You found me out. As I said, this story stretched my boundaries. So I created this penname. I chose a male name that I had liked and then used a French dictionary to find the surname. What's interesting is that the keyword on the page I opened to was "massacre". The first word I actually saw was "matraque", which means "bludgeon or truncheon". Perfect: Philippe de la Matraque was born.

Audio copy: You can listen to this story on my podcast: There Are Three of Me. It is read in Eps88-117 S6E1-30. You can find There Are Three of Me on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Anchor.fm.

With no further ado, I give you Philippe's story:

Skip to Chapter: 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | The End


A/N: Set somewhere in the near future of the Enterprise timeline, at a time when Enterprise is once again exploring, but still has MACOs aboard, as they proved useful.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters--well, except the original ones. The series isn't mine, but the setting is--well, when they're not on Enterprise. The situation, on the other hand, is all mine.

Author's Note: If you read this whole story, and decide you'd really like a sequel, I have begun writing one. It's called Finding Home.

 

Prologue

 


"Sir," Hoshi called out from her seat at the Communications console, "I'm picking up a signal. It's garbled but it doesn't seem to be a distress call."

Archer walked over to stand nearer her station. "What makes you say that?"

"It's not on all frequencies or even a wide band," she stated, running her fingers over the console again. "It's on our frequency; it was sent directly to us. And it doesn't repeat."

"Let's hear it," Archer ordered.

The message played but Archer could barely hear any hint of a voice beyond the static. Hoshi, however, had an amazing sense of hearing.

Hoshi shook her head. "I can't make it out, but it almost seems to have a Denobulan inflection."

"Try and clear it up and see if the doctor can shed any light on it." Archer turned and walked over to T'Pol. "Can we tell where it's coming from?"

"It appears to originate from the fourth planet in the nearest system," T'Pol replied. "About one hundred thousand kilometers out."

"Mr. Reed," Archer said, turning. "Can you read anything on the planet?"

"Some," Reed said, not looking up from his console. "There's a strong magnetic field that's distorting our scans of the planet itself. But I can make out geosynchronous satellites in orbit. There are no ships in orbit of that planet or any other in the system. Nothing on subspace either."

"It appears to be inhabited by a pre-warp society," T'Pol interjected. "There is evidence of surface to air vessels, but few vessels that can reach beyond the atmosphere."

"But this signal came on a subspace frequency?" Archer asked, turning once more to Sato, who only nodded once. "Well, that's a bit of mystery, isn't it? It would appear that there's someone down there who doesn't belong. Someone who knows our address. Let's take a look, Mr. Mayweather. Alter course. In the meantime, maybe the Doctor can take a crack at that message after we clear it up."

"Sir?" Hoshi asked.

"What is it, Hoshi?" Archer replied as he sat back in his chair.

"The doctor's halfway through his annual sleeping cycle."

"Oh, well, in that case, do your best, Ensign."


 

Hoshi Sato tapped the console beside the captain's ready room door. When it opened, she stepped inside and waited for the captain to look up from his work. When he did, she held out a PADD to him. "I managed to clear it up some, but there's some major interference. Commander T'Pol thinks that is because of the magnetic field and high levels of tachyon emissions from frequent solar flares. Anyway, it is Denobulan, though. I caught one word. It means 'help.'"

"Well, that makes it a distress signal after all," Archer said, leaning back in his chair as he studied the PADD. "Do we know of any Denobulan missions out this way?"

"None, sir," Hoshi said, then cleared her throat. "But if you listen to that message, you'll see there's something even more troubling about it."

Archer cocked his head in question at her, but pressed the PADD and the signal began to play again, only slightly clearer than before.

This time the voice was slightly easier to hear. It was male, Archer could guess, but other than that, he was a loss to even hear more than one syllable. And he guessed that one syllable was the one that Hoshi deciphered as "help". The voice stopped but the static remained a few more seconds, punctuated now by a clicking sound.

Archer looked up at her and shook his head.

"The clicks at the end, sir," Hoshi pointed out. "Morse code. I can only make out the last five letters."

"And they are?"

Hoshi took a deep breath. "Me, sir," she replied. "It's my name."

