A short burst of escaping pressurised air caused his eyelids to lighten, lift, fall shut and re-open. A blurred impression of the outside came inside, a white ceiling, monitor equipment emitting a pulse tone and figure standing nearby.
A voice echoed inside his ears, gradually becoming more clear. He felt smooth fingers stroke the top of his hand.
“Brinkinfield? Brinkinfield, can you hear me Brinkinfield?”
He made out a woman’s face looking down at him, blonde hair tied up, her red lips cutting through the out-of-focus. Exhaling a long breath, he tried to speak. His hand moved underneath her fingers and with great effort, he rolled his head cradled in the pillow from left to right.
“Doctor! Doctor McCoy, the patient is regaining consciousness.”
Barely audible padding footsteps approached, a warm palm rested across his forehead. A thumb pulled up an eyelid, Brinkinfield made out a wrinkled face moving from side to side. An eyebrow, arched above an examining eye peered into his own eye.
“50 milligrams hypo Nurse Chapel please.”
As the pressurised air hissed against his shoulder, a weight dissolved from his body and the throbbing pain inside his head faded.
“Well, I hope you didn’t have plans for this evening Brinkinfield, you’ve had a lucky escape.” McCoy said. “But, even so, I imagine we’ll have you back on your feet given a couple of days. You have a remarkable constitution, in all my years I’ve not seen anything like it before.”
Trying to speak, Brinkinfield lifted his head, but coherence alluded his efforts. He tried again, struggling to form words.
“Now you just take it easy.” McCoy laid a restraining hand on his chest, “Right now, rest is the best medicine I can prescribe to you. I suggest you take my advice and let Nurse Chapel here look after you.”
The rise and fall of an alert tone drew the doctor away from the patient, towards a communication device installed on the wall. An illuminated red switch flashed, until his finger pressed it down.
“McCoy, how is our visitor coming along?”
“Well Jim, as you’ve seen, he’s received quite a battering. Yet, I can confirm there’s no damage to major internal organs – at least not as far as I can ascertain. He’s regained consciousness and vital signs are beginning to return to normal. I’d say give him a day or two and he’ll be as good as new.”
A pause followed the doctor’s prognosis.
“Bones, I need to ask him some questions soon. I’ve got to understand, how has a man in an unidentified, floating tin-can of a spaceship, ended up out here within range of a hitherto unexplored solar system?”
“Doctor!” Said Nurse Chapel, “The patient is stirring again!”
“Jim, I’m the Chief Medical Officer, not a magician!”
“Doctor, I think he’s trying to speak!” The urgency in the nurse’s tone caught McCoy’s attention.
“Alright Jim, give me a few hours, I’ll see what I can do. McCoy out.”
The doctor turned back to the patient. Folded arms across his chest, he observed the nurse cleaning off blood from the patient’s forehead.
“It’s remarkable Doctor McCoy, I am sure the cuts on his face and around his body are healing before my very eyes.”
“Well you’re good Nurse Chapel, but not even you can heal wounds in a matter of minutes. You said he tried to speak, what exactly did he say?”
“I’m, I’m not completely sure.” The nurse replied hesitantly.
“Nurse Chapel, spit it out please! You said the patient tried to speak, what in blazes did he say?”
“Well Doctor,” she said, “this won’t make sense, but it sounded like two letters, ‘T’ and ‘V’, followed by the word ‘show’.”
“T, V, show?” The doctor repeated. “Nurse Chapel, are you sure?”
“Why yes Doctor. I said it wouldn’t make any sense, what is a TV show Doctor?”
Before McCoy could answer, he detected the presence of a fourth person in sick bay.
“Spock! What the devil do you think you’re doing creeping up on us like that?”
“A ‘TV show’, existed up until nearly two hundred and fifty years ago. One hundred and forty nine years, 4 months and 16 days, to be exact.” With no acknowledgment of the doctor’s question, Chief Science Officer Spock elaborated. “An archaic, relatively short-lived form of entertainment on old earth. Commonly watched on a large monitor screen as a way for the 20th and 21st century family to wind down and relax in the evenings together. I believe interest waned and the activity died out during the first quarter of the 21st century.”
“I’m not sure I understand.” Said the nurse.
“Nurse Chapel, it is irrelevant if you understand or not, these are the facts.” Replied Spock, “I ask this: has the patient said anything else of note?”
“Why yes Mr Spock,” replied the nurse, smarting slightly, “I believe he said ‘original series’ too.”
“What’s going on Spock?” The doctor interjects, “TV show, original series, what does it all mean?”
“At this moment in the investigation Doctor, I have not yet reached a conclusion.” Spock stood with his hands clasped low behind his back, his face impassive. “All I can deduce at this stage, is some kind of connection between our guest, and a time period over two centuries in the past. I suggest, if we are to shed any further light on the matter, whatever your patient says is most carefully noted down.”
