
"I don't know whether to be relieved or disappointed," Tesla commented.
"Trust me," Joplin said. "The latter."
They dove into the crowd to the ticket window. "We would like three tickets to Chicago," Tesla said.
"Your darkie will have to ride with the other darkies," said the ticket master, matter of factly.
Zimmerman looked startled. Who was he talking about? He looked at Joplin, and slow realization came to his face.
"My man," Tesla said, imperiously, glancing at Zimmerman, "will ride with me. He slipped an extra bill in the window. "Will you ensure that?"
"The ticket master blinked. "I will inform the conductor," he said. "But you may have to make separate arrangements with him."
"Understood," Tesla said. They stepped away from the window. "You are from another time, aren't you?" he said to Zimmerman, who was slowly realizing what had happened.
"You … bribed him?"
"A slight gratuity to get what we needed."
Zimmerman stepped away from the other two and motioned them over. "I just wanted to make sure I understand, because it seems that the riverboat was different. Joplin couldn't ride with us because of the color of his skin?" He couldn't help a little incredulity creeping into this voice.
Joplin chuckled. "See, Mr. Tesla, what I've dealt with on the riverboat?" He turned pensive. "I wish I could live in your time."
"So do I," said Nikola Tesla.
Zimmerman sighed. "But you are both needed here." He stared at the two of them. "You should let me go on alone." He looked at Joplin. "Except I know that you need to go to Chicago." He turned to Tesla. "You, I don't know. I'm sorry, I'm a doctor, not an electrical engineer."
Tesla shrugged. "So it's settled. We'll all go together."
"Are you mad?" Joplin said. "You may know these … aliens, but you have no clue how to get around in this country."
"Too true," Zimmerman admitted. He glanced around. "So where do we find this train?"
"Have you ever ridden in a train?" Joplin said.
"I've ridden in many sorts of transports," Zimmerman said. "But never a train."
"Well," Tesla said, looking at Joplin, "this should be interesting.
"So," Clemens said, "this is what St. Louis looks like now?"
"You've been here before?" Logan said.
"Oh, yes," Clemens said. "But it was years ago." He gazed around ruefully. "I'm not sure it's improved."
"We can't stay," Uhura said. "We need to get to Chicago." She scanned the crowds. "I wonder if they've been here yet."
"Better yet," Guinan said, "I wonder if your compatriots have been here yet." She turned to the Suliban, who, once again, looked like an ordinary couple.
"I don't believe so," said the male. The female surreptitiously took out a watch. Uhura raised an eyebrow as she opened it and studied it. She looked up and shook her head.
"Clever," Uhura said. "We need to learn from you, I believe. Where can we catch the train to Chicago?
"Over here." Clemens pointed and headed for the train station, striding straight up to the ticket master. "We need six tickets to Chicago."
"Of course," the ticket master said. "But the Negresses will need to …"
Clemens sighed and held out some more money. "My friends stay with me."
"Yes, sir." The ticket man studied the group. "You're almost as strange as the group that came through earlier." He shrugged. "They just left on today's train to Chicago.
Clemens glanced down at his tickets and swore under his breath. "You could have told me that these were tomorrow's tickets."
The ticket master shrugged. "It's not as if you can call the train back."
Uhura pushed forward and shared a look with Guinan. "Sir, could you possibly describe them? I'm not sure but these may be the men we're trying to find."
The ticket man shrugged. "Two men and a Negro."
"Can you describe the men?" Clemens said.
"The man who bought the tickets had a foreign accent. The other man was balding and seemed very confused."
"Yes," the ticket master said. "I believe I heard that name."
"So," Logan said, "it would seem that we are only a day behind them."
"Are you sure your people can't help us along?" Guinan said.
"I believe," Logan said, "that I have asked enough favors, as you would put it."
"But," Guinan said, striding up to him, "are you willing to bet the future on Dr. Zimmerman arriving in Chicago safely?"
Logan looked around at the mass of humanity in the train terminal. "Quite frankly," he said, "no. I shall appeal to my captain. Perhaps he can transport us to Chicago ahead of them."
"Or," Clemens said, "to the next stop."
"Or," Guinan said, "they could just stop the train."
"How?" Clemens said, incredulously. "By plunking the spacecraft on the railroad line? Wouldn't that endanger their future?"
"Yes, of course," Guinan said impatiently, "but they could herd cows onto the line."
Clemens closed his mouth. "That would stop the train." He looked incredulous. "Do you really think they would do that?"
"I shall find out," Logan said. "I shall require some privacy."
Clemens saw a bench. "Over there. We'll surround you."
Logan seemed nonplused, then nodded.
He spoke urgently into the communicator while they surrounded him, keeping him from prying eyes and ears. "He agreed." Logan almost sounded incredulous.
"He did?" Uhura said. "I am … very surprised."
"He realized the wisdom of eliminating the Suliban from this planet, and most of the ones left are following Zimmerman."
"Oh," Clemens said. "Wonderful."
"He suggests that we take some sort of transportation out of town, and he will pick us up there."
"We'll have to find a cab," Clemens said and led the way out of the station. "Which way did he tell you to go?"
"Approximately ten miles north, in the middle of a field."
"Of course," Clemens said.
"Samuel," Guinan said, looking concerned. "Are you all right?"
Clemens grimaced and patted her arm. "I'm sorry, my dear. I am not a young man, and in the past couple of weeks, I've been to the future, San Francisco, New Orleans, and been on a train following a riverboat up the Mississippi. I am getting tired." He peered at Uhura. "Are you certain I won't be dying soon?"