 

Chapter One

 

Hoshi let her hand prop her head up as she picked at her salad and stared blankly at the wall in front of her. She didn't feel like eating. The captain had ordered her to try and reply on the same frequency, but there was no evidence that the communication was received on the other end. Whoever it was that had sent the message was apparently in some kind of trouble. It was a male voice and what few syllables she could make out sounded winded and rough. Often the inflections were just a bit off. Whoever it was wasn't Denobulan, Hoshi had decided, even if he had spoken the message in Denobulan. And whoever it was seemed to know her, or someone who shared her name, which seemed unlikely this far from Earth and the shipping lanes.

Still, she was the only other person on the ship besides Doctor Phlox who knew any Denobulan. Sensors were having difficulty reading through magnetic interference so that they couldn't just scan the population for a known species. So, in just two hours, she'd be on a shuttlepod heading down to the planet to try and find the mysterious man who sent the cryptic message. Captain Archer had wanted to go as well, but Lieutenant Reed and T'Pol had talked him out of it. A pre-warp society might not take kindly to aliens, as he was well aware from past experience. It could be dangerous. So instead, Reed and one of the MACOs would be her escort.

She was curious, of course, about the message, and she'd been on enough missions away from the ship by now to not be terribly nervous about them. But just as it would be dangerous for the captain, it would be dangerous for her. They didn't even know what the natives looked like or if they'd ever had contact with aliens before, with the exception, it would seem, of the man they were going to find. And it wasn't that she didn't trust the lieutenant to protect her. In fact, she trusted few people more to do that. To say he was a private man would be an understatement, to be sure, but he was fiercely protective of those he was charged with. In fact, he could be overprotective at times. Hoshi didn't doubt that he'd take a bullet for her or the MACO if the situation gave him no other choice.

This whole situation, however, was unsettling. She had no doubt that the man was not a native, and that he was in trouble. And that meant that if they were trying to find him, they were heading into trouble themselves. She'd seen enough old movies to have an idea what a pre-warp society might do to an alien found on their planet. The more she played the message over and over in her head, the more she felt the man was in some sort of pain when he sent it. And each time, those last five letters in Morse code made her stomach churn. How did he know her name?


Lieutenant Malcolm Reed checked his weapon one more time. He knew it was fine, fully charged and ready, but he checked it anyway. Something about his upcoming trip with Hoshi just didn't sit right. He didn't like that the caller had used Hoshi's name. It almost felt like a trap to him. But there was nothing to base that feeling on. No one from Earth, or Earth's allies, had ever been known to reach that planet. Given that the society had not yet invented spacecraft that could go beyond their moon would lead one to believe that they'd never sent anyone to Earth either. So no one native to that planet had any right to know Hoshi's name. It was all just a little too personal for Malcolm's taste.

He was glad, at least, that Captain Archer had backed down. Trip had helped, calling just then to tell him of some problem with the warp manifold. Enterprise needed her captain. Picking up one man on one primitive planet shouldn't be too much of a problem for the shuttlepod crew. Once they broke through the magnetic field in the upper atmosphere, they would be able to use the shuttlepod's sensors to scan for known species and thus, pinpoint, the caller. The plan was to go in at night and land in a park or other unpopulated area. They were then to try and make contact and reconnoiter the situation to see if the caller could be extricated without too much of a disturbance to the native population. For that reason, his phaser would be set to stun only, and he and the MACO had gas grenades that could render an entire room unconscious.

Finally, it was time. He holstered his phaser and headed for the shuttlepod bay. The MACO, Corporal Moody, was there waiting when he arrived and Hoshi came just behind him with the captain and T'Pol. "Try to stay out of everyone's notice. We don't want a first contact just yet," Archer reminded them.

"Your presence alone could cause irreparable damage to the culture's natural development," T'Pol added. "Use caution."

Outwardly, Reed's expression didn't change at all, though, inwardly, he was rolling his eyes. There were times when T'Pol stated the obvious, and he wondered if she still thought humans were too impulsive for missions such as this. He nodded once in acknowledgement and turned sharply for the stairs down into the shuttlepod. Hoshi and Moody followed him down. Once inside the shuttlepod, Malcolm ran a standard check of all systems and looked over his shoulder to make sure his crew was ready. The launch bay door opened beneath them and, once Malcolm had clearance, he released the shuttlepod, which dropped down out of the belly of Enterprise and into open space.

From space, the planet had an appearance closer to Mars than Earth. While there were large bodies of water and areas of green vegetation, for the most part, the land looked arid and dry. Where Earth's continents were green with occasional deserts, this planet's were reddish-brown with occasional patches of green. Earth also had more cloud cover, more evenly spread over the planet. He vaguely wondered what the natives did for food with so little natural vegetation or cultivated crops--though it was hard to be certain if that was the case without a stronger signal from the sensors. They'd know more when they entered the atmosphere.

