SIM:Whale: Tomorrow's Questions
“Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions.” - Edgar Cayce
(( USS Constitution - Sickbay ))
:: There was a significant throbbing in Whale’s head. And in his arm. And chest. And, really, pretty much everywhere else. He slowly opened his eyes, expecting to be greeted by the typical bright lights of a Federation vessel, but was surprised to find the lights at fifty percent -- and even more surprised to find, after a quick look around, that sickbay was completely empty. ::
:: He sat up with a grunt and gingerly swung his legs over the side of the biobed. Closing his eyes momentarily, Whale took several deep breaths, relieved to find that he actually wasn’t feeling quite so horrible anymore. Perhaps the way he’d felt upon exiting the jeffries tube had just been a passing thing, rather than a sign of something worse. ::
Teagan: Why you brought him here? He should stay in engineering.
:: Whale glanced up sharply, confused. Sickbay was still entirely empty. ::
Perkins: We did not know. With the computers down. How could we have known he was sick........am I talking to Teagan or the being inside her?
Teagan: We're both here. I'm the one panicking and crying...
:: The voice he recognized as that of Ensign Teagan faded out, but Whale could still hear a faint murmur, like voices in another room. Easing himself off the biobed, Whale headed for the door and exited sickbay, immediately finding himself... on the bridge of the USS Ackerman. ::
Whale: Frelling frell-headed frellitons.
:: It was just as he remembered it. The red-black-and-grey colour scheme and angular lines of the old pre-refit Constitution Class starships, the blinking lights and rounded rectangular viewscreens he spent so many hours staring at... it even smelled like he remembered it. And the sounds -- the boops and pings and even the whoosh of the doors as he’d entered. It was like coming home. ::
Whale: But where is everyone?
:: The one thing missing from the scene was a crew. The Ackerman’s bridge had always been a hub of activity, so to see it completely empty was rather unsettling. But then, none of this was “right.” The Ackerman was an original Constitution -- just like the first of the infamous line of Enterprises -- and had been decommissioned long ago. In fact, Whale was pretty sure at least part of this bridge was currently on display at the Starfleet Museum in San Francisco and the rest of it dismantled and recycled not long after it had emerged from its temporal rift. ::
Teagan: Yes I transported Fanel to Bridge with Captain and Commander Vetri, but I can assure you he is not possessed by any of our guests. I believe I'm the only one.... Don't shoot me...
T'Lea: Who are you and what do you want with our ship?
Cagliari: And what will it take to get you the hell off it?
:: Where the hell were those voices coming from? And was that Cagliari? ::
Whale: Hello? Is anyone there?
:: He waited for a moment and was about to call out again when he heard a voice. ::
Uatu: Right here, David.
:: Spinning around, he found himself face to face -- literally two inches between them -- with a pretty blonde Bajoran girl. She was wearing the same loose cotton pants and sleeveless silver top she’d worn the last time he’d seen her back on Starbase 118. ::
:: Or at least the woman he had originally known as Yautja Uatu. They’d been involved for almost a year -- it had been not long after Whale came back to active service aboard the USS Tiger -- and though he was still too emotionally damaged at the time to realise it, Whale had probably been in love with Uatu. And then he’d discovered that not only was Yautja Uatu not her real name, but she wasn’t even Bajoran. She was a Klingon spy named Praxa working for an old, old enemy of Whale’s. ::
Uatu: So why haven’t you told anyone about me?
:: She smiled. She had a great smile, a sweet and innocent smile, and he kind of wanted to punch her in the mouth. ::
Uatu: You think all these horrible things about me, but even after I told you everything -- who I really was, what I was hired to do -- you still didn’t tell anyone. You didn’t file a security report, you didn’t mention anything to Commander Thelev or Captain Riley. Why?
:: Closing his eyes, Whale massaged his temples. He had no idea why he’d kept it all to himself. Probably part of it was professional embarrassment -- what the hell kind of security officer was he if he didn’t even notice that his own bloody girlfriend was a faker and spy? But there was part of him that knew deep down he’d kept the information to himself to protect Praxa. No, not Praxa -- to protect Uatu. To protect a girl that, in reality, didn’t even exist. ::
:: Opening his eyes again, Whale felt dizzy for a moment as he realised they were no longer of the bridge of the Ackerman, but standing under a gnarled old tree in a field of wildflowers. ::
Whale: Where the hell...?
