Captain Philip Reming sat in his Ready Room holding a PADD. On the PADD was Commander Donna Reed's official report of the events of the previous day. It detailed the appearance of an alien ship and described the visit of a lizard-like alien to the Condor. Of that part, Reming was aware. The description of the events that followed grabbed Reming's attention. He scrolled through the text, eyes wide. Although he had read the report six times already, he felt he had to read it yet again. Reming couldn't believe what he was reading had actually happened. Once Reming finished it for the seventh time, he scrolled back to the top. He had to read it again.
Reming was aware of Commander Reed entering the room, but barely. His eyes glanced off the PADD and focused on her. "So…"
"So what?" Reed blinked.
"So, after Utbut vanished with me in some kind of a status field, another Condor just…"
"Yes, another Condor just appeared out of nowhere. It then began attacking Utbut's ship. Then what happened?"
"It's right there in the report, sir."
Reming waved the PADD in exasperation. "I know, but…"
Reed rolled her eyes and decided to humor her Captain. "The Condor…the other Condor… fired on Utbut's ship. Then…"
Reming picked up the story from there. "…Then you received a message from this alternate Condor, telling you to transport me over here. Seconds after transport, the alternate Condor exploded, destroying itself and the alien ship." Reming sat back in his chair and flung his arms into the air. "Wow, this is incredible! "
Reed sat back and folded her hands in her lap. "Yes, it is."
"So your hypothesis is that - in an alternate reality - you took the Condor back in time to attack my alien abductor."
"Well, sir, that's one explanation."
"Why Commander, I didn't know you cared," said Reming, wearing a mischievous grin.
"Neither did I."
"Excuse me, sirs. Uh, we're detecting a ship dead ahead," spoke a nervous Lieutenant Commander Parks over the communication channel.
A worried look passed over Reming's face. "Its not another ship like Utbut's, is it?"
"No, but I - I - think you need to see this."
Within seconds, Reed and Reming were back on the bridge, both focusing their attention on the viewer. Reming and Reed recognized the ship immediately. It was Reming's first time seeing such a craft first hand. The image forced a cold chill of fear to run down his spine. "The Jem'Hadar?"
"RAISE SHI.ELDS!" Commander Reed frantically ordered. The Jem'Hadar were the military arm of the Dominion -the race from the Gamma quadrant at war with the Federation. Seeing the profile of the worship struck fear to Reed's very core. Many of the Federation's greatest ships had been easily destroyed by such a craft. Being this close would be certain death for them, Reed was sure. They couldn't even outrun it. The Condor's best speed was warp 8 - not fast enough. She wondered why Lieutenant Commander Parks even bothered to stop to investigate. For now, it didn't matter. Here they were.
Captain Reming wiped cold sweat from his brow. "Wait a minute. Why aren’t they attacking?"
"Why aren't they, indeed," said Reed, trying to calm her pounding heart. "Their ship appears to be listing. Mr. Parks, scan the ship."
Parks' hands bounced across the console and initiated the proper scan. "Oh here's the problem - they're all dead," he said, visibly relieved.
"Dead? What do you mean, dead?"
Parks gave a quick glance to the Commander. He wondered why Reed was so upset. Was she looking forward to being blown apart? "Yes, sir. Scans indicate no life signs."
Reming squinted at the viewer. "But it doesn't appear to be damaged. What's going on here?" He hated puzzles. In his business as starship captain, puzzles seemed to be part of the job. Reming slouched a bit and turned to Donna. "Well, Miss Reed, I suppose an investigation is in order."
"Not so fast, sir. I think we should give Starfleet HQ a call before we do anything."
Reming perked up a bit. "Great idea. Maybe they'll take the problem off our hands. Mr. Parks, open a channel to Starfleet."
Mike Parks slumped in his seat. "Scan the ship, Mr. Parks. Open a channel, Mr. Parks. Do this, Mr. Parks. Do that, Mr. Parks," grumbled Mike to himself. He glanced over at Ensign Nicholas Smith seated at the Helm.
"Don't look at me," said Nick apologetically, "I'm busy flying the ship."
Parks shook his head, annoyed at the thought of doing his own job. A small light on his console pulled him out of his funk. "I have a response from Starfleet, Captain."
In the delay, both he and the Commander took the opportunity to pry their eyes off the viewer and take their seats. "Good, put it on screen," said Reming, leaning forward quite awkwardly.
On the view screen, the image of the warship was replaced by the royal blue and silver emblem of the United Federation of Planets. Echoing from the speakers, an automated voice said, "We are sorry but all communication circuits are busy right now. However, your communication is important to us. Please stay connected and we will be with you soon. You are six hundred forty seven in the message queue and your approximate wait time is eleven hours. Please keep the channel open and we will be with you as soon as we can." Then, immediately following the announcement, the song 'Rain drops keep falling on my head' began to play.
Reed and Reming looked at one another in amazement. Nether one of them had ever heard a recorded message like this before. Being separated from Starfleet Command made them both feel helpless, like an infant pulled from its mother's breast.
They all continued to sit quietly as the music droned on. Just as B. .J. Thomas reached the reprise, Reed said, "Well, what do you want to do now, Captain?"
Reming turned back to the viewer. "Mr. Parks, turn off that crap. Commander, take an away team over to the Jem'Hadar ship. Let's see if we can figure out what happened on our own."
"Aye sir. I'd like to take the doctor with me. Maybe there's a medical reason for the deaths over there."
"And let’s be doubly careful. Beam over in environment suits. If a virus of some kind is at work, we don't want to accidentally bring it back here."
"I hate these damn EVA suits," whined Doctor Tedmoore, as he stepped oaf like onto the transporter pad. "They're so damn clunky."
"Captain's orders," reminded Commander Reed. She too hated wearing the uncomfortable suits, but she knew wearing them was a good idea. She only wished she'd thought of it. "Hey Carol, you coming?"
Lieutenant Commander Carol Smith stepped forward, tripping over the raised transporter platform. "DAMN IT, YES! Yes, I'm here. Ready, sir."
"Good. Ensign, begin transport."
The unnamed young man standing at the transporter controls gave a sharp nod. Seconds later, the away team members were no longer standing aboard the Condor. Their new surroundings were much different from the one they just left.
The air on the warship was musty, that is, it would have seemed that way if they were breathing it. Muted control panels surrounding them were full of life. Actually, other than the visiting Condor crew, the control panels seemed to be the only things with life in them.
Dead Jem'Hadar solders littered the room, slumped over consoles and lying on the floor. Carol Smith stepped around the bodies, staring at them intently. She was trying to convince herself that the Jem'Hadar soldiers were indeed dead. She leaned close to one of the bodies and stared deeply into its dark cold eyes. "This is what nightmares are made of," she said to herself.
Reed pulled out her hand phaser, brandishing it like a strip of tempered steel. It was clear that the enemies were all dead, but she didn't plan to take any chances.
"You can put that thing away, they're all dead. Every last one," said Tedmoor, waving his tri-corder around in a manner slightly less menacing.
"What's wrong with them?" asked Carol. "They run out of that white drug? What's that white stuff called, anyway?"
"Its called White. And no, they didn't die from a lack of White. Something else was the cause."
Suddenly, a new voice broke the silence. "MERCY, STARFLEET! MERCY!" cried out a crumpled figure in the corner of the room.
The voice made the hair on the back of Reed's neck stand on end. She thrust her phaser directly at the figure; her white knuckled thumb pressed tightly on the firing button. "Doctor, I thought you said they were all dead!"
Ignoring any risk, Tedmoore ran to the aide of the broken figure. "It's a Vorta. His life signs are extremely faint." Edward produced a hypo-spray and pressed it against the creature's neck. "He's extremely weak, but I think I've stabilized him."
Reed dropped her phaser and approached the small alien figure. "What happened to him?"
"It looks like he was beaten. Quite severely, I might add."
Reed knelt beside the weak creature and looked into his eyes. "What happened here?"
The Vorta looked up at Reed with round fearful eyes. "The Jem'Hadar - they went crazy." The Vorta struggled to speak. He took a deep breath and braced himself against the pain. " I - I couldn't help them."
"What happened? What was it?"
The small being struggled once more, but couldn't fight the pain. He grimaced once more, then his face quickly relaxed.
The Commander looked at the Doctor. "What happened to him?"
"I put him out. He was in severe pain. If I let him continue to suffer, he would have died."
"And what's wrong with that? He is a Vorta - a glorified baby sitter to these…these killers."
"These killers are all dead. He may know what did them in. I think we should bring him back to the Condor."
"We don’t have any facilities for him. The Condor doesn’t have a stockade."
"He wouldn't be our prisoner, sir. He'd be my patient. Commander, in his condition, he's not much of security risk. To be honest, I don't think he's going to live long enough at it is."
Reed stood up sharply. She hated being on this ship. The faint sent of death hung all around her. It made her sick. She hated the Jem'Hadar as well. The fact that they were all dead was the only thing that brought a spark of joy to her heart. But the Vorta was still alive. Knowing that made her hatred grow. She hated the Doctor too. After all, he saved the thing. Reed then began to feel as if the walls were closing in on her. She felt as if she was about to be sick. Donna fought hard against it. She knew if she were to be sick, she'd ruin the inside of her environment suit.
"What do we do now, sir?" asked Carol in a small childlike voice.
"We're getting out of here."
"But Commander, I must protest. I will return to the Condor with my patient, but I think you and Carol should stay and continue to investigate We need to find out what killed them," said the Doctor.
"No we don't. We've got the Vorta. He can tell us everything we need to know. When we're back on the Condor, we'll destroy this floating graveyard." Reed turned away from the Doctor. "Away team to Condor," she said in a much louder voice. "Prepare to beam us back on my signal. Indications are that a biologic is the cause of the deaths over here. I don't want to risk bringing it back with us. Please run a level one diagnostic on all transporter functions, paying close attention to the bio-filters."
Doctor Tedmoore stepped in front of Reed, forcing her to look him in the eye. "Shouldn't destroying this ship be the Captain's decision?"
"I'll make it his decision," said Reed, coldly.
Lieutenant Commander Carol Smith made her way back into her favorite place on the Condor - Main Engineering. She was feeling uneasy about what she'd seen on the Jem'Hadar ship, but, as she grew closer to the warm sound of the churning warp core, she began to calm. Main Engineering always seemed to have a calming effect on her. She couldn't explain why.
As Carol entered Engineering, Lieutenant Terry raced to her side with wide eyes. The short, child like female officer always reminded Carol of a pixy. She was always bouncy and full of energy. "So what happened over there? Were you scared with all those Jem'Hadar solders around?"
Carol put an arm around the young woman. "Of course I was scared. Are you kidding? But, you know, when we realized they were all dead, it became a little less frightening."
"What killed them anyway?"
"We don't know. The Doctor is trying to keep our Vorta prisoner alive, but he's not expected to survive. On top of that, we won't be taking any more trips over to our prisoner's warship, either. Our good Commander Reed is right now in the middle of convincing the Captain to blow it up."
"What's up? Anything happen while I was out?"
"Well, we've been experiencing some strange problems with the computer core. I've been trying to track them down. Right now I'm running a level one diagnostic on all computer systems."
"When did the problems start?"
"Now long after you beamed back."
"But Commander, are you sure that's wise?" asked Captain Reming, rubbing his chin and wearing an expression of deep concern. "Maybe we should spend a little more time analyzing the situation. Maybe we should continue the investigation."
"Captain, where there's one Jem'Hadar, there's usually another. Who knows, maybe they got a distress call out before they said goodbye to oxygen." Reming sat back in his seat and sighed. Reed's face reddened. She moved close to the Captain; her face a mere inch from his. "Captain, I have a very bad feeling about this. I sincerely believe we need to destroy that ship and get the hell out of here."
Captain Reming was taken back by his first officer's reaction. He had never known her to act irrationally, but he hadn't known her long enough to judge her personality. Was she overreacting? He decided not to take a chance. "Fine, Commander. I accept your recommendation. Mr. Parks, arm three quantum torpedoes."
Parks placed his hand on the tactile surface beside him, initiating the bio-neural connection. His mind was now communing with the ship. "Ready, sir"
Captain Reming sat back and waited for the ear-ringing boom. It never came. "Mr. Parks, any time now."
"Captain, something's wrong. They won't fire."
"I don't know why. I can't seem to start the launch sequence."
Reming offered a concerned look at Reed. She responded to it quickly. "Reed to Engineering." Reed said aloud. "Carol, what's happening? We can't launch quantum torpedoes."
"We're experiencing some computer glitches, sir," echoed Carol. "Working on the problem now. Okay, now try it."
"Go ahead, Mike. Give it a try," said Reed.
"Firing quantum torpedoes…now!"
Right on queue, the ship sprang into action, unfortunately it wasn't the intended action. The torpedoes didn't launch, but something did. A small outer door at the lowest point on the Condor sprung open. From it, a long narrow object flew out with great force into space. The rumble from far beneath the ship was felt all the way up on deck one.
"What was that?" asked Ensign Smith. "Helm controls just went off line."
Parks rubbed his hands in his hair. He needed to find something to do with his hands. His alternative was to pound his fist into his console. "We've just lost the warp core. It was ejected into space."
Reming looked at Reed. Reed looked as stunned as he was. Reed slumped back in her chair and placed her hand flat on her forehead. "What…? Why did…? What the hell is going on here?"
Reming stood and traded glances with Reed and Parