Tuesday, May 20, 2014

"A Selfish Man"

By Christina Moore
_____


Captain's Log, Stardate 544130... The Paradox is preparing to launch for another Retrieval. This time, for me, it's personal... 

*****

They decided not to put off the memorial service. After commiserating together in Carey’s quarters, Janeway and Chakotay had met with the Doctor and requested his body be prepared immediately for launch on the final journey into the space he had so loved, and hoped that by dealing with the service quickly, they might all recover faster from the utter senselessness of his death. 

When the appointed time came, all hands on the Starship Voyager came to attention and turned to the nearest monitor. 

Up on the bridge, the captain swallowed before beginning to speak. “Today we pay homage to our honored dead, Lt. Joseph Carey,” Kathryn Janeway said slowly. “We now say good-bye to a valued colleague and mourn the loss of our friend.” 

Tuvok was just about to press the control that would release Carey’s body into space when an alarm began to sound at the operations station. He paused in mid-motion as Harry Kim ran from his position next to Chakotay to investigate its cause. 

“Belay the launch,” Kim said as he ran his fingers across the console swiftly. 

“Report, Mr. Kim,” Janeway commanded. 

“There’s a spatial distortion opening up directly ahead, Captain. Sensors identify it as a temporal vortex identical to those created by twenty-ninth century timeships,” the ensign replied. 

“Is it the Relativity again?” Chakotay asked. 

“We’ll know in a moment, sir,” Kim said as he brought an image of the distortion up on the main viewer. “A ship is coming through now.” 

All eyes on the bridge locked onto the image of a ship very much resembling the Federation Timeship Relativity, which had more than once been a thorn in the side of the Voyager crew. 

“The vessel we are seeing now is not the Relativity, Captain,” Tuvok said as the vortex closed behind the newcomer. 

“So the game has a new player,” Tom Paris quipped as Kim announced that the ship was hailing. 

“On screen,” Janeway barked, incensed that these people were interrupting such a solemn occasion. Why couldn’t they leave Voyager alone? 

The image shifted from the exterior of the timeship to the vessel’s bridge, with a man in his thirties sitting in the command chair. 

“Greetings. I am Captain Gavin Pavlatos of the Timeship Paradox,” he said. 

“You interrupted a memorial service, Captain. What do you want?” Janeway asked briskly. 

Pavlatos smiled, hoping the expression would disarm her. “Please, permit me to come aboard, Captain Janeway," he went on. "A matter such as this is best discussed in person." 

No such luck—Captain Janeway was not going to be charmed after all. Pavlatos was pretty sure that right then she was thinking she’d had just about enough interference from the 29th century, and entertained the notion of simply telling him to go to hell. Then again, he hadn’t immediately threatened to or tried to destroy her ship. 

“Commander Tuvok, meet our guest in Transporter Room One.” 

*****

“Could you say that again?” 

Pavlatos drew in a breath, having come prepared for a fight. “I told you—I am here for the body of Joe Carey,” he replied. 

“You can’t be serious!” B'Elanna Torres said indignantly. “Do you honestly expect us to just hand him over?” 

He turned to her. “Of course not, Lieutenant. At least not until I’ve told you why.” 

“And why exactly do you want him?” Chakotay queried. 

The timeship captain leaned forward, placing his hands together on the conference table. “We discovered a disruption in the space-time continuum that occurred two days ago by your calendar. Our scientists are still looking into it, but we believe it to be responsible for Lt. Carey's death.” 

“Wait a minute,” Paris interrupted. “I was there when it happened. Joe Carey died—” 

“Eight hours ago of a shot to the heart while in transport during your retrieval of the Friendship One probe. I’m well aware of that, Mr. Paris, I’ve read the file,” Pavlatos finished for him. “My point is that he wasn’t supposed to die.” 

“How did you come to make that determination, Captain?” Tuvok asked. 

Their guest looked pointedly in the Vulcan’s direction. “I’m from the twenty-ninth century, Mr. Tuvok, and I’m the captain of a timeship. Which—contrary to what you may be thinking in regard to your run-ins with Braxton—is not a position conferred on just anyone. I had to earn my command, which means I had to know a hell of a lot about history. Or from your perspective, the future.” 

Sighing, he continued. “Joe Carey is credited with a number of influences in your future. The impact of those events will be erased by his death, and we simply cannot allow that to happen.” 

“Then why not prevent his death altogether? Why attempt to fix things after he died?” Kim asked. 

“Because we have to. Preventing his death would mean someone else dying in his place—all our simulations came to that conclusion. We’re not willing to sacrifice another member of your crew just to save him. This is the only way.” 

“How magnanimous of you,” the Doctor said dryly. “Just how do you propose to ‘bring him back,’ anyway? Don’t you think if he could have been saved, I’d have done that?” 

Capt. Pavlatos smiled at the hologram. “No offense, Doctor, but your medical knowledge is primitive by my century’s standards. Suffice it to say, we have our ways.” 

The Doctor looked about to argue, but Janeway silenced him with a shake of her head. He conceded my point with a curt nod and said nothing more. 

“Let me see if I understand this correctly,” Janeway said. “What you’re saying is that Lt. Carey wasn’t actually supposed to die, and in order to preserve your history, you want me to turn his body over to you to be taken to the twenty-ninth century and…reanimated?” 

“Yes, that’s correct,” Pavlatos said. “You’d be doing the Federation a great service with your cooperation, Captain.” 

“Why not do it here and now, on your ship?” Chakotay asked. 

“Because we don’t have the facilities. We don’t have the tools and we don’t have the doctor who will be performing the procedure.” 

“Captain Pavlatos, you’re asking me for an awful lot of trust here,” Janeway said slowly. “How do we know you’ll bring him back to us? How do we know this procedure you’re talking about even works?” 

He sat forward more, hoping like hell he was giving her his most imploring look. “I know all you have is my word, but I am asking you to please trust me,” Pavlatos pleaded, silently adding a fervent prayer. “You’ve already had similar experiences—with Neelix and Seven’s nanoprobes, Lyndsay Ballard and the Kobali… Why not give Carey the same chance to live again?” 

*****

A short time later, Janeway and Chakotay stood side-by-side in the center of Voyager’s bridge, watching on the viewscreen the image of the Paradox disappearing into another temporal vortex, headed for her 29th century origin… 

…with the body of Lt. Joe Carey in her sickbay. 

“I hope we did the right thing, Commander,” Kathryn Janeway said softly. 

“I hope so, too, Captain,” Chakotay replied. “Though if there is any chance at all of giving him his life back, we have to take it.” 

“We just did, Chakotay. We just did.” 

***** 

“Doc, you here?” 

Pavlatos poked his head into the office of Starfleet's Surgeon General. A moment later the Australian woman appeared, crawling out from under her desk. 

“Found it!” Dr. Eryn Hayes exclaimed as she stood. Noticing he was there, she said, “Hello Captain.”  

