Three hours later, Ellie had slept off some of the venom and painkillers. Her leg was mostly healed, with some tenderness and a scar the doctor assured her would fade after more treatments and rest.

She wished she could heal the disaster she was in as easily.

She’d had a long cry, then dug into the files ph’Tonna had left when the doctor had rushed everyone out, then had cried some more when she saw what a royal mess her life was. When ph’Tonna returned to retrieve the tapes with Leslie in tow, she’d begged them to stay and help her make sense of it all.

“I don’t understand,” she said for what she felt was the hundredth time in this conversation. “Enigo stuns people all the time. The Enigo in my timeline, I mean. It’s like a point of pride among Security. ‘Headaches save lives.’”

Leslie shrugged, but her face had a pinched, angry look. “Well, once they cashiered him out of HuFleet, he forgot all about the stun setting. When he shoots, it’s lethal. He believed in the Union. In HuFleet. He used to joke that the Hood was too small for him, but it was more than that.”

“His sense of loyalty is unparalleled among people today,” ph’Tonna said. She’d explained earlier that she’d written intelligence reports and a popular biography on him. “And HuFleet’s refusal to stand by his decision even when he successfully saved your life and the station was an unforgivable betrayal of a promise he’d been ready to die for.”

“Why?” Ellie demanded. “I mean, why did I raise a fuss? He saved my life.”

Leslie shrugged. “Your husband said it was an insult to the honor of Chatway, one of the founding members of the Union. He was always the one yelling in the holos.”

She called up a segment of some newscast. There was King Jirek Fardin, posturing, fist in the air, nose almost as high. And there she was in the back, looking at him with doe eyes.

Ellie covered her face with her hands. “Turn it off before I get sick.”

Ph’Tonna did so, taking up the story. “You said your Enigo was a proud man? Imagine, then, how he’d react going back to the Hood in shame, alone, abandoned by his so-called friends in HuFleet.”

Leslie gave a slight start of guilt, but the historian continued. “He had only two things left to live for: restoring his honor and getting his revenge.  All the past instincts of a Hoodian returned in force. But now, he had HuFleet training to give them focus. He united the ship by violence when needed but by tactics and negotiations when he could. He almost single-handedly accomplished what no one, not even the Dread Oog, could do. He made the Hood a single people again.”

“With the purpose of killing you,” Leslie said. She may have been trying to steer ph’Tonna’s admiring monologue back to the point, but Ellie knew that tone. She actually enjoyed saying that.

“We’re best friends in my timeline,” Ellie whispered.

Leslie shrugged. “Well, not here. I’ve lost plenty of friends and a good man because of alternate you.”

She narrowed her eyes at ph’Tonna, who again took up the story as if not interrupted. “After the uniting, he did start his search for you, but his vision is bigger than that. He knew it had to be, or he could not keep his ship together, and they’d eventually be destroyed by Union forces. He started bringing in allies—pirates, freighters… He’s building a nomadic nation, even as he was chasing you around the galaxy. And, to be fair, once he’d shown his might, Warlord Enigo was willing to show mercy if you were given to him. But you kept slipping from his grasp, and to rub it in, you kept doing your showly little hilo duties and solving petty mysteries.”

Ellie winced. Apparently, out of boredom, she’d taken up amateur sleuthing like in the books she’d read. She’d solved a lot of murders and high-profile thefts, but often outside the law so that the villains got off free or with lighter sentences, or they died trying to stop her from turning them in. 

She could not believe how horrible a person alternate her had become. “What a nightmare. But, Leslie, you said I’m dead. Then, why are we on Yellow Alert?”

Ph’Tonna gave her a sad, rueful look. “You faked your death enough he won’t believe it unless he kills you personally.”

“He’s gone insane. You’re really dead,” Leslie assured her. “Warp core breach trying to escape the Hood. You pushed the shuttle past limits too long. We investigated the debris. There was enough organic matter and DNA to confirm you did not fake that one. I know ‘Ni saw it. We waited until the Hood left, and they took their sweet time.” 

She closed her eyes and shook her head against the memory. “It was awful. I thought the commander was going to lose it.”

“Commander? Commander Smythe?”

Leslie nodded. “Uh, huh. You guys were a hot item.”

Ellie’s jaw dropped in shock, then her face twisted into an expression of disgust. “Ew! I mean, no offense to the Commander, but… No. I’ve always thought of him more like a father.”

“Sounds like you had Daddy Issues, then.”

Ellie again buried her face in her hands. She rocked slightly. “I can’t live in this timeline. We have to find a way to fix it.”

Leslie scoffed, “So I can go down two ranks?”

“So you don’t earn two ranks because your friends died—because Enigo killed them! To a universe where I don’t ruin my life and everyone else’s. Where I don’t ruin Enigo. Oh, Leslie. In my timeline, he’s so awesome and nice. I mean, granted, he’ll stun someone during a quarterly training if they ask a stupid question and makes you run outside around the hull, and through the Jeffries’ tubes. But we have the highest redshirt survival rate in HuFleet. He met this Globbal security minion on a space station, low achiever, just wasting his life. But he saw potential in Gel. He convinced the Captain to get him assigned to the ship. He said he was going to make him the first Globbal officer in the history of HuFleet or Union Fleet. And Gel’s just blooming. That’s what my Enigo is like. He inspires people.”

“He inspires people here, too,” ph’Tonna pointed out.

“Right. To kill people.”

Leslie shrugged, “Just those that get between him and what he wants…which usually, was killing you.”

Ph’Tonna sighed. “I’m not sure I agree with trying to make changes. We could make things worse. However, if we are going to fix things, we have to stay here. The Birdot is the only chance we have.”

Leslie added, “The captain and Gary have already beamed to the planet. The captain was grumbling something about ‘operating instructions.’”

“Without me?” Ellie shrieked. Had the captain decided she would only make things worse?

“Easy. You were unconscious and injured.”

“Well, I’m fine now.” Ellie stood to go, but Leslie backed up and pointed her phaser at her.

“Oh, no. That’s how you always caused trouble in this world. Always thinking you know better and never trusting anyone else to do their job. You’re staying in this bed, and so help me, if I have to stun you, I will save you husband and HuFleet the trouble, steal a shuttle, and join the Hood. Comprende?”

Ellie returned docilely to a reclining position. “May I at least continue reviewing the histories?”

Ph’Tonna pulled the memory chips from the console. “I think you’ve tortured yourself enough, don’t you? Let us figure this out. We’ll keep you in the loop, I promise.”

Ellie leaned back and closed her eyes, miserable and complacent. Ph’Tonna patted her arm comfortingly, which only made Leslie’s silent, uncaring exit all the more painful. Once the two left, however, she sat back up and checked that the sickbay area was empty.

“Pulsie?” she asked quietly. “Do you have any personal or historical information on me?”

“Would that be Ambassador you or Alleged-Ensign you?” the AI of the Impulsive quipped. Then it said, “Never you mind. You’ll just want to play logic games to convince me you’re one and the same. But you were right nice to me and all my janbots, and truth be told, I’m not looking forward to another confrontation with the Hood. They got these bizarre shields.”

“Wikadas shields?”

“The very same. Anyway, after you died for real, Jirek sent the Commander a lot of your personal stuff.”

Ellie nodded. It was Chatway custom to rid yourself of all personal effects of a dead spouse. She always thought it was an awful custom. Jirek must have known about her—ew—affair with Commander Smythe and sent them just to rub it in. Well, at least it would be useful now.

“I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you everything I remember about our wikadas shields if you show me my diaries and any personal history.”

“Beer me!”