by Lorraine Anderson
"That was a close one!" Jonathan Archer yelled, just as he and Trip Tucker reached the rock overhang. "Where did this storm come from?" He rubbed his eyes.
Tucker lifted his hand to check his tricorder, then gaped. He looked at Archer, then out at the storm, then back at Archer. He looked at himself, then rubbed his eyes. He looked back at his clothing, looked at the instrument in his hands, then back at Archer.
"I don't know how to tell you this, but that was some storm. I don't think we're in Kansas any more."
Archer grinned, then slicked his hair back. "I didn't know you'd read Wizard of Oz."
"Required reading for engineers. We were required to analyze the inner workings of 'Tik-Tok'." Trip frowned. "But something weird is going on." He stepped in front of Archer.
Archer looked at Tucker. The Enterprise jumpsuit was gone, replaced by a purple pinstripe suit, a black shirt, a white tie, and a glowing star on the lapel. He wore white shoes that were unmuddied by the surroundings. He held a blinking object, smaller than a tricorder.
Archer looked down. He was wearing the overalls of someone named "Joe." They seemed to be in some sort of shelter that looked like the workshop of an ancient Terran vehicles restorer. But a storm still raged outside.
The tricorder in Tucker's hand squealed. "What the hell?" He looked at it. "Cap'n," he said, not taking his eyes from the instrument. Archer positioned himself behind Tucker.
"Who are you?" the tricorder spelled out.
Archer and Tucker looked at each other. "Who are you?" Archer said.
"I am..." It paused, then continued in a pleasant female voice. "I am Ziggy, computer for Project Quantum Leap. I have disconnected the Imaging Chamber from outside interference. You cannot leave. What have you done with Admiral Calavicci?"
"Whoa," Tucker said. "Back up a bit here. One, I don't know your Admiral Calavicci; two, I don't know you; and three, you're the one who kidnaped us."
The tricorder was silent for a second. "That is not Doctor Beckett, is it?"
"No," Tucker said. "Nor is it Albert Einstein." He looked at Archer and grinned.
Archer looked startled a moment. "Ziggy, do I look like Dr. Beckett?"
"The resemblance is startling."
Archer raised an eyebrow at Tucker.
"Wait a minute," Archer said. "There was a rumor in the family that Samuel Beckett the scientist, I mean was a ancestor. Something to do with what happened when he time-traveled. I have seen some pictures, and I do look at lot like him in his younger years."
Tucker looked at him. "I never knew that."
"Yeah, well, we never advertised it because we weren't quite sure." He thought a minute. "Calavicci was an astronaut... And a good friend of Beckett."
"What, you read his biography?"
Archer dropped his head. "Well, yeah." He moved back. Some rocks shifted, and he stumbled forward, putting his arm towards Tucker for support. Tucker reached his hand out, and their hands went through each other. Archer went down, rolled, then looked up at Tucker. Tucker was looking at his hand. They reached out as if shaking hands, and couldn't touch. They looked at each other, startled. "What the hell?" Archer said.
The tricorder squealed. "You don't know anything, do you?"
Archer stood up and brushed himself off. "Beckett said that Calavicci appeared to him in the form of a hologram that only he could see or hear."
"Sounds like you're quoting."
"I read the book a couple of times." He paused. "Which means – short of a hallucination I'm having – we're in the middle of one of their travels."
"I'm not a hallucination." Trip grinned. "But if I were, I would say that, wouldn't I?"
Archer snickered, then turned his attention to the tricorder. "Where exactly are we, Ziggy?"
"Not until you tell me who you are."
"Oh. Yeah." Archer and Trip looked at each other. Archer nodded. "I am Captain Jonathan Archer of the starship Enterprise. We are from the year 2152. This is my Chief Engineer, Trip Tucker."
"That makes sense."
Archer raised his eyebrows. "It does?"
"We have determined that Dr. Beckett can Leap into relations. He has already Leapt into his great-grandfather. It follows that he can Leap into a great-great-grandson."
"Makes sense to you, maybe," Trip muttered.
"Now. Where are we?"
"You are both in the year 1999, in a small town in southern California."
"Why have you brought us here?"
The voice sounded offended. "I have not brought you anywhere. I monitor, I predict possible outcomes, and I irritate Admiral Callavici."