“Ma’am,” Pavlatos greeted her with a nod. “Are you ready?” 

“Ready?” Hayes asked in confusion, and then realized what he meant. She smiled as she dropped a stylus on her desk. “You were successful?” 

The captain grinned. “Yes, but barely. Kathryn Janeway was a hard woman to convince.” 

“Didn’t I tell you, Captain? Kathryn Janeway was always hard to convince.” 

Then he laughed. “I believe you mentioned it once or twice,” Pavlatos commented as he followed her out to the surgical theater. Carey’s still form had already been placed on a biobed. He watched as Hayes disinfected her hands and then examined him. 

“The body was well preserved,” she murmured. 

“Would you like me to convey your admiration when I go back?” her living companion quipped rhetorically. Hayes merely chuckled as she continued her ministrations. 

“So…are you sure this is going to work?” 

Hayes looked up at Pavlatos with a knowing smile. “Worried are you? Gavin, you know as well as I do that the procedure works. For that matter, you’ve made many Retrievals for this very purpose.” 

He shrugged, trying to appear nonchalant. “Yeah, well...those other retrievals didn’t hit as close to home as this one does,” he reminded her. “Remember—if this doesn’t work, I’ll never be born.” 

Of course, Gavin Pavlatos wasn't thinking then of the irony between the entire situation and the name of his ship. Call it a pre-destination paradox or what have you, he simply did not consider the fact that his standing there was proof that Carey would live. 

*****

Oh, how the light hurt his eyes—and they weren’t even open. With painstaking slowness, Joe Carey separated the lids. He found himself looking into the blue eyes of a pretty blonde woman—at least, he assumed they were blue and that she was pretty, realizing belatedly that his eyes weren’t functioning very well. 

“How are you feeling?” the face looming over him asked softly. 

Carey had to swallow before he could answer, though the gesture did little to assuage his parched throat. “Heavy,” he rasped. “My body feels heavy. And my eyes hurt.” 

Eryn Hayes smiled gently. “The heaviness will pass in a week or so. Your eyes should be better in just a few days,” she told him. 

“Where am I?” her patient asked. 

Hayes lifted his head and held a cup of cool water to his lips. “Drink slowly. You're at Starfleet Medical Center, Lieutenant.” 

“Starfleet Medical Center?” he asked when she had taken the water away. “How did I get here? Did Voyager get home?” 

“Not yet,” she replied with a sly smile. After checking the monitors and seeing that his vitals were right where they should be, Hayes laid a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Rest now, Lieutenant. Your questions will be answered soon enough.” 

Too tired to argue, Carey closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep again. The next time he opened them, the woman was across the room talking to a man. They looked over at him when he turned his head, and the woman nodded at him before leaving. The man crossed to him cautiously.

“How do you feel?” he asked.

“My body still feels heavy. My eyes don’t hurt as much, but I still can’t see very well,” Carey replied.

Pavlatos came to a stop next to his bed. “Anything else?” 

“Now that you mention it, I’m feeling a little sick to my stomach, too.” 

The man nodded. “That's normal. Your stomach will be upset for some time, but once you start eating solid foods it’ll settle itself. Your sight will clear in a few days, but the heaviness will persist for a week or so. Of course, when you start your physical therapy, you’ll be feeling more than heavy.” 

“Who are you?” Carey asked. “That woman that was here said this is Starfleet Medical Center. I want to know how I got here. And where’s Voyager?” 

The man chuckled. “One thing at a time, Lieutenant. To answer your first question, I am Captain Gavin Pavlatos of the Federation Timeship Paradox.” 

Carey frowned. “Timeship? Wait—am I in the future? The twenty-ninth century? What am I doing here?” he asked, clearly agitated. 

The sudden alarms from the monitor over Carey’s head made Pavlatos really nervous, and he began to fear rejection. “Please, calm down,” he admonished anxiously. “I’ll explain everything I can, but I need you to calm down first, okay?” 

Grudgingly Carey nodded, and forced himself to relax by taking several deep breaths and exhaling each slowly. 

Pavlatos sighed in relief when the monitor’s screeching quieted almost immediately. “Let me ask you this, Lieutenant: What’s the last thing you remember?” 

“I…” Carey struggled to remember. “I had just activated the transport enhancers so I could beam back up to the ship. Verin said he was sorry, I looked up and…” 

Carey’s voice trailed off and his brows drew together in consternation. 

“And?” Pavlatos prompted. 

The Irishman looked up. “And he shot me. Verin shot me just after the transport cycle began—I hadn’t completely dematerialized,” he said slowly. “I remember feeling this incredible pain in my chest, so bad I couldn’t breathe. Then I couldn’t see or feel anything.” 

His companion wondered how to tell him what really happened, then figured it would be best just to come out and say it. “Mr. Carey, this might be hard for you to accept, but…you died when Verin shot you,” the younger man said slowly. 

“I died?” Carey asked. “If I died then how am I here, now, talking to you? For that matter, why am I here?” 

Pavlatos smiled sympathetically. The man had every right to be confused as hell. “I know you’ve got a lot of questions, Lieutenant, and I promise I will answer all of them as best I can. Right now, though, you need to rest, and conserve your strength. You’re going to need it,” he said. 

Carey nodded reluctantly. He was awfully tired from all the talking he’d done. And the thinking—hearing the words “you died” was a lot to process all at once. Believing it was going to take time. 

“I’m probably going to be laying on a counselor’s couch for years about this one,” he grumbled. “You do have counselors, don’t you?” 

“Oh, yes,” Pavlatos replied with a laugh. “What century doesn’t need them? Psychotherapy is also a part of your recovery program—regular sessions are required for your return to your own time.” 

“I’m going back?” 

“Of course you are. What purpose could possibly be served by keeping you here? You were revived for a reason, that reason being your time needs you. We don’t. We’ve already benefited from your experience, Lieutenant.  

“Rest now. I’ll come back to see you tomorrow.”

*****

Eventually Joe Carey came to terms with the truth of his death—especially after studying the medical records Dr. Hayes had allowed him to see.

Pavlatos made sure to attend as many of his physical therapy sessions as his schedule allowed, determined to keep apprised of his progress. It was during one of the early sessions that he explained why he’d been brought back to life and the procedure that had enabled Dr. Hayes to do it.

“You’re telling me that I did something important in your history?” Carey asked dubiously.

Pavlatos nodded as he helped him lift the weight bar one more time. “You’ll do several important things, actually,” he replied.

“But what’s the point in telling me all of this if you aren’t going to tell me what I did?” Carey asked.

“Mr. Carey, I'm telling you this so that you'll understand why we brought you back—but you know as well as I do that the Temporal Prime Directive prevents me from telling you the specifics of the things you’re going to do, even if I wanted to. And if I were to tell you, it could disrupt the timetable by which you do them,” the captain returned, using future tense verbs to remind him that the things he had told him still had yet to be done.