A small, yellow light blinking in the periphery of his vision caught his attention and he checked the helm console. "Coming up on the magnetic field," he warned. "This could get a little rough." The shuttlepod began to buck and shake like an old airplane hitting turbulence in the sky. He had expected that and managed to keep the shuttlepod on course easily enough. What he hadn't anticipated, however, was the red light that started flashing on his console as the shuttlepod leveled off and gave one final, violent buck. Or when that light abruptly winked out, along with all the other lights in the shuttlepod. "We've lost power," he stated, trying to remain calm. Too many thoughts ran through his head. Why they had lost power was chief among them. He closed his eyes for one second, ordering his mind to slow down. He needed to think, but mostly he needed to act.

"Ensign Sato," he ordered, "try your communicator. Contact Enterprise." She didn't reply but he heard her communicator snap open and her soft voice trying the call.

"Shouldn't we have emergency power, sir?" Corporal Moody asked.

"I can't reach them, sir," Hoshi reported.

"Take the helm, Ensign." Malcolm answered, rising from his seat. "Then both of you, strap in and stay put unless I order you to go somewhere." He couldn't see her move, but he felt Hoshi's hand on his shoulder as she brushed past him on his way aft. "I'm going to see if I can get us some power." He felt along the compartments over where Hoshi had been, counting as he went. He stopped at five and opened it, pulling out a small tool kit, and then continued toward the back of the shuttlepod. Once he reached the aft bulkhead, he dropped to the deck, feeling for the edges of the hatches, and hoping he would pick the right one. Though he couldn't see anything as he opened one, he closed his eyes, trying to see in his memory the way the components inside should feel to his hands. He was relieved then to find that they did. But only slightly relieved. The temperature was rising in the shuttlepod, and he could feel sweat on his brow. He didn't have a lot of time.

They had just cleared the interference when the power had shut down. That one last buck had to have been something else. Without the sensors he couldn't say what it was, but he knew where it was. Just below the magnetic field in the planet's upper atmosphere. Which meant, of course, they were caught in the gravity well of the planet. And the shuttlepod was descending.


Archer sat up straight in his seat just as she said it. "Captain," T'Pol called calmly, "we have lost contact with the shuttlepod."

The bridge had been monitoring the shuttlepod's progress on the main viewscreen. Only one second before T'Pol spoke, the shuttlepod had winked out of existence. "What happened?" he asked, still staring at the screen. "Is the magnetic field keeping us from seeing it?"

"I do not believe so," she replied. "The shuttlepod was sufficiently near to allow us to scan it below the field. We should have been able to see it for three point seven more minutes."

"What are you scanning just below the field?" Archer asked, hoping she wouldn't say debris.

T'Pol was watching her console, but she dropped her eye brows suddenly and pivoted to take a closer look. "There is something there," she replied.

"Debris?" It was out of his mouth before he'd had a chance to stop it.

"Nothing that large," T'Pol replied, unaware that the rest of the bridge crew had turned to her for an answer. "I recommend sending a probe, slowly, and tethered to the ship."

"Sir," Travis said, without taking his eyes off the viewscreen, "if they were in or under the magnetic field and lost control, they may not have much time before the gravity pulls them in."

Archer decided quickly. "Launch a probe." He turned to Chief Lee covering the tactical station in Lieutenant Reed's absence. "Catch it and lower it just beneath the interference layer."

Lee nodded, and Archer counted the seconds as T'Pol programmed the probe. Finally, the probe was lowered. "Put it onscreen," he ordered.

The forward viewscreen filled with wide bands of streaking color and then cleared for a moment. The probe stopped its descent and the planet was visible in front of them. There was no sign of the shuttlepod, or anything else at this altitude to the planet. Then something flashed across the screen and was gone again.

"What was that?" Archer asked. "Back it up and slow it down."

The image obediently replayed and static filled the screen for two seconds. "That," T'Pol reported, "is what I was scanning. It appears to be some form of radiation."

"Bring it back up-to-date," Archer ordered, and the screen shifted slightly to show the planet once more. "And keep trying to raise the shuttlepod." The screen flashed again.

"Its effect is intermittent," T'Pol explained, "It appears every three point two minutes, on average."

Archer's stomach tightened. He had to ask. "Could our shuttlepod have run into that radiation?"