"I'd believe that." Tucker said.
"You're a computer? Forgive me for saying this, but you sound much too human."
"Thank you. Dr. Beckett designed me that way."
"Can you predict why we're here?" Archer said.
"I am not certain why you are here. You are in our present time. In fact, you only Leapt to a minute before our time." She paused. "Captain Archer, there is an odd life form twenty feet west of you. Biped, but not human. Mr Tucker, I suggest you exit to the Project. Now."
A man ran out of the night. "Wonderful night, isn't it, Joe?" He looked at Archer, and his friendly smiled faded. "You are not the mechanic, Joe Brown, and Joe would not have such a colorful friend. Who are you?"
Archer looked at him closely. The tips of his ears were covered, but his basic bone structure suggested... "You look... Vulcan."
The man flinched slightly. "Vulcan?"
"A humanoid race with green blood."
The man's face went still.
"You don't belong in this place any more than we do, do you?"
He remained silent.
Archer sighed, hoping he wasn't making a huge mistake. "I am Captain Jonathan Archer of the Terran starship Enterprise. This is Commander Trip Tucker. We are from the year 2152."
Mestral smiled slightly. "And I am an alien from space."
"You are. You are from the planet Vulcan. I'm betting you arrived here in 1952 and have lived on Earth for forty-seven years."
"How do... and how would you know that?"
"In my time, I work with a descendant of one of your coworkers. She told us your story a short time ago."
"Cap'n... you're not suggesting that this is Mestral...?"
Mestral shook his head in astonishment, then looked narrowly at them. "I can't deny that I'm Mestral. Are you Vulcan? Have you come to..."
Tucker snorted. "You ever hear a Vulcan that sounded like me?"
Mestral digested that. "Terrans and Vulcans together? Where? How? Why?"
The tricorder sputtered. "Thank you, Ziggy," Archer said. "I wasn't going to say any more." He turned to Mestral. "t's in the future. I don't think you should ask me."
Mestral chewed his lip. "Right."
"We're here because of some sort of temporal accident. I'm thinking we might help each other."
"Captain. This isn't a Suliban trick?"
Archer shook his head. "Doubt it."
"Suliban," Mestral said.
"Don't ask," Trip said.
"Well?" Archer said.
"Sure. Why not?" Mestral straightened up.
Trip stared at him. "You know, you don't act much like a Vulcan."
"I've learned to adapt. Do you know how many people kept telling me to relax and have fun over the years? I'm not human, but I've strayed quite a bit from the Vulcan philosophy, also." He thought a moment. "I don't regret it, really."
"Well, apparently we've met so that we can help each other. Do you have a problem?"
Mestral looked wistful. "I would like to go home."
"Oh, sure," Trip said. "Well just call Vulcan High Command and say, hey, guys, the Vulcan you thought was dead deserted to Earth, and now he's sorry, can he come back?"
"I have lived for almost fifty years among the humans without revealing my status, even during Pon..." He stopped abruptly and shook his head. "I have valuable insights about humans I wish to share. You are a dynamic people. You have problems, but I still admire you."
"Thank you," Archer said. "But will your superiors listen?"
"No. In fact, they may deny my existence." Mestral said frankly, and Tucker snorted in surprise. "But I will have told them. And I will be at home. That is enough for me."
"Even if you're in jail?"
"Vulcan doesn't have jails – but we do have detention centers." He shrugged. "It's worth it. I like Terrans, but I'm tired of fraud, disguises, and deceit. And I'm cold all of the time these days."
"So," Archer said. "We need to send a tight-beam sub-space message to the Vulcans. Where are we going to get the materials for that in 1999?"
Trip's tricorder chirped and lit up. "Yes, Ziggy?"
"What is that?"
Archer sighed. "I'll explain later."
"If I might suggest, gentlemen, perhaps you can take a trip to the Quantum Leap Project?"
"You don't have sub-space technology, do you?"
"No, but we do have your engineer, and we are a high-tech, top secret project."
"You're suggesting that the United States government won't crawl all over Mestral?"
"No, Captain Archer - and my apologies to Mr. Mestral — but I am suggesting fraud, disguises and deceit. Here is my plan..."
Thirty feet away, two men in a black car were observing them.
"Should we grab him?"
The other one shook his head. "Not yet. Not enough proof. And this looks rather odd. Let's keep following him."
"When the time is right." He took a bite of donut. "Jeez. You have no patience."
Sam ran into the cave, trying to escape the thunderstorm. "Wow, Al, did you see that? I'm surprised I didn't get hit."
"Yeah, Al." He continued to look out into the storm, then it registered that Al's voice sounded wrong.
"I think we did get hit. If you turn around slowly..." Al's voice sounded southern. It was the wrong pitch.
"Because 'Al' is correct," said a female voice. Sam turned. A young, dark haired woman with – pointed ears? – was holding a weapon on the pair. Her eyes widened slowly, and she studied him carefully. "You bear a remarkable resemblance to Captain Archer, but you are not him." She looked at Al. "And this is definitely not Mr. Tucker. Who are you?"
Sam and Al looked at each other. Sam saw a sandy-haired young man. "Al?" He reached out and grasped Al's arm, and the image morphed into the Al he remembered. "Al. You Leaped."
"The thunderstorm. It must have hit me, traveled to you, and Leapt us here. Wherever here is."
"Like the other..." Al closed his mouth. He looked down at the uniforms they were wearing, then at the woman. "But where is here?"
"You are on the second planet of the Olgidni system. Who are you?"
Al looked the woman up and down. Sam expected a leer, or at least a smart comment, but Al said, deadpan. "Who are you?"
"I am T'Pol, science officer of the starship Enterprise."
"A what?" Sam said. He looked at Al.
"A starship?" Al shrugged. "Take me to your leader."
"Until we find Captain Archer, I am the leader. You are coming with me."
Al twirled his finger near his head. "Al," Sam said. "She does have a gun."
"It's a toy!"
T'Pol shot a rock, which turned red and split.
Al's eyes were wide.
T'Pol pointed with her gun out into the night. Sam peered out. The storm seemed to have passed. A vehicle was a short distance away.
"No wheels," Al pointed out as they approached.
Sam rolled his eyes. "She said a star ship, remember?"
A young black man opened the door as they approached. He stared at the trio and raised his eyebrows. "Commander?" he said to T'Pol.
"The Captain and Mr. Tucker have disappeared. These two appeared in their place."
The man looked at Sam, then at Al. "Looks like the Captain and Trip to me."
"They are not." But she looked a bit uncertain, even startled. Sam raised his brows. Was there a way to salvage the situation?
"Just take us back to the ship," he said, in his best command voice.
"Aye, aye, Captain," the man said crisply. T'Pol shook her head, but didn't countermand his order. "Mr. Mayweather," she said. "Have Dr. Phlox stand by when we arrive. He will confirm that these are not who they seem.
Mayweather looked at her, then at Sam. Sam nodded his head slightly. "Yes, Ma'am. He'll probably be there, anyway, to supervise the decontamination."
Al shifted, beside him, tensing. Sam allowed him a glance. His eyes were wide, then narrowed. The ship lurched upwards. Al 's eyes widened again, and they looked at each other, then out the front window. They saw the tops of the trees lower, then felt a slight acceleration. Al leaned forward as if to get up. Sam caught his arm and shook his head.
If this was the hardest trip of Sam's life – launching into outer space while acting completely blasé about it – he hated to think what it was doing to Al. He risked another look. Al was lounging, but his eyes were alert, taking in everything.
Sam looked forward again. A structure – no, a starship – rapidly approached. Al sighed, almost inaudibly. "Fly boy," Sam murmured. Al grinned.
The shuttle stopped underneath the craft and Sam heard a clank before the vessel was drawn upward. After a few minutes, the vessel door opened and T'Pol gestured with her gun. They exited the craft and into a small room that said "decontamination" Sam involuntarily raised his brows.
A voice came over a loudspeaker. "You are absolutely right, T'Pol." Sam looked around and saw – an alien – look through a window. "That is not Mr. Tucker, and," the alien looked closer... "That is not the Captain."
Sam saw the people around the alien – the doctor? – look at him, then raise their pistols uncertainly.
Trip exited the Imaging Chamber uncertainly. A man leaning over... Ziggy?... looked up. "You all right, Al? You look a little white."