Uhura smiled at him. "I may get in trouble for this, but I can guarantee that if we get time back to the way it should be, you will not die in the near future."
"So I'll just have to suffer until then, is that it?"
"I can always count on you, my dear Samuel, to look on the bright side of things, can I not?" Guinan said.
"If I were cheerful all of the time," Clemens said, smiling, "I do not believe that I would be as successful as I have been."
"Hmm," Guinan said. "So where's this cab?"
Clemens hailed a large cab, and the six of them were silent as the cab made its way out of town. Uhura peered out of the open sides of the cab. It was always interesting to see a growing town, and because she hadn't been to St. Louis much, she had no basis for comparison to the St. Louis of her time. She smiled in fascination as they went under some wires. "Telegraph wire?" she asked Clemens.
He peered upwards. "I believe so."
After a couple of hours, they arrived at the edge of town. "We'll walk from here," Clemens informed the driver.
The driver looked around. "Are you sure?" he said. "There's not much out here."
"We're planning to meet someone," Clemens said. He paid the driver a generous tip, then watched ruefully as the driver pulled away. "This trip is going to bankrupt me," he said.
"But," Logan said, "you are saving countless human lives."
"Those human lives don't exactly put a roof over my head and food in my mouth," Clemens muttered.
"I'll make sure you're compensated somehow," Guinan said. "In fact …" She turned to Logan. "I believe that the Vulcans use gold in many of their instruments?"
"Yes," Logan said, "of course."
"Gold is used here as a form of currency. Is it possible you might have some gold you can spare for Mr. Clemens?"
"I shall have to ask," Logan said.
"Wait a minute," Clemens said. "Do you mean to say that you mine gold?"
"No," Logan said. "Of course not. We manufacture what is needed. And then I trade it into the bank in San Francisco. It is, of course, indistinguishable from the local gold."
"Counterfeiting gold," Clemens said. "Well, beggars can't be choosers."
They walked a little further. Logan looked down at his instrument. "One hundred meters to the right."
A door opened, and light poured out.
They gladly entered. "Mr. Clemens," Sestock said, with no preamble, "You wish us to drive bovine over the track?"
"And hallo to you, too," Clemens grumbled, and Uhura smiled. "Yes. This will stop the train so that we can board with the other curious passengers."
"Of course," Guinan said, "you'll have to find a herd big enough to drive over the path of the train and keep them there."
"That should not be a problem," Logan said to the captain. "What you need to do is station some crew members around the track."
Clemens stared at him. "Since when did you become the cow expert?"
"Bovines shy away from Vulcans, for some reason," Logan said.
"I won't even ask how you found that out," Guinan said. "Vulcans seem to have no problem with horses."
"Like Klingons and Tribbles," Uhura muttered. She realized that everyone was staring at her. "Sorry, I must be more tired than I thought."
"So let's go find a herd of cows," Clemens said. "Time's a wasting." He pointed with his cigar. "Don't you have a bridge here or something?"
"Yes, but …" Sestok looked pointedly at the Suliban.
"We will stay down here," the Suliban man said.
"We have some of your compatriots in our cells."
The Suliban woman exchanged a glance with her companion. "We were offered amnesty in return for our help," she said. "May I ask the same for our fellows if we can convince them of your good intentions?"
Sestok looked stern. "You invaded an innocent planet with the intentions of diverting a promising species into barbarism."
"Speaking as the only human here—with the exception of the lovely Nyota—any man will do anything if he is desperate enough," Clemens said. "So let's get beyond that and get our man Dr. Zimmerman back. Agreed?" He pointed with his cigar. "Where's your bridge?"
The captain hesitated, staring at Uhura, Guinan, and Clemens.
Clemens was exasperated. "I'm too primitive to understand anything, Uhura comes from the future, and Guinan has her own spaceship. You're not going to give away any state secrets, boys."
Sestok reluctantly nodded his acquiescence. They exited the holding room and entered a turbo lift. Uhura found the whole ship fascinating, to say a word, to find out how much the Terrans had actually borrowed from the Vulcans when they had designed their first starships.
"Are we following the train?" Sestok asked.
"Yes, Captain," the navigator said. "We believe that there are Suliban on this train." He looked at his instruments. "We are reading six Suliban in the last car."
"Can you tell where Dr. Zimmerman is?"
"We are reading advanced electronic usage in the first car."
Uhura glanced at her tricorder. "I can confirm that."
"It's only a matter of time before they work their way up to the first car," Guinan said. "Can't you push this buggy any faster?"
"Is that what you call your spaceships?" Clemens said, in an aside.
"No, my dear Mr. Clemens. You are rubbing off on me."
"God help you," Clemens said fervently.
Approximate thirty miles ahead are a group of bovines," the science officer said.
"A herd of cows," Clemens muttered. "Damn grammarians. Now, let's see you trying to herd them."
"Sonics," Uhura said.
"They'll use sound."
Sestok raised his eyebrows. "Actually, Miss Uhura, we had not thought of using sonics. Thank you for your suggestion."
"Score one for the humans," Clemens said.
Two seconds later, they were over the herd. "We have forty minutes to herd the cows over the track," the navigator said.
They set the spaceship down in some woods, and the crew members spread out. The herd started heading for the fence, where a well-placed phaser shot from Logan disintegrated two sections. The cows poured through, where they met four Vulcans who had already climbed the fence and had met the cows on the other side. The cows hung around the tracks, restless. Wherever they went, they met an unmovable Vulcan, and they shied away.
"Thank you again," Uhura said to Sestok. "Thank you for ensuring our future."
