In Space, No One Can Hear You Gag
Darrel W. Beach
HTMLized July, 1999
Thanks (or blame) can be directed to Sara for giving me the idea of
revisiting the Revenge-fic Challenge that wormed its way through
ASC a couple of years ago.
Because it seems I'm always confusing people about when these stories of
mine occur in the show's timeline, let it be said now that the 5th season
finale has just aired where I live.
The following presentation is rated PG for some language and (again) abusive use of leola root.
Neelix tapped at the control buttons of the replicator,
attempting to fine-tune the configuration of the new template he had
created. Satisfied with his adjustment, he cleared his throat to
signal his readiness to the replicator, as if it needed an attention
to focus. "Leola root stew, please," he congenially ordered. With a
swirl of phosphorescent particles a simple ceramic bowl materialized
filled with a steaming, slightly bubbling mass of brownish liquid.
He picked up the bowl and sniffed warily. "Well, it smells good," he
commented to himself, trying to raise hopes that this time it would
The Talaxian had been working half the morning trying to program
the molecular pattern of leola root into the replicator, but so far
hadn't been able to get the inherent qualities of the Delta Quadrant
staple to come out right yet. That had always been his greatest
concern with the replicator, for any kind of food it dispensed.
While it was indeed a marvel to use a technology that could create
food from reserve matter, it was still artificial, and artificial
food just didn't have quite the right taste or texture that the real
thing possessed. Such was the case with the leola root. The last
several attempts by the replicator had failed to fully capture its
essence. If this try failed, he would have to wait until after lunch
to continue. He had a large crew to serve, and it took time to
prepare enough food to feed them.
Spoon in hand, Neelix scooped up a sizable portion of stew and
popped it into his mouth. As he chewed his eyes widened with
excitement. He hurriedly swallowed the mouthful. "It's perfect!"
I chuckled with mad glee as I reread the opening passage of my latest
creation to be added into the vast annals of ASC lore. "Sara's going to be
sorry she put this idea in my head," I said to myself. During a lengthy
exchange of electronic messages a few weeks ago she had asked, probably
quite innocently, how Neelix's supply of leola root managed to survive into
the fifth season of Voyager. That, coupled with a few snappy remarks
made in jest while discussing her feedback of my earlier work, had spawned
a most insidious plot device.
Neelix and the replicator. It was a notion that would make even a
sadist take pause. Janeway would undoubtedly reconsider her belief in
religion if it were true. I laughed again. With this parody I was sure to
earn a great deal of fame -- or infamy -- in ASC. No more obscurity for
Darrel W. Beach, at any rate.
I caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye. I looked up
and stared out through the rain-streaked window in my living room. Another
thunderstorm, like so many to pass through the southern Saskatchewan region
in the past two weeks. A rumbling boom reverberated across the floor to
accentuate the intensity. It was certainly lousy weather for moving into a
new apartment, but the conditions couldn't have been more ideal for
A few short moments later I was connected to the Internet and all set
to inflict my work upon an unsuspecting populace of fanfic fanciers. From
the corner of eye I detected another glimmer of light, but paid it no
attention. I was too immersed in accessing my newsgroup reader. I
certainly wasn't expecting to feel a hand grasp my shoulder.
Whoever the intruder was, I did a good job of startling him as much
as he did me. I jerked up from my chair (I was already on my way up) and
banged my knees against the desktop in the process. I felt my assailant's
hand release my shoulder and heard him move back a few steps. Massaging
the pain from my shins, I looked up with a wincing stare at the intruder.
I shook my head. The guy looked like he was wearing an authentic Starfleet
uniform. So much for being in a safe area of Regina; I was about to be
robbed by a nut case. "Look, I'll give you anything you want, okay? Just
don't hurt me, please."
"I'm not going to hurt you," he replied in a calm tone. His voice
was familiar -- too familiar. I forgot about the pain, now subsiding, and
took another look at my unexpected guest. My mouth fell open.
"You're...not who I think you are...are you?"
Harry Kim looked at me with the most serious expression I'd ever seen
on him. "That depends. Who do you think I am?"
I would have liked to believe that I was hallucinating, probably from
spending too many hours at work. Unfortunately I couldn't really use that
excuse. I had only started my new job a month ago, and until now I hadn't
been logging more than the standard 40 hours a week because of a lengthy
commute. Maybe it was stress; stress has been known to affect people in
strange ways. "I must be imagining this."