Then he had a thought. “Actually, there is one thing I can tell you…”

Carey was surprised. “Oh?”

“If you hadn’t been brought back to life, and if we weren’t going to return you to your timeline, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.”

“Say what?” Carey questioned, raising one eyebrow.

“Giving you your life back was one thing. Returning you to 2377 will give me mine,” Pavlatos said simply. “You see, not only are you going to influence the future, but you will eventually have another child—which will be a direct ancestor to me. Therefore, so are you.”

“You can’t be serious,” Carey scoffed then looked closer at him. “You are serious…”

When Pavlatos nodded silently, he exclaimed, “You mean we’re related?”

His exercise partner couldn't help himself—he burst out laughing. “Relax, Lieutenant. You and I are separated by about twenty-three generations,” he said. “There's even alien blood in the family gene pool.”

Carey shook his head as if to clear it, then peered even closer. After a moment of intense scrutiny, he, too, began to laugh. “You know, I thought there was something familiar about you. Though being related wasn’t quite what I had expected.”

After they moved on to the next exercise, Pavlatos explained the method of Carey’s return.

“You’d need several degrees in medicine, chemistry, and biology to understand the technical aspects of it, and since I can’t tell you details anyway, I’ll simplify it for you. Some time ago, some of Starfleet’s most brilliant minds developed a synthetic enzyme that regenerates organic tissue at the molecular level. The project was originally conducted on plants and animals, much like research has been done throughout history. But quite by mistake these geniuses found out that it could also be used to reanimate sentient beings who had died,” I said.

“How long do you have to wait before it takes effect?”

“It takes anywhere from six hours to a week to completely reanimate a body. You were only dead eight hours by the time we got to you, so we only had to work on you for about twelve,” the captain replied. “Then, after the initial revival procedure, we start the patient on an intensive enzyme therapy in order to prevent rejection.”

“Rejection? You mean it doesn’t always work?” Carey asked.

“Unfortunately, no. Sometimes the body has been dead too long or simply refuses to accept the reanimation enzyme, sort of like rejecting a transplanted organ. But don’t worry—if you were rejecting, we’d have known by now.”

Carey released a breath he didn’t know he’d been holding. “For a moment I was,” he admitted.

Pavlatos tried to smile reassuringly. “Like I said, nothing to worry about. Dr. Hayes told me this morning that you are doing amazingly well, and should be ready to come off the chemical therapy in about a week. She was also extremely pleased by how fast you woke up for the first time after you were revived.”

“How long was it before I came to?” Carey wondered.

“Only about thirty hours total. Partly because your body had been through hell, and partly because we made sure you stayed sedated for at least ten, which is part of the procedure,” Pavlatos answered.

“When do I go back?” Carey asked after several minutes.

“First you have to finish chemical therapy. Dr. Hayes likes to give the Retrievals a clean bill of health, and you’ve still got a lot of PT ahead.”

Carey chuckled. “So what you’re saying is I don’t go back until she says I’m good and ready?” he asked.

The younger man nodded. “Pretty much. Around here her word is law.”

*****

After spending a full three months in the 29th century, which were spent on the medical center grounds to keep his exposure to the time period at a minimum, Joe Carey was finally pronounced to be in complete health. The Paradox would be taking him back to his time tomorrow.

Eryn Hayes paid him a visit the night before his departure to say goodbye. She was also there to deliver a message. After being invited in, she began by asking, “Eager to be going back, Lieutenant?”

Carey smiled. “Of course, Doctor,” he said as they sat facing each other in comfortable armchairs. “It’ll be good to Voyager’s engine room again.” 

“What about your family?” Hayes asked.

For the briefest of moments the Irishman’s expression was sad, but he recovered quickly. “I suppose I’ll be seeing them whenever Voyager makes it back to the Alpha Quadrant,” he told her. 

“What if you could see them sooner?” the Aussie queried.

Carey chuckled mirthlessly. “We’ve tried that more than once, Dr. Hayes. I’m beginning to think there is no shortcut home.”

Hayes smiled serenely. “You misunderstand me, Lieutenant. I’m not talking about you going home with your shipmates. I’m talking about you going home by yourself.”

“Are you making an offer?” Carey asked. “Because if you’re not, I don’t want to go down that road—it leads to nowhere. My crew and I have been close only to miss it too many times for me to fall for some sort of trick, or to start talking pipe dreams. Hell, I almost didn’t get to go home at all.”

The highest medical authority in Starfleet shook her head. “No trick, Mr. Carey. A genuine offer. I’ve been authorized to let you choose where you go back to. You can either go back to Voyager… 

“…or you can go home.”

Carey studied the woman’s face for any sign of deception, but found none. Then again, this woman might be more adept at hiding the truth than some. If she was lying to him, she was very good at it.

And if she wasn’t? Were two miracles too much for one man to hope for?

Running a hand over his face, he said finally, “You know as well as I there’s really no choice in those options, Doctor.”

Hayes smiled again, having already known what choice he would make. It was, in fact, one of the primary reasons his Retrieval had been so important. “Perhaps not,” she replied. “I suppose the question you must ask yourself now is are you that selfish?”

“I was once selfish enough to risk my career for a chance to go home,” Carey said, thinking back to Voyager’s first year in the Delta Quadrant and the failed attempt to transport the ship some 40,000 light-years with Sikarian technology. 

He looked at Hayes squarely then. “But is it really selfish for a man to want to go home again? To want to see his wife and children again? My wife was pregnant when Voyager left for the Badlands, only I didn’t know it at the time. I’ve got a six-year-old daughter I’ve never met. That I’ve never sang to, or read to, or played with. Am I really selfish to want to do those things?” 

Hayes’ expression was sympathetic. “I imagine that, if I were you, I’d feel the same way. Personally, I don’t think those feelings are selfish at all. And if they are…”

She smiled mischievously. “If they are, who the hell cares? I say we’re entitled to a little selfishness every now and then.”

Carey laughed at the woman’s impish smile. “You can say that again, Doctor.”

Upon sobering he said, “At least tell me, if you can, whether or not Voyager makes it home?” 

Hayes smiled. “Oh, they do. And sooner than you might think.”

*****

October 2377 


“It’s been almost a week, Captain.”

Kathryn Janeway looked pointedly at her first officer. “I’m aware of how long it’s been, Chakotay,” she replied. “I have to think of it this way—with their time-travel technology, a week is like a second.”

“I know,” Chakotay admitted reluctantly. “It’s just that I’m beginning to wonder whether or not we should have trusted Pavlatos. I mean, if they were able to bring Carey back to life, wouldn’t they have brought him back here by now? Even that same day?”

“I don’t know, Commander. Maybe they haven’t started working on him yet. Or maybe they’re just not finished. We don’t know anything about the process, so we really don’t know what to expect.” Janeway sighed. “You’re not alone, though. I’m just as worried as you are.”