What did Ziggy say his name was? Oh, yeah. Trip ran his hand over his face. "I'm just a bit tired, Gooshie."
"Sam's ok, isn't he?"
"Yeah, he's fine."
"You met Mestral, right?"
Trip looked at him sharply. "How do you know about Mestral?"
Gooshie shrugged. "Ziggy just told me the name. Said Sam was back in 1972. Said you were supposed to help him somehow. Didn't say how, though. Not that that's unusual."
So, Ziggy said they were in 1972. Trip mentally shook his head. A computer that deliberately lied. What a concept. "So," he said "we're supposed to play it by ear as usual, huh?"
"Yeah, I know the routine." Trip yawned deliberately. "Well, I think I'll go get some shut eye."
"Ok." Gooshie was already looking away from him. "See you later."
Trip grinned as he turned away. He knew the type. A techno geek. He tended that way, himself, some days, when a project particularly interested him. He would dearly love to get his nose in a few things around here, but Ziggy said that it wouldn't be in character. Still, maybe he could look at the specs... Like the Imaging Chamber? That would be a great thing on a starship. Wonder what the power consumption was?
Suddenly, he noticed the handlink was blinking. He put it up to his mouth. "Yeah, Ziggy."
"You just walked past your room."
"Oh." He backtracked. "Here?" he said quietly.
He opened the door, walked in, shut the door, then leaned against it.
"Lucky that Tina is out of town this weekend."
"Oh, great," Trip muttered, then looked around. It was rather Spartan; just a few pictures on a shelf, a desk, and a daybed along one wall. Trip looked at the pictures, then looked again. "Captain Archer!" he said, staring.
"No" Ziggy said. "Dr. Beckett."
Trip looked at the picture. The likeness was remarkable. The man next to him must be a brother.
"Mr. Tucker," Ziggy's calm voice broke into his revery. "Tina just arrived on base."
Trip started. "I thought you said she was gone."
"She's back. And she's heading towards your quarters. And she looks annoyed."
"What did I do?"
"Admiral Calavicci made a little time with a waitress in Las Vegas."
"I suggest that you make up with her."
"By taking her to bed."
"I do not make love to other men's intended."
"Then if you wish to avoid her, you need to leave your room now."
He ran down the hall. A statuesque blonde was striding towards him. "Albert," she squeaked. "We need to talk."
"I have to get to the Imaging Chamber!"
The blonde sighed noisily. "You always have to be in the Imaging Chamber!"
"Yeah, but this time I really have to."
"I'll be here when you get out!" She turned and stalked away. Trip stared after her. She was beautiful, but...
"Yeah, but maybe I won't be here when I get out," Trip shook his head at what he just said, then turned again. He slowed down, but continued at a quick walk.
Gooshie looked up as he walked in. "That was a short break."
"I had a feeling the – Sam needed me."
Gooshie nodded. "Uh-huh."
Trip decided that the Project was just like the Enterprise – no secret was really secret. "Gooshie, just open the door."
Archer looked up at him sternly as he popped through the door. "I thought I ordered you to get some rest. There's nothing you can do here."
Trip looked around the car. Mestral was driving. Well, Archer probably didn't know how to drive an... automobile, yeah, that was the word. "It's more restful in here."
Archer looked at him sharply.
Archer chuckled. "You can't handle a woman?"
Trip sighed. "I got some standards. Tina's after me for something Al did... and Ziggy thought I should sleep with her."
"Is she pretty?"
"From the quick glance I got - drop-dead beautiful."
"And the problem is..."
"I'm not exactly myself."
Archer looked out the window. "Yeah."
"Not that I have any problems sleeping with pretty ladies."
Archer turned away from the dark window and grinned at him. "I've noticed."
"And I thought I was being so discreet."
"Ah, but a Captain needs to know everything that's going on in his ship."
"Really?" said Mestral, without turning. "The Vulcans don't pretend to know everything." He looked in the far distance. "Not that there is much to report. Our relationships are so... logical." He looked at Archer and Tucker with a slight smile.
"Exactly who said Vulcans don't have a sense of humor?" Tucker smiled.
Mestral's smile faded. "I've lived among humans almost fifty years. I'm not a true Vulcan any more. I've seen much to admire about humans - including their emotions."