“Are you crazy Spock? I’m not a secretary! I’m the Chief Medical Officer aboard this shi-”
“It’s alright Mr Spock and Dr McCoy,” Nurse Chapel interrupted, placing a calming hand around McCoy’s elbow. “I’ll do it. It was a long time ago, but I did short-hand note taking in a job I held down during academy.”
The nurse looked over to Brinkinfield.
* * *
Later that same day, sat to the side of her patient, Nurse Chapel busied herself with a tray of surgical instruments. Each one selected received two short breaths and several strokes with a silken cloth. She noted how Brinkinfield floated in and back out of consciousness, he didn’t seem in any discomfort, which pleased her. Sat with one leg crossed over the other, she hummed a tune to herself. The cool white lighting inside the room reflected off her calf-length boots, dancing across the black patent leather. Holding McCoy’s medical tricorder, she gave it a gentle twist. It warbled and the sound awoke her patient.
“Yes Brinkinfield, what is it?”
“Can you tell me, what, what year it is?”
The nurse’s look of concentration melted into a kindly, reassuring expression.
“Why,” she said, “don’t you know? Well, it’s stardate 3468.1”
“Star date, 34, 68, point 1?”
“That’s right.” Anticipating his next question, the nurse uncrossed her legs and pulled herself closer to the examination bed. “And you sir, are travelling on the starship U.S.S. Enterprise.”
“Well yes!” The nurse replied, “How did you know that?”
Brinkinfield shuffled uncomfortably, “A lucky guess I guess.”
“Do you mind if I ask you a question, Brinkinfield?”
“No, please,” he replied, “go right ahead.”
“Are you by any chance, of British descent?” She had rested her chin in the palm of one hand while hooking a wayward lock of blonde hair back behind her ear with her other hand.
“British descent? I am British – if that’s what you mean, yes.”
“Oh, I thought so. I love your accent. We only have Lt. Kyle, the Transporter Chief, who’s of British ancestry. He has – what he calls a northern twang, and to be honest, I don’t care much for it.”
“Nurse Chapel, how did I get here?”
“Well, your vessel appeared on our scanners as we entered the Alpha quadrant of the Beta Geminorum system. Your ship had taken heavy damage and we couldn’t raise you on communications. Mr Spock detected vague life form readings, so we beamed you aboard.”
“My vessel?” Said Brinkinfield.
“Yes, I’m afraid your it’s gone now.”
“It blew up?”
Nurse Chapel looked down to her lap while straightening her sky-blue uniform dress and flattening the creases out across the tops of her thighs. “Well, yes. As the Enterprise left your coordinates your ship exploded as the result of an error”
“Oh, I see.”
“Yes, we’re very sorry about that. A misunderstanding arose between engineering and navigation, leading to a conflict between the use of the tractor beam to tow your ship while engaging warp drive, apparently.”
“Oh, although to be honest I have no memory of being aboard any ship.”
“Well that’s okay then!” Said the nurse striking a positive note, rubbing her hand briskly over the top of her patient’s hand. “Right! Are you hungry? Let me order you some lunch, we need to keep your strength up.”
“My name is Christine, Brinkinfield, you can call me by my first name.”
“Thank you Christine. You mentioned Beta Geminorum system, Alpha quadrant. What heading is the Enterprise on?”
“Let me think for a moment,” she said, “I overheard Mr Spock relaying coordinates earlier today.” The nurse squeezed Brinkinfield’s hand several times as she recalled the incident. “Pollux IV, an M class planet, sustainable oxygen – nitrogen atmosphere. We’ll be the first federation starship to have ventured out this way, it’s exciting – don’t you think?”
“Oh my God Nurse Chapel – Christine!” Blurted out Brinkinfield, “I know this episode! We mustn’t on any account go to Pollux IV – not even get close and definitely not establish an orbit around the planet.”
“You know this episode? What ever do you mean, episode? You can see into the future, is that what you are saying?”
“Christine, you have to believe me. I can’t explain now, but strange events have occurred on this spaceship before, haven’t they?”
“Well, yes. It’s the nature of space travel Brinkinfield, no one week is ever like another. And anyway, how would you know about events happening on the Enterprise in the past? You’ve been aboard for approximately 8 solar hours. What do you know of what’s happened here before?
Brinkinfield struggled to sit himself up on the examination bed. Nurse Chapel assisted, placing a pillow between the back of his head and the wall.
“Thank you. Christine, this all feels disturbingly real to me, sat here, talking to you. The interior of this room, the equipment, McCoy and Spock, the captain’s voice over the intercom, all very familiar.”
“What do you mean, disturbingly real? Are you saying you’ve been a member of the crew, previously?”
“No Christine,” he said, twisting the itchy palms of his hands together. “I even know you are secretly in love with Mr Spock.” Her mouth opened to take in a quick breath, the fair complexion of her cheeks warmed.