"It's only logical for us to do this," the captain said, "but I do believe that you humans say 'you are welcome.' "
"Indeed, we do," smiled Uhura.
"I believe your train is coming." Sestok disappeared back into the brush.
Uhura looked around. The Vulcans were all in the underbrush, the cows on and around the track, looking nervously around them. Another Vulcan, wearing clothing that looked local, was down a half mile away, flagging the train down.
They waited a few minutes, Clemens sucking on his cigar. "I thought these boys were smart. I think maybe the train stopped a mile too soon."
Uhura smiled. "Just wait, Samuel. I think you'll find they're smarter than you think."
Just then, they heard a train on the tracks, squealing as the brakes were applied. One of the passenger cars stopped before them.
"On the other hand, I have been known to be wrong once or twice."
"Only once or twice?" Guinan said.
Some people exited the train to see what was going on.
"Blend in," Clemens muttered. He looked at his group, then at the group in front of them. "How in the tarnation are we supposed to blend in with this group? Well, no help for it." He strode forward. "What seems to be the problem?" He walked up towards the front of the train. The group followed, wondering where he was going. "What seems to be the problem?" he repeated to the engineer, who was just getting off of the train.
The engineer pointed ahead. "Cows. On the track."
"Pshaw," he said. "I'll bet you a dinner that I can get them to move."
The engineer dragged his sleeve on his forehead, then peered at the cows. "I don't know, sir. It looks as if something's got them spooked."
"Nonsense." Clemens walked forward towards the herd, making "back off" signs with his hands. The cows looked at him and got out of his way.
"Well, I'll be a hornswoggled Myna bird," the engineer said. "He did it."
"Mr. Clemens does tend to get his way," Guinan said.
The conductor arrived and looked around. "Cows?"
"Cows," the engineer said. "But we should be going soon. Better get all of those people back aboard."
The conductor nodded and checked his watch. "If we don't make up some time, we're going to be late." He turned to the crowd that was getting off of the train. "All aboard! The train will be leaving momentarily!"
Clemens walked up. "Including you, too." The conductor did a double-take. "I don't recall seeing you and your party aboard."
"Well," Clemens said, "perhaps because you haven't taken our tickets yet." He handed the conductor the tickets. The conductor studied them in the light of the lanterns. "These tickets are made out for tomorrow's train."
"Oh, they are?" Clemens said, and he took them back and studied them.
"The ticket seller seemed a bit confused, Mr. Clemens," Guinan said.
"I believe he might have been drunk," Uhura said, trying to lay it on thick. "What do you think, Mr. Logan?"
"I couldn't say," Logan said, cocking an eyebrow at the trio.
"Well," the conductor grumped, "I suppose you couldn't have flown out here." He punched the tickets. "Now get on board."
The men helped the ladies aboard the first car. Uhura glanced around. "Now, where do you suppose Dr. Zimmerman got to?"
Logan checked a tricorder surreptitiously. It made a little whine, and Uhura was glad for the noisiness of the railroad car. "I believe that he is in the next railroad car."
"Then we shall go to the next car," Uhura said. "Where are the Suliban?"
"Two cars away."
"Then I suggest that we hurry," Guinan said.
They rushed down the aisle, some people giving Clemens a startled glance. Cautiously, they walked to the next car—just as the Suliban burst through the other end.
Logan already had his phaser out. "I would suggest that you not try anything."
The passengers gaped at him, and gasped, then, realizing that he was not a bank robber, glanced behind them. The conductor, who had followed them, gasped. "What in the tarnation is that?"
The Suliban, not bothering to disguise themselves anymore, swarmed down the aisle. One crawled on the ceiling, and Logan swiftly phasered him. Uhura had grabbed her phaser and was targeting another, who was attempting to snag a female passenger.
"Everybody, get down," Zimmerman said, standing up and pulling out his own phaser. He shot towards a third Suliban, but missed, barely. That one grabbed him and started pulling him towards the back.
"Cover your eyes," Clemens said. "These type of lizards can blind a man!"
Everybody but Uhura's companions clapped their hands over their eyes.
The Suliban behind Zimmerman smiled. "You can't stop us!" Suddenly, he collapsed.
"Yes," said a woman behind him. "But I can."
"How did you get aboard this train?" Zimmerman said.
"Courtesy of his," she nodded at Logan, "compatriots. Although they don't realize it yet."
"You were the other prisoner," Uhura realized. "You must have escaped when we …"
She nodded. "Remarkably simple, actually," she said. "Your countrymen need better security."
Logan looked nonplused.
"Are there any others on this train?" Guinan said.
"No," Logan said. "We should do something with these." He nodded at the unconscious aliens on the floor.
"Oh," Zimmerman said. "I have something that should knock them out for quite a while."
Uhura noticed some of the passengers trying to peek. "The danger is not over yet. Please wait for us to move these lizards to the back of the train."
"They look like people!" a little girl said.
"They're from …" Uhura paused.
"The outback of Australia," Clemens said. "A rare breed."
"Can we have something to cover them?" Uhura tapped the conductor's trembling form.
"Of course," the conductor said. "There are some cloths in the dining car, next door." He stepped gingerly over the recumbent forms and returned with four tablecloths.
"And, if I might request a couple of brave men to transport these lizards back to the baggage car?" The two men next to Zimmerman stood up.
"I think we can handle that."
"Are you sure?" Zimmerman said.
"I've already seen these lizards before, remember?"
Uhura looked at the man, wondering who he was.
"Miss Uhura," Zimmerman said. "Am I glad to see you."
"Likewise." She glanced at the two men. "Let's move the 'lizards' first, and introductions later."
