The cabin was narrow, just wide enough for the two bunks running parallel to one another along each bulkhead and space between for a person to walk. Between the heads of the bunks, in the short wall, was a narrow door leading to the small lavatory the occupants of the cabin shared with the pair in the next cabin over. Above each bunk was a narrow shelf, each with a low lip to keep the few bits and bobs on them from sliding off.
The exterior bulkhead had one small window, while the interior held no decoration. Even after nearly five months, neither occupant felt the need to adorn it. At the foot of the bunk on the interior bulkhead was the cabin door and across from it, two lockers. The final items in the room were a desk with a computer console and chair that stood against the remaining wall where a small mirror hung.
Cormack was settled comfortably on her bunk under the window, pillows cushioning her pajama-clad back against the wall. A large, hard-cover book was spread open across her bent knees, and she was reading.
The cabin door slid open and her roommate came in. Liz flopped unceremoniously onto her own bunk, heaving a heavy sigh.
"Have fun at the movie?" asked Stephanie.
"Only if you count torture as a form of fun."
"I did warn you. Didn't I say it was wretched? That flick deserves to be professionally heckled."
"Yes. I knew what I was getting into. I have only myself to blame," Liz intoned. She rolled to one side and gave her bunk-mate a grin. "But it was worth it to spend the time with Travis."
"You two seem to be getting on quite well," said Stephanie. She slipped a marker into her book and closed it.
Cormack looked at her love-smitten bunkie. "Just give me fair warning if you plan to bring him home for the night."
"I'm only trying to be proactive. I don't want to be caught unawares one night and walk in on you two."
Cutler blushed to the roots of her honey-brown hair. "Geez, Stephanie, you gutter-rat. We haven't been going out that long!"
"I'm just teasing," Cormack chuckled.
Liz looked at her. "No, you're not."
"Okay, I'm not. What can I say? I'm not getting any, so I'm hoping my friends will."
"I'm a giver," grinned Cormack.
"What are you reading?" asked Cutler, deliberately changing the subject. She stood up, began undressing for bed.
"Don't you have to turn around in a circle and spit now, or something?"
"That's only if you say it in a theatre."
"Oh. So, what possessed you to read it?"
"Nothing, really. I just felt like reading some Shakespeare, and this one's the shortest."
"Uh-huh," grunted Cutler, disbelieving. "It wouldn't have anything to do with a certain British Tactical Officer, would it?"
"Liz, I told you. That little crush is long gone. Malcolm's a friend of mine. That's all, and that's the way I want it to stay. Besides, I'm totally not his type."
"But he's yours."
"How do you know my type?"
"I'm only judging by past history."
"Well, don't," said Cormack firmly.
Liz pulled on her night-shirt, tugged her hair out of the collar. "Sorry," she said, giving her roommate an apologetic smile. "I guess I'm just having so much fun with Travis, I want you to find someone, too." She hung her uniform in her locker and pulled out a hairbrush. She leaned against the table, started brushing her hair.
"I appreciate the thought, but I'm fine on my own." Stephanie re-opened her book, searched for her place.
"Okay. So, what is Lieutenant Reed's type?"
"Huh?" Cormack grunted, distracted.
"You said you're not his type. So, who is?"
"Com—" She stopped short, looked Cutler in the eye. "Couldn't tell you." Gods, woman, pay attention to what you're saying! she scolded herself.
"Yes, you could," said Liz, not so easily dissuaded. "You were going to say someone specific, weren't you?"
"Liz, let it go."
"Is it a secret?"
"You're going to have to be." Stephanie tried, again, to return to her book.
"Can't you give me a hint?"
"No!" She looked at her roommate, said sincerely, "Liz, I know you can keep a secret. You haven't told anyone about the crush I had on Malcolm, and I appreciate that. I'd trust you with any secret of mine, but this one isn't mine, okay?"
Cutler looked disappointed, but said, "Okay. I understand." She put away her brush and shut her locker. "You going to be up much longer?" she asked as she pulled back the covers of her bunk.
Stephanie sighed, closed the heavy Complete Works of Shakespeare. "No. I have to get up early, as usual." She stowed the book in a cubby under her bunk as Cutler shut off the lights. The only remaining illumination was the stars, slipping past at warp two.
Reed lay back on his bunk, datapad in hand. He was tired enough he knew he could sleep, but he felt the need to clear the residue of that awful movie out of his head first. So he settled in with one of his favorite books, lost himself in the earliest era of space-flight history. He always marveled that humans had managed to get to the moon with little more than rocket fuel and slide-rules, but if they hadn't, he wouldn't be where he was today. And a round trip from the Earth to the moon wouldn't now be an easy, routine trip.