Captain Janeway, please report to the bridge.” 

Janeway and Chakotay exchanged a look at the intercom summons from Tuvok. “Already on my way, Commander,” she replied. Conveniently, she and Chakotay were in a turbolift, with the bridge as their destination.

When the door opened to admit them to Voyager’s command center, their attention was immediately drawn to the viewscreen. Janeway recognized the temporal vortex that was beginning to form. 

“Report,” she ordered as she stepped down to the center of the bridge.

“It’s another temporal vortex, Captain,” Ensign Kim replied, even though everyone knew what they were seeing. “A ship is coming through … it’s the Paradox.” 

“Open a channel,” Chakotay told him.

“Channel open.”

Janeway swallowed, suddenly nervous. “Voyager to Paradox, this is Captain Janeway.” 

The viewscreen image blinked from a picture of the timeship to the face of Gavin Pavlatos. “Greetings, Captain,” he said merrily.

Janeway nodded. “Hello to you, too. What’s the news on Lt. Carey?”

“Well, I’ve got good news and bad news,” he began. “The bad news is, Lt. Carey is not with me.”

“What do you mean, he’s not with you?” Chakotay demanded. “Where is he?”

The man on the viewscreen smiled brightly. “That’s the good news. Right about now, I’d guess, he’s explaining how a dead man appeared in his sister’s living room.”

“You mean he’s back on Earth? Why did you take him there?” Tom Paris interjected.

“If you were in his situation—given a choice of returning to Voyager or going home—what would you do?” Pavlatos asked. 

The members of the bridge crew looked around at each other, but no one replied to the question…

…out loud.

“I have a message for you from Lt. Carey, Captain,” the other captain went on. “Transmitting now.”

Janeway turned to Kim, who confirmed that a message had been received.

“Now I must bid you farewell, Captain Janeway. It was a pleasure to have met you,” Pavlatos said finally.

Janeway smiled. “It was a pleasure to meet you, too, Captain Pavlatos,” she replied sincerely. “And thank you.”

He nodded respectfully to her, then cut the transmission. A few moments later, the Paradox was gone.

Harry Kim broke the ensuing silence, saying, “Would you like me to transfer the message to your ready room, Captain?”

“Yes, Ensign. Join me, Commander?”

Chakotay nodded wordlessly and he and Janeway crossed over to the ready room. He stood behind her as she sat at her desk and called the file up on screen. Both she and Chakotay smiled at seeing Joe Carey, alive and well, and Janeway would record later in her personal log that she’d been hard-pressed not to cry.

“Hello, Captain. It’s not every day a man dies and is given a second chance to live. I believe what’s happened to me is nothing short of a miracle, and since it’s one you helped bring about, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you very much.

“Whether or not you share this message with the rest of the crew is up to you. I fear there may be some who will envy or even resent my decision to go home to my family before you return to yours. All I can say is that anyone who feels that way would probably have done the same thing I did. I hope you can forgive a selfish man.

“Perhaps you’ll be able to comfort everyone with what I’m about to say—if Pavlatos doesn’t erase it. You see, I was told that Voyager does make it home. I don’t know when, but you will. Believe in that, Captain. Meanwhile, I’ll be praying that your return follows close on my heels.” 

*****

Starfleet Academy, San Francisco 


Jillian Carey had just laid down to sleep when she heard the unmistakable whine of a transport in progress. She bolted out of her bed quickly and quietly, grabbing the weapon on her nightstand as she did so. 

Jill could hear a voice out in the sitting room of her dorm suite, and knew that her suitemate wouldn’t bother to keep her voice down. Whoever it was, and she was pretty sure it was a man, was cursing whoever had beamed him in, saying something about having been dropped in the wrong place. The voice sounded eerily like her brother Joe, but Jill dismissed the thought as quickly as it had come. He’d been gone just barely a week, so she assumed that she was hearing things. 

Grief issues, and all. 

Clamping down on her thoughts, Jill swung around the doorjamb, aiming her civilian police-issued phaser at the intruder’s back. “Don’t move.” 

Her ‘visitor,’ who was definitely a man, froze in mid-step, as he was headed for the door. “Now listen, miss,” he began. 

“Shut up!” Jill interrupted him, and then addressed the suite’s voice activated intercom. “Computer, contact campus security. There’s an intruder in dormitory suite twenty-six.” 

Acknowledged. Security has been notified and dispatched.” 

“Please, listen to me…” 

“I said shut up!” Jill hollered as her whole body began to vibrate. Now that she was in the same room with him, he sounded even more like Joe. She had to keep him quiet so that she could stay focused. 

“Now do exactly as I say. Lock your hands together behind your head, get down on your knees, and cross your legs at the ankles. Do it now,” she ordered. 

Joe Carey did as he was told in silence. This was not the warm welcome he had been expecting, but then again, he hadn’t expected Pavlatos to drop him in San Francisco, either. If this is where he had been intending to bring him all along, Joe mused, the least he could have done was drop him at Starfleet Headquarters. To top it all off, the female voice behind him sounded unnervingly familiar. A lot like his sister Jillian, as a matter of fact. 

Not even five minutes after she had made the call, a security team arrived at Jill’s dorm room, and only after admitting them did she lower her weapon. 

“Is everything okay in here?” asked an Andorian ensign as two others pulled the intruder to his feet and put him in restraints. 

“Yes, I’m fine. Thanks for getting here so quickly,” Jill said. 

At that moment, the other two officers turned their prisoner around, eliciting a gasp from both him and Jill. Upon immediate recognition of each other, the two cried out the other’s name in shock. 

“Jill!” 

“Joe!” 

Jill Carey began to shake her head vigorously with disbelief. It’s not possible! she told herself furiously. Not only did this guy sound like Joe, but he looked like him, too, and he knew her name. I’m dreaming. That’s it, I have to be dreaming, her thoughts kept repeating. Jill started to back away to distance herself from what had to be an illusion—or delusion—of some kind, and inadvertently tripped over a pair of her suitemate’s shoes. Losing her balance, she fell backward, and struck her head on the coffee table before the Andorian could reach out and stop her fall. He rushed over to her to make sure she was okay, and found she’d knocked herself out cold. 

Tapping his commbadge he called out, “Biontiar to Infirmary. Prepare for a patient.” 

***** 

Both Jill and Joe Carey were taken to the infirmary for examination. The head of campus security and the academy commandant were both on hand to question Joe, and when he explained who he was, his presence caught the attention of Starfleet Command. Commandant Nadia Heunan was asking her first question for the third time when Admiral Owen Paris appeared. 

“What is your name?” 

Joe sighed. “Carey, Lieutenant Joseph Patrick. I am the assistant chief engineer of the Starship Voyager. At least I was,” he replied tersely. 

“And how is it that you got here, Lieutenant?” Admiral Paris asked, stepping closer. “We received a transmission a week ago that you’d been killed.” 

