In Space, No One Can Hear You Gag

Darrel W. Beach

May, 1999
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
	be right.
	     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 writing.
     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 stories."
     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. " know that for a fact?"
     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 Cochrane?"
     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 patio window.
     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 scene unfold.

     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,
Message posted.
     He backed away from the desk slowly, his face ashen. "No. I'm too late."
     I was sweating from fear and anxiety. By some insane leap of intuition I connected the 'Beach Factor' to what he was referring. "My story?"
     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 you."
     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."
     "" 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 its origin."
     "And it took her four years to do it? That doesn't sound like Seven to me."
     "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 leola root."
     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 breakdown.
     "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 pages...gone...."
     "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, Mr. Beach."
     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, relaxing vacation.

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