Uatu: You know where we are.
:: She turned and began to walk away toward a distant hill. Somehow, she’d managed to change into the same crimson formal dress she’d worn on their first actual date -- to the ceremony where Riley was officially promoted to Captain. And he realised she was right -- he knew exactly where they were. This was the field just outside Stirling where he and Gianna had come for a picnic. It was where they’d first said “I love you” to each other. ::
Whale: Why am I here? More importantly, why are YOU here?
:: He was getting angry. ::
Whale: You don’t deserve to be in this-
Cagliari: Frak me.
:: Voices from nowhere again. ::
Cagliari: Hey! You guys are science officers, ain’t ya? What the hell is going on here??
Ooze: Koooooneh. Roetameeeee. Ho.
:: He shook his head and refocused on Uatu. ::
Whale: You don’t deserve to be in this place. You’ll taint- hey! I’m talking to you!
:: She had just kept on walking and he had to run to catch up. Grabbing her arm, Whale spun her around to face him. ::
Whale: What the frak are you doing to me? Is this some kind of interrogation technique? Torture?
:: Uatu laughed. ::
Uatu: David, I’m not here. Neither are you. I’m thousands of kilometres away and I don’t even look like this anymore.
:: She waved a hand dramatically around her face. ::
Uatu: This is all happening in here.
:: Extending a finger, she poked Whale in the centre of his forehead. ::
Uatu: And it’s all thanks to your subconscious.
Whale: Why... if this is a dream, why the hell would I want you here? Why not Gianna? Why not...
:: He stopped himself. Uatu chuckled. ::
Uatu: Why not Fiona?
Whale: That’s not what I said.
Uatu: You didn’t have to -- I’m a manifestation of your subconscious, remember? You don’t have any secrets from me. :: beat :: And I suspect that’s why I’m here. You spend so much time lying to yourself, David -- about a great many things -- but you can’t lie to me. I know all of your lies. I know all of your truths.
Whale: Go frak yourself.
:: Turning on his heel, Whale began marching away. ::
Uatu: Frak myself? I seem to recall you really enjoyed frakking me when-
Whale: Shut up.
:: A sudden change in lighting made Whale look up and he realised he wasn’t in the field anymore. He stood in a rock and rubble-strewn landscape, with a handful of broken pillars (his father would have been pleased that Whale was able to identify them as Corinthian-style) surrounding a misshapen circle of stone. Or not stone. It looked like stone, but it pulsed with some kind of internal light. ::
Uatu: Go ahead. This is what you’ve been wanting all along, isn’t it?
Whale: I don’t know what you mean. Where are we?
Guardian: I AM THE GUARDIAN OF FOREVER.
:: For a moment, Whale just stared. And the irregular circular stone glowed and pulsed. ::
Whale: Well what?
:: All Whale could think about was what had happened the last time he’d stood on this planet, in front of this entity, in this place of convergent timelines. Of course, the incident had been immediately classified with such high security clearances that aside from Whale and the five other members of the Ackerman crew who had been present, there were probably only three or four others in the entire universe who knew the details. Whale hadn’t breathed a word of it to anyone -- not even Gianna -- in the years since it happened. ::
Uatu: :: sighing :: You can’t lie to your own subconscious, remember? We both know that intentionally or not, you keep coming back here.
Guardian: IN YOUR MIND, YOU HAVE VISITED ME MANY TIMES.
Uatu: And awalys with the same request.
Guardian: TO RETURN.
:: Whale looked from the Guardian to Uatu, then back again. The opening in the entity’s core began to mist over and there were indistinct flickers of colour for a moment before they coalesced into more defined shapes. A pub that Whale recognized as The Castle Arms -- his old haunt back home in Edinburgh. The Academy. A smiling Gianna Dacosta, in her blue uniform skirt. He and Gianna holding hands while on shore leave together. ::
:: He closed his eyes. They were right, of course -- on semi-regular basis since we regained his senses in this century, Whale had thought about the Guardian of Forever, thought about trying to track down its exact location again, of finding a way past the quarantine, of using the time portal to return to the 23rd century -- to return to where he belonged. ::
Uatu: But let’s be honest, David. Do you really belong there anymore?