Joe’s brow drew together in consternation, wondering why Captain Janeway hadn’t informed Starfleet and his family about his being taken to the 29th century. Then it was suddenly obvious that the Voyager's last transmission had been sent before Pavlatos had made his appearance at the aborted memorial service. The next data stream wouldn’t be received in the Alpha Quadrant for another few hours. 

It was going to be difficult for him to remember that although he had been in 2867 for three months, the Paradox had apparently returned him to his time at a point where he’d been 'gone' only a week. 

Joe cast a glance over his shoulder at his sister. His heart had jumped into his throat when she had fallen and hit her head, but according to the doctor she would be fine. She’d suffered only a few moments of unconsciousness and a goose egg that was now being treated. At the moment, Jill was eyeing him like a frightened animal, and he hated himself for being the cause. 

With another sigh, he turned back to Paris and launched into his prepared explanation as to his death, resurrection, and appearance on Earth. Pavlatos had coached him on the trip here about what he could say and not say, knowing he would inevitably be questioned. He could speak of having been on Earth in the 29th century, and he could give the same rudimentary explanation of the enzymatic molecular reanimation procedure that had given him his life back. 

Earlier he had been prepared to curse his twenty-three-greats grandson for dropping him in San Francisco without any word as to where or why, but now he silently thanked him. Starfleet Academy might not be Headquarters, but at least it was Starfleet. Here he was being questioned by a member of the brass and he hadn’t been back an hour. 

After the younger man had finished speaking, Owen Paris turned to the head of campus security. “I assume you’re running an ARA on him?” 

“Yes, Admiral,” the commander said, and consulted a PADD. “According to this, he is who he says he is, and he’s telling the truth about how he got here. At least he believes he is.” 

“Doctor?” Paris queried, looking at the infirmary’s on-call physician. 

He, too, nodded. “I performed a complete bio-scan and cross-referenced it with brainwave patterns and DNA samples on file at Headquarters, sir. Except for a slight temporal variance that would seem to confirm he spent a significant amount of time in another period, and the fact that his body tissues are aged three months more than they should be, he’s in complete health. And he is Joseph Carey.” 

Paris’ shoulders sagged imperceptibly with relief. “What about the enzyme that reanimated him?” he asked. 

This time the doctor’s response was negative. “Sorry, sir. No trace of it.” 

“That’s to be expected, I guess,” Paris mused. He then turned his attention back to Joe and offered a hand. “Welcome home, Lieutenant Carey.” 

Joe grinned widely as he shook the admiral’s hand. “A pleasure to be back, sir, I assure you.” 

Paris smiled as well. “I imagine there are a great many people who would like to speak with you, myself included, but only one of the really important ones is here right now. As far as Starfleet is concerned, you’re officially on leave for the next six months. I would, however, appreciate a complete and detailed report as soon as it’s convenient.” 

“Yes, Admiral,” Joe replied. 

With that said, Owen Paris turned and left the infirmary, followed by the academy commandant and head of campus security. The on-call doctor left soon after they did, leaving the Careys alone. 

Slowly Joe Carey slid off the biobed and turned to face his sister. Jill was standing about ten feet from him with tears pouring down her face. 

“Joey?” she whispered tentatively, using the nickname only she could get away with calling him. 

It was music to his ears. 

He nodded, saying nothing, and with a sob Jill ran to him and threw her arms around him in a fierce embrace. Joe didn’t begrudge her the grip with which she held him as he encircled her with his arms. 

They held each other up as they cried. 

***** 

One moment Joe Carey was holding his sister and the next he was holding his jaw after she’d hit him with a neat right hook. 

“Bloody hell, Jill. What was that for?” he asked. 

“Because you died on me, Joe! Twice!” Jill railed. 

“And that’s my fault how?” 

“Because… well… because it is, okay? Good heavens, Joe, have you any idea the hell the family’s gone through?!” she asked. 

Though the Carey clan was full of strong minds and strong wills, he could well imagine. He and his entire crew had been going through the same thing before contact had been made with Starfleet. 

“I know, Jilly. Believe me, I know. But there’s nothing that can be done about it now,” he said. “If I could take away the pain, I would—but I can’t take away the last six and a half years.” 

“I know, and I’m sorry for hitting you,” Jill replied, the sudden burst of anger abating. “I know what happened isn’t your fault, or anyone’s for that matter. And I know you have no control over the future. It’s just that everyone was so devastated when we heard Voyager had disappeared, and then was declared lost with all hands—Sarah and the boys especially. And when she thought of how you’d never get to know the little girl she’d had, the one you’d always wanted, it nearly broke her heart.” 

It was typical of Jill to not have mentioned how she herself had been affected by his disappearance, Joe mused. Jill always clammed up for the sake of others, though they had always been able to turn to each other with the things they couldn’t seem to say to anyone else. Still, there were times she wouldn’t even talk to him, and that hurt more than her fist had a few moments ago, because in some ways the sister who was thirteen years his junior was closer to him than his wife of the same number of years. He understood now why he had been brought here first. 

“Eventually she got past it,” Jill was saying. “We all did. Of course, I’ve always had the feeling that Sarah never completely subscribed to the ‘Voyager’s disappeared and is never coming back’ theory.” 

“Good thing she was proven right when we were able to send the Doctor through that Hirogen relay network,” Joe said. “We all were pretty hopeful about being able to communicate with Starfleet with that, and everyone was upset when it was shut down.” 

“Same here. But thank goodness that Barclay man never gave up on you. Project Pathfinder was a god-send,” Jill remarked. 

There were a few moments of silence before either of them spoke again, and it was Jill who spoke first. 

“Then last week, when we heard you’d been killed,” she breathed. “It was a nightmare hearing those words again.” 

“I’m sorry,” Joe said, not knowing what else he could say. 

Abruptly he found himself being enveloped by a hug again. This time, however, a smile joined the gesture instead of tears. “Welcome back, Joey,” Jill whispered in her brother’s ear. “Thank God you’re here.” 

Pulling back, she added, “Now it’s time to go home.” 

***** 

Jill had contacted their parents and Joe’s wife Sarah, who was on Earth visiting with the children, and arranged a meeting at their parents’ home in Ireland. Everyone was curious as to why she wanted this impromptu get-together, but she said only that it would best wait until she arrived. 

It wasn’t until they were on their way in a shuttle on loan from Starfleet that Joe thought to ask his sister why she’d been at Starfleet Academy in the first place. Her response was that she had resigned her position with the Tycho City Police and Security Department on Luna and enlisted. 

“Enlisted? Whatever for?” he asked. 

“For you. I felt the need to honor you in some way, and enlisting in Starfleet seemed like the perfect idea. Not that I’d be taking your place, necessarily, but to fill the void you left behind, so to speak,” Jill replied. “Actually, I wanted to do it the last time we heard you were dead, but Ryan talked me out of it.” 