T'Pol consulted the ships logs. "By my calculations, taking into account their known velocity, yes."

The tightness in Archer's stomach dissolved, leaving a sick, heavy feeling behind. "Did it destroy the shuttlepod?" he asked quietly.

"There is no debris to suggest that," T'Pol repeated. "I would suggest we scan the planet in more detail and in the vicinity of the shuttlepod's likely trajectory."

Archer just nodded and T'Pol tapped her console. "Chief Lee, please release the probe on my mark." She waited for the next flash on the screen. "Mark!" The probe dropped down toward the planet and she explained, "I have sent instructions for the probe to orbit the planet once and then return to the ship. It will inform us if it senses the shuttlepod."

Then they all waited. There was still no response from the shuttlepod. Or the probe. After thirty minutes, the probe returned and T'Pol guided it back to the ship. The bridge was quiet. They all knew the shuttlepod would have crashed into the planet's surface by now, or burnt up in its atmosphere. "Downloading the data now," T'Pol reported softly, and they waited again. After a few minutes, T'Pol lifted her head. "The shuttlepod is not on the planet's surface," she finally reported, "however, I am reading a trail of radiation descending from the shuttlepod's last known position to a steppe on the northern continent you see on screen."

"The shuttlepod descended," Archer repeated, putting the pieces together, "but it didn't land? Or crash? Is it possible it went down in a body of water? The radiation trail may have drifted in the atmosphere."

"I will have to study the probe's data in further detail," T'Pol admitted. "Perhaps I can filter the data with material components of the shuttlepod that should not occur on the planet below."

Archer's stomach tightened again. He hated waiting when his crew were in danger. To T'Pol, he just nodded, and she left the bridge for her science lab. Carstairs was sitting in for Hoshi at Communications. "Keep trying them," he ordered, "but not verbally. Use Morse code and aim wide. Someone used it to contact us, maybe we can contact him if not our people."


The lights came up, and Malcolm almost smiled in relief. The consoles lit up just after. "Sir!" Hoshi called. He could hear the fear in her voice and when he turned toward the bow, he could see why.

"Lift the nose!" he ordered.

"Helm's not responding," she reported quickly. "Neither are the engines. We're going to crash."

Malcolm took a breath. He had known that was likely. More than likely. Lights took a lot less power than engines and major systems. There was still time though, he hoped, to try and keep the shuttlepod in one piece.

"What can I do, sir?" the MACO asked as he wiped the sweat off his forehead. The heat was becoming unbearable.

"We need to get the nose up, lower flaps," Malcolm said, "slow our descent. There are manual overrides." He pointed to a panel on the port side just above Moody's head. "Flaps are there. Open it." As Moody obeyed, he went to the starboard side and opened the opposite panel. "Hoshi," he said, "come here."

She unbuckled her harness and jumped out of the chair. "When I give the mark," he told them both, "lift the handle and press down on the control underneath." He took the seat at the helm and buckled himself in. He put both hands on the joystick--as Travis called it--and called out, "Mark!"

Suddenly the joystick became very heavy in his grip. It took both his hands to pull it back. His arms strained with the effort, but the nose did begin to rise. He just couldn't reach the control to align the flaps manually. "I can't align the flaps!" he called out through clenched teeth.

Behind him, Moody threw off his straps. "Tell me where," he said.

Malcolm wanted to tell him to sit down and strap in, but without Moody's help, they'd all die. "To my right. Red lever," he replied. "They need to go down."

Moody moved up beside him and pulled the lever. The nose rose again, but the stick was still heavy. If Malcolm relaxed his grip at all the nose began to fall again. But it was getting harder and harder to hold.

Moody was watching him. "You still need help, sir," he said. It wasn't a question.

"We are going to crash, Corporal," Reed told him. "We're just hoping we can live through it, which you won't do, if you're not buckled in."

"Understood, sir," Moody replied. "But none of us will if you can't keep the nose up."

They could no longer see the planet through the front window. Because they were too low. They saw an ocean, and beyond that, land. They were coming in fast. Reed just nodded.