"My name is Harry Kim, serving aboard the Starfleet vessel U.S.S.
Voyager. I have traveled here from another universe to stop you from what
you're about to do."
"Well, mission accomplished," I complained, hobbling my way back to
my chair. "Christ, you could have given me a heart attack. Don't you guys
know how to knock?"
Harry looked at me apologetically. "Sorry about that, but I didn't
really have the time. I had to be sure you wouldn't send that file."
I glanced back at my monitor, my text file opened and the news reader
waiting patiently for me to review the latest batch of posted messages.
"What, you mean my story? What's that got to do with anything?"
"That story could cost you your life if you send it."
I cocked my head dubiously. "You're kidding, right? Sure, I imagine
some of the lurkers in ASC might get upset over the content, but these days
it's nearly impossible to write something that isn't going to offend
somebody's code of ethics. That's what we get for living in a
politically correct society," I remarked.
"The threat on your life doesn't come from anyone in that group, Mr.
Beach. Less than one percent of the people there even care that you write
I truly hoped he was making that number up.
Harry didn't give me a chance to question him about it, though. "Mr.
Beach, I'm here to warn you. If you post that story, you will be murdered
by Tom Paris."
The rolling thunder shook the walls just the same as Harry's news
shook me. A couple of years ago I had created a fiction wherein I was
cruelly punished for supposedly mistreating Voyager's conn officer. Now
fantasy was about to evolve into reality, only the consequences were much
worse than a helping of leola root chowder. "You...you know that for a
Harry produced a PADD. I almost didn't pay attention to what he said
because I was trying to figure out where the PADD had come from. "Tom
secretly refit one of our shuttlecraft with transwarp engines and used it
to travel into your universe."
"Hunh? Weren't those destroyed when the Cataati blew up the
Harry regarded me like I was an utter moron. "No, sir. We removed
the transwarp engines from the Cochrane after we recovered Tom and Captain
Janeway and restored them from their hyper-evolved forms."
"Oh, I see." In truth I was wondering why, if they had been so
careful to remove the engines, they hadn't also dismantled them in the
process. Harry seemed somewhat anxious to resume my debriefing, so I
didn't bother to interrupt him further. "Please, continue."
"When Tom returned to our universe, we found this recorded in the
shuttle's sensor logs." He activated something on the display and handed
the device to me. It looked like someone had pointed a camera through my
I watched and listened to myself working at my computer, obviously
reviewing my story before sending it into the electronic ether. The image
of myself grinned and laughed. Sara's going to be sorry she put this idea
in my head. I laughed again, stopping abruptly as lightning flashed from
outside. I then resumed my work at the computer, starting my Internet
dial-up service. Finally the modem began to squeal, quitting after a few
seconds of connecting time. I half expected to see Harry appear in a
transporter effect, but remembered that this was a recording taken of
events that occurred before his intervention. I bit my lip and watched the
I accessed my Internet browser and entered my standard routine:
read mail, send mail, read news articles, post new messages, and
finally surf. "Hunh, no mail," I muttered. I always hope to find
new messages in my inbox, and I'm always disappointed when I don't.
I assume a lot of people are like that. The newsgroup also seems to
be a little slow for traffic tonight; it's mostly off-topic threads
that I don't care to read, but there are a couple that look
interesting. It takes maybe ten minutes or so to weed my way
through. I click the
Post New Message button and prepare it in the
usual posting format for ASC. "I really should remember to reformat
my old stuff and send them to the archive team once and for all.
With all the revisions I've done lately it wouldn't hurt to send
them some recent copies." I did a quick cut and paste into the
message region and added my disclaimer at the top. I made one more
quick browse through the text and, satisfied, hit the send button.
"Enjoy, my pretties," I cackled, my giddiness getting the best of me.
I wondered how soon before people would start sending their replies,
and how many I'd receive in general. My expectations were high.
I swiveled in my chair, ready to start for the kitchen for a
drink. I didn't make it up. A column of bluish light appeared in
the middle of my living room, resolving into the form of a man. As I
stared at the tall figure and the wild look on his face, my mind
clicked on the memory of a certain revenge story. I didn't for a
moment dwell on the absurdity of such a thing really happening; I was
worrying about what purpose Tom Paris had for visiting me and what
measures of retribution he had in line.
