That time machine should come with better directions.
We got chapter and verse about how not to interfere with events while in the past. We got told how to record events. No one done mentioned that you should not record the events of someone’s life while they were exploring in the past.
It took some work, not the least of which was standing down Lieutenant Straus from Red Alert, but we figured out that while Gary, Ensign Ellie Doall (my Ellie Doall, at any rate) and I were driving cattle up the Chisolm Trail, Historian ph’Tonna was reviewing recent history of the planet Chatway, one of the founding Union worlds and where Ellie lived as a teen. We’re still not sure why that royally warped things up, but it’s our only lead so far.
Whatever change that made has had huge repercussions. I may be Captain of this ship, but I no longer know the tactical or strategic situations, except that they are dire. I’ve agreed to follow Commander Smythe’s lead until I can get caught up or we can fix this and get back to normal.
Ellie’s snakebite was healing, but the delays had given the venom time to damage her calf deep into the muscle tissue. They held the meeting in Sickbay, with her reclining in bed and on heavy painkillers while the doctor ran a wand over her wound. He could explain exactly what it was doing, but really, it would sound like meditechnobabble, so just take it on faith that it’s helping, ‘k? Thanks.
The nurses had helped clean her up and change out of her cowboy clothes, which were dusty and stinky, and into a casual uniform with ensign rank. She once again looked like a woman, but for some reason that had only made people more uncomfortable around her. Two of the orderlies asked to be reassigned.
The ship remained on Yellow Alert, and a security team waited just outside Sickbay. Leslie stayed at the back of the room, her hand on her phaser and her eyes looking daggers in Ellie’s direction whenever she thought she wasn’t looking. Jeb noticed, however.
At the moment, Ellie was blearily gazing at an image of a man and woman in splendid formal attire more suited to a fairy tale than the 24th century. They looked happy as they waved to a crowd of cheering people that lined a red carpet leading into a large, beautiful castle. It was one of the images ph’Tonna had pulled on her review of the world’s history.
“Mmhmm,” she hummed. She paused to take a sip of coffee. They were hoping the caffeine would help her push off the effects of the venom and painkillers to keep her alert. The doctor hadn’t wanted to risk more imposazine for fear she might grow a real mustache. “Those are my parents, Hiro and Natalia Doall, Ambassadors to Chatway. They’re hilos. Um…”
Her eyes drooped, and she shook her head to clear it.
Commander Phineas Smythe took up the explanation. Jeb noticed he kept looking at Ellie oddly, too, but not in the angry, judgemental way Strauss did. “High-visibility, Low-importance. Primarily figureheads. They attend a lot of events, make friends with the world leaders in government and commerce, occasionally relay messages for the Union. Nothing of particular importance.”
“They’re happy with it,” Ellie said sleepily.
“You never were,” Phin murmured, and there was a warmth in his voice that made Jeb’s hackles rise with suspicion.
Fortunately, Ellie was too out of it to notice it any more than she had the hateful looks the others gave her. “We transferred there when I was 13, and while they did their so-important hilo duties and my sister got to go off planet to art school, I was stuck hobnobbing with the snotty nobility girls who all hated me. Least, until I ran away and joined HuFleet.”
Leslie barked out a laugh.
“What?” Ellie asked.
Phin took a deep breath. “In this timeline, you did not run away to join HuFleet. You remained on Chatway, married, and eventually became the ambassador for the Chatway nobility.”
Ph’Tonna pulled up an image of a teenage Ellie in a froofy white gown with an impossible train clutching the arm of a handsome man in pseudomilitary dress, also in his late teens. Ellie stared up at her groom, starstruck and happy, as if her every dream had come true. He smiled back with a similarly besotted smile. It was really rather cute.
Ellie spat out the coffee she was about to swallow right through the image. Then she let out a Chatwayan blasphemy the universal translator refused to relay.
“Ambassador,” Doctor Guy said, pausing in his work to place a restraining hand on her shoulder, “You need to calm down.”
“I’m not an ambassador!” she cried. “I’m an ensign. I’ve never been an ambassador and I never married that—word deleted by universal translator—and I don’t want to live in this timeline!”
“No problem,” Leslie snarked from her corner. “You’re dead anyway.”
Ellie burst into tears.
“That’s it!” the doctor hollered. “Everyone, out of this room. You may come back after I’ve taken care of my patient.”
Jeb grabbed Straus by the elbow on the way out. As the others filed out of Sickbay and to the hall, he pulled her into the doctor’s office. The historians paid no notice, already discussing what could have been the triggering event to cause such a fiasco. The security guards who were inside the door paused long enough to take in the fury on the captain’s face and decided they could be vigilant from the hallway. Phineas left the main Sickbay last, casting a hesitant look behind him.
Jeb would address that weirdness later. He glared down at the young woman who was somehow Security Chief and two ranks higher on this ship. “You listen to me, Straus. On my Impulsive, you are still an ensign, and if you want to keep your rank and position on this one, you’d better secure that mouth of yours.”
She blinked, surprised and a little hurt. Then, she straightened to military attention, complete with thousand-yard-stare. “Yes, sir! But, begging the Captain’s pardon, sir, there are things you don’t know about Ambassador Doall and this timeline that need to be considered.”
Phineas stepped forward, “And I shall get Captain Tiberius up to speed. In the meantime, return to the Bridge and take your station. Ensign Jenkins is still a little too green for my comfort right now.”
“Yes, sir. Captain.” She gave them a nod and left.
When she left, Phin motioned for Jeb to take one of the chairs, and he sat in the one opposite.
“You’re going to have to be more patient with Leslie—with most of the crew, really. It’s not going to be easy accepting Ellie. You see, El—our Ambassador Doall—had a most unfortunate life, for the Union and personally.”
Jeb took a breath and forced himself to relax. He leaned back in his chair. “All right. Lay it on me.”
“Ellie and I were having an affair.”
Jeb froze, sure his brain was misfiring. “Come again?”
Phin’s lip quirked into a smile. “I take it that was not how things happened in your timeline?”
“Ellie Doall is our Ops Officer. She is the miracle ensign who saved our hide more times than we cared to count. And she’s adorable, but kid-sister adorable. And to speak to this timeline, she’s married. What were you thinking? No, wait. Never mind. Just tell me that’s the worst of the weirdness.”
Now, it was Phin’s turn to sigh. “I’m afraid not, Jeb. There’s a good reason that we are on Yellow Alert and that Sickbay is guarded. Even here, Ellie has been a problem solver, but of a more independent nature. She made a lot of enemies, especially among law enforcement and Security, but the real trouble started when she got captured trying to stop some terrorists from blowing up a station, and a newly commissioned Ensign LaFuentes came to her rescue…”