Two hours later he was cursing himself for staying up so late. He'd lost all track of time while reading about Apollo 13 and its abortive attempt to reach the moon. It didn't matter how often he re-read it, the story always inspired him. Now, however, it was nearly 0200, and he needed to be on the Bridge first thing in the morning. Reluctantly, he put away the pad and shut off the small, bed-side lamp.
"Computer," he yawned into the darkness, "increase alarm volume by two." He wasn't looking forward to the wake-up call.
"Zariphean tea, hot."
"Late night, Lieutenant?"
Malcolm looked away from the drinks dispenser to see a smiling Ensign Cormack. "Not the kind you're thinking of, I'm afraid." He collected his steaming tea and stepped aside.
"That's a shame." Cormack placed her own mug under the tap, saying, "Café latté, double shot, extra hot." The steaming liquid poured into the cup. "Then why so bleary-eyed this a.m.?"
"Lost track of time reading. Had to do something to get that dreadful movie out of my head, or I'm sure I would have had the oddest dreams."
"That reminds me. I had the most bizarre dream last night." Stephanie retrieved her mug, took a careful sip of the foam-topped beverage. "Ahh," she sighed gratefully. "It never ceases to amaze me that this machine can make such a good latté."
"It never ceases to amaze me that you can drink that stuff."
"Where I come from, it's a law," she joked.
"So, tell me about your dream. I didn't see you at the movie, so I assume it had nothing to do with 'killer androids.'" They found a table and sat.
"Fortunately not. It was well random, though. I was at the ballpark in Vancouver. The Orcas were playing the Giants for the World Series. For some reason, though, they were all wearing kilts. Anyway, despite the fact it was October, I was wearing a shimmery, black, spaghetti-strap evening gown under my Tommy Wilson baseball jersey."
"I'm sure it was a stunning combination," teased Malcolm.
"Truly. Wish I actually owned the dress, though. It was snazzy!"
"So what happened next?" He sipped at the strong, highly caffeinated tea.
"I'm not sure." She thought hard, slurped some foam off her latté. "Damn that's good. Um, I was at the park—I think we might have won, too, which would be incredibly cool—then suddenly I was on Enterprise, in the Armory. I was still wearing the gown, but not the jersey."
"Well, it's not as cold on board. You wouldn't have needed it."
"Funny," Cormack said dryly, returning Reed's playful smile. "So, I was in the Armory—where you were, I don't know," she added in a mock accusatory tone. "Then there was a power fluctuation of some kind. I think we started to lose main power. We were all running around, trying to save the vital systems. Not easy in stiletto heels, I have to tell you. Then, for some reason, everything just cleared up. Power came back on. Including disco lights, a mirror ball, and loud music."
"That better not be some sort of premonition," said Malcolm.
"You don't think the Armory would make a good dance club?"
"You know that's not what I meant…although, no, somehow I don't think the Armory would be enhanced by the addition of a mirror ball and colored lights."
"Probably not," Stephanie agreed. She chuckled, glanced up over her latté. "Hey, Commander," she called to the recently arrived Tucker. "Come join us."
Malcolm's eyes widened as he glared at her. She simply smiled at him and returned her attention to Trip. "Good morning, sir."
"Morning, Ensign. Lieutenant," said Trip, giving each a nod and a smile. "Sure you don't mind my company? You two looked like you were discussing something important."
"Nope. Please, have a seat," insisted Cormack, gesturing to an empty chair. "We were just deciding whether a mirror ball would be a good addition to the Armory."
Trip looked at each officer in turn as he set his plate on the table and sat. "I beg your pardon?" he asked at last.
Seeing that Cormack wasn't going to explain, Reed was the one who said, "She joking, I assure you, Commander. It was in a dream she had last night. Cormack was just telling me about it. Frankly, I think she should go see Lieutenant Douglas and tell him."
"The psychiatrist?" exclaimed Stephanie. "Thank you, no. Besides, I thought he was studying the effects of extended space travel on humans. Since when does he want to hear about our dreams?"
"He sent an intra-ship message at the beginning of the month. New phase of his study, he said. Come on. Don't you want to know what he'd make of your dream?"
"Probably something Freudian," she said disdainfully.
"Not necessarily," Trip said. "I talked to him just the other day about a dream I had. It was actually kind of…helpful."
"Really?" asked Malcolm. "Are you going to share, or leave us wondering?"