"Tell me I'm not too late!" he shouted.
"Too late for what?"
He practically rushed me. I nearly toppled over in my chair
trying to distance myself from him. "Shut up! Don't insult my
intelligence by feigning ignorance. You know what I'm talking
about." Spotting my computer as though he had never noticed it
before, Tom elbowed me aside. My pulse must have somewhere close to
200 beats per minute; through the blood pounding in my ears I thought
I heard him mutter "Goddamn Beach Factor" as he passed me.
While studying the browser's news interface his eyes suddenly widened
to an alarming size. "No," he whispered, horrified.
The status bar message plainly read,
He backed away from the desk slowly, his face ashen. "No. I'm
I was sweating from fear and anxiety. By some insane leap of
intuition I connected the 'Beach Factor' to what he was referring.
He dropped to his knees, seemingly drained of all strength. He
also began to sob. "Why did you have to do it? We never bothered
I was still afraid for my life, but his ranting had me
confused. "Are you all right?"
He pierced me with a hateful look. "Of course I'm not all
right. None of us are, and it's all your fault. You've condemned us
all to Hell, that's what you've done."
My mind was back-pedaling now, searching for something to calm
him down. "I didn't mean to, I swear. It was just a parody. No
one's supposed to take it seriously."
Tom stood up slowly. There was something in his eyes that I
didn't like. "Oh, so that was your idea of a joke? Well, that
changes everything, doesn't it? Hey, everyone's lives have been
fucked up for good, but that's okay because you didn't mean it!" He
started to laugh. I'd never heard a more awful sound. Tom had
snapped. "That's funny! 'I've blighted an entire universe on a whim
because I thought I'd get a few laughs!'" he said in a mocking
imitation of me. "No hard feelings, huh?'"
I was dead. I was so dead. Somehow I didn't think Tom would
limit my punishment to Neelix's food. No, as I watched Tom exhaust
himself with mad laughter I was sure physical torture was in my
cards. Then, more sudden than he had started, he stopped laughing.
I wanted to disappear.
"Hey, I just thought of an even funnier joke. See what you
think of this."
To my utter horror, I watched on the PADD as Tom lashed out with his
right hand. In another instant all my molecules were disassociated by the
beam of energy released from his phaser.
Harry took the PADD from my hand when he noticed how ill I was
becoming and sat down on a nearby stool. "So now you see why I came back."
"How...how...." I wanted to articulate more, but I was really trying
not to throw up on the new carpet. I'd lose my damage deposit.
"We didn't have much time to corroborate any theories about the root
cause of this event, although we thought the storm out there might have
played a key role in affecting our time stream. For whatever reason,
though, somehow your story ended up altering our reality."
"That's all very interesting, really," I replied, a picture of the
Wizard of Oz flashing through my mind, "but what I really meant was how did
you even know to look here? How did you guys arrive at the conclusion that
I was responsible for screwing up your universe? Like you said, my stuff
is hardly noticed."
Harry sighed. "It wasn't all that easy. Four years ago Voyager
encountered a temporal wave. If it wasn't for Seven's temporal transceiver
matrix we wouldn't have even known we had encountered one. The captain's
first instinct was that the Krenim were tampering with the time stream
again, but the temporal signatures were way off. In fact, Seven couldn't
find any differences between the original timeline and the new one. The
captain didn't want to take any chances though. She asked Seven to use
whatever resources available to trace the path of the temporal wave back to
"And it took her four years to do it? That doesn't sound like Seven
"Hey, give her a break. She didn't realize right away that the wave
didn't originate from within our own universe. Besides, it wasn't like she
could devote all her time to just that one project."
"Okay, okay. So she finally figured it out. How does that explain
Tom the Psychopath?"
"A short time after we encountered the temporal wave, Neelix did
program the replicators with a template for leola root."
I did a little bit of math with the numbers I had available. My
story was set in the fourth season, shortly after Jeri Ryan's addition to
the cast as the delectable Seven of Nine. In a convoluted sense, this
Harry Kim existed about three years into my future, and a full year past
the end of the show's final episode.