“You, and your feelings towards Mr–”
“Yes, I heard you. Why, you weren’t even properly conscious when Mr Spock had joined Dr McCoy and I, earlier.” She said, “And if you had been awake, just how could you draw such a conclusion? Mr Spock arrived and departed sick bay within less than 5 minutes! And, as I recall,” she continued, “Mr Spock cut me off mid-sentence. If unfamiliar with his Vulcan ways, this would appear to any stranger as disrespectful and plain rude!”
“All this is true,” said Brinkinfield, “but it doesn’t change your feelings towards Mr Spock, even though he rarely reciprocates.”
“Well maybe that’s where you’re wrong,” she said, “I’ve had about as much as I can take from him.” She placed both her hands over her patient’s hand and leaned in closer. “To be completely honest, I have felt inexplicably drawn to you, since soon after your arrival.”
“Drawn to me?” He said, shifting awkwardly.
“Yes, I guess you already knew that, too?” Nurse Chapel said moving closer. Brinkinfield detected the sweet scent of peppermint on her breath. Tilting her head slowly to one side, the nurse planted a gentle kiss onto his lips. She pulled back a little way, looked into his eyes, then kissed him again. Her lips brushed across his nose and either side of his mouth, then stillness, until her quickening breath gave way to a passionate kiss.
“Nurse Chapel!” McCoy shouted, as he ran into the room. “Frankly this form of intervention into your patient’s care is excessive and not in the manual!”
He grabbed her by the elbows and used all his strength to try and pull her away. Met with firm resistance, the struggle continued. “Think what this will do to Spock if he finds out! Think what he might do to the patient in revenge! Nurse Chapel, you’ve got to snap out of this.”
Finally, the nurse’s resistance came to a halt. McCoy let go of her arms, letting her fall limp and half-draped over Brinkinfield’s tummy. Exhausted, her hands travelled in a circular pattern across the patient’s chest. As a parting gesture, she closed her thumbs and index fingers tightly around his nipples, delivering a simultaneous tweak and mild convulsion in the patient.
“I’m sorry doctor,” the nurse said, facing McCoy, as she regained her composure and straightened her uniform. “this shouldn’t have happened.”
“Well that’s okay Nurse Chapel,” McCoy replied, “I understand you have been under a lot of pressure lately, damn-it we all have. What this crew needs more than anything is a prescription for shore leave.”
The doctor stroked the nurse’s upper arm in a reassuring manner and showed her his best crooked smile. “Now, why don’t you go off to the rest room, straighten out your make-up and bring back everyone a cup of coffee. Spock and the captain are headed over here shortly, with a few questions for our visitor friend.”
“Two sugars!” Piped-in Brinkinfield, as the nurse turned to walk away. “With plenty of milk please!”
“Al-right mister, we have a few questions we want answers to.” The captain had seated himself on the edge of the consultation bed with one leg crossed over the other, one hand laid across the over. Spock stood stock still at the foot of the bed, with a stern expression upon his face and arms folded across his chest. Brinkinfield smiled uneasily, unsure if Spock had got wind of the incident with Christine. He lifted a mug in both hands and drew a noisy sip from his coffee.
“Sure, I am here to help, but before you start, I must say I am as mystified as you, as to how I got here.”
“Mr Spock and I have de-briefed Nurse Chapel in the kitchen, a few minutes ago.” Said the captain. “During the de-briefing, she shared with us comments you have made, warning against visiting Pollux IV – or even passing close by the planet.”
“That’s right captain, do not establish orbit around the planet.” Said Brinkinfield.
“Well, I don’t suppose you’d mind telling me why?”
“W-ell,” Brinkinfield hesitated, “the difficulty is, I am not sure you’ll believe me. It’s a fanciful storyline, to say the least.”
“A fanciful storyline, to say the least.” The captain repeated, a sense of disbelief audible in his tone.
“If I may intervene captain,” said Spock, as he unfolded his arms and pressed his hands together to assume a position of thoughtful prayer. “you may remember Nurse Chapel recounting several key words, during her de-briefing.”
“Go on Mr Spock, make your point please.”
“From what she divulged, we have ‘TV’, ‘show’, ‘original series’, ‘episode’ and now from our visitor, ‘storyline’, in an allusion to what the near future holds for us.”
Brinkinfield slurped at his coffee, taking two sips in quick succession. His attention switched between the captain and first officer and the plate of custard cream biscuits Christine had placed on the bedside unit, earlier.
“You’re saying there’s a link, Spock?” The captain said.
“What it appears our visitor is suggesting, is that we exist in a different reality to his own.”
“Like some kind of universe parallel to ours?”
“Correct captain. What we consider as reality, he views as a television entertainment show, dating back approximately 250 years.”
“I want facts not theories, Mr Spock. Tell me how this man got here?”
“Sir, I do not know how he got here and furthermore, I am coming to doubt he knows, himself.”
Both men turned to look at Brinkinfield.
Brinkinfield looked back at them.