Moody moved behind him and reached over his shoulders to put his hands on top of Malcolm's. And together they pulled. The nose edged up more and their descent slowed. But it was still fast. The ocean sped by below them and the landmass ahead was coming closer. Malcolm could now see the cliffs that lined the edge of it. But they were still high enough, he hoped, that they would clear them. A water landing might have been a better choice, but at their present speed they'd be over land before they dropped low enough to land. Besides, they didn't know what was in the ocean if the shuttlepod should somehow survive its impact with the water. There were things on Earth that would eat shipwreck survivors, so it wasn't too hard to imagine the same could happen here. Besides, he couldn't bear the thought right then of landing in the middle of an ocean without so much as a life jacket. Just the thought of all that water sped his heart rate even faster. Land, he told himself. We're going to miss the ocean anyway.

Beads of sweat stung his eyes, but he couldn't move a hand to wipe them away. Neither could Moody. He was straining hard as well. Malcolm wondered if his fingers would be broken if they all survived. They ached terribly from the strain of the stick and the pressure of Moody's hands on top of them.

The shuttlepod skimmed over the cliffs with an extra four hundred feet or so to spare, and Malcolm couldn't hold back the small sigh he felt as the water was left behind. There were trees here and they passed by in a brownish-green blur below them until only the brown remained. Shrubs, Malcolm guessed, short vegetation. They were over the plains. Three hundred feet. Something white was in front of them, and Malcolm realized it was a city. Fortunately, there did not appear to be many tall buildings. Maybe no one will look up, Malcolm thought, but he kept that remark to himself.

The shuttlepod streaked past the city, at some points only fifty feet or so above the tops of the buildings. They were one hundred and fifty feet up now and back in the open, streaking over the plains. Short brown bushes spotted the reddish ground as far as Reed could see. As they dropped lower he could see boulders interspersed here and there which might make the landing even more rough than it was already going to be. At least it's not trees, he thought. Brush wouldn't be a problem, though the boulders could prove disastrous.

They were descending faster now, though their forward motion was slower. At seventy-five feet, Reed could just make out a line of green at the far edges of the horizon. They wouldn't make it there, but hopefully they might be close enough to walk in a few days' time. If they survived the landing, of course.

"Fifty feet!" Reed called out. "Hoshi! Crash position. Buckle up, cover your head, and put it between your legs." Moody was still helping him hold the stick, though he was kneeling now, his arms felt like another harness holding him into the chair. Malcolm could feel the strain in those arms. His fingers and hands, beneath Moody's, were beyond the point of pain. They were a bright red flare in the edge of his perception as his focus stayed on the land in front of them. "Brace yourself however you can," he told Moody.

"Already there, sir," Moody replied through gritted teeth. Malcolm could feel his shoulder's digging into the back of the chair.

If any of them survived, Reed wanted Moody to get a medal for his sacrifice here. As much as he hoped Moody would survive, he felt in his gut that he would not. "Twenty feet," Malcolm called. "Brace for impact."

The stern hit first, which was a good sign, he supposed. It meant they'd gotten the nose up. But the impact jarred the shuttlepod violently enough to break Moody's hold on the stick. And any good luck they'd had ran out quickly from then on. Moody was thrown to the rear of the shuttle and Malcolm heard him grunt when he hit the bulkhead. Without Moody's hands, Reed's hands simply couldn't hold that stick anymore. It flew forward out of the grasp of his aching fingers. Malcolm didn't give them a second thought. The nose dropped and he crossed his arms over the console and tucked his head as well as he could. It sounded like thunder, a long, constant rumble as the shuttlepod slid across the land, tearing up shrubs and digging itself into the hard clay ground. Each time it hit a boulder, the shuttlepod threatened to tear him out of the seat as it wrenched this way then that.

There was nothing more that Malcolm could do. He closed his eyes, just waiting for it to end. He heard a screech of metal and a low roar, almost like a scream, and then he felt a hot wind and a sudden forward lurch. Somehow, above all that, he heard Hoshi scream and it felt like a needle stabbing him in the chest. He lost all sense of equilibrium and everything went black.


"You said you needed my help?" Trip asked as he stepped into T'Pol's lab.

She didn't bother looking up from her work when she replied. "Yes, I would like your thoughts on a hypothesis I have been working on. I am attempting to isolate the sensor data on the intermittent radiation burst recorded by the probe."

"Mind if I take a look?" he asked. He was curious about that, too. He had, of course, heard about the shuttlepod's disappearance, but he refused to think that the shuttlepod had been destroyed or that Malcolm and Hoshi were dead. The MACO, too, as he was with them, but Trip didn't know him personally. Malcolm and Hoshi were friends.

"I've isolated the frequency of the wavelength," T'Pol reported as she stepped away so that he could see.