"You're sure you want to go back?" Tucker asked. "If it's the cold that's bothering you, there are some hotter, desert-like countries on Earth."
"I've been there. But I still want to go home. Vulcans do have this isolationist bent - I hope to at least try to influence them by my example."
"Well," Tucker drawled, "You're not going to influence them by talking like an American."
"I shall strive to correct my grammatical habits," Mestral intoned.
"There you go," Archer said.
"Well," Tucker said. "You work on your diction and I'm going to stretch out on the floor and catch a couple of ZZZs."
"Have a pleasant repose," Mestral said with a slight smile.
"Don't overdo it," Archer said.
The three were silent for a long time. Mestral looked at the Starfleet officers. They were asleep. He looked at the car behind them and continued driving, a worried look on his face.
"I have to... use the facilities."
"There's an empty pop bottle in the back. We're not stopping until they do."
"Or just... hold it."
A slight noise came from the seat beside him. He smiled slightly. "Cap it tightly. I don't want the car to smell."
Sam and Al looked at each other. "You know, we may as well stop denying it," Sam said. "Guess we had better add extra-terrestrials to that list of yours."
"Al, relax. We'll get back." Sam turned to the waiting crowd. "I am Doctor Samuel Beckett of Earth. My companion is Admiral Albert Calavicci."
"The astronaut?" Mayweather said. "But he's been gone..." Hut shut his mouth with a snap. "Project Quantum Leap."
"You know of the project?" Al said.
"I've studied the careers of all of the early astronauts."
"Early?" Al looked a little offended.
Sam grinned. "Well, at least he didn't say old." He turned to Mayweather. "What year is this?"
Mayweather shook his head as T'Pol said, "Don't answer that."
Sam looked at the group facing him, then around at the ship. "Oh. Yeah. I doubt I could learn much by looking around, but I could change..."
"... our history," Mayweather finished.
"Which we like just fine, thank you," Phlox said. He turned to T'Pol. "I would like to take a detailed scan of our guests, with their permission. If they have traveled through time, there may be something we can learn."
"Are you aware I'm also a medical doctor?"
"I'm certain I can take a scan of you without you guessing a thing about our technology."
Al grinned. "Don't be so certain."
T'Pol looked at them impassively. "In order for them to be scanned, they need to go through decontamination." She handed over a tube of some sort of cream. "Rub this all over your body."
Sam pulled his shirt off. Al hesitated. Sam looked over at him.
"Well — I've never undressed in front of an alien babe."
T'Pol glanced sharply at Al, then industriously ignored him, rubbing the cream slowly over her legs. After a glance at her, Al abruptly turned the other way, flushing.
Phlox looked at Al and smiled slightly. Sam could see him thinking ... hmmm... normal human male. He glanced over at T'Pol and turned away himself.
Phlox smiled again.
"This is a good place," Mestral said, looking up at the motel from the parking lot. He pulled out his wallet. "I'll go in and get us a room."
Archer looked at the credit card he pulled out. "Correct me if I'm wrong – but don't those have to be paid someday?"
Mestral smiled slightly. "I've had things arranged for a while. My attorney is arranging everything for me. I told her that I might disappear someday – then told her what I was and proved it by giving myself a paper cut..." Archer winced "... the woman took it in stride. Pam Davidson could be a Vulcan."
"So you have the loose ends tied up."
"I wouldn't be a Vulcan if I didn't think of everything," he said, with an ironic tilt to his brow.
Trip appeared beside him. Archer jumped. "Hey, this is kind of fun." He punched a button and appeared thirty feet away. He grinned, then punched another button and appeared back by Archer. "I feel like I'm on 'Bewitched.'" Mestral smiled. Archer glared at him, then relaxed.
"So, did you get any rest?"
Trip smiled. "Yeah. When I left you, I used Albert's credit card and got a room here... It's clean."
"I want to avoid Tina."
"You know, you may not have a choice."
Trip stared at him.
"Dr. Beckett believed that in all of his Leaps, he needed to change things for the better."
"But that's him, not us!"
Archer nodded toward Mestral. "We're here to help him. It also could be we're here to help Calavicci."
"You're buying into this good deed thing?"