"You realize," Zimmerman said, "that she is also one of them?" He nodded at the female newcomer.
"I know," Uhura said, "but she seems to be on our side."
Zimmerman nodded. "I believe that, too." He got out his hypo and administered something to the four beings. "They shouldn't awaken for a day or so," he said. "We should reach Chicago by then."
"Later." Uhura, Samuel, Guinan, and the alien lady followed the men transporting the limp figures back into the baggage cars. The passengers glanced up, curious, but when the conductor mentioned that the bundles were dangerous animals, they shrank back into their seats. At last, they had reached the baggage cars.
"Thank you," the conductor said, wiping his brow. "I don't know what we would have done without your strange guns."
"Apparently," Clemens said, "from what I gather, they're top secret guns that the U.S. Army are developing."
"So I would suggest that you not investigate them further," Logan said.
"Right," the conductor said. He looked at the draped forms and shivered. "Are you sure they're unconscious?"
"I guarantee it," Zimmerman said.
"Then I had better get back to work," the conductor said. The other men who had helped followed the conductor out, leaving Clemens, Guinan, Uhura, and Logan, the alien woman, and the two men with Zimmerman.
Guinan punched Clemens in the arm. "You liar, you," Uhura heard her say.
"I'm a writer," he said. "Of course I'm a liar." He pulled his cigar out of his pocket. "Now, who are these two?"
"Mr. Samuel Clemens, may I introduce Scott Joplin and Nikola Tesla," Zimmerman said.
Uhura's mouth dropped open, and she stared at the two. They were. She shifted her gaze to Zimmerman, who returned her gaze and shrugged. "These two absolutely have to get to Chicago, and I couldn't dissuade them from following me."
"I'm a fan of your writing, Mr. Clemens," Joplin said. "May I shake your hand?"
"Of course. Pleased to meet you." Clemens glanced at Zimmerman. "And how did you two get involved with our Mr. Zimmerman?"
"He was working on a riverboat as a piano player," Joplin said.
"But Scott far outstrips what I can do," Zimmerman said. "And we ran into Nikola in St. Louis."
"I take it," Guinan whispered to Uhura while smiling, "that these two are important in the future?"
"Very important," Uhura whispered back, then raised her voice. "We were, apparently, meant to meet these men and make sure that they arrive in Chicago safely."
"But we're not in Chicago yet," Zimmerman said. He looked around. "And I don't see the Guardian retrieving us. Are there further Suliban around?"
"My ship didn't detect any," Logan said.
"You have me at an advantage. What is a Vulcan doing here?"
"His ship is here to study Terrans."
"From the future?"
"Ah." Zimmerman looked at Logan speculatively. "Thank you for helping find me."
"You are welcome. Indeed, I have learned much about humans on this trip."
"Who is that?" Joplin said to Clemens.
"That," Clemens said, "is a space alien." He pointed upwards. "From somewhere out there."
"You mean," Joplin said, "like those things that were shooting at us."
"I think they're a different species—like cats and dogs and jackasses."
"Don't you call me a jackass, my dear Mr. Clemens," Guinan said.
"No, Miss Guinan, I wouldn't dare call you a jackass," Clemens said, "even though you are as stubborn as a mule."
Guinan shook her finger at him.
The rest introduced themselves, Uhura warning Zimmerman with her eyes not to reveal too much.
"So," Clemens said, "it seems that the mission to find Dr. Zimmerman has changed to getting Mr. Joplin and Mr. Tesla to the Chicago World's Fair safely."
"Mr. Clemens, Miss Guinan," Logan said. "My captain has offered to take you back to San Francisco safely."
"Oh, no, not yet," Clemens said, "because it seems this adventure is not over." He pointed with his cigar. "Are you sure that there are no more of those things?"
"No," Logan said. "There is a mass of humanity in Chicago. We can detect groups of Suliban, but a few may escape our sensors."
"Right," Zimmerman said. "So we still need to be diligent."
Uhura raised her eyebrows. "I thought maybe you would like to go back to San Francisco with Samuel and Guinan."
"I will go if you order me, but I want to see them to Chicago." He met her eyes.
"I see," Uhura said. "Well, then, I guess we're all going to Chicago." She glanced at his hands. "Doctor? Do I see that your hands are dirty?" She smiled, raising her eyebrows.
Zimmerman rolled his eyes. "Yes, Commander, my hands are dirty."
"Huh?" Joplin said. Tesla smiled uncertainly. Clemens and Guinan beamed at him.
"Well," Clemens said. "Are those Suliban—are they tied up and knocked out?"
"Yes," Zimmerman said. "As I stated, they shouldn't be up for a day or two."
"I'll watch them," the female Suliban said.
"We'll take turns," Uhura stated firmly. "I agree that you should be with them, but I believe that one of our party should be with them, also."
"Agreed," she said slowly. "Dr. Zimmerman could tell you, but you don't know me."
"Are we through jawing?" Clemens said. "Because I smelled something in the dining car that I would like to investigate fully."
"Who's paying?" Guinan said.
"I am," said the alien female. She pulled up her shirt and a pocket appeared in her side. Clemens' eyebrows went up as she pulled out dollar bills. Guinan glanced, startled, at Uhura.
"Shapeshifters, remember?" Uhura said.
She handed the money to Clemens. He took it gingerly, then passed it on to Guinan. "You think I want the money that came out of the alien's stomach?"
The woman grinned. Uhura suspected that it was just a pocket of skin she used to hold her money. Logan looked more emotionless than usual. "It looks like your friends forgot that she was a shapeshifter."
