Return to the Looking Glass
"What's in the box, Lee?"
Commander Lee Crane looked up from his desk with a harried expression, blinking at the silhouetted shape leaning against the doorway to his office. "What box?"
"That box." Chip Morton stepped inside the doorway and pointed a finger at a white box sitting on the chair in front of his captain's desk.
Lee rose, looking over the desk, then smacked himself on the forehead in a gesture of exasperation. "Oh, hell. I forgot to put the cheesecake in the refrigerator."
"Cheesecake?" responded Morton with an arched eyebrow. "What are you doing with a cheesecake? You've always preferred cookies."
Crane came around the desk to retrieve the box. "If you must know, it's for someone else." He hastily opened the box to check the temperature of it's contents and heaved a sigh of relief when he found it to still be cool. He carried it over to the small refrigerator that inhabited one corner of his office and after rearranging the interior, was able to shut the box inside.
Curiosity aroused, Morton couldn't help but pursue the subject. "Anybody I know?"
"It's for Diane."
Morton wrinkled his forehead as he searched his memory for a Diane. "The only Diane I know is that author we met when I went tripping into that alternate universe. Surely it's not her! What were you doing while I was on leave?"
"Actually, it is her." Crane settled back into his chair with an audible sigh.
"What! How?" demanded Morton.
Crane shrugged. "You know the Admiral..."
Morton sagged into the now empty visitor chair, dismay written across his features. "He couldn't leave it alone, could he?"
"Nope." Crane sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "Not only did he get Diane back, he got Storm and Bailey - plus some new ones."
"More of them?" Morton was aghast. "How many more?"
"At least a dozen."
"A dozen?! What the hell is he going to do with them?"
"I have no idea, Chip, but when I left a while ago, he was trying to talk Storm out of her new laptop."
Morton jumped to his feet and began to pace. "Oh, no, not another one. Not after what we read on the last one." A thought seemed to strike him and he paused. "These new people. They aren't..."
Crane closed his eyes and hung his head. "All but two are Voyage writers."
"I'm almost afraid to ask what the two who aren't writers are," muttered Morton, just loud enough for the captain to hear.
"Actors," responded the captain, a wry look in his eyes that sent a chill down the blond's spine.
"One of them is."
"Are you going to tell me who?" Morton's expression was one of wary apprehension.
"David? Your - ah - double?"
Crane slowly nodded.
Chip tried to hide his relief; he'd been afraid the actor in question might be his double, Bob Dowdell. "So who's the other one?"
Crane's expression lightened. "His name is John D'Aquino. He was on a series called SeaQuest, done thirty years later. It's my understanding it's considered the successor to the Voyage TV series."
"The Admiral tuned in on another one of those conventions, didn't he?"
"He did. And for them it was a very good thing."
Morton arched a questioning eyebrow.
"The Admiral told me they were in the emergency stairwell, trying to evacuate from the hotel. The main lighting was out where they were and fire alarms were blaring. The elevators were shut down..." Lee shook his head, recalling the frantic state the group had still been in when he'd arrived in response to Nelson's summons. "The writers were shepherding the two actors down from one of the upper floors. From what they've told me, there was an explosion on a lower floor - not enough to do major damage to the building that they could see where they were, but enough that everybody felt or heard it."
"Sounds like it was getting intense. Is the cheesecake - to calm them down?"
Crane shook his head again. "Actually, Mr. Hedison asked me if I would mind picking up a few things to thank them for their concern."
"Like cheesecake for Diane?"
"And dark chocolate for Michelle, white chocolate for Storm..." He chuckled wryly. "He also asked for a bottle of vodka - something called Ketel One. Imported Dutch vodka, no less." Lee threw out his arms in a gesture of supplication. "I've never heard of it and neither has the Admiral. I don't know if it even exists in this universe. I sent Sharkey to the liquor store to see if he could find it for him. Least I could do." He briefly grasped the back of his head. "The writers were all trying to take care of him and yet he's the only one who thought to ask me to take care of them."
Chip shook his head. "Vodka. He obviously has very different tastes in booze than you do, pal."
"No kidding. It's weird - I see glimpses of myself in him but it's clear that we're two very different people. For which, I might add, I am very grateful. I don't know if I could handle him being just like me."
"You aren't the only one who'd have trouble handling it," commented Morton, coming back to sit in the chair again.
Crane laughed out loud as smile spread across his face. "Tell me about it. You should have seen Kowalski's face when he saw him. It was a sight to behold."
"I wish I'd been there," Morton lamented with a grin.
"Trust me, it was all I could do not to laugh. And not only at Ski."
"Hmmm. Storm, Diane and that Bailey fellow have all been through this before, so I'd guess they weren't phased by it. How did the others react?"
"They took it surprisingly well - even the two actors. I was a bit surprised myself how quickly they calmed down once they knew where they were."
"Storm and company must have told the others about their little adventure," noted Morton.
"They say not. They didn't figure anybody would believe them."
"Are you serious? They kept it to themselves?" Morton asked in disbelief.
"Actually," said Crane thoughtfully, "I can see why they wouldn't have mentioned it. They had absolutely no proof of where they'd been and very few people saw you except for a short while at the convention. Would you have believed someone under those circumstances?"
"Well, no," Morton had to admit.
"So they decided to keep quiet." Crane shrugged. "The real question now is, can the Admiral get them back where they belong without endangering them, or exposing our world to the authorities in theirs. They seem to have a real horror of anybody in their own government gaining this portal technology - I get the distinct impression they don't trust the people currently in power."
Morton gave his friend and captain a sardonic look. "And that differs from our own experiences with our government how?"
"Ah." Crane paused for a moment and reflected. "When you put it that way," he admitted sheepishly, "I can see what they're afraid of." He shook his head and added, "I hope that means they aren't stuck here."
"Stuck here?" Morton almost choked on the idea. "Isn't the portal unstable? I mean, won't it send them all back on it's own?" he spluttered.
"Not this time, Chip. The Admiral figured out what was wrong with the way Louis had the equipment wired. Bailey and Storm both told me this was a pretty smooth ride compared to the last time - and the Admiral says all indications are that crossovers can be made permanent."
"Permanent?!" Morton's voice rose at least an octave. "Is the Admiral out of his mind?!"
"Chip!" Crane gave his XO a stern look.
Morton had the grace to blush at his outburst. He didn't relish the idea of having all of these ... fans... as permanent 'guests'. He suspected that when Nelson really thought things through neither would he.
"Really, Chip, I don't think the Admiral wants to keep them here any more than we do. There'd be questions in both universes we wouldn't want anybody looking into."
"I don't suppose we could persuade the Admiral to forget about this damned portal machine and disassemble it? After he gets everyone back where they belong?" asked the XO hopefully.
The two men's eyes met and they both gave identical sighs. "Not a chance," admitted Crane. "I guess we'll have to figure out how to keep it from getting out of hand."
Chip wished the Admiral hadn't figured out how to get Louis' stupid machine working. As much as he admired his employer, there were times when the man's curiosity overrode his good sense - and Morton had the feeling this was definitely one of those times. Maybe he could persuade Storm, who seemed to like him, to help plead his case with the Admiral. He'd even put up with whatever was on her new laptop if it would distract Nelson's scientific curiosity from the portal. Chip rubbed at his temples, feeling a headache coming on. It looked the future was going to be ... interesting.