“That sounds like Ryan,” Joe said gruffly. Ryan Carey was the first in the trio of siblings, older than Joe by two years. “What about this time?” 

“Ryan came to see me at work to tell me. I quit right then and there, and told him if he tried to stop me this time, I’d never speak to him again,” she replied. 

Joe smiled wryly. “But I’m back now. And though it’ll be a while, I’ll eventually go back on duty. You planning to stay in Starfleet?” 

“Whether I want to or not is moot, it’s not up to me. I agreed to a two-year tour of duty,” Jill told him. “It won’t be so bad, it’s only a term of service. I can go back to my job when it’s over.” 

“Starfleet can be addictive, Jill. You might just want to stick around.” 

***** 

Carey home – County Cleary, Ireland 


“Ryan, Julia, come in!” 

Carolyn Carey embraced her son and daughter-in-law in turn, then promptly removed her new granddaughter from her mother’s arms. Fiona Josephine Carey had been born the day they learned her uncle had died, making the day bittersweet for the Carey clan. 

“What’s this little soirée about, anyway?” Ryan asked. “I thought Jill was going to be incommunicado for a while.” 

“We don’t know, son,” answered Michael Carey as he descended the stairs from the second floor to greet the new arrivals. “All she would say was that everyone had to be here.” 

“And that she was bringing someone with her,” his wife added. 

“You don’t suppose it’s a boyfriend, do you?” Sarah Carey asked, coming over to take her turn holding the new baby. 

A scornful laugh caused the adults to turn their attention to the dining room, where twelve-year-old Hunter Carey, Sarah’s oldest child, sat sullenly at the table. “Aunt Jill ain’t got a boyfriend—she won’t never get one,” he told them. 

No one bothered to correct Hunter’s grammar. The boy had a tendency to speak in contradictions when he was upset, and hearing his father was dead had hit him pretty hard. He was much younger the last time the news had been broken to him, and then he’d simply refused to believe it. He even said the words “I told you so” to his mother when two Starfleet officers had shown up at their door to say Voyager had been found, and that his father was alive. Then and there the boy had begun planning the things he would do with his father when he came home, like the fishing trip they never got to take. 

This time, however, the news had also come with a message of condolence from Captain Janeway herself. His mother had told the resentful Hunter that there was no denying it this time—his father wouldn’t be coming home. 

“I’m sure she will someday, Hunter,” Carolyn said softly, then herded the adults into the living room. 

“When’s she due to arrive anyway?” Ryan asked. 

“She just did,” Jill announced as she came through the door. “Hunter, could you go find your brother and sister please?” 

The boy rose reluctantly and went in search of his siblings. Jill went into the living room to say hello to her family. 

“Where’s your friend, Jillian?” Michael asked. 

“In a moment, Da,” Jill replied. 

At that moment her brother’s children entered the room, so Jill cleared her throat. She said a silent prayer that the coming reactions were less dramatic than her own had been. 

“This is going to be quite a shock, so I suggest everyone sit,” she said, and went to the door. 

Michael and Carolyn exchanged glances as Jill opened the door, and a collective gasp was heard when the ghost of Joe Carey stepped into the foyer. Ryan slowly rose to his feet, and Sarah clenched her mother-in-law’s hand. Hunter was the first to speak. 

“I knew it!” he cried triumphantly. “I told you he wasn’t dead!” 

Joe’s anxious expression relaxed somewhat when he heard his son’s affirmation. It swelled his heart beyond belief that the boy had not given up on his return. 

“What’s going on, Jillian?” Michael asked slowly, afraid the man who stood before him was nothing but an illusion. 

Da, this is Joe,” Jill began. “It’s the craziest story you ever heard, but it is him.” 

“Well, perhaps he’ll be so kind as to tell us what happened before Sarah breaks my hand,” Carolyn quipped nervously. 

Joe tore his gaze away from the freckle-faced little girl that was half hiding behind ten-year-old Josh. She’s even more beautiful in person, he thought. My pretty Colleen

“Well, before you think Starfleet made a mistake, I really was…dead,” he began, and then once again explained the circumstances that had led to his being there. His parents, as well as his wife, brother, and sister-in-law, wore confused expressions throughout, while the children listened silently. When he told them that the doctor at Starfleet Academy had confirmed his identity, Jill’s nod of agreement appeared to make up their minds. His father was the first to approach him, and Michael Carey took his son into his arms for a tight bear hug. 

“It doesn’t matter how, or even why. What matters is that you’re home now,” he whispered, choking back the tears that threatened. Joe’s mother, however, saw no shame in shedding tears of joy when she took the child she’d thought was lost to her forever into her arms. 

Joe met his sister-in-law for the first time, and welcomed Julia and her daughter with a warm smile. When Ryan stepped up to him, Joe was unable to resist saying, “Just don’t hit me.” 

Ryan eyed Jill with one eyebrow raised, then burst out laughing when she was unable to keep a straight face. He grabbed his younger brother to him and clapped him on the back heartily, congratulating him on cheating death twice. 

“Just don’t try it again, you might not be as lucky,” he said, then moved aside for Sarah, who immediately took her husband’s head in her hands and drew it down for a kiss filled with more than six years of pent-up emotion. 

“I love you,” was all she said, then gripped him fiercely for a moment before making room for their children. 

Joe squatted down to his daughter’s level and spoke softly. “Hello, Colleen. Your mother and I always said if we had ourselves a little girl, Colleen is what her name would be. I’m glad she remembered.” 

“Mum said you went to live with the angels,” the girl whispered. 

“Aye, that I did,” Joe said with a smile. “But I think God knew how much everyone would miss me, and so he found those people I talked about and helped them make me better again, so I could come home to see you.” 

Colleen looked up at her mother, who smiled and nodded. Then the little girl wrapped her arms around her father’s neck and whispered in his ear, “I’m glad you got to move out of Heaven, Papa.” 

Joe held her gently for several moments, reveling in the feel of the daughter he could now get to know, and it was all he could do not to cry himself. 

“I knew you’d come home, Dad. The whole time you were gone, I knew,” Hunter said proudly. 

Joe stood then and held out his hand, which his son shook somewhat clumsily. They hugged then, and Joe told him, “I’m very glad you didn’t give up, son.” 

“I’m glad you’re home, Dad,” Josh said, speaking at last and moving to his father’s side. “I really missed you.” 

“I missed you, too,” Joe replied. He looked at each member of his smiling or crying family in turn. “I missed all of you.” 

***** 

Later that night, Joe Carey was finally able to read a bedtime story to his little girl. After tucking her in and kissing her goodnight, he checked on his boys before joining his wife in the room his mother had prepared for them. The first thing he did was take her in his arms and hold her. Only then, when they were alone, did Sarah cry. 