Guardian: YOU DO NOT.
:: Whale frowned. ::
Whale: Yes I do. Of course I do. I was born in that century. I grew up in that century. I lived my entire life in that time -- it’s only been, what seven years here?
Whale: Close enough! Where I don’t belong is there.
:: He pointed off toward the horizon, where a miniature of the USS Constitution hung in the air, partially obscuring the setting sun. ::
Whale: I don’t belong in a timeline without Constitution Class starships or where security officers where gold instead of red or where the Klingons and the Federation are snuggled up in bed together. Or in a time when she...
:: He pointed to an image of Gianna being displayed by the Guardian ::
Whale: ... is dead!
Uatu: Is it the fact that she’s dead now that bothers you, or the idea that she may have moved on? That she may have had a life after David Whale?
:: He looked up sharply, frowning. ::
Whale: No, that’s not...
:: Or was it? Eight years since he arrived in this century and he still hadn’t been able to bring himself to look up the personnel file of the girl he loved -- the girl he had planned on asking to marry him. What other reason could he possibly have for it, other than being afraid of finding out she moved on? He sighed and sat down on the remains of a shattered column. ::
Guardian: THE TRUTH CAN BE A HEAVY BURDEN.
Whale: I just... I wanted everything and I wanted it with Gianna. I just don’t know if I could handle finding out that there was another guy who managed to have everything that I lost because of what happened to the Ackerman.
:: Standing again, Whale took a step toward the Guardian’s pulsating form. ::
Whale: That’s why I keep thinking about you. If I could get to you, I could go back-
Uatu: Who would be going back?
Whale: Who the hell else would I be talking about? Me. I would be going back.
Guardian: AS THE TIDES OF THE SEA SHAPE THE SHORES, SO TOO DO THE TIDES OF TIME SHAPE OUR UNIVERSE -- AND ITS INHABITANTS. :: beat :: NO MAN REMAINS UNAFFECTED BY THEIR TOUCH; NO MAN REMAINS UNCHANGED BY THEIR INFLUENCE.
Whale: I don’t-
Guardian: THE MAN WHO WOULD RETURN TO GIANNA DACOSTA IS NOT THE MAN WHO LEFT HER.
:: Whale sat once more, suddenly feeling exhausted. No man remains unchanged. The tides of time had certainly done quite a bit in the way of erosion on his shores, that was damn sure, but he’d never really stopped to consider how much he’d been changed. Although he clearly had the question resting somewhere in his subconscious or the Guardian -- his subconscious recreation of the Guardian -- wouldn’t be bringing it up. ::
Whale: I’ve been through a lot.
Uatu: You have.
:: She placed a hand on his shoulder. ::
Uatu: You’ve lost everyone you knew. Family. Friends.
Whale: Am I... am I even the same person I was back then? I mean, we all change -- we grow, we learn, we become interested in new things, lose interest in others -- but me...
Uatu: You’ve had to do more. You’ve had to rebuild from the ground up.
:: Whale closed his eyes and rubbed at his face. He didn’t realise it was possible to feel this exhausted in a dream. ::
Whale: If I went back, she’d still be the same girl I fell in love with. But...
:: But he would be vastly changed. He’d be the psychologically damaged, anti-social ass he was now. How fair would it be to Gianna to drop that in her lap? To undo whatever life she’d made for herself after he’d been declared dead? Despite his efforts to prevent it, he could feel a tear running down his cheek. ::
:: He felt her hand run through his hair and she leaned down to kiss him lightly on the forehead. ::
Uatu: …it’s time to wake up.
:: The scenery began to fade -- Uatu and the Guardian of Forever along with it -- but Whale could have sworn that just before everything lost focus and disappeared that he’d seen a face in the swirling mists of the Guardian’s portal. The face of Fiona Shelley. But just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone, just like everything else and Whale was left alone in a never-ending blackness. ::