Archer winced. "Well..."
Trip pointed at him. "You are, aren't you? I knew it."
"Can't hurt. I think you need to talk to this Tina."
"And say what?"
"The 'truth' is that I did not sleep with this other woman. And I don't know that Calavicci did."
Archer smiled. "Then that's what you tell her."
"But what if she finds out that Calavicci..."
"You're not Calavicci. You didn't sleep with the waitress, did you?"
"Then you're telling the truth. The problem is keeping Tina from breaking up with Calavicci right now. Calavicci can deal with her when he gets back."
"After Mestral leaves."
Mestral sighed. "Boys, can we continue this conversation in our room?" He looked around the parking lot. "I'm feeling a little obvious."
Archer grinned. "You have a point."
Phlox motioned to a bed. "Jump up."
Sam smiled. "I don't have to undress?"
Phlox looked nonplused at that, then smiled. "Ah, yes, I've studied Terran medical history. No, you don't need to undress." He turned away to pick up an instrument. "I apologize for my reaction. On Den... On my planet, that is quite often a... 'pick-up' line, as you might say."
Sam blushed. "Oops." Al laughed. The guards smirked.
"No way for you to know that." He turned toward Sam and smiled. "Dr. Beckett, if you would please lie down? This bed is somewhat like one of your MRIs. It will tell me most of what I need to know."
The bed moved backward, and Sam saw an arch over his head. "Sam, you feel anything?" Al said.
"Al, relax," Sam said. "They don't dare do a thing to us."
"Unless we disappeared permanently from our own time and they don't dare tell us."
"You didn't," T'Pol said.
Al jumped. "Where did you come from?"
Phlox smiled at Al's disgusted reaction. "Vulcans tend to be very literal." The door opened again.
"How do you know we didn't?" Al sputtered.
"Didn't what?" T'Pol said calmly.
"Disappear from our own time?"
"I looked it up on the database."
"But it's a top-secret..." He looked at Sam, who was grinning at him. "Oh. Centuries in the future. Right." He looked at T'Pol. "So, who wins the 2000 World Series?" he said, with an innocent look.
T'Pol opened her mouth. "Al," Sam said. "No Vegas betting, either." He turned to T'Pol. "Didn't you just tell us our own future?"
"I have the security of the ship to think of. I didn't want you to make any sort of escape attempt."
"But... time is changeable. You know that, right? So that means that your database could change."
T'Pol looked chagrined for a micro-second. "I will admit I hadn't considered that. Vulcan Science does not admit the possibility of Temporal engineering. I have not had a chance to study all of the permutations."
"Perhaps you should. You may run into it somewhere else."
"We already have," T'Pol said. Her face didn't change, but Sam thought he could detect a slight frown of disapproval.
"Ah," he said. He didn't pursue it further.
T'Pol turned and walked out the door. Phlox smiled slightly.
"Boss? Now?" He looked at the other man as he hung up the phone.
The other man sighed. "Roykirk is calling us back, and he's out to get both of our butts. The lab now claims that the DNA results were tampered with.."
The other man looked startled. "But... you were so sure."
"And I still am." He stood up from the bed. "We're going to bring him back with us."
Archer woke to pounding on the door. He rolled over, looked blearily at the window, wondered why they just didn't ring the chime, then remembered that he was in a hotel in the twentieth century. The pounding started again. Mestral was already on his way to the door. He looked through the peephole, then sighed. "Oh, damn."
"Damn? Strong language for a Vulcan."
Mestral bowed his head and sighed. "Something I didn't tell you. The FBI have had an interest in me for a while.
"You? Why?" Mestral cocked an eyebrow. "Oh. How did they find out?"
"Your DNA technology has been advancing, and I believe a former scientist friend of mine has been talking to them. Very possibly they have a sample of my DNA."
Archer winced. "Well, you really should open the door before they tear it down."
Mestral sighed. He opened the door to a couple of men in suits and sunglasses. Archer suppressed a grin. It reminded him of "Men in Black," the silly movie he had just seen the last movie night.
Mestral sighed again.
They flashed an ID. "We'll need you to come with us, please."
Archer stood up. "What seems to be the problem?"
They glanced over at him. "We need to ask him a few questions. Who are you?"