Trip squinted a bit at the data in front of him. He didn't recognize anything in it. It was no radiation he was familiar with.

T'Pol reached up and changed the display. Now there was an overhead view of a fairly barren stretch of land. Trip didn't see anything too interesting about it. "I have increased the sensor resolution," T'Pol said. She pressed a panel and the scene changed, zooming in. Features in the land's topography were more visible. "The shuttlepod intersected with the radiation burst and trailed the radiation through the atmosphere. It dissipated as the shuttle descended, but it can still be seen faintly in this area, the projected landing site for the shuttlepod."

"There's no shuttlepod," Trip said, frowning. He rather wished there was.

"Not now," she said. She changed the display again. "There is a higher concentration of carbon in the soil at this location," she said as she pointed to a depression in the ground, "than in the area surrounding it. Except, in this direction." She trailed her finger back along the path of the radiation trail. "It ends here, seventy miles from a native city in the south." Trip could see a shallow trench in the ground where she pointed, becoming shallower the further from the depression.

"Okay," he offered, growing impatient. He didn't want to put together the pieces of her puzzle. He was afraid of what they meant.

"The radiation trail grows stronger exponentially as it radiates out from the highest concentrations of carbon."

"But the carbon increases as you go toward the depression." He could see that, but did not know how it was relevant. It made sense that if the shuttlepod intersected with the radiation, it would dissipate as it descended, leaving a trail, and that the carbon in the soil would increase as. . . . No, he didn't want to go there. But there it was, nonetheless. "You're saying the shuttlepod crashed there," he accused, not meaning to take it out on her.

"That is my hypothesis," she confirmed.

"But there's no debris," he argued pointing. The depression was covered in shrubs and weeds just as much as the area around it. There was no sign of an explosion beyond the depression itself. A crash would likely mean fire, damage, debris, and twisted wreckage. There was no such thing in the scan.

"There was," T'Pol said. And in her calm, Vulcan demeanor Trip almost missed what she meant.

"Was?" he repeated. "There's another piece you aren't showing me yet."

She flipped the display back to the radiation burst. "I have seen this before," she said, "though in smaller quantities." She picked up a scanner off the counter. "Come with me."

She led him out of the lab and he followed her dutifully. He didn't like the idea that the shuttle had crashed but her enigmatic "there was" had given him some small bit of hope. Either that or he was just too curious to let go of the puzzle now. She stopped in front of a door with a security lock on it. Daniels' quarters. She opened the scanner and made a scan. Then she handed the device to him.

And he saw it. Compared to the burst, this was miniscule, but the scanner had sensed the same particles behind this locked door as what the probe had sensed in the burst. "Time travel?" he asked, not realizing he'd said it out loud.

"That," she said, more pointedly than before, "is my hypothesis. These are chronoton particles, for lack of a better term. While the Vulcan Science Academy denies the possibility of time travel, I have had to yield my own beliefs to that possibility. I have been to your world in the past. The captain claims to have been to the future. I have been using my free time to study this phenomenon."

Trip nodded. "You think the shuttle crashed in the past," he said, finally putting the pieces together. "That's why there is no debris, but there is an increase in carbon along the path of the crash, ending in the depression." He was beginning to feel depressed himself. "How far in the past?" He breathed.

"I have not yet determined that," she replied. They were both quiet for a moment, and she must have sensed what he was feeling. "We do not have any evidence to assume that the shuttlepod's crew were killed in the crash," she said.

"We don't have any evidence they survived either." Trip rubbed his hand through his hair. "What does the radiation trail have to do with it all? You made a point of its exponential increase as it goes away from the dep--" He took a deep breath and then said it, "--the crash site."

"The probe began its descent along the same trajectory initially," T'Pol replied. "At the point closest to the interference layer, the particle density is highest. Its exponential decay rate does not suggest that it simply dissipated as the shuttlepod descended. I hypothesize that we can calculate the instant the shuttlepod crashed by the drop-rate in particle density."

There was still another piece missing. He could feel it. "Why?"

"Because those particles closest to the interference layer are closest to the present."

And then it clicked. Sometimes things were just like that with Trip. He could study and test and hypothesize all day long and then sometimes it just clicked and he knew the answer, or where to look for it. "I need to hear that transmission," he told her and started to walk away.

Now she was the one asking questions. "Why?" She caught up with him and matched his stride.

"Because if my hypothesis is right," he replied, "we do have evidence that they're alive."


On to Chapter 2....

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