"Not probable," Logan said. "And I shall stay with our compatriot to ensure these people's capture." He sat on a barrel; the woman sat on the opposite side. He sat stiffly, staring at the woman.
The Suliban glanced at the rest of the party, then shrugged and stared back at the Vulcan. Her ears grew points slightly.
Uhura left the car before she could start giggling. Clemens led the way to the dining car, where they commandeered two tables across from each other. "So," Clemens said, "we get these two to Chicago, and the adventure is over."
"Oh," Guinan said, "you think so, huh?"
"Do you know something I don't know?"
"Perhaps," said Guinan. "Those two men are observing us."
"What?" Uhura said.
"Oh," Zimmerman said. He surreptitiously pulled out a tricorder. "They have phasers."
"Where did you get the tricorder?" Uhura said. "For that matter, where did you get the phaser?"
"The alien back there." he said. "She gave me my bag back."
Uhura sighed and got up to approach the table. "Gentlemen?"
They stared up at her, then glanced at each other.
"We notice you've been following us."
"We have," the shorter man on the right said. He stuck out his hand. "I'm much honored to meet you."
The other man was shooting daggers at him. "We cannot tell you our names."
"Because," Uhura said, "you're from my future, right?"
"Well," the short man said, "yes."
"Have you come to help me?"
"Yes," said one man.
The other man shot daggers at him. "No."
"Yes and no," said the first man.
"We make sure that you preserve the future."
"And it took you this long to show up," said Clemens. "Hell, if you had shown up earlier, you would have saved this old man a long trip."
"Like you didn't enjoy it," Guinan said.
The younger man gave the two a startled look. "Are you Mark Twain?" he blurted out. "And Guinan? What are you doing here?"
"Stop!" The taller man put his hand over his face.
"You know better than that."
"So …" Guinan said, "you know me."
"And," the taller man said, "he cannot say anything more. Right?"
"Right." The younger man blushed.
"To answer your question, Mr. Clemens, time travel doesn't work like that," said the taller man, looking around to make sure no-one had sneaked up in the two seconds he had checked earlier. "We cannot go back into a time until a time infraction has happened, which it has." He indicated the party in front of him. "And," he said, looking at the table, "we had a hard time catching up with you, until you stopped the train."
"And the Suliban created such a time eddy that we had a hard time getting past them."
Uhura sat down at their table. "So you're just going to follow us?"
"You're absolutely right; those two," the taller man said, "need to get to Chicago."
"And you're going to help us," Clemens said.
"No," the taller man said, "we're going to ensure you don't fail."
"Semantics," Clemens said. "So," he continued, looking at Uhura, "who else is going to show up?" He looked at a family with three children and two adults sitting noisily at the other end of the car. "I suppose that that family is from the moon?"
The smaller man looked at them seriously. "I sincerely doubt it."
"I was joking," Clemens said. He glanced at Uhura, who shrugged. "But obviously you are not." He looked toward the kitchen. "And I am still hungry."
As if signaled, a waiter came, bearing some dishes. He smiled as he set the plates down in front of Clemens' party.
"Just ignore us as if we are not here," the smaller man said.
"Did someone say something?" Clemens said derisively.
The party ate with gusto, with Zimmerman updating Uhura in a low voice as to what had happened. "So," Uhura concluded, "it would seem that if you hadn't been on that boat, it's very possible that Scott Joplin wouldn't have the career we remember."
"Yes," Zimmerman said, "but I'm not certain where Nikola comes in."
Uhura sighed. "He's seen some of our technology. He's a genius. It would be obvious to him that a form of electricity would power them, even if he wouldn't know exactly how. Which is, of course, why we can't allow him to, say, dismantle a tricorder."
One of the time agents leaned over. "That would be very, very bad," he said. "And we wouldn't allow you to do that."
Uhura glared at him. "Exactly where were you when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy went back to the nineteen thirties?"
He pinched the top of his nose. "That was the genesis of the agency. We can't go into the origin. In fact, we can't touch anything that Kirk was involved with."
Uhura looked at Zimmerman. "That must frustrate you," she said to the man.
"Greatly," said the smaller man. "In fact, the agency is paranoid about it."
The taller man glared at the smaller man.
"How about this?" Zimmerman said. "You stay out of our way."
Uhura looked at him, surprised. It seemed that Zimmerman had changed quite a bit in the past few days.
"We should be in Chicago sometime tomorrow," Uhura said, "then all of this should be over."
Zimmerman sighed. "I certainly hope so. I miss my family."
"I don't have a family," Uhura said, "but I'm certainly tired of wearing these." She glanced at her dress. "I think I should go back and see how Logan and our mysterious aliens are doing."
"I'll join you," Zimmerman said.
They made it back to the cargo hold, where they found the aliens on the floor still asleep, and Logan and the woman glaring at each other. Logan glanced at Uhura. "There is nothing to report," he said.
"Oh, I don't know," the woman said. "One of my compatriots stirred, but didn't wake up. That seems important."
Zimmerman pointed his tricorder at the sleeping aliens. "They are still deep under the anesthetic," he said. "As I said, they should be asleep until tomorrow."
"How are we going to get them off of the train?" she said. "It's not exactly like we can carry them off, can we?"
The door opened behind them, and the conductor walked in. "Oh, I don't know. The Lincoln Park Zoo would probably take them off your hands."
A grin came to Uhura's face, then a bit of guilt. "Sir, I don't believe that they would last long as exhibits. They are very intelligent."
"Ma'am, I saw that. But I do know that they have wagons with bars, and I'm sure they would be happy to study them for the limited amount of time they would have them."