Uncharacteristically, Trip blushed. "I'll take Option B," he said, not making eye contact with either one of them. Cormack, on the other hand, shot Reed a significant look, which he returned with a withering glare. She shrugged slightly in apology, as if to say, "I was only suggesting…"
Their little exchange went unnoticed by the engineer.
"I bet it wouldn't beat my World Series, disco lights, and mirror ball, anyway," the ensign said to break the growing silence.
"So, you going to let her put up a mirror ball in the Armory?" joked Trip, not wanting to dwell on the topic of dreams. "You could rent the place out for parties." He looked at Malcolm over his glass of orange juice.
"Thanks, but I think I'll pass on that proposition." Although there are one or two others I'd like to suggest, he thought, and I wonder if you might be more amenable to them than I suspected?
As if reading his mind, Cormack said, "Well, I'm sure you don't need me to entertain you. I'd better get going, anyway. The boss hates it when I'm late." She swallowed the last of her coffee and stood. "If you gentlemen will excuse me?" She smiled first at Trip then Malcolm, who returned her look with an expression that clearly said, "I'll get you for this." Cormack simply smiled wider, raised an eyebrow that somehow managed to be both suggestive and innocent, and left the mess hall.
"She's a peculiar one," said Trip after she'd gone.
"You could say that," agreed Malcolm. "So, you're not going to share that dream with me? Must have been…interesting."
"You could say that," Trip echoed, again not meeting Reed's gaze.
The lieutenant realized he'd stepped over a line. "Sorry," he said sincerely. "It's none of my affair."
Tucker looked as if he was about to say something to that, but instead took a bite of toast.
"Good morning, Ensign."
"Morning, Martinez," said Cormack, giving the tactical crewman a smile. "Anything exciting overnight?"
"Nothing," the stunning Puerto Rican woman said with an almost disappointed sigh. "Not even a short circuit to report."
"Log says we changed course a little while ago," Stephanie said, checking the report. "Any idea what's up?"
"Si. Captain Archer wants to check out a stellar nursery a few light years off our course."
"That should be fun. Well, fun for Stellar Cartography," Stephanie amended.
Martinez smiled. "At least it should provide a good light show."
"True. All right. If there's nothing else, you might as well take off. You're officially relieved."
"Gracias. See you tomorrow."
"See you tomorrow," said Cormack.
The morning continued in a similarly quiet vein. It wasn't until the afternoon that there was any excitement.
Cormack punched up the ship's comm. "Armory to Lieutenant Reed."
"Go ahead," came the familiar British tones of the ship's Tactical Officer.
"Cormack here, sir. Is it true what I'm hearing about the visiting aliens touring the ship?"
"Yes, it is."
She couldn't be positive, but she didn't think he sounded any happier about it than she was. "Should I expect them here?"
"I'm not planning on it. However, if that changes, you can be certain I'll let you know."
"Thank you, sir. Cormack out."
On the Bridge, Reed was subjected to the scrutiny of Mayweather and Sato. "Was there something you wanted to say?" he asked at last.
"No, sir," said the ensigns at nearly the same time.
"Good, because I believe we already had this conversation…shortly before Ensign Mayweather attempted to declare war on the stellar nursery." He kept his face impassive, but inside he was chuckling. He did so enjoy yanking Mayweather's chain sometimes. Fair revenge for that rumor he started about Cormack and me, he told himself. "They take those torpedoes out of your pay, you know." He bit his tongue to keep from laughing out loud at the look on Travis's face.
Back in the Armory, Cormack and one of the crewmen were checking internal sensors. "I'm reading five alien lifeforms in Sickbay," said the crewman, "not including Dr. Phlox, that is."
"Where are the rest of them?" asked Cormack.
"That's only sixteen. I thought we had one more coming aboard."
"Maybe that was the transport's captain," the crewman suggested. "Sensors say he's still over on his own ship."
Cormack wasn't convinced, but it made as much sense as any explanation, so she let it go. "All right. Let me know if any of them start heading this way."
It never became an issue. Despite Mayweather's attempts to navigate around the approaching storm, the ship was hit several times by plasma lightning, rocking Enterprise like a torpedo barrage.
Déjà vu hit Cormack almost as hard as the lightning hit the port bow. Lights in the Armory began to flicker and short out, and every computer console went dark. "Lock down the launch tubes!" Cormack heard herself shout as she raced for them. With as many weapons as the Armory contained, any number of things had the potential to go disastrously wrong and cause enormous damage to the ship, and she was determined to prevent any of them happening.