“I almost can’t believe it’s you,” she said between sobs. Joe did his best to comfort her even though he found he could no longer hold back the emotions he had held in check for the last six-plus years. 

“First they said Voyager had disappeared,” Sarah went on. “Then it was lost. Then we find out you’re all alive after all, only to lose you hardly more than a year later.” 

“And then I just show up out of the blue,” Joe interjected. “Sarah, I am so sorry for everything you’ve been through. It was hell for me too, and for so many others. I know that there are many who thought it best to move on with their lives after we were declared lost, and though it kills me to say it I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had done the same.” 

His arms tightened around her, and he buried his face in her hair. “You’ll never know how many times I prayed you’d wait for me,” he whispered hoarsely. “And I’ll never be able to show you how relieved I am that you did, mo ghrá.” 

They kissed then, igniting within each other a need they’d been forced to keep dormant for six and a half years. It was too bad, Joe thought, that they’d agreed to stay at his parents’ house so that everyone could catch up on each other’s lives. He’d have liked to try and show Sarah precisely how much he had missed being with her. But this was his parents’ home, and though he knew they would more than understand, he’d have rather made the moment perfect by making love to Sarah in their own bed. 

His wife had other plans. As she drew him to the bed, Sarah sensed Joe’s hesitation, knowing how he felt about proper behavior in his parents’ house. She showed him, though, that waiting until they could return to their own home was not in the cards. 

And propriety be damned. 

***** 

She was nervous about doing this. She really didn’t want to disturb the family at a time like this—who would? They’d thought the guy was dead, for goodness’ sake! Rumor had it that he had been for several hours, but had somehow been brought back to life with futuristic technology and medicine. 

She didn’t give a damn how he’d come back. She was just glad that he had, because right now, he was the only person who could help her. 

Ringing the bell, she swallowed several times, her nerves dancing faster with each second that passed. When the door opened, she was greeted by an older man whose hair was quite gray, which was not to say it took away from his handsomeness—despite his obviously advanced age, he not only remained youthful looking, but she could tell he was still trim underneath the sweater and khaki trousers he wore. 

“Can I help you?” he queried, eyeing her Starfleet uniform. 

She swallowed yet again, and cleared her throat. “Please forgive me for disturbing your family, sir—I know that you’ve recently had some wonderful news and are probably still celebrating.” 

Michael Carey continued to regard the visitor carefully. Joe had told them he’d been granted six months’ leave to get reacquainted with his family. 

So what was Starfleet doing on his doorstep only seventy-two hours after his son’s return? 

“I’m Lt. Noria Lasur, sir. I’m told Lt. Joe Carey is currently in residence here, and I would very much like to speak with him,” she went on. 

“Considering that my son is on leave, Lieutenant, and has not seen his family in over six years, I would like to know what is so very important that you would disrupt their reunion?” said Michael. 

Noria smiled inwardly. She’d already guessed this man was Carey’s father, so she understood his instinctive desire to protect the son he thought he’d lost. 

“The future of interstellar travel, Mr. Carey. That’s why I’ve come to see him, risking the wrath of your entire family in order to enlist his help in solving a rather puzzling enigma,” Noria explained. “And I’m afraid six months is too long to wait.” 

Michael Carey stared for several seconds in silence, then simply stepped back, indicating she could come inside. He closed the door behind her, then led her into the living room. 

“I’ll go and get him. Wait here.” 

When she was alone, Noria mused for a moment over how delightful Mr. Carey’s accent was, even gruff. She then took in her surroundings, noting that although not heavily decorated like some private homes she’d had chance to visit, this one was quite lovely indeed. There was a real fireplace along one wall, with what she suspected was a hand-carved wood mantle probably a hundred years old or more. Proudly displayed on top of that were several family photographs, and she found herself wandering over to look at them more closely. 

“Can I help you?” 

Noria jumped, turning at the voice. Standing in the doorway was a man destined to become something of a living legend because of his mysterious return from a place more than thirty-thousand lightyears away. 

Of course, if she had her way, he’d be famous for far more than that. 

“Lt. Noria Lasur, sir,” she introduced herself, coming forward and offering her hand. 

Joe shook it, feeling somewhat perplexed. “I’m certain you already know who I am, otherwise you wouldn’t be here,” he said, stepping into the living room and taking a seat on the couch. “What I’m not certain of is why you’ve come. Surely Starfleet has already prepared a press release.” 

Noria nodded. “They did. That’s how I knew you’d come home. You were actually a hard man to find, Lieutenant.” 

Joe chuckled. “Generally, when a man is hard to find, it’s because he doesn’t want to be found. How did you know where I was?” 

“I know how to do research,” she answered. 

Noria sat in a chair across from him and leaned forward, suddenly eager. “I probably don’t have to tell you how fascinated people have been in your ship since we found out you were all alive. Especially since communication was re-established and we began to receive your duty logs from the last six-and-a-half years.” 

Joe shrugged. “We had our share of adventures, sure. That’s Starfleet life for you,” he said. 

“I’m not here for an interview, Lieutenant, although I’m sure you could astound me with some pretty amazing stories. No, what I’m here to pick your brain about is this.” 

She reached into the bag she carried and pulled out a PADD, thumbing it on and handing it to him. Noria watched as he studied the schematic and his curiosity was piqued. 

“You mean to tell me Starfleet’s been working on this for—” 

She nodded, smiling lightly. “SCE began salivating over the concept of building a working model ever since they received the data. Unfortunately, like you did, they had a lot of trouble with phase variances in the slipstream threshold. All the sims had the ship crashing, no survivors, so they pretty much put it on the shelf. I want to revive it.” 

“What about having a shuttlecraft fly ahead, like we did?” Joe asked her, his interest definitely growing. 

“Well, my predecessors on the project considered that, but the idea was to eliminate the necessity for such a measure.” 

Joe nodded, understanding. It would be much more efficient if a ship didn’t need to launch a shuttle ahead of them into the slipstream. 

He sighed. “What do you want from me, Lt. Lasur?” 

“You built the first working model, Lieutenant,” Noria said. “Granted, it didn’t work perfectly and you had to dismantle it, but it was a step in the right direction.” 

“B’Elanna Torres was the lead on that. She’s our—well, Voyager’s—chief engineer.” 

Noria sat back and gazed at him pointedly. “But she’s still stuck in the Delta Quadrant and you’re here.” 

Joe couldn’t help a chuckle, despite the seriousness of his former crewmates’ plight. He then found himself studying the lieutenant’s features. Her eagerness was apparent in her bright, dark brown eyes, which were topped by perfectly shaped, upswept eyebrows that would have made any Vulcan envious—were they capable of showing such an emotion. Her skin tone, a medium brown, suggested a Middle Eastern ancestry, as did her accent. She was certainly quite lovely, and likely had many men much younger than himself wanting to get to know her better. 

He certainly did, although not for that reason. 