The woman looked up with a grin. "I would pay to see that."
"Well," Zimmerman said, "it would get them out of the way until …" He glanced at the conductor. "You do realize that you can't repeat any of this."
The conductor looked shrewd. "I've seen more on this job that I can't repeat." He gestured at the sleeping aliens. "This is mild."
"Would you like to be relieved?" Uhura said to Logan.
"I will not require sleep," he answered. "I would prefer to guard the prisoners." His glance at the woman Suliban made it clear that he wanted to guard her, also.
"I'm pretty much the same way. I would, however, like to have some food," the Suliban said.
"Right away," the conductor said.
"Do you have any special dietary needs?" Uhura asked.
"Me? No." The Suliban woman glanced at Logan. "I am sure, however, that my companion would prefer vegetables."
"Right," the conductor said. With another glance at the aliens on the floor, he left.
"Go on," she said to Zimmerman. "Try to get some sleep."
"Thank you," Zimmerman said, "for everything."
"I pretty much did it for my people," she said, smiling, "but if you feel I helped you, too, I believe the proper term is 'you are welcome.' "
"It is," Uhura said. "Come on, Doctor. Let's get back to the dining car before our time agents have a coronary."
They went back to the dining car to find the two time agents being gleefully grilled by Clemens and Guinan. "It's no use," Clemens said. "They won't say a thing."
"My dear Mr. Clemens," Guinan said, "did you really think they would?"
"You were doing it, too."
She shrugged. "Nothing ventured; nothing gained. I already know that I am going to meet a captain named Jean-Luc Picard at some point in the future, and that we will become good friends. What will happen to me in the meantime, I don't know."
"Wait a minute," Joplin said. "You're not human? I figured you to be around my age."
She smiled broadly. "Flatterer."
"I would not be so indelicate as to ask a lady her age," Clemens said to Joplin, "but I will tell you my speculation, later." He scowled. "It is quite unfair that some races get to live beyond the human four-score and seven."
Uhura looked at Guinan. She knew how long it was between this time and her time, but, of course, she did not know when Picard's time would be.
"Don't say a word," said the taller time agent.
"I wasn't planning to," Uhura said.
Tesla got up. "I propose that we stop all debate and find someplace to nap. Tomorrow will be stressful if reports from all of you are to be believed."
"Mr. Tesla is correct," Uhura said. "Let's try to get some rest."
"Amen," Joplin said. "I, for one, am tuckered. I can't imagine how Mr. Clemens must feel."
"Is that a criticism of my advanced age?" Clemens glowered at him.
"Not at all," Mr. Clemens. Not at all." Behind Clemens' back, he grinned at Uhura, who grinned back.
They arrived in Chicago early the next morning. True to the conductor's word, there was a barred animal car waiting at the station. Uhura wondered how that had happened, then remembered that telegraph lines were in use at this time. He must have telegraphed ahead at one of their stops.
"Do you detect any Suliban in the vicinity?" Uhura said to Logan, after their charges had been hauled away.
"No," he said quietly. "But it would be only logical that they would be waiting closer to the World's Fair."
"When does the World's Fair open?" Uhura asked Tesla.
"Oh," he said, "it doesn't actually officially start until next year."
Zimmerman looked puzzled. "Then why are you here now?"
"Oh, well, it takes time to set things up."
"And I can always find some work to do until the fair begins," Joplin said.
Tesla glanced at him. "You can always work for me."
"Why not? You don't have my education, but you're bright. And you can give music lessons on the side, if you're as good a musician as your friend says you are. So …?"
"I would like that," Joplin said.
"Just don't work for Nikola forever," Zimmerman said. "You have a career of your own."
"Oh, trust me, Doctor, I won't …" Whatever else he had to say was cut off by Logan yelling. "Into the alley, now!"
A phaser beam passed by where they once stood.
The party ducked into an alley. "I thought you said there were no Suliban around here."
"They appeared on my screen just as I warned you." Logan looked vexed. "I do not believe I know how they did that."
Uhura and Zimmerman looked at each other. "Transporters," she whispered. Logan looked at her. "Never mind. What's important is that they are here now. How many do you detect?"
"And how many phasers?"
"Six," Guinan said, with a sigh. "Only we don't call them phasers."
"What do you call them?" Uhura said.
Clemens looked at her. "Where in the devil did you carry that weapon, woman?"
Guinan looked disgusted at him. "My dear Mr. Clemens, where did you think?" She reached down her cleavage and pulled out a small weapon. "In fact, sir, I may even have one for you." She pulled up her skirts and pulled a small weapon from her boot. Uhura had seen them, but had ignored them; in fact, they had not looked like weapons at all.
Clemens grabbed it gingerly. "Where does the bullet come out?"
"No bullets, sir. These are just for stunning people. And this," she touched a dark spot at the end of the weapon, "is the muzzle, and this," she pointed at a dark spot on the top and the bottom, "is the trigger. Depress both spots at the same time."
Joplin and Tesla went to the back of the alley. "I don't have a weapon, do you?" said Joplin to Tesla.
Tesla shook his head.
"It just doesn't seem right to have women and an old man defend us," Joplin said. "After all, we're no-one important."
Tesla smiled. "Your Dr. Zimmerman seems to think that both of us are. You, apparently for your musical talent and me for my scientific knowledge. Who knows what future humans find important?"
Joplin shook his head. "Still …"
"Yes," Tesla agreed. "I know." He spotted something in the back of the alley, and the two of them went to investigate.
"You know," Tesla said conversationally to the two time agents, "for a couple of agents, you both are lousy at hiding."
The tall man stood up. The smaller man grinned and said, "Told you."
Tesla glanced at the alley opening, where the firefight was still going on. "I believe that our companions are fighting hard to save us. We are not certain why we, amongst so many others, are important, but …" he glanced at the fight again. "Our side seems to be losing. Is that part of your plan?"
"It is not our plan, the taller one said. "And the two of you are important, in your different ways."
"If so," Tesla said, "shouldn't you be helping our companions to save us? It appears that we are going to be overrun any minute."
"You know," the smaller man said nervously, "I believe that he's right."
The taller man glanced at the melee at the head of the alley, then at his companion. Calmly, he picked his pocket watch out of his pocket and opened it. Speaking into it, he said, "Agent to Base. We have a class one time emergency. Send every available agent to these coordinates."
"Are you sure?" the watch answered back. Joplin looked startled. Tesla nodded, as if he expected that to happen.
"Acknowledged. Base out."
The shots stopped, and the four companions stared at each other.
The watch, still open in the taller agent's hands, spoke again. "Situation nullified, Agents."
"Thank you. Agents out."
Uhura stared at the two time agents. "I thought you weren't allowed to interfere."
"We can interfere," said the smaller agent, "if the circumstances allow." He glanced at Tesla. "Mr. Tesla made a convincing case. And, since we know that Mr. Tesla, in our timeline, was not killed at this time, we could interfere with other time renegades to nullify the time change."
"Oh," Uhura said.
"Well," Guinan said, getting up, "I, for one, am not going to look a gift paradox in the mouth."
"You are all important people," said the tall one, "in your times and in your ways. All of you needed to survive. But don't expect it to happen again."
"Oh, we won't," Clemens said, "because I don't expect to do that again." He shot a rock. "But this is way more fun than shooting gophers in my yard at home."
"You shoot gophers?" Guinan said.
"Why," Clemens said, "of course. How else do you get rid of vermin?"
"Discreetly, and painlessly."
"Well, I don't know about discreet, but the gophers feel no pain if one does it right."
"My dear Mr. Samuel Clemens," Guinan said, "I do believe that you are a barbarian."
Clemens smiled broadly. "Why, thank you, my dear Miss Guinan. You finally noticed."
They found a hotel, and rented six rooms. They met in the lobby. "Do you suppose, " Doctor Zimmerman said, "that that was it? Can we go home now?"
"I suspect," Uhura said, "that in order to return, we'll need to go back to San Francisco." She looked at Samuel Clemens. "Poor Samuel looks just plain exhausted. I think another night won't hurt us."
"What about the boy I saved? I gather that it was the Suliban who changed the timeline, rather than the boy."
Uhura smiled. "We found the boy and found him another job in New Orleans. Once we found the Suliban were involved, we shifted our focus from Bobby.. We may have just taken him where he belonged."
"It will be good to get back to my own family," Zimmerman said. "Unless the time eddy took them away from me."
"Oh," Uhura said. "I doubt that. He said that we all were important, in our different ways. I suspect that you will come up with something that will affect their future time."
"Me?" Zimmerman said. "Posh." Then he looked thoughtful. "There is an idea that I've been rolling around in the back of my mind."
"Computer generated doctors. For those medical problems that one wouldn't need a real doctor for. You could tell your troubles to a computerized doctor, and he could instantaneously go through routine medical procedures, thereby leaving the real doctor for more pressing concerns." He sighed. "But we don't have the technology yet. Perhaps my son or my grandson will work on my dream."
"Sounds—rather clinical," Uhura said, thinking of Doctor McCoy, and what he would think of a computer projected doctor.
"Oh," Zimmerman said. "He wouldn't be projected all of the time. Only in medical emergencies." He smiled. "After all, there's nothing like a real person to tend you—one who can empathize with you."
"I wish all doctors were like that," said Clemens, coming back to join them. "I've had a few sawbones look at my old carcass and swear I'm going to die the next day. But I showed them."
Zimmerman took out his tricorder and scanned him. "I can guarantee that you won't die tomorrow." He tapped the instrument. "This tells me that you're healthy for a man of this age and this time."
In fact, Uhura remembered, Clemens wouldn't die until 1907—almost fourteen years away. She smiled.
"Well, then," Clemens said, "this healthy old man is going to bed. Try not to let my bedroom be invaded for the next twelve hours."
Guinan smiled. "I'm older than you are, Samuel, and I'm good for another few hours."
"Don't rub it in, madam," Clemens grouched. He closed the door.
"Logan, do you believe that all of the Suliban have been removed?" Uhura wondered.
Logan examined his tricorder. "I do. However, I shall meditate in my room so that I might be ready if anything happens."
"Thank you," Uhura said. "We humans are not as sturdy as you are." She turned to Guinan. "I'm going to bed. You?"
"Actually," Guinan said quietly, "I am pretty tired."
"Hah!" said the man behind the door.
"Samuel Clemens," Guinan said, "are you eavesdropping?"
"It's the only way I hear anything interesting," Clemens said, still from behind the door. "All writers do it. It's one of our bad habits."
"Good night, Mr. Clemens!"
Tesla had been watching the tricorder and sighed in envy. "And you say that these marvelous instruments are based on my work?"
"Many of our modern instruments would not be possible without your work—and many others," Uhura said.
Tesla smiled. "Thank you." Uhura could see a tension leave his shoulders. "I believe I shall sleep well tonight."
"And me?" Joplin said. He looked hopefully at Uhura.
"Your work is known even in my time," Uhura said. She smiled at him, knowing that while his work was known, he would suffer greatly and die sick and a pauper.