"I'm his cousin. We came out here for a trip."
"What, to see the Painted Rocks?"
"Among other things. Is that against the law in New Mexico?"
The agent looked unimpressed. "This problem is unrelated to your trip."
"It certainly is related to our trip. What is my cousin accused of?"
"Jonathan," Mestral said. "I'm perfectly willing..."
"What seems to be going on here?" Another voice rang in from the hall.
"Who are you?"
"I'm here to pick up these two." Tucker moved into the doorway.
"I'm afraid our reasons are classified."
"Classified?" Tucker said slowly. "Look, do you know who I am?"
The man on the left actually looked at him. "Boss? I believe that's Admiral Albert Calavicci."
The other man shrugged. "So?"
"My last partner got stonewalled. By him. He has a far higher security classification than we have."
"You better believe it," Tucker drawled. "I suggest you get lost."
"But... but Mestral's a space alien!"
"Then so am I," drawled Tucker.
"He is my cousin," offered Archer.
Tucker gave Archer a look. "And I'm another cousin," he continued, glibly. "Next you'll think we all travel in spaceships."
"And you're all going sightseeing..."
"No matter what," Mestral said. "Would you mind if we get dressed?"
Tucker stepped into the room. "If you don't mind, gentlemen?" He calmly closed the door.
They stood, not breathing for a long minute. They heard arguing, then Mestral looked out the peephole. "They seem to be gone." He opened the door and looked down the hall. "They are gone from this floor. We shouldn't assume they're gone from this hotel." He shrugged, closed the door and moved to the bathroom.
Archer and Tucker grinned at each other. "Vulcans," Tucker said.
Archer pulled on his pants. "The ball's in your court, Trip. What's the game plan?"
"Well, Cap'n, I'm going to drive you as close to the Project as possible, then I'm going to go in and get Ziggy to send the signal. I just need to make a couple of adjustments in the computer proper. Ziggy's been giving me the specs."
Archer stopped his dressing. "Trip? When did you learn to drive a gasoline powered vehicle?"
"It's not much different from ours. Just noisier. I never had to deal with a clutch before, though, but I took right to it."
"Maybe a little transference from Calavicci?"
"Mmmm... yeah..." He shrugged. "So?"
The handlink beeped. "Yes, Ziggy," Tucker drawled.
"You are beginning to sound like the Admiral."
"Did you call me to tell me that?"
"No. I called you to tell you that Tina is looking for you again. I believe she followed you."
Another knock on the door. Tucker looked out the peephole, then rolled his eyes. "Oh, God."
"Albert," came a shrill voice. "I know you're in there!"
Mestral came out of the bathroom. "Gentlemen?" he inquired.
"I'll have to let her in," Tucker said. He looked around to make sure the men were dressed, then opened the door."
"Albert, who's there..." An underdressed blonde strode into the room. "Oh."
"Tina, meet my cousins."
She cocked her head to one side. "Albert, if those are your cousins, then I'm..." She looked at Mestral. "He's a slight shade of green. And why are his ears slightly pointed?"
"Ummmm... he's from China and got into a rice picking machine accident?"
"Albert. I'm not an idiot."
"She's not," Ziggy spoke up. "She has an IQ just short of Dr. Beckett's."
Archer spoke up. "Ziggy, what about... telling her the truth?"
"Yes. I believe that would be a good idea."
"That's not what you said before!" Tucker said accusingly to the handlink.
"What did she say before?"
Tucker turned red. "I... um... would rather not say."
"I see." Tina put her hands on her hips. "So, what is the truth, Albert?"
Archer grinned. "Go ahead."
Mestral smiled slightly. "This should be fascinating."
Tucker glared at Archer, then stood to face Tina. "I'm not Albert Callivici, that's not Dr. Beckett, and Mestral's a Vulcan," he said in one breath.
Tina closed her eyes and shook her head. "What?"
"I heard you the first time," she said shrilly. "What's a Vulcan?"
"A space alien," Mestral offered. "I bleed green. Shall I give myself a paper cut?"
"Do you believe me?" Tucker said hopelessly.
"But..." Tucker said, then did a double-take. "You do?"
