Since Bogg's arrival and the discovery that Drake had most likely taken Jeff to Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1889 to rescue the guide Kinyala, the Omni Control center had been scouring the time line for any indication of them. Around nine am, Phineas and Olivia came in to lend a hand in the search. Based on his discussions with Phineas the night before, Curt and his team had narrowed the search parameters to September 25th through September 28th, 1889 in the Mt. Kilimanjaro village of Marangu where Kinyala would have been picked up by Hans Meyer. But all indicators showed a green light for the entire region.
"Smoking bat's breath!"
Bogg's outburst startled the small group and Olivia got up from her chair to go talk to him, but he was already on his feet pacing the floor.
"Don't start with me, Liv," he snarled. "We've got it narrowed down to the week of the climb and still nothing. Not even a red light to show if History has been messed up or not. Why the hell are they so hard to find?" He rounded on Curt, "You've had five years to figure out how to track Drake and his damn 316-50. Five years! You're supposed to be the genius Curt; why can't you find him?"
The director shook his head. "It's not that simple, you know that."
"No, I don't," he fired back, "The only thing I remember from 'Time Travel 101'-"
"The Physics of Time Travel," Curt responded defensively.
Phineas ignored him and continued,"...Is that one of our guest lecturers described time as 'wibbly wobbly.' And that British expression seems to have pretty much summed up this whole damn thing."
"Oh Phineas stop it," Olivia snapped.
He kicked a chair in response, sending it skidding across the room. The three of them stared at each other before Curt spoke up.
"I know you're upset and this isn't easy for you, Voyager Bogg. But you aren't the only one who is concerned about Jeff-"
"Sir? I, I think I might have something," Saunders called out from her station.
Curt, Phineas and Olivia met at the technician's board and crowded around her chair as she pointed to various schematics in front of her.
"I started a sub-search on this energy reading off the main search on a hunch. I widened the parameters on both ends of the historical event-"
"Just tell us the results, Saunders," Curt sighed in irritation. "If we ask you what time it is don't tell us how to make an omni."
The tech turned her chair to face her director, grey eyes glinting in anger. "In this case sir, you need to have some idea of where I started to understand where I'm going. And quite frankly Director, I'm tired of being told that my though process is wrong simply because I like to explain things. Technicians are technical people sir, and while you may have been told to stuff your creativity by Director Harper way back when, I refuse to let you stifle mine."
It took all the self-control Bogg and Dunne had to not laugh out loud at the look of indignant shock on the director's face. They averted their eyes when he looked at them, but that just told him how right Saunders was in her assessment of the situation.
"Young lady," he started sternly. "Under normal circumstances that outburst would have earned you the respect of your fellow first year techs and a stern reprimand from me. However, given the gravity of the situation, I do believe that a commendation for creative thinking and fearless determination to stand up for your convictions in the face of adversity is in order."
Technician Saunders blinked twice and then smiled slowly. The director was beaming at her, eyes sparkling with delight in the power of his position and his words. Olivia leaned down and whispered something to her and she nodded, finding her voice once more.
"As I was saying, I widened the search parameters and found an anomaly in Taveta on September twentieth with the Meyer caravan." She pointed to the schematic in front of her. "Not a red light exactly, but something had changed, almost as if something was covering a red light." The three around her looked perplexed and she simply shrugged. "I don't know how to better explain or describe it. You always say to double check readings before announcing them, so I ran through them again, going day by day. The next day, the twenty-first, it looked like I had a ghost reading, but then that weird 'covering' again through to the twenty-seventh, and then the board was green."
Phineas traced the timeline from Taveta to Marangu slowly as if willing Jeff to feel his presence. "So why can't we just drop in somewhere in that week and pull Jeff out if we think that's where they are?"
Saunders smiled. "I'm doing a paper for Professor Mims on how Voyagers interaction with the history they correct may actually be a part of the proper history all along, which is why we may see things like this." She pointed again to the schematic. "We obviously believe Voyagers Drake and Jones are in that time line right now and I think that quite possibly they may be an unwritten, unspoken part of the historic climb. Like they're supposed to be there and history is waiting to see what they make of it. If we just go storming in, we might actually create a red light. Which boosts our theory as to why it's not a red light, but more of a… oh, I don't know, a, umm, a ripple in the time stream."
"It almost looks like a ripple," Olivia commented.
The director knew that Mims had been working on that theory for years and the circular logic of history going wrong simply to be righted by Voyagers who were supposed to be part of that history in the first place made his head spin. It was funny that Phineas would refer to Doctor John Smith as he thought back to the lecture his phrase had come from. "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to affect. But actually, from a non linear, non subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey... stuff."
"So Ms. Saunders, what in your expert opinion is our next step?"
The respect in his voice outweighed the sarcasm, and the technician smiled. "Well, sir, I think we-"
"Director Rogers! We just picked up Drake's omni," another tech called out a few seats down from Saunders. "Someone's just voyaged sir. Alone."
September 27th, 1889
Jeff stared at Drake's back in shock. Never in a million years would he have imagined Drake asking someone to spare anyone's life, let alone his. His nemesis turned and looked Jeff straight in the eyes and the teen found the familiar cold dark stare oddly comforting, even now.
Mareale watched the two of them as he considered what to do. This Dante obviously had contempt for the younger man which was magnified by his 'life debt' to him. The chief could see how it almost made the man ill to make the request to spare his enemy's life, yet he still made it. And then there was Jeff. He had heard the pagani talk about Bwana Jeff and how he worked as one of them without complaint and disregarded his own station as a white man, and how he risked his life to save the man who hated him. And his life was hanging in the balance now because he tried to save the lives of two young natives.
"Yeye inaonyesha heshima kwa ajili ya maisha katika hatua zote wengine isipokuwa kwangu," (He shows reverence for life in all other actions except toward me,) Mareale muttered quietly as he looked at the young man before him. One of his advisors spoke from behind him in response and the chief looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding in agreement.
He ordered Jeff to stand and told Hans to follow him along with the teen. They walked several yards away from the crowd and then the chief turned and looked Jeff straight in the eye, studying the young man closely. After close to thirty seconds he finally spoke.
"You... keep Kinyala and Tawfiki... safe. Why?"
Jeff looked startled at the chief's use of English but recovered and spoke clearly so Hans could translate.
"I know what I did was wrong, and for that I am truly sorry. But allowing them to die because they refused to volunteer for slave labor was something I just couldn't let happen. They're your people to protect, aren't they?" The chief nodded slowly and Jeff took a deep breath as he continued.
"They should be given the chance to prove themselves. I know they tried to escape hard work, but in all fairness sir, no man should be considered less than another simply because of the color of his skin or the way he lives. Just because the Germans are colonizing doesn't mean the natives are automatically slaves. I know Herr Meyer and his kind have taught your people many things and showed you many wonders that you would call magical. I'm also sure Herr Meyer has learned many things from one he would consider a savage based simply on the fact that you live without the comforts his people have become accustomed to."
It was a risk he had to take, and Jeff knew from the tone Hans was using that he personally wasn't happy with some things he was translating, but Jeff trusted that he was a man of honor and not changing things to suit himself. Judging from the look in Mareale's eye, Hans was giving a very literal translation, so Jeff continued.
"So why are you ordering the death of two men simply because they stood up for their freedom? Because Germany requires it of you? Does Germany know your people like you do? If you really want to punish them, send them with the caravan. Uhuru is not a simple walk, and I know that my father punished me with hard work when I was disobedient. I can't think of anything harder than climbing a mountain up into ice and snow."
He paused a moment and looked back at Hans who gave him a smile and nodded encouragingly. Jeff's nerves were making his hands shake and his voice finally began to tremble a bit as well.
"Make them work as punishment for trying to avoid work. If you tell Herr Meyer that the fee for passage up the mountain is to take Tawfiki and Kinyala, he can't refuse you. He's well respected by his countrymen and the German colonists will accept this as fair punishment because you're helping Germany and saving lives. I can tell you from experience he is a fair taskmaster, and we'll work harder than we ever thought possible… probably wondering why we even joined the expedition in the first place."
Hans was actually grinning as he translated this last part, and even the young Chief had to smile. The German shook his head at Jeff and then addressed Mareale on his own. After a brief exchange, a decision was made and they shook hands. Chief Mareale turned to Jeff and bade him rise.
"Unaweza kuwa na moyo wa shujaa na mshauri. Hekima yako imekuokoa maisha yako, kama kuwa na maneno ya adui wewe. Dokta Maya, kama unataka kupita katika nchi yangu, ni lazima kuchukua Kinyala na Tawfiki kama viongozi. Huko, ni makazi. Mimi nitakuambia kijiji"
With a smile and a nod the young chief walked back to the assembly. Jeff's heart was in his throat but was shoved back into place by the slap on the back and crushing hug Hans enveloped him in.
"Gott sei gelobt! (God be praised!)"
"But what did he say?"
Hans held Jeff by the shoulders at arm's length and beamed. "He said that you have the heart of a warrior and an advisor and that your wisdom and the words of your enemy have saved your life. And if I want to climb Uhuru I must take Kinyala and Tawfiki as guides. Never let it be said that Hans Meyer blindly translated anything without listening to what he was saying. Well done my boy, well done!"
Jeff blinked at him, mute with shock. "So, I'm not going to die?"
As if on cue, the village erupted into shouts and whoops of joy. The pagani rushed over and Kwasi grabbed Jeff by the waist and swung him around like a small child while giving out a warrior's victory yell. Then in a jumble of what he could only call 'Swa-hinglish' (with some input from Hans), Jeff started to piece together what had just happened.
The Chief told the village that he found Drake's request compelling since an enemy never asked for their nemesis' life to be spared against certain death. And in speaking to Jeff, he saw a kindred spirit; a youth with wisdom beyond his years. Added to that, the fact that Jeff had asked to die in place of Kinyala and Tawfiki bespoke understanding, respect and courage. For these reasons, Bwana Jeffrey would live, as would the two young natives as long as Dokta Maya took all three with him to climb Uhuru.
Once the celebration settled down, Jeff actively sought out Drake who had been conspicuously absent, leading him to think that Drake had left without him. By the time Jeff found him twenty minutes later at the edge of the village near the Germans camp, his gratefulness had turned to anger fueled by his fear of abandonment. He stormed over to the Voyager and got right in his face.
"Just what kind of game are you playing, Drake? You wouldn't know how to swallow your pride if it was presented in the Holy Grail."
"Would you rather I had let him kill you?"
"That's not the point," Jeff exploded. "You don't have a conscience to clear; you've proven that time and time again. So what are you playing at?"
Anger flared briefly in Drake's dark eyes and Jeff could see the muscles in his jaw twitching. He inhaled slowly through his nose and just as slowly exhaled the same way. His eyes were now clear and he took a step back from Jeff.
"You're welcome." He put his hand in his pocket and started to circle the young man before him. "You need to learn some manners, boy."
And Jeff was suddenly staring at the empty space where Drake had stood a moment before.
The shock and fear hit him in the same instant, making him feel ill. He sat down and pulled his knees up to his chin, his mind racing. No Drake meant no omni and with no Omni VHQ would have no idea where or when to find him... the familiar rush of panic made his heart race and he clenched his hands into two tight fists. Jeff forced himself to breathe slowly as he remembered the times Bogg coached him through these panic attacks in the past.
'Take it easy, kid. Slow, deep breaths… that's it. Breathe in… hold it… hoooold it… now breathe out. Keep going and listen to me. I will not leave you. I will not abandon you...
"Is everything all right, young man?"
Jeff looked up and stared into the concerned face of Ludwig Purtscheller. The look in his blue-grey eyes reminded Jeff of how his dad, and even Bogg, looked when worried about him and Jeff smiled self-consciously.
"Es geht mir gut, Herr Purtsheller. Danke." (I'm fine, Herr Purtsheller. Thank you.)
"Ach, sprechen Sie Deutsch? Sehr gut. Ich muss Hans informieren." (Ah, you speak German? Very good. I will have to tell Hans.) Ludwig smiled at the confused expression on the teen's face and chuckled. "Of course you don't speak the Mother Tongue. You have heard us use the phrase enough times that you picked it up. But your accent was sehr gut, my friend. Yes, very good indeed."
The teen seemed to relax a little and Ludwig placed a reassuring hand on the boy's shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"What you did today took a lot of strength of character, something I had not hoped to find in someone your age. My Jewish neighbor would call it 'chutzpah'."
Jeff smiled distractedly. "Chutzpah, moxie… yeah, I know. I've been told that more than once. And thanks."
"Bitte schon, you're welcome my friend." He scrutinized Jeff closely. "Are you sure you are well, Jeffrey? I know you have been through a lot today, and you look rather pale."
The teen averted his gaze and took a deep breath. "I'm fine," he lied.
Ludwig put his arm around him. "Not only am I a father, but I am also a gymnastics teacher. I know when children are lying, and you are a terrible liar." Jeff's cheeks turned pink with embarrassment and the older man chuckled. "Are we not friends out here in the wild? I can see the stress and fear this ordeal has put you through, and if you can talk about it, you might feel better. I made the same offer to Dante after his fall and the dummkopf said he didn't want or need my pity."
At the mention of Dante, Jeff stiffened and swallowed hard. He stepped away from Ludwig and walked quickly toward his tent but didn't get very far.
"Come, you need a friend and I shall be it," Ludwig said gently as he took Jeff by the arm. "Now let's walk while you talk to me."
Phineas simply wanted to be alone. He walked back to his room and collapsed on the bed. His head was pounding and he felt sick. He knew Drake had left Jeff alone because if Jeff had the omni, he would come back to VHQ, he knew it. The last lines of Drake's note ran rampant through his brain: Even if he succeeds he will fail. History's win will be his loss. You know as well as I do that Voyagers may perish in the field, and young Mr. Jones may just very well be a causality of war.
He groaned and rolled onto his back to stare at the ceiling for a few minutes and gather his thoughts. When he sat up again his head hurt less but his heart was still heavy. He stood up and walked over to the window, leaning on the small desk in front of it. He stared at the gardens outside for a moment before dropping into the chair beside him, slamming his hands down hard on the desk. The small white envelope with his name on it jumped an inch in the air and landed on top of his fingers. He recognized the writing and tore open the note.
Here is to a game well played. This is where you will find the boy: the evening of September 27th, 1889, Marangu village on the slopes of Kilimanjaro.
He stood looking at the piece of paper for a minute or more before rousing himself and tearing out of the room, back up to Omni Control. He nearly collided with Brindle as he rounded the last corner before the door. There was a flustered, awkward silence for a moment as they tried to not make eye contact and yet navigate around each other. Phineas finally stood still and held out the note.
"What game is he playing? What is your precious Dante up to?"
Brindle took the note and read it carefully, her heart in her throat. She looked up at Phineas and said softly, "I don't know him anymore, Phineas. If I did I would have ended this long ago, believe me."
He glared at her and grabbed the note back from her hands. "So what do I do now? Do I believe this and find my kid or am I walking into a trap?"
Not waiting for her answer he strode into the control center and handed the note to Curt. A heated discussion ensued as to the course of action to be taken. Curt actually grabbed Phineas' omni from him to prevent him from voyaging and Olivia was reaching for her own omni when an ear-splitting whistle broke the air.
"What the devil is going on in here," Garth roared. Curt held out the note which Garth snatched angrily from him and read quickly. He looked at the small group and handed the note to Phineas. "Take Rogers and Dunne and bring the boy home."
That evening Jeff watched the natives dance around the fire, feeling mesmerized by the beat of the drums and the chanting. This was the dance to pray for a safe climb for Herr Meyer and the others, and to praise the wisdom of their young chieftain for sparing the lives of three young men who deserved a second chance. He let his mind wander over the events of the day again, focusing on the long walk he had taken at Ludwig's insistence. The older man talked for quite a while about his life in Germany, gymnastics and his journey with Hans, anything to distract Jeff and allow the young man to deal with his inner turmoil. It was when he started talking about his children that Jeff finally broke down.
Once the tears had past he started talking about Bogg and being a Voyager. He didn't care that Ludwig looked beyond perplexed by what he was hearing; it felt good to talk to someone about it. But something strange was happening as well. Whenever he mentioned Dante, it was as if Ludwig had to think hard to remember him. Jeff knew that as history was corrected that Voyagers were eventually not remembered, but he'd never seen it happen before.
His attention was brought back to the present when he felt a small hand on his arm. A naked little girl with braids all over her head started chattering at him in Swahili, telling him a rather impressive story judging by her gestures and facial expressions. Thankfully Ahmed was with her and let her tell her tale before translating it to Jeff. She finished by waving her hands above her head very much like the witchdoctor had done earlier that day, and then held out a small piece of red cloth in one hand and a white bead in the other.
Ahmed spoke to her, indicating he needed to translate and then turned to Jeff. "This is Kabibe, little one who Dante protect when we arrive. You play games with her and others." Jeff nodded, and Ahmed continued. "Today at counsel she give Dante her money to buy you freedom. I not believe her if I no see with my eyes. He take and he cry and kiss her head, then give bead and cloth to chief. That mean you now her own, and she name you brother."
Tears welled in Jeff's eyes and he looked at the four year old in awe. She seemed to understand his shock and smiled, pointing to him and then herself saying, "Ndugu na umbu." (Brother and sister.)
"Asante," Jeff whispered and she threw her arms around his neck in a hug which he carefully returned. He looked at Ahmed and asked, "So why does she have the bead and cloth now?"
"Chief find her before feast and give her back cloth and bead. He say her heart wise and make her..." he fell into German, "er machte sie eine Prinzessin. Understand prinzessin?"
"A princess," Jeff replied cautiously after he repeated the German word, "Like his sister, or sibling? A title of honor?"
"Yes, honor! Much honor," Ahmed replied. "Chief say her heart save you and prinzessin not pay, only use words. Now she give you for keep and remember."
He spoke a few words to Kabibe and she offered the items to Jeff once more. He held out his hand and she dropped them onto his palm and then closed his hand with both of hers. She smiled widely, white teeth bright against her dark face and said in English, "Friend mine, brudder. Free."
She skipped off leaving a stunned 'brother' behind her. Jeff looked at Ahmed as he settled down beside the teen. "You said Dante cried when she gave him these," he waved his hand with the bead and cloth at Ahmed. "Are you sure we're talking about the same guy?"
"Yes Jeffrey. He ah, he was remember brave little one who was torture for father's... polo-ticks. That what he say when take money from Kabibe."
"I gotta get outta here," Jeff said as he scrambled up from his seat.
This was entirely too much to think about all at once and he had to get away from the crowd before he completely lost it. He went back to his tent that he shared with Ahmed and Mohammad and flopped down on his bedroll. He found it strangely peaceful to finally be alone with his thoughts, even though being alone was something he had feared. Drake showing him compassion was hard enough to swallow, but to hear that he had a heart, that he cared for small children and was moved to save him because of that?
"Where was your heart five years ago when I was nearly blown up by dynamite?"
Jealousy and anger, along with everything else he had endured that day, raced to the surface and he felt claustrophobic with the emotions. He wanted to cry, to run away, to beat somebody up. Someone had to pay for what he was feeling and Jeff started shouting at the empty tent.
"I hate time travel," he bellowed. "I hate Drake, I hate VHQ and I hate omnis. Drake you're nothing but a coward. A rat bastard, low life, ugly, nasty coward and I hate you. I hate you, do you hear me? I hate you!" He started picking up blankets and clothes, throwing them all over the place. "You wouldn't know how to stand and fight if your life depended on it. Running away is always easier, isn't it? And now I'm stuck here with no way home... gaaahh!"
He was breathing heavily and had started to sweat from the exertion as he looked around the tent. He had kicked, thrown and tossed about everything in his path leaving nothing in its original place. Jeff stood in the center of it all for a moment before dropping to his knees and letting out one agonizing sob. He heard the tent flap open and knew he and his mess were being scrutinized, but he didn't care. Nothing mattered anymore. Drake really had won and Jeff was finally accepting his defeat. What was a little more humiliation in the grand scheme of things?
"I'm sorry, Herr Meyer," he said as he opened his eyes and kept them fixed on the booted feet before him. "I will clean this up and somehow repay Ahmed and Mohammed for anything I ruined."
"I'd be glad to give you a hand my boy."
Jeff's head jerked up in shock at the familiar and very American sounding voice above him, and stared into the face of Director Rogers and a woman he thought he recognized. He opened his mouth to speak but couldn't, so the woman knelt down beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"I've had my fair share of temper tantrums in my day, but that one was pretty impressive."
"Olivia?" The word was barely out of his mouth before he had her in a vice-like hug.
"It's good to see you too Jeff," she said softly as she rubbed his back and held him very much the same way she held his mentor several hours before. She glanced up at Curt who nodded and smiled before he ducked out of the tent. Once they were alone she turned her attention to Jeff again. "Now, let's clean this mess up and get the heck outta here."