As suddenly as it began, the chaos ended. One by one the lights came on and consoles flickered back to life. Stephanie looked around, trying to assess the damage. On the whole, it looked to be minimal. "You okay?" she asked the crewman who'd been helping her at the launch tubes.
The young man nodded. "Yeah. Thanks."
"Everyone else in one piece?" she called out to the room in general, and was gratified by shaken but positive responses all around. "All right. Let's get this place cleaned up and see what needs fixing. Don't want Lieutenant Reed to show up and think we had a wild party in here." The sudden memory of disco lights and loud music washed over her. She shot a furtive glance toward the ceiling, gave a small sigh of relief at the lack of a mirror ball.
A lot had happened that he wasn't privy to, and he wasn't happy about it. Bad enough the captain had given the visiting aliens nearly free run of the ship the previous day, but now he had invited them back to watch their "Great Plume of Agosoria" from Enterprise's mess hall. And to top it off, there was something he wasn't being told. Reed couldn't be sure, but he'd gotten the impression the Captain, Trip, and T'Pol were keeping something from him.
He hailed Trip in Engineering.
"Tucker here," came the Chief Engineer's voice.
"Commander, I'm reading a fluctuation in the main power grid. It appears to be centered in your area."
"I'm on it."
"It's drawing over twenty megawatts of power to the ship's sensors. Any idea what's causing it?" asked Reed, determined to get some information as to just what was going on.
"I said I'm on it, Lieutenant," Tucker said, more sharply. "Tucker out."
"Damn it!" cursed Reed as the connection terminated. This got him furtive glances from both Mayweather and Sato. He ignored them and hailed the Armory, thinking, Fine. If the sensors are being enhanced, I might as well make use of the added power.
"Young, here. Go ahead, Lieutenant."
"Ensign, how many aliens boarded the ship this morning to view the Great Plume?"
"We were told eleven were coming aboard, sir. Sensors indicated ten, plus Dr. Phlox."
"Was that eleven meant to include the doctor or not?"
"I'm afraid I don't know, sir."
"All right," said Malcolm, annoyed at the man's sloppiness. "I want you to keep an eye on our visitors. Let me know if anyone happens to stray from the mess hall."
He was rapidly going from annoyed to angry. How the hell did the Captain expect him to keep the ship secure when he was randomly inviting over unknown aliens? Not to mention the conspiracy of silence going on in Main Engineering.
He schooled his expression into one of impassivity despite his growing frustration; he was determined not to provide a bad example to the two young ensigns. Best to keep his feelings on this matter to himself.
However, when his ship's internal sensors showed weapons fire in Engineering, all bets were off. He hailed Engineering, got no response.
"Reed to Armory."
"Young here, sir."
"Get a security team down to Main Engineering. I've picked up weapons fire, and I'm getting no response to hails."
"On our way, sir. Young out."
Reed chafed at being stuck on the Bridge. He knew his team could handle whatever was going on, but not actually knowing what was happening was driving him mad. Still, he had a job to do and, for the moment, his place was on the Bridge.
Then he got the call from Captain Archer.
"We've got a Suliban loose on the ship. I want you to lock down every outer door and exit hatch. Post security teams on all decks."
"Understood." Bloody hell, he thought as he carried out the captain's orders. He hailed the Armory once again, relayed the command to post the security teams.
"Sir, exactly what are we looking for?" asked Ensign Cormack over the comm.
"A Suliban," he answered shortly.
There was the smallest pause before Cormack replied, "Understood, sir. Cormack out."
When he turned the Bridge over to Mayweather this time, he wasn't kidding. On receiving the call from Commander Tucker to collect a security team and meet the Captain on B-deck, Service Junction 59, he didn't wait for T'Pol's imminent arrival. He put a hail in to security and immediately headed out. Two tactical crewmen, armed with pulse-rifles, met him on the way. The first handed him a phase-pistol, which he immediately took.
Reed was examining the area in question when Archer arrived on the scene. "It looks like he slipped through here," he said, foregoing the pleasantries. "We could remove these conduits, but it would take some time."
Archer said nothing, but held up his right hand. A strange, metallic device was wrapped around the knuckles, and Reed heard a soft, electrical whine as the captain activated it.
"Sir?" he asked doubtfully.
Archer put his hand out, and Malcolm's eyes widened as it appeared to pass through the bulkhead, circuitry, everything.
Fabulous, he thought caustically. Yet one more thing no one's bothered to mention. Although, in all fairness, he had to admit the Captain looked about as surprised as he did. The two men exchanged a wary, uncertain look before Archer held out his left hand for Malcolm's gun. Still not pleased, but not entirely prepared to argue, Reed handed over the weapon.
"Stay here," said Archer, then stepped through the wall.
Unable to help any other way, Reed continued to scan the area. He was relieved to read no drastic changes in the Captain's bio-signs. Still, the whole thing galled on him. He should be the one in there facing the Suliban. In his opinion, as a tactical officer he was expendable; but ship's captains were rare and should be protected.
The ship rocked suddenly. He stumbled to the nearest comm-panel, hailed the Bridge.
"What the hell's going on?" he demanded. "Are we under attack?"
"Negative," came T'Pol's even voice. "We're experiencing shockwaves from the protostar eruption."
"Understood." He closed the comm.
Knowing the intruder was trying to bypass the lock-outs for Launch Bay Two, he opened the comm again and hailed the team there.
After a brief exchange, he was as confident as he could be that they would apprehend the intruder, if only they got the chance.
"We're completely locked out, sir. None of the override codes are working, and I've tried every trick I know," said the voice at the other end of the comm.
"Cut through the damned door if you have to," he ordered, finally, "but find a way to get in there!"
Outside Launch Bay Two, Cormack looked at her team. "You heard the lieutenant," she said. "Griffith, go get a plasma torch." She checked the scanner she held, swore softly. "And make it fast!" she shouted after his retreating form. "There's someone in there!"
Fast as he was, Griffith wasn't quite quick enough. The warning alarm sounded just as he returned. The launch bay was being depressurized. There was no way they were getting in now, and the last thing they needed was to cut through to a room suddenly open to space.
"Shit!" swore Cormack vehemently. She checked the scanner again. Still one human life sign. Whoever's in there, hang on, she thought, and for good measure sent out a prayer to the Goddess. It was a long way back to Earth; she just hoped she could make herself heard at such a distance.
Even when it was over, Reed was far from happy. He counted up the bones he had to pick.
Daniels is dead. That was at the top of the list. If he'd been informed of everything going on, he could have taken measures to protect the crewman. Or whatever he was, he thought. But that was irrelevant. As far as Malcolm was concerned, Daniels had been a member of the crew—the crew it was his job to protect.
Captain Archer was nearly killed. This was a close second. He gave himself another mental kick for not arguing with the Captain the moment he realized he was going after the intruder. Sure, the strange device Archer had used to pass through the bulkhead looked too much like a variation on transporter technology for Malcolm's comfort. That wasn't what stopped him. Instead, he had allowed the Captain's expression to stop him. Archer had looked too determined to be put down. Reed had seen it before; he was certain he'd see it again. Next time, however, he was going to argue anyway.
Silik escaped. All in all, it wasn't adding up to a good day. Not just any Suliban, but Silik himself had been on board, and no one had seen fit to inform him.
That was what really gnawed at him. Neither Archer, nor Trip, nor T'Pol had said a word. While the last two irked him, it was the Captain's implied lack of faith in his skills as a tactical officer that he found truly infuriating. He recruited me. Why the hell couldn't he trust me in this situation? he wondered angrily.
He put his irate thoughts aside as T'Pol and Archer came out of the captain's ready room. Archer, frankly, looked like hell. Part of him felt for his superior; part of him wanted to shout, "You'd be fine if you'd have just let me do my job!" As it was, he did and said nothing.
"Mr. Reed," said the captain, "assign new quarters to Daniels' roommate, and seal off cabin E-14. It's off -limits until further notice."
"Aye, sir." Malcolm rose and headed to the lift.
Just before the doors closed behind him, he heard Archer add, "God knows what else is in there."
Reed placed the coded maglock on the cabin door and turned the dial, sealing it. No one could get in now without the proper release codes, and until he informed the captain, he was the only one with those codes. He and the tactical crewman who had accompanied him as witness exchanged a nod before leaving the area, the heavy lock blinking its small red light into the silence.
At the lift, Reed said, "You can go back to your duties, crewman."
"Yes, sir." The man gave a small nod and headed off about his business.
In the lift alone, Reed leaned back against the wall. He didn't bother to request a floor; a moment of peace was welcome. He wasn't looking forward to what he had to do. How often, he wondered, does an officer file a complaint against his Captain to his Captain? And how does he do it without being either insubordinate or downright mutinous? Heavy thoughts to ponder overnight; he needed the time to calm down and organize his thoughts. He sighed. He had a feeling he wasn't going to get much sleep again that night. First, however, he had duty shift to finish out. He hit a button, requested the Bridge.
End Log 8
As of 1 Sept 06: