Log Rhythms - Season Three
*****p>"Bridge to Doctor Phlox."
T'Pol's hail surprised him and he answered it with a note of curiosity in his voice. "Go ahead."
"We're about to enter an area containing a high density of spatial anomalies."
His curiosity turned to concern and he frowned. "I wouldn't recommend it."
Archer replied through the open comm. "We're responding to a distress call, Doctor. You may want to prepare for company."
"Understood. Phlox out." He closed the comm and opened another. "Phlox to Ensign Cormack." He waited in worried impatience for her reply. "Ensign Cormack, respond."
"Please report to Sickbay immediately."
"Yes, sir," she barked in conditioned response.
Phlox closed that comm and opened yet another. As he spoke, he gathered the medications he needed: metorapan, zingibutal, and sonambutril. "Ensign Cutler and crewman Northfield, please report to Sickbay." He didn't wait for a reply.
Cormack burst into Sickbay with her phase-pistol in hand and set to stun. Frowning, she visually scanned the room, expecting who-knew-what security threat, but only spotted: "Doctor Phlox?"
"Excellent. You won't need that." He pointed to the sidearm, then directed her to a biobed. "Lie down here."
She holstered the gun, frown deepening. Her perpetual headache was fiercer than usual and Phlox's confusing and bizarre behavior only made it worse. "What's going on?" She sat on the bed while he picked up a medical tricorder. "Is something wrong?" She rubbed one temple absently. She'd grown so accustomed to the constant, dull ache that she wasn't even aware of the habitual motion to alleviate it. The pain spiked suddenly, and she winced against the bright lights of Sickbay, closing her eyes and hiding them behind her hand.
"We're headed into a tight cluster of anomalies. I can't predict exactly what it will do to you, but already your symptoms are increasing. Lie down," Phlox ordered as the Sickbay doors slid open and Cohn entered for his duty shift.
In no shape to argue, Cormack laid back on the biobed. The pain beat against her skull like a rabid Klingon targ in a cage. She squeezed her eyes shut tighter. "Fuck," she moaned.
She'd barely settled when Phlox pressed a hypo against her neck. He leaned over her, speaking clearly before the drugs could reach full effect. "Your pain receptors are approaching critical levels. I've administered analgesics and anti-nausea medication. I'm sorry, Ensign, but I'm also sedating you."
"Doctor." Cohn stepped closer, ready to assist.
Phlox handed over the tricorder. "Keep an eye on her symptoms and reactions to the medications. She has a high tolerance for both pain and pain killers." Cormack whimpered and tears leaked from the corners of her tightly closed eyes. Phlox reset the hypo and pressed it against her neck again. "I'm administering a second dose of metorapan."
Cormack slipped into unconsciousness thanks to the sonambutril, but the lines of strain between her eyes remained. Cohn scanned her with the tricorder. "She's succumbed to the sedative but I'm still showing a pain reaction in her brain. Readings of her parahippocampal gyrus, thalamus, and dorsal posterior insula are extreme."
Phlox frowned fiercely. He could give her one more dose of painkiller if he had to. Beyond that, any more would be useless; he would have to change to a different one. Before he could take a breath to speak, Cutler and Northfield arrived.
Spotting her friend immediately, Liz bee-lined to Stephanie's side. "What happened?"
"Spatial anomalies," answered Phlox. He plucked the phase-pistol from Cormack's side and handed it to Cutler. "Secure this, please."
She took it and locked it into a drawer.
"Ari, help me get Ensign Cormack into the medical scanner. I want to learn as much as possible before company arrives. Liz, Emily? We're responding to a distress signal. There may be casualties."
Northfield nodded and Cutler replied, "Understood." The two set to work preparing for the impending arrivals as Cohn rolled the biobed into the big medical scanner.
Archer's voice came through the comm. "Archer to Sickbay."
Certain his team would continue to carry out his instructions quickly and efficiently, Phlox left them to it to answer the hail. He strode to the nearest panel and opened the link. "Phlox here, Captain."
"We've docked with the damaged vessel. A security team will be escorting our guests to you for examination."
"How many people am I expecting?"
"Twenty-three. They haven't mentioned any significant injuries."
"Understood." He closed the comm and returned to Cohn at the scanner. "Get all the data you can. When she comes out, I want you to settle her somewhere dark and quiet. It's about to get busy in here."
Phlox appeared to have things well in control when Archer stepped into Sickbay to check up on the new arrivals. Before he could inquire after them, his eye caught sight of a crewmember isolated on a bed in a far corner. It was too dark in the corner for him to see who it was. He approached Phlox, nodding in that direction. "Doctor?"
"Ensign Cormack," Phlox responded quietly. "This cluster of anomalies is having a deleterious effect on her. I hope we won't be here much longer?" It was as much a suggestion as a question.
"As soon as we figure out what direction our guests were going when they got stuck, we'll move out."
"Thank you." That settled, Phlox gave him a quick rundown on the condition of the aliens, including their rejection of invasive medical scans due to religious reasons.
"Where's the Captain?" Archer asked once Phlox finished his brief report.
"He prefers the term Pri'Nam, a religious designation."
Archer nodded in understanding although it struck him as odd. He shoved aside human preconceptions and approached the man in question. "I'm Captain Archer," he said by way of introduction. "Welcome aboard."
The fellow removed what Archer guessed was an ice pack from his shoulder and held out a hand in greeting. Archer found the familiar gesture reassuring, but remained wary even as they shook hands. "My name is D'Jamat. I can't express how grateful we are. You saved our lives." He smiled.
"I understand you've been in this region for quite some time." It didn't do to interrogate a guest who'd just arrived aboard, but a friendly inquiry could achieve much the same result, and without raising suspicions. Archer had learned the hard way not to trust new species too readily. Particularly not here in the Expanse.
"Yes, we're on a pilgrimage to the twelfth sphere. It's taken us a year to make the journey."
"Your ship's in pretty rough shape. My engineer's taking a look at it."
D'Jamat gave an understanding nod. "Well, it's an old vessel, but sturdy. Unfortunately we are better at prayer than we are at space travel."
The man's placid demeanor eased Archer's wariness somewhat. He remained cautious as he made an offer that might benefit them both. "Maybe there's some information about the spheres we can share. If you're feeling up to it, I'd like you to have dinner with me and my Science Officer tonight."
"I'd be honored to accept your hospitality, Captain." D'Jamat gave another beatific smile.
"I'll see if I can get you an update from my engineer before then. Now, if you'll excuse me." Archer made his exit.
Seeing that the captain had finished his interview, Cohn returned to D'Jamat's side. "Your shoulder will feel better if you leave the ice pack on it a bit longer," he suggested, gesturing to the pack in the alien leader's hands.
"Of course." D'Jamat returned it to his shoulder where Cohn had originally settled it. "I wonder..."
"That woman on the far bed. Is she ill?"
"Not in a contagious way, if that's your concern."
"May I ask what ails her?"
Cohn glanced to the darkened corner of Sickbay where Cormack slept, sedated, until they were out of the dense anomaly field. "This region of space affects her badly." It was an explanation without really answering and betraying any medical confidences.
D'Jamat frowned, the expression filled with compassion. "I'm sorry to hear that. If I may, I would like to add her to our prayers."
Now that the question was raised, Cohn realized he had no idea what Cormack's own religious beliefs were or weren't. Still, someone putting positive energy of whatever nature into the universe on her behalf wasn't a bad thing. It certainly couldn't do any harm. He smiled and gave a small nod. "That's generous of you. I don't think she'd mind."
"What's her name?"
"Stephanie. I'll be back for that ice pack in a few minutes."
Mae spotted her bunkmate amidst the crowd in the mess hall. Several of the alien visitors were also scattered in groups of two or three at tables throughout the room. She smiled pleasantly as she passed a trio of them on her way to join Bonnie.
"Hey," she greeted her as she set down her tray and took a seat. "I thought Stephanie was joining us for dinner."
Bonnie shook her head. "She was, but she's in Sickbay."
"This fucking Expanse is what happened."
"The anomalies are getting to her again?"
"Yeah, and we flew right into a big pack of them to rescue these 'pilgrims'."
"Harsh," admonished Mae, tipping her head slightly towards the nearby table of three of those very pilgrims.
"I don't resent the rescue. I'm glad we could help," amended Bonnie. She dropped her volume as she added, "I just wish they hadn't been so careless as to get stuck where they did. This area is fucking with my girlfriend big time, and I don't like it." She glowered into her water glass and took a good swallow. She'd have had a beer instead, but she was going on Gamma-shift helm duty in a few hours. She set down the glass and stabbed a piece of roasted potato more violently than the little spud deserved.
"Have you seen her?" Mae delved into her own plate of food with less vehemence.
"I couldn't. Sickbay was too busy when I tried. I only know she's there because Liz stole a moment to let me know what was up. She said Phlox had to sedate her. That she probably would've have gone into shock from the pain otherwise."
Mae let out a low whistle. "Damn."
"Yeah. I'm going to try again after dinner."
At a nearby table, the trio of aliens exchanged significant looks. Yarrick had caught the name of the woman from Sickbay whom D'Jamat had told them to include in their prayers to the Makers. Now, he wondered if they should. From what he and his companions had been able to gather from their hosts, the humans called the Chosen Realm the Expanse, and anomalies was their word for the Makers' Breath. Putting it all together, it was clear that the Makers had not merely turned away from the woman for her lack of faith, but singled her out for punishment for some reason. It wasn't unprecedented; sacred texts spoke of such things, but it was extremely rare. Whatever she had done to earn such castigation must have been severe, possibly even unforgivable. He would bring this concerning discovery to D'Jamat as soon as the Pri'Nam finished his meal with Captain Archer.
"You can't lock up my whole team!" protested Tucker. "I can't take care of the engines by myself."
"You'll have our assistance," said one of the armed aliens.
"Excuse me if I don't consider you to be particularly reliable."
Another alien, the leader D'Jamat, put up a hand between his acolyte and the furious engineer. "He's right, Jareb. How many people do you require, Commander Tucker? At a minimum, you understand."
Tucker glared, but he'd already been ordered by Captain Archer to go along with the Triannons for the time being. "Minimum, five plus myself," he said through gritted teeth.
"Very well. Select your five, and you may have them. The rest will be confined to quarters."
Tucker looked around to see who was there. He wanted to pick five of his burliest people, but he knew D'Jamat would see through that gambit. Still, one or two... "Rostov, Walsh." He pointed to the two big men and continued his visual survey of the room. Would they be safer here or in their quarters? There was no way to know. "Lawless, Lyle, and...Taylor." There. Three men, two women. Each of whom had more than just engineering skills he could put to use should the opportunity arise. He scowled at D'Jamat. "All right with you?"
The Pri'Nam nodded in that particularly sanctimonious way he had. He directed his minions to remove the rest of the Starfleet personnel from Engineering, leaving three armed guards behind to watch over those who remained. He looked regretfully at Tucker. "I take no pleasure in this, Commander. I'm simply doing what the Makers require of me to bring about peace to my world. When I have achieved that, you, you shipmates, and your ship will be free to go." He turned to follow the last of the prisoners from the room.
Trip muttered softly after him, "Whatever you have to tell yourself so you can sleep at night."
Malcolm could do nothing, so he paced. Then he did push-ups. Then sit-ups. Then he tried sitting down for a bit--until he couldn't tolerate the inaction so he paced some more. Then he shadow-boxed, pretending his shadow was one of the alien hijackers. He found small satisfaction in that, but small was better than none.
He glanced at the time: barely 1030 hours. He'd been stuck there for roughly 45 minutes. How long would it take to get to Triannon? Several hours at least. Hours in which he could plan a variety of scenarios for retaking the ship, with no way to implement any of them and orders from the captain not to try until they could find a defense against the biological explosives in each of the pilgrim's bodies.
And all the while, the thought was in head that Trip was still out there, captive in the engine room and under hostile guard. No amount of exercise could drive that worry from his mind.
Cormack woke in confusion. It was dark, which given her headache was good, but it was also uninformative. It took her several seconds to focus her eyes and mind enough to determine that she was in her own bed in her cabin. The question then became how the hell she'd gotten there. The last thing she could remember was being ordered to Sickbay and then promptly sedated. Why? Phlox had told her and she wracked her memory. Cluster of spatial anomalies? That sounded familiar. Considering she felt like shit, odds were good she was anomaly-migraine hung over.
Remnants of dreams drifted in and out of her mind and she worked to hold onto them despite the nonsensical nature of the images. She never knew what might be helpful or informative, and chances were good the dreams were premonitory. A fight between Malcolm and Hayes? Likely. Captain Archer with long hair? Weird but possible. Xindi prisoners? That'd be nice. But Andorians? Here? No. She shook her head and regretted it immediately. She moaned and buried her face in her pillow.
"Hey. You're awake." Maggie's voice was low and soft from across the small cabin.
"Barely." Stephanie raised her head enough to squint across the room, lit only by the starlight through the port and a shaded reading light over Maggie's bunk. "What time is it?"
"About 2100 hours."
"Okay and, uh, what day is it?"
That meant she'd spent half of Thursday and all of today unconscious. Stephanie closed her eyes and thought hard. "When did that happen? Fuck it. I gotta get up. I have got to pee." She managed to stumble to the lav, where fortunately only the dim, indirect light around the mirror was lit, use the facilities, and then fall back onto her bunk without incident. Once more sprawled on her back under the blanket, she asked, "How'd I end up here, in hospital pajamas?"
"I don't know. You were already here when I was brought in."
"Okay." She rolled onto her side. Even in her depleted state she could tell Bowman wasn't saying something important. "What am I missing--besides roughly 36 hours?"
Maggie hesitated but there was no point in keeping it a secret. "We're in lockdown. Hostile aliens have control of Enterprise."
"What?" Stephanie tried to sit up, but it was too much. She'd used up what little energy she had just getting to the toilet and back. She collapsed into her pillow. "Fuck."
"Can I get you anything?"
"I don't suppose you have a pot of coffee hiding here somewhere."
Maggie let out a tiny chuckle. If Stephanie was asking for coffee, she couldn't be too badly off. "No, sorry."
"Water, then, please. It's probably better for me right now anyway."
While Maggie collected a glass and water from the lav, Stephanie arduously worked her way upright once more. She sat with her back against the exterior bulkhead and her knees pulled up in front of her. "Thanks." She took the glass her bunkmate offered and drank it down.
She sipped at the second cup, her mind finally feeling like it might start to function again. "Okay. Tell me what happened."
Bowman sat down on her bunk and filled Stephanie in as quickly as she could about the Triannon pilgrims Enterprise had rescued when their ship had become disabled in a field of spatial anomalies.
"Anomalies, I remember. Sort of." Stephanie rubbed absently at her head with her free hand. "We must be out of that cluster, though. Right?"
"Yeah. Now we're headed to their homeworld."
"You're remarkably well informed considering we're locked in." She hadn't checked the door for herself, but there was no reason to doubt Maggie's claim.
"Word got around before they locked us all up that that was their plan. We went to warp-- I don't know. A few hours ago? I've lost track a little."
"You're doing better than me. I've lost track a lot." Stephanie winced as a stab of pain cut through the right side of her head.
Maggie hesitated but asked, "Do you need more meds?"
"Gods, no. I've had enough to last a week."
"Not if your head hurts again already."
"My head always hurts these days. Mostly, I'm used to it. It was just a quick jab that time. It's back to the usual dull throb again now. Tell me more about these Triannons."
"They're religious zealots. The worst kind."
"The word 'zealot' implies the worst kind."
"Well, from what Liz told me when she was here, you're lucky they didn't execute you while you slept."
"The fuck? What'd I do to piss them off? I was unconscious."
Maggie shrugged. "I'm not real sure. I mean, I wasn't there. I don't know why you were sedated in the first place."
"I'm surprised that word hasn't gotten around yet. At least to security personnel."
"And MACOs. I mean, I'm a total safety hazard these days." It sucked to admit it out loud. She'd been thinking it for weeks.
Maggie pulled up her feet and sat cross-legged on her bunk. "If it's medical, I'm not surprised it's a secret. But a safety hazard? What's going on? Is it to do with the migraines you keep having?"
"Yeah." Stephanie almost wished her secret were out to the whole crew. At least then she wouldn't have to wonder who knew what and how much. That would be bad, though. She didn't want people tiptoeing around her like she was a bomb about to go off, or maybe worse, wondering why, if she knew what was coming, she couldn't do anything to change it. As if I haven't tried and tried... She heaved a weary sigh. "They relate to the spatial anomalies. Specifically, our proximity to them." It was enough for now.
"So, when Phlox called you to Sickbay yesterday--"
"I was ambushed by the good doc with a hypospray cocktail for my own protection." At Maggie's appalled look, she amended her words. "Not really. He told me what he was doing. I just wasn't expecting it when I went there." They'd been headed into that cluster at a good clip or she was sure he never would have acted so quickly and with so little warning. We have got to find a better way of dealing, though. Things cannot go on like this.
"Oh." Maggie was silent a moment before dropping her next bombshell. "We blew up their ship before jumping to warp."
"What?!" Stephanie winced again at the vehemence of her own exclamation. Maybe I should have more pain meds after all.
"I saw the debris through that window." She nodded to the port over the foot of Stephanie's bed.
"It must have been their idea. The captain wouldn't have done that by choice. Okay. So how do we get the ship back?"
"What?" Even in the dim light, Maggie's confusion was easily read on her face.
"What's the word from Lieutenant Reed? Or Captain Archer? How are we taking back our ship?"
"Right now, we're not."
"Why not? What's their tactical advantage? They must have one if we're sitting here, complying with their demands, stuck in our quarters like veal."
"Pre-Eugenics-War thing. If you don't know, you don't want to know. Tactical advantage?" she repeated.
"Organic explosives inside their bodies. I don't know how they trigger it. Basically, each one of them is a living bomb. One of them has already proved it. That's why the captain is going along. For now."
"Shit," breathed Stephanie, aghast. "How much damage did they do?"
"A hull breach on C-Deck. Three injured and...one crewman dead."
Stephanie felt nauseated and for once it was nothing to do with a migraine. She swallowed hard. "Who was it?"
Maggie shook her head, her brown eyes sad. "I'm sorry. I don't know her name. I never met her. I didn't think to ask Liz who she was." She looked sick with remorse. "I should've asked."
"It's okay," Stephanie reassured her softly. "You had other problems to worry about. Me, for example."
"You're not a problem. You're a friend."
"Thanks." Another stab of pain struck and she closed her eyes. It wasn't as bad as the last one, but that was small consolation. She let her head fall back against the bulkhead and scrubbed both hands over her eyes and down her face.
"Are you sure you're okay? You look a little green." Maggie frowned in concern.
"In this light, how can you tell?" she joked, but it fell flat. "Meds would be good, please and thank you."
Maggie scrambled for the first-aid kit in the bathroom and returned with the hypo of painkillers. "You want me to do it?"
"I'll do it." She reached out and took the offered hypospray. Checking the dosage was double the standard, she pressed it to her neck and released the drug into her system. She let the hand with the hypo drop to the mattress and waited the few moments for the meds to do their work. When she felt she could tolerate what little light there was in the cabin without flinching, she opened her eyes again. "I'm okay now." It was even a little bit true. She was trapped in her cabin while hostiles had the run of the ship, and she wasn't sure she could help even if her C.O. miraculously came up with a plan to retake it from them. She felt like hell, frozen, defrosted, and reheated over a motel hotplate. But she was alive, apparently despite alien zealotry, and she was conscious. She was only half glad about the latter, but the former was worth it.
She put her newly clearing mind to the question of their hijackers. She couldn't imagine Malcolm just sitting around in his quarters, stewing and thumb-twiddling. Or the captain, for that matter. "The key is that explosive," she stated the obvious. "How do we neutralize it?"
"We don't do anything until we're ordered to. Besides, we don't have the knowledge or resources. Unless you're hiding a xenobiology degree and a neutron microscope somewhere."
"So, I suppose it's up to Phlox."
"I guess so. Yeah."
D'Jamat retook his seat, Archer's seat, at Archer's desk. "You had a choice to make."
Someone had to pay for Enterprise's so-called transgressions against the Makers. D'Jamat demanded a sacrifice; Archer was prepared. "I've made it."
"And which crewmember have you selected?"
"I've chosen myself. You wanted to kill someone. Kill me."
D'Jamat looked genuinely distressed beneath his usual serene demeanor. "I urge you to reconsider. Why, there was a woman in your sickbay when we arrived. She is being punished by the Makers for some terrible, unforgivable blasphemy. Considering the extremity of your own offenses, I can only imagine what she must have done. Her death would both relieve her suffering and meet your sacrificial needs."
Archer stood firm. He had a plan in mind. He wouldn't back down. "I won't make someone else pay for something that happened under my command. Not even someone you consider to be beyond redemption."
"But what about your mission? When I'm through with your ship, your crew will need their captain."
"T'Pol's a fine commander."
D'Jamat rose and came out from behind the desk, that smug look of serenity back on his face. Archer wanted to slap it off him, but he was intent on the bigger picture, a goal that transcended petty personal grievances and short-term satisfaction.
"We are more alike than you think, Captain. I would make the same choice. I respect your decision."
Time to play his ace in the hole. "Then maybe you'll grant a request."
"What is it?"
"My people have certain customs regarding death. There's a device onboard. We use it to dispose of hazardous materials. But on rare occasions, when the situation arises, we've also used it for executions. It's considered humane." Archer waited, mental fingers crossed, hoping D'Jamat would take the bait.
D'Jamat frowned in heavy thought. He sat once more, his expression a mix of puzzlement and curiosity. "Where is this device?"
Inside, Archer smiled.
The announcement of Archer's death came as a shock to every crewmember but T'Pol, who announced it. She pondered the appropriate wording in the little time she had after using the transporter to supposedly execute him. In the end, she concluded that a simple statement of "fact" must suffice, and so she made it.
In reality, she had transported him to an engineering support station adjacent to the port nacelle. The shielding there and its proximity to major plasma conduits would serve to hide him from all but the deepest internal scans. The additional benefit of access to Engineering's systems made it the perfect hiding place from which to carry out the next phase of the plan.
Her task complete, and under the watchful eye of one of D'Jamat's followers, she retrieved Porthos from the captain's cabin and delivered him to Doctor Phlox in Sickbay. "The captain asked that you look after him," she said.
Phlox nodded tightly, trying to read anything in her manner that would contradict the words he'd heard her speak minutes before over the shipwide comm. He thought there was something: a subtle lift of her eyebrows, an intensity in her gaze, a tilt to her head. He might have imagined it, but decided to retain some hope that he hadn't.
She departed with her escort, leaving him alone with his own guard. It wasn't a quarter of an hour later that the alert winked on his screen. He tapped the icon to open the window, read what it said, and smiled.
DON'T FEED HIM CHEESE.
The captain was alive and communicating.
CAN YOU TALK?
Phlox glanced over his shoulder. His guard was across the room, too far to see what was on the screen. GO AHEAD.
CAN YOU NEUTRALIZE THE ORGAINC EXPLOSIVES?
Could he? With enough data and time, almost certainly. That answer wouldn't help. He considered one that would, and typed: NEED TRIANNON INTERNAL SCANS.
The reflection of movement in his screen alerted him to the guard's approach. He closed the conversation with Archer and turned. "Can I help you?"
The guard glanced past him with suspicion and, satisfied nothing was amiss, returned to his post by the door without replying.
It was up to the captain now. All Phlox could do was wait and hope he could somehow collect the data. And quickly.
The ship shook as it fell out of warp. Stephanie and Maggie eyed one another across the cabin.
Maggie hurried to look out the port. "I don't see a planet."
"I don't think we're there yet. That didn't feel like an intended deceleration."
"I see a ship. No, two. There might be more but I don't have a wide enough view to say for sure."
Stephanie joined her at the window. "Do you recognize them?"
"They look like the one the pilgrims were on."
"Super. Their friends have arrived."
The ship rocked as Enterprise exchanged weapons fire with the new arrivals.
"Or maybe not," said Maggie hopefully.
Malcolm sat up straighter on the small loveseat in his and Trip's cabin*. Someone was firing on them and Enterprise had fired back. He chafed at being stuck there, unable to act and ignorant of what was going on while the ship was under attack. With his technical and security knowledge, he could have cracked the door lock, but chances were it would've tripped internal sensors and alerted the aliens. Besides, the captain had ordered everyone to stand down, comply with demands, take no action against the hijackers until otherwise ordered. Now the captain was no longer alive to give that order.
He slumped again, angry and frustrated. He hadn't seen Trip since being locked in and had no way to know if he was all right or if he, too, had been killed. He forced himself away from that line of thought.
The ship shook again as it took another weapons hit. Suddenly, his door whooshed open and he looked up, startled, to see: "Captain." He rose and crossed the room quickly, catching the MACO rifle Archer tossed to him.
"We have to get to the Armory. We're retaking the ship."
Malcolm couldn't help the determined smile that turned up the corner of his mouth. "Best news I've heard all day."
"We need the MACOs."
That was less welcome, but understandable. His smile slipped as he nodded and followed the hurrying Archer. Hayes's cabin was on the next corridor. He looked as surprised as Reed had felt at the appearance of the captain at his door.
"Gather as many of your people as you can and get them armed," Archer ordered. "Reed and I are taking back the Armory. Send a team to Engineering and then track down and neutralize every one of the aliens who puts up a fight."
Maggie and Stephanie were both in uniform when Sergeant Kemper released the door to their cabin.
"Bowman, you're with me." He handed her a rifle that she automatically checked was primed and set to stun. The two turned to leave and Stephanie was one step behind them. Kemper hesitated. "I don't have orders for you, Ensign."
"Because I don't take them from you, Sergeant," she replied. "Do what you have to. I have my own plan."
After a split second of internal debate, he nodded.
Bowman took a moment to grasp her bunkmate by the hand. "Be careful." Her eyes said it all. She knew Stephanie was far short of 100%.
Stephanie smiled tightly, acknowledging the multiple levels of concern with a single nod. "Count on it."
The MACOs turned one way and Cormack turned the other. She was one deck from the armory and never before had she been so glad of her short commute to work. She bypassed the turbolift in favor of a jefferies tube. It was farther to go without cover to reach it, but once there, it was unlikely she'd meet any of the intruders before she got where she was going. She made quick work of covering the distance over and down, poking her head below the ceiling level of F-Deck before climbing swiftly down the access ladder. She crouched low, checking around each corner between her and her destination. She could hear the noise of hand weapons firing coming from the armory as she approached the door. Silence fell and she counted to five before activating the door and slipping through it, still hugging the bulkhead and scuttling across the deckplating.
"Good to see you, Ensign," called Reed from below. She stood up straight to see him and Archer trussing up one of the aliens, binding his wrists to a stair railing across the room from her. "Grab a phase-pistol and keep an eye on our guest."
"Yes, sir." She descended the nearer stairs and claimed a phase-pistol from the closest weapons locker, loaded it with a live cartridge. There couldn't be that many hostiles aboard if there were still weapons ready to hand. That was a pleasant realization, followed by the upsetting thought that she'd been too out of it to ask Bowman if she knew the number of the enemy.
Another volley of weapons fire rocked the ship. "Malcolm, let's go," ordered Archer. Reed nodded and the two departed at speed.
Cormack eyeballed the alien, taking in his facial tattoo, nasal ridges, long hair, jewelry, clothing. He was the first Triannon she'd seen. As she stood there watching him, he slowly came to from the blast that had taken him down. She wondered idly if it had been Reed or Archer who'd stunned him. As his eyes focused on her and he realized he was captive, he glowered at her.
He looked...normal, alien features aside. Yet this was a man who would murder an unconscious stranger, or stand by while someone else did. She found herself oddly fascinated and at the same time sickened. She couldn't help asking, "Why?"
He met her curious gaze with hostility, her question with sullen silence.
She knelt next to him, phase-pistol pointed away but always at the ready. "I heard you people wanted me dead."
He glared at her in blank animosity. "All non-believers must pay the price for their heresy."
"All non-believers. That's a slippery slope. But that's not what I mean. You wanted me dead, particularly. Or your boss did. Why me? I couldn't have said or done anything to piss you off that badly that you'd want me dead. Hell, I wasn't even awake when you came on board."
His eyes widened in realization and she saw fear and loathing in them. He fought against his bonds to no avail.
Her heart rate increased but she kept her voice calm. "That's interesting. You do know who I am."
"I know what you are."
That took her aback. "Huh?"
"The Makers have forsaken you. You're beyond salvation." He struggled harder and Cormack took a step back, standing over him, phase-pistol trained on her target. "You should be sacrificed! You're lost, cursed!" He continued to denounce her, hurling epithets until he practically foamed at the mouth, flailing desperately, almost panicked, against his bonds. Whether his goal was escape or attack was up for debate and Cormack wasn't going to wait to see which it was should he actually break free in his religious frenzy.
She fired a single stun shot and he slumped back against the stairs, out cold. She stood there almost dizzy from her racing heart, shaking from shocked reaction. "What. The actual. Fuck?"
"Did you see their planet?"
"I didn't go with the captain and T'Pol when they returned the Triannons to their world."
"I know." Trip sat on the loveseat, pulled his feet up beside him. He was fresh from a shower and dressed for bed for the first time in nearly three days. He was exhausted, but he wanted to talk. "I meant did you see it?"
Malcolm understood. He answered, subdued. "No. I didn't see the point, frankly."
"I did. I went to the forward observation lounge and just...stared at it for nearly twenty minutes."
Malcolm sat on the other end of the little sofa, facing him. He, too, was finally clean, fed, and looking forward to spending the night in bed with his partner. "Oh?" He reached out a hand, laid it gently over Trip's calf, feeling the need to be in physical contact with him, reassure himself of Trip's solid presence in the world. Malcolm's enforced solitude during the hijacking, not knowing if his lover was alive or dead, not knowing if either of them would survive the Triannons' insane holy war, had been terrible.
"It was awful. Even from orbit you could tell it was devastated."
Trip fell silent, fingers lacing and unlacing in a strange, tense, fidgety way. Malcolm had the impression there was more Trip wanted to say and so he waited, curious but patient.
"It made me think of Earth. What happened in the Eugenics Wars and what could have happened if they'd gone on any longer. And..." Trip stared down at his hands as if just then noticing they were fumbling about. He let them fall to his lap, stilled with his fingers tightly laced together. "I thought about what we saw in Florida after the Xindi attack."
"That's not surprising."
"Yeah. Well." Trip looked at Malcolm, first the hand that rested on his leg then into Malcolm's face. "I just wanted to warn you."
Malcolm's brows drew together in concern and confusion. "Warn me?"
"I might have one of those nightmares tonight." It had been weeks since Trip had experienced one. Whether due to time or other factors was either man's guess.
"I'm not going to sleep elsewhere to avoid it."
Trip smiled cautiously. "I figured it was only fair to let you know. Just in case."
"Consider me duly warned and willing to face the consequences." He shifted closer and Trip dropped his feet to the floor to make room for him. "I missed you. I couldn't sleep without you here. I was worried about you."
"I was glad to know you were locked in here while I was stuck in Engineering." At Malcolm's surprised looked he went on. "I missed you, too, but at least I didn't have to worry so much."
They leaned into one another and shared a warm kiss of reunion. Pulling away, Trip was overtaken by a huge yawn.
"Time for sleep?" asked Malcolm with a smile.
"It has been a couple of long days," Trip admitted. "I'm wiped out."
"Sleep, then. And if a nightmare wakes us up, at least we'll be together."
Stephanie rarely went to Sickbay willingly and more rarely of her own volition. But she wouldn't be able to sleep until she'd talked to Phlox and this was where the computer search said she would find him. At least she knew he was alone. She entered and glanced around. It was quiet at that late hour and with no patients for him to tend. She spotted him by one of his cages. "Hey, Doc. Got a minute?"
He glanced up at her, recapping a cylindrical container of something and closing the hatch on top of the cage. "Hello, Ensign. What can I do for you?"
She approached him, pointing to the cage. "Feeding time at the zoo?"
"My pyrithian bat. I promised her extra snow beetles this evening."
"Cool." She peered through the wires and watched the gray-blue bat pick a white-carapaced beetle from a branch and crunch it happily.
When she didn't go on, he asked, "Is there something you need?"
"Yeah." She scratched around the passive biosensor at the back of her neck.
"Is the sensor bothering you? I can move it, if that's the case. I'd rather not remove it completely, for your own sake."
"Huh? Oh." She let her hand fall. "No. It's fine. I don't even notice it anymore, except when I'm washing my hair."
"Then what is it I can do for you?" The sensor itself hadn't alerted him of anything untoward, so her reason for seeking him out was a mystery to him. Albeit a mystery to which he suspected he could guess some of the answer.
"This whole sedating me thing. I don't like it."
"There has to be another option. I can't come running to Sickbay every time the density of spatial anomalies increases. It's just not practical."
"I agree. However, until we can find a way to protect you from their effects, I'm afraid it's necessary."
An edge to his tone set off her internal warning sensors. "How necessary? I mean, excruciating pain aside, what else makes it necessary?"
He took a breath and let it out, his expression one of almost paternal concern. He'd been planning to contact her in the morning, once everyone had had time to get a good night's sleep after the past few days of extreme duress. Now that she'd come to him, he felt it best to address the issue immediately. "Please, have a seat, Ensign. I was going to speak to you tomorrow anyway."
She took the chair he offered, glad not to be sitting or lying on a biobed for a change. "You're clearly about to hit me with bad news. Why don't we drop the formalities? I mean, we know each other well enough by now for you to call me by my first name, right?"
"All of it. Stephanie, I'm afraid the anomalies are causing more than pain and an increase in your prescient visions."
"More as in what, exactly?" She rubbed at her temple, feeling the dull ache increase in intensity.
He reached for a tricorder, ran a scan, frowned at the results. "Are you in pain?" He wanted to offer her medication, but suspected that for the moment she would decline.
It was a variation on the conversation she'd had with Maggie not so long ago and she gave Phlox a similar reply. "Always. It's manageable. Come on, Doc. Get to the point, eh?"
Phlox set the tricorder aside and pulled over another chair so he could sit opposite her rather than looming above. "The anomalies are causing damage to your parahippocampal gyrus."
"What does that mean?"
"Have you had any trouble with your long-term memory since entering the Expanse?"
"No. Are you saying I'm going lose my memory if we stay here?" Her heart picked up its pace even as she willed herself to remain calm. She didn't need that damned biosensor giving her away, giving him more reasons to keep her there.
"Not necessarily. Frankly, if that were the case I'd expect it to have been apparent well before now. What about recent memories? Are you forgetting little things that happen to you in your day to day?"
"Would I know if I were?"
"Certainly. A reminder from someone you maybe forgot to meet for lunch, for example, would spur your memory of the arrangement."
"Oh. No. Nothing like that. I haven't forgotten a duty shift or yoga session or anything. I haven't made plans that I've forgotten to follow through on. Nothing."
"I'm pleased to hear it."
"So this damage you mentioned is what? I mean, what's it doing if it's not doing what you thought?"
"I don't know. Maybe nothing."
"But it's damage. You said 'damage'."
"Damage is an imprecise term in this situation, I'm afraid. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced that what's happening to you is unsafe. At this point, and lacking any evidence that it has affected you adversely, it's simply unique. I could go into the physiological details of what Ensign Cohn and I have observed, if you feel that would help you to understand?"
She shook her head. "You know it wouldn't. My medical knowledge amounts to minimum emergency field medic training and the recipe for my sister's chicken soup."
"I'm sorry I can't tell you more at this point."
"It's not your fault. Is there anything else?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing."
They exchanged smiles, hers wry, his kindly.
"Nope. Thanks, though." Stephanie rose. "I appreciate information, even when it's not good news."
"I hope to have better for you in the near future. Would you like an injection of metorapan before you go?"
She sighed resignedly. "Yeah. Thanks."
He collected a hypo of the painkiller and she tried not to wince as he administered it. That done, Phlox escorted her to the door. She paused there and looked back at him, remembering something she'd said to Ari weeks ago, about the time they'd started monitoring her migraine attacks. "All that trellium-D locked up behind bio-hazard securities in Cargo Bay One. Shame we can't use some to wrap up my brain like a baked potato and call it good."
"An impractical, if intriguing, notion."
"Maybe a helmet then?" she joked.
Phlox smiled kindly once more. "I wish it were that simple. Until we find a solution, I recommend you continue your meditation sessions with T'Pol and on your own."
"That reminds me. I dreamed about Andorians when I was under." She needed to write it down in her dream diary. In all the insanity, it had slipped her mind. Writing it down would help her remember and therefore help her focus next time she met with T'Pol.
"Andorians?" echoed Phlox.
"I know, I know." She shook her head. "Out here, that's crazy talk. But I also dreamed about Xindi prisoners. The primate Xindis. Three of them, I think. And, this is weird but...Captain Archer with long hair. Well, long enough to get in his face, anyway." She didn't mention the conversations she'd had with her sister back on Earth. She wasn't even sure, despite previous episodes, if they were real. Either way, they weren't relevant. "What do you think?"
"I think my suggestion of meditating with T'Pol is even more imperative now. Meet with her as soon as possible. See if together you can determine how much of what you dreamed about is portentous and how much is--"
"Crap?" she offered.
He chuckled softly. "Crap."
"All right. I'll talk to her in the morning. Honestly? I think the most plausible thing I dreamed about was a fist fight between Lieutenant Reed and Major Hayes."
"Are tensions between security personnel and the MACOs running that high?"
"No. Now ask about tensions between the men who run those groups."
"Ah. In that case, thank you for the warning. I'll be sure to have extra antiseptic and bandages handy."
"It might not happen," Stephanie said, not believing it. The look on Phlox's face proved he was equally doubtful. "Well, thanks again." She turned to go and he stopped her with a word.
"Will you be all right overnight? I can ask Liz to check in on you if you'd like."
A wry hint of a smile turned up the corner of her mouth. "You're starting to sound like Doctor Douglas. I'm okay. I'm not going to freak out and dive into a bottle of vodka, if that's what you're worried about." It was. She knew it. He knew she knew it.
"If you find yourself beginning to 'freak out', as you put it, my door is always open and I'm always awake."
"Thanks," she said again. "Good night."
Left alone, Phlox turned to feeding the rest of his menagerie. Something Stephanie had said niggled at his mind and he let it percolate as he went through the late evening routine. She had been joking about wrapping her brain in trellium-D, of course, but he couldn't help wondering if she might not be onto something. His mind churned with ideas. If he could determine exactly how the anomalies were affecting her brain, he might then be able to find a way to counteract it. They knew trellium-D protected physical matter against the anomalies; they would have lined the ship with it weeks ago were it not for the debilitating effect it had on Vulcan neural pathways.
But not on humans.
His thoughts went two directions in that moment. First, the more practical, if still short-term solution of Shuttlepod One. It had already been lined with the ore. In an emergency, Ensign Cormack could conceivably take shelter there. Second, the entirely theoretical, potentially long-term solution of using a distillation or derivative of trellium-D as a sort of prophylactic, or possibly a counter-agent to the effects of the anomalies. It was a complex problem that he wasn't going to solve in a night, and he would need clearance from the captain to access the ore for testing for possible medical use. That was going to take some explaining, which would be easier done if he had a better idea himself exactly how he wanted to proceed.
Newly invigorated by the possibilities before him, he settled in at his favorite computer station and began to organize all the available data they had collected both on trellium-D and Ensign Cormack's physiology. There was a great deal to do if he intended to have a report and request ready for Captain Archer by morning.
End notes: *New furniture has appeared in Malcolm's (and therefore Trip's, in this case) cabin. Maybe I should have rewatched further ahead in the episodes before posting the previous installment. Oh well. I'm not losing sleep over it, and I trust you won't either. Nice that the fellows have somewhere to sit now besides the bed and the desk chair.