"Six months ago, Voyager's computer systems were infected by an
electronic virus. We were able to eradicate it before it affected critical
operations, but it wiped out most of the files pertaining to the
replicators and holodecks. The only thing the replicator could make was
If the seriousness of this situation hadn't been so real I would have
been on the floor. God, that would make a good parody. "My God, no wonder
Tom was accusing me of being an antichrist. I had no idea."
"You couldn't have known that it would happen. I realize that it was
just an accident."
The way he said that, I got the distinct impression that Harry didn't
truly believe in what he was saying. "You didn't come back here just to
save my life, did you? There's something else you're not telling me."
He looked at me a little surprised, then slumped back into a grim
mode. "You couldn't have known the kind of hell you put us through. At
first it wasn't too bad; there was plenty of food in stores to keep
everyone happy. As time wore on and the stocks depleted, Neelix had to
stretch resources. Leola root found its way into meals at an increasing
rate. Leola root salad, leola root stew, boiled leola root, mashed leola
root, leola root soup, leola root casserole, leola root chowder, fried
leola root -- the list got longer with every passing day. When he started
brewing leola root tea to replace coffee the captain had a nervous
"When Seven finally isolated your story as the temporal wave's event
horizon, Tom stole the modified shuttle and crossed into your universe.
Chakotay had a fairly good idea where and when he was heading, but we
didn't have the means of following him. When Tom returned, however, we
started experiencing the effects of extreme spatial disruptions. Seven
determined that whatever Tom had done in your time was causing our universe
to be destroyed."
"Okay, you've lost me again. My death causes the destruction of your
universe? Isn't that playing up my importance just a little bit?"
Harry rolled his eyes at me. "I don't think he really intended to
kill you, Mr. Beach. He just miscalculated the correct time to stop you
from posting your story. Unfortunately, his failure to stop you did indeed
drive him over the edge. But he didn't stop at just killing you."
Harry showed me the PADD again, resuming the display where it had
left off. I watched as Tom then sat down at my computer and began typing
furiously on the keyboard. "Tom created and transmitted a virus from your
computer, similar to the one that attacked Voyager. He designed it to
specifically target any document with content related to your story."
My blood ran cold at the implications. "Oh, shit ...I was still on
line. He didn't...."
"I'm afraid so, Mr. Beach. With your communication port open, the
virus not only erased all the files on your machine pertaining to fan
fiction, it also located and embedded itself into your internet-based files
and replicated itself to infect anything linked to your site."
I buried my face in my hands. "The archives...all those home
"It also infected other people's computers whenever they tried
accessing an infected site. According to the sensor logs, every file was
irrevocably corrupted within a week. In the second week the media industry
was almost completely wiped out as well. Tom's mistake was not defining
the virus' pattern with a non-recursive relative clause."
So much for the Wizard of Oz; we had just stepped into the Twilight
Zone. A case of the power of the pen being too powerful for its own good.
"Well, this should be an easy problem to correct. I simply will not post
my story. Here," I said, turning to face the monitor. With a couple of
mouse clicks my Internet browser, my news reader and my dial-up service
were all shut down. "See? I'm not logging in again tonight."
Harry stood up and looked at me sadly. "If it were only that simple,
I returned an anxious stare, dreading what I knew I'd have to do.
"What do you mean? Why haven't you disappeared yet?"
"I'm still here because the temptation still exists. If the
timelines are to be restored, you have to delete that file."
"But...." I bit my lip. Why was I fighting? By deleting the file I
was assuring that my mortality would be prolonged for far longer than
another few minutes, and everyone on board the Voyager would once again
be a happy crew. Maybe it was the sting of having to continue an
inglorious existence in ASC. "Well, I guess it beats being dead." Still,
it was with a heavy heart that I closed the text file and deleted it from
my hard drive. "There, happy now?"
I looked up in time to see Harry Kim fading from existence. "What
do you think?" he asked in a hollow voice, a broad smile decorating his
ghostly face. Then he was gone.
I stayed there for a long time, just sitting in my desk chair. This
was an event I surely would not forget, unlike the fictional version of
myself I had written in that revenge story of two years ago.
Let someone else write about Neelix and the replicator. Me? Let's
just say I'm working on an idea that involves Tom and a nice, long,
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