He turned way to follow Tesla, and Uhura's smile dropped.
Guinan stared at the two, while Zimmerman smiled sympathetically. "Now you know what I've been going through," he whispered in her ear.
"Yes," she said. Guinan steered her into their room, while Zimmerman disappeared into Clemens' room.
"I won't ask you how I come out," Guinan smiled.
"You," Uhura said, "I don't know anything about."
"That's good," Guinan said. "That tells me that I remain more or less anonymous until after your time."
"You said you were going to stay around until after Samuel died?"
"I am," Guinan said. "I suspect that he'll need a friend. I mean, I know he has a family and other friends, but …" she sighed, "I am selfish. I don't want to leave while he is alive."
"Thank you," Uhura said. "You'll have to tell me all about him if we meet in the future."
"Where can I find you?"
"On the planet of the Guardian in the year 2294."
"I'll be there," Guinan smiled. "In the meantime, let's go to bed."
The morning came all too soon. The group breakfasted in the hotel's dining room; the maître d's objections to "those Negroes" silenced after a judicious bribe. They then ventured into the city. "I can't help but think," Zimmerman said, "that we have something left to do."
"I certainly don't know what it would be," Uhura said.
They followed Tesla to a building. "I believe," Tesla said, "that this is the building of my financiers, and this is the end of my journey for now." He turned to Uhura. "I hope you find the end of your journey soon." He shook their hands, followed by Scott Joplin.
"If you hadn't come along, Doc," Joplin said. "I think I would still be on that riverboat."
"You have a good life," Zimmerman said. "And write those tunes that I know are in you."
Joplin smiled broadly. "I will. You keep playing them."
"I will. I will think of you whenever I play them."
Uhura saw out of the corner of her eye a toddler heading towards them, then heading for the street. An automobile was chugging toward them. She ran to the toddler and picked him up just before he headed into the street. The toddler squawked in surprise, then stared at Uhura.
A young mother ran up. "Thank you. I swear, I just took my eyes off of him for one second …" she took him from Uhura. "Zephram Michael Cochrane," she said sternly, "you'll be the death of me yet." She walked off, still scolding the child.
Uhura started, looking at Zimmerman, who was looking at her with his mouth open. "Was that …?"
"No," she said, "but I'll bet you that was an ancestor."
"What?" Clemens said.
"That," Uhura said, nodding at the mother and son, "was, I believe, the last thing we had to change. We had to save a toddler from going into the street."
"See," Zimmerman said, "it wasn't my fault after all."
"No." She turned to Logan. "It's time for us to go home."
"I shall communicate with …" he glanced around, "my friends."
Clemens sighed. "Damn, I wish I could make a book about this. But no-one would ever believe it."
"And I wish," Uhura said, "that I could stay and get to know you better."
"Well," Clemens smiled, "as I told Picard, read my books. I'm in there."
"Damn," Guinan said, stopping short.
"What?" Clemens said.
"We still have to give an interview to Hearst."
"I thought you had already given him one," Uhura said.
She twisted her face. "I promised him a second one. With Samuel."
"Oh," Clemens said, frowning, "that's right. How are we going to explain the time we've been gone?"
"I believe we can help with that," said a man, coming up to join them.
Uhura stared at him. It was the smaller of the two time agents. "How?"
The man shrugged. "I have authorization to put you back shortly after you left San Francisco. As I pointed out to my superiors, history doesn't note any disappearance of Samuel Clemens."
"You know me so much," Clemens pointed with his cigar, "that you know my comings and my goings?"
"Your memoirs don't mention this."
"My writings don't mention a lot of things …" Clemens stopped and looked at him suspiciously. "I publish my memoirs?"
"After everybody mentioned in them has died," the time agent said, "yes."
"Including me, I suppose."
"That observation is implicit," Logan said.
Clemens squinted at the man. "Don't be a smart-aleck."
"I shall endeavor not to be."
"No," Logan said, wryly. "Good Vulcan."
"Whatever you are," Clemens growled. Guinan smiled and took his arm.
Uhura and Zimmerman jumped through the Guardian of Forever and nervously looked around. Everything and everybody seemed to be the way they had left them. "Were you successful?" one scientist said.
They all heard the whine of a transporter. One lone figure was beaming down, and Uhura grinned as the person materialized. "I suppose this man just asked you whether you were successful …" Guinan said.
Uhura rushed to her, giving her a hug. She turned to the scientist. "Yes," she said, pulling Guinan forward. "I was successful."
Zimmerman came and stood by Guinan's other side. "This is the woman I saved … along with a few others."
"How did you? What did you …? Where did you come from?"
"I know people," Guinan said sagely. "Now," she said to Uhura, "you wanted to hear about Samuel?"
"Who's Samuel?" asked the scientist.
Uhura grinned again. "Don't you know Mark Twain?"
"Mark Twain! But …"
"You'll get a full report," Zimmerman said forcefully, "later. In the meantime, we need to talk to an old friend."
"Don't call me old," Guinan said.
"Did you time-travel?" said the scientist.
"No," Guinan said. "I came here in the usual way." She looked at him closely. "Calm down. You're about to have a stroke."
"Let's go someplace quiet," Uhura said.
They walked off, leaving the perplexed scientists to stare at each other.
"I can show you …" the Guardian started.
"Oh, shut up!" one of the scientists said.
The trio burst out into laughter.
1. "If I Lose Thee…" by Sarah A. Hoyt and Rebecca Lickiss (First Prize Winner.) Strange New Worlds III, Pocket Books, May 2000, Dean Wesley Smith, John Ordover, and Paula Block, Editors.