"Al would have avoided me if another woman was involved. But he wouldn't have run the other way for a couple of men!" She smiled. "That ain't his style." She stared at them. "But if you're here... both of you have Leapt... where are Al and Dr. Becket?"
Archer gulped. "Probably aboard our spaceship."
"You're aliens, too?"
"Not exactly," Tucker said. "Let me explain." He sat Tina down.
"So, Doc, are we healthy?" Al sat up from the table.
"As much as anybody can be from your time. There appears to be organic residue in your lungs that are not in his."
Sam smiled. "His cigars." Phlox looked at him inquiringly. "A leaf from our time that people ignite and inhale."
"Oh," Phlox said. He picked up an instrument. "I'm glad humans seem to have stopped that habit." He pressed the instrument against Al's arm.
"This will eliminate the tumor I found growing in your lungs." He replaced the instrument. "I trust you will not inform T'Pol."
Al gulped. "Um... I won't."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Phlox..."
"I am a doctor. I couldn't allow anything to happen to you if I could prevent it."
Sam smiled. "You're a good man, Doctor."
"I'm not a man," Phlox said archly. "I'm a Denobulan."
Tucker looked up from the circuit board. "Almost done." He looked down again. "There."
Tina smiled at him. "You are an engineer."
He grimaced. "Usually not an electrician, though. It almost hurts to do this to these..." He grinned sheepishly. "... antiques." The smile faded. "You saw what I did?"
"I can reverse it, Mr. Tucker. I was one of the designers."
Tucker cocked his head and smiled. "I see."
Ziggy spoke up. "Gooshie is coming down the hall."
Tucker sighed.. "Ziggy, set off the signal."
"You got it, Mr. Tucker."
The door started opening. Impulsively, Tucker grabbed Tina and gave her a long kiss...
Archer looked at the morning sky, then around at the desert. He could see the project in the near distance. "How long will it take the Vulcans to come?"
"Depends on how closely they're monitoring you. I suspect fairly closely. Your Industrial Revolution took a nanosecond compared to other cultures. They're going to be curious why. And when they hear my communicator..."
A ship landed in front of them. "As I said. I thank you, Captain. Give Mr. Tucker my appreciation."
Mestral got out of the car and approached the ship. A door opened, and a Vulcan peered out. Mestral gave him the Vulcan hand salute, then turned back to the car. He waved, then blinked. Archer's features changed into the mechanic, Joe Tucker. Joe looked confused at Mestral.
Mestral's eyebrow went up, and he embarked onto the ship. The ship lifted and disappeared into the distance.
"Boss," said the man.
"What?" He gaped up at the sky.
"Can we go home now?"
He winced and wondered whether a job would be open at the local burger joint. "I... suppose." He started the car, and turned it reluctantly back around. He wondered whether Roykirk would find him if he defected to Mexico.
Damn. He probably would.
Sam felt a familiar tingling. "Al..."
"I feel it." He jumped off of the bed. "Phlox, give T'Pol a big kiss. She looks like she needs it."
T'Pol walked in. Al smiled at her, then the two of them Leapt.
The two aliens shielded their eyes, then looked at the two humans.
Tucker and Archer grinned at each other.
"Captain. Mr. Tucker. It's good to see you."
Tucker reached over to grab T'Pol's shoulders. "T'Pol, you'll never guess who we helped.!"
Phlox looked sternly at the two. "Ok, you two. Up on the biobed. I want to make sure you haven't brought some Twentieth Century infection back with you."
Archer grinned at the doctor as he got onto the bed. "Phlox, I'm glad to see you, too." He laid down obediently.
Phlox smiled at him.
"Al?" Tina said, pulling back from the kiss and searching his eyes.
"Who else would it..." Al saw Gooshie peer in, then close the door with a disgusted look. A memory came back to Al. "Oh.. What was he doing kissing you?"
"It's a long story, Al. And you have to tell me yours."
Al looked around for the handlink. "Where's Sam?"
Ziggy spoke up. She sounded sad. "Admiral, Dr. Beckett is still Leaping."
Al winced. "But not back here."
Al sighed. "Well, here we go again."
"Al..." Tina said.
She pulled his head towards hers. "Don't do that again." She gave him a narrow look. "You know what I mean?"
"I'll try, baby. I'll try." He gave her a long kiss.