Today, I went for a walk with Tom through the city. Tom informed me once that he was a "history buff" and knew all about twentieth-century Earth, so I thought he might enjoy it more than the others. I knew that I'd have to expose them all to the real world eventually, but until the delusions had broken, it was best that they hear about it from one of their own.
He stared with avid interest at the Starbucks in Penn Station. "So that's a 'coffee shop!'" He turned to me. "Is that really where you network on your kneetops and budding writers work on their novels?"
I stifled a laugh. "We call them laptops. And yes, that's pretty much what happens in Starbucks." I checked the time. "If you want, we can go in and you can try some of the coffee. What's your favorite blend?"
He shrugged. "The captain's a coffee addict. I've barely tried the stuff."
"Come on," I said, nudging him playfully. "How'd you get through finals at college without caffeine?"
Tom shook his head. "You're not going to stop trying, are you?" He followed me into the Starbucks. "I didn't go to college. I went to Starfleet Academy. And I was expelled."
"So how'd you end up with the 'Voyager?'" I asked, unable to contain my curiosity. I made sure to make little quotation marks with my fingers around the word Voyager so as not to get caught up in the story. These delusions were tougher to deal with than any others I had seen. Since they were all based around the television show, all of my patients shared the same delusions. Their world was one that had encompassed decades of television, and attracted millions of fans. It was hard not to get sucked into their unwavering belief in their false selves.
Tom grinned. "Captain Janeway. She knew my father and wanted me as a guide to find a Maquis ship. When that search landed us in the Delta Quadrant and the ship's pilot was killed, I was reinstated into Starfleet." We were at the counter. "I'll take a regular coffee," he told the teenager behind the counter cheerfully.
The teen stared at him. "Espresso? Cappuccino? Latte?"
Tom turned to me for guidance. "Cappuccino for him, latte for me," I said quickly.
We took our drinks and sat down. Tom tried his eagerly. "This is fantastic! Doesn't taste anything like our coffee at home," he told me, shuddering.
"Where is your home?" I pried gently.
He gave me a look. "When, not where."
I shook my head. "You're a really smart guy. You know that this whole time travel thing is impossible."
"And it's so much more likely that I've lost my mind?" he asked disbelievingly. "I feel sane, you know. I was at that what-do-you-call-it. Convention. Those people walking around with shaved heads and Bajoran noses, they know that it's just a game and they'll be back to normal the next day. But I saw a few guys there, older ones, who genuinely thought that they were a part of my world. They were crazy. They were convinced that they were admirals and captains, but they couldn't tell you anything about exobiology or most of Starfleet history. Commit them to a mental hospital- it's all false and they don't even know it. But us? Tuvok can teach courses given at Starfleet Academy. Captain Janeway could lecture you for hours on Borg psychology. We have all the background that your so-called 'crazy Trekkies' lack. And you know us. We're normal in every way other than that we're from the future. How can you call us insane?"
I considered. "The most terrifying delusionary is the one who seems totally sane."
"So that's it." Tom was getting angry. "No matter how believable our claim is, you'll never accept it."
"Tom…" I took a sip of my coffee. "I'm not trying to undermine your beliefs. Star Trek is obviously very important to you, but you have to think about this rationally. There's no way that-"
"Isn't there?" he asked, cutting me off. "If I were really from the future, don't you think that my technology would be more advanced than yours, maybe to the point that we could do all the things you think are impossible?"
"Then how do we know about the future?" I asked, folding my arms. "What are the odds that a TV show would come out depicting all of your adventures? And not just your world. From what my brother tells me, the characters on Star Trek: Voyager are the ones that you believe you are."
Tom actually looked disturbed. "I don't know. Actually, that's one thing we're trying to work out. Who could possibly know enough about us to make this show? We haven't seen it, but the pictures, the profiles…they're us and the rest of our crew. The only reason we've been able to come up with is that another temporal anomaly will-"
I threw up my hands. "Would you listen to yourself???"
Tom looked at me seriously. "It sounds absurd to you because you think what you think. But we know who we are."
"No doubts?" I challenged him. "You're still completely convinced?"
Tom paused for a moment before confirming the fact. A fraction of a second. That was all. But it was enough for me to count it as the tiniest hint of a breakthrough.