Noria indicated the PADD he held. “The slipstream engine is a project worth pursuing,” she said. “I’ve been working on it since we first began analyzing the data. But if the phase variances in the threshold can‘t be corrected, Starfleet will end up scrapping the project altogether. It doesn't help that top brass at SCE became much more interested in Voyager's data on the ship with the co-axial warp drive, which is another reason the slipstream project was stalled. What's ironic about that is that even the people working on it have admitted that a functioning co-ax drive is still decades away from becoming a reality for us. 

“But a slipstream drive is not. Given a few more months...at most a couple of years... Having two of the fleet's top engineers working on this will solve the problem. I know it.” 

She sat forward, her determination pouring forth with every word. “I understand why you’d want to take as much time off as possible to spend with your family after what you’ve been through. But this engine, if we can make it work, will make both our careers. It would really help having someone to work with who possesses first-hand experience with the technology—Starfleet will have to support the project again with you on board.” 

Joe Carey sat staring at the data on the PADD for some time. Lt. Lasur sat back, watching him in silence, hoping—praying—he said yes. Although she’d entered Starfleet with the intention of joining the diplomatic corps, she’d fallen in love with engineering instead, and she really wanted to bring the quantum slipstream engine to fruition. If she could make it work, she’d then be able to choose any assignment she wanted. 

Joe was thinking similar thoughts as he scrolled back and forth over the data she’d presented him, finding himself actually wanting this. It would make his career, and he would without a doubt be assigned as chief engineer on one of the first ships to get a working model. Even if it took years to correct the design flaws responsible for the phase variances, wouldn’t it be worth it in the end? 

But he had promised Sarah. He had promised his children, his family. How could he go back on that promise only days after he had sworn it? 

Joe sighed. “Lieutenant, you’ve made a compelling argument. And it is an ambitious project, one that I would certainly like to get my hands on. 

“But I can’t just say yes. I have my family to consider. I haven’t been able to care for them as I should for over six years, and I can’t just up and leave them again. They have to have a say.” 

Though she had expected as much, Noria couldn’t help the sharp letdown she felt. But, she reminded herself, he hadn’t exactly said no, either. There was still a chance. 

“I understand, sir,” she said, standing at last. “Your family should come first. But I hope you’ll think about it.” 

Joe stood as well, and walked with her to the door. “Goodbye, Lt. Lasur.” 

She smiled. “Hopefully that’s not a forever goodbye, Lieutenant,” she replied, then stepped out into the Irish sunshine. 

As he closed the door, Joe Carey realized he was still holding the PADD she had given him to read. Somewhat absently, he walked back into the living room with it and sat on the couch he had just vacated, going over the information yet again. It was almost as if he were spellbound by the idea of making this engine work, and so caught up was he that it was some time before he realized he was no longer alone. Looking up, he saw that Sarah had come in. 

“Interesting read, I bet,” she said carefully. 

He huffed, blowing out a breath. “Engine specifications, which a bright young lieutenant has asked me to help her make a reality. Said it will ‘make both our careers.’” 

Sarah sat next to him on the arm of the couch. She had never been mechanically inclined, so she wouldn’t pretend to understand a thing about the technology her husband worked with. What she did understand about Joe, what she had always understood, was that warp propulsion systems were his life’s work. Besides herself and the children, his parents, brother and sister, it was his life. If he was this absorbed in the data on the PADD in his hand, then it was something that had grabbed his attention and would not let go. 

Taking his free hand in hers, Sarah gave it a squeeze until he looked up at her. She held his gaze for a long time, searching the depths therein until she was certain she had no other recourse. 

“Alright,” she said. 

He frowned. “Alright what?” 

“We’ll move to San Francisco.” 

Now he searched Sarah’s eyes, wondering how she could be so generous, giving him up to his work when she’d just gotten him back. 

God, how he loved her. 

“Have I told you lately how absolutely breathtaking you are?” Joe said, bringing their joined hands to his mouth so he could kiss the back of hers. 

Sarah smiled. “Not in about six and a half years, so I expect you to make up for lost time and then some." She sighed. “Love, I can already see the excitement in your eyes. If you really want to do this, then the kids and I will just have to move to San Francisco with you or somewhere here in Ireland, so that we can be with you. I don’t want to lose you again, and they need their father.” 

Joe smiled. “I know I shouldn’t do it. I should take the time off…” 

“But you really, really want to.” 

He laughed. “Yeah, I do. Thank you, Sarah.” 

She leaned down and embraced him. “Well, you know what they say. Beside every great man is a patient woman.” 

***** 

The new uniform felt strange, yet at the same time it felt perfect. It was the first time he had worn it, and for perhaps the hundredth time, he reached up to his collar, feeling there the extra pin Admiral Paris had presented him with when he had gone to his office to let him know he was going to be working with Noria Lasur on the slipstream engine. He had been promoted to full commander—a rank he'd have earned in a year's time anywayand if he and Lasur were successful, he might possibly be a full captain in a few more years. 

He walked into the Corps of Engineers building and headed for the lab where the lieutenant worked. He hadn’t called ahead to tell her he was coming, so he knew his presence would be more than a welcome surprise. When he found her, she was busy entering data into a terminal. 

“Does the offer still stand?” 

Noria Lasur jumped at the voice behind her, and when she turned to see who it was, her face broke into a wide smile. 

“Lieutenant! Oh, I see you've been bumped up to commander now. Congratulations,” she said. 

He fingered the third pin again. “I suppose it’s my reward for not mothballing myself for six months, although I like to believe it’s because a promotion is long overdue. But… things happen,” he added with a shrug. “Maybe once we get this thing going, they’ll give me another promotion, and you too.” 

Her eyes widened. “So you’re going to work on the quantum warp drive with me?” 

“’Quantum warp drive’?” he queried. 

Noria grinned sheepishly. “I always thought the name ‘quantum slipstream drive’ was all wrong for it. Quantum warp drive sounds much more refined. More dignified.” 

Joe shook his head. “If you say so.” 

He gazed around them. The lab was probably the smallest in the building, but then Lasur had said the project had been shelved, in part over the phase variance issue. It stood to reason a project that was no longer considered viable wouldn’t merit much workspace. 

Well, they’d just see about that. 

Joe Carey stepped closer to Lasur‘s workstation. “Show me what you’re working on right now, Lieutenant, and let’s see if we can make this work.” 

***** 

Gavin Pavlatos, personal log… Well, it did work. My very existence is proof of the fact that Joe Carey lived long enough to have his fourth child. In fact, he was a great-grandfather when he said good-bye to life for good. 

Timeships are proof that his and Lasur's work on the quantum engine was successful. The quantum warp drive was, after all, one of the components of the first working temporal deflector unit, and space-folding, such as is done with a co-axial warp drive, has quite a bit to do with traveling along the time stream. 

Of course, that particular technology won’t even have its first working prototype until my ancestor, Joe’s second daughter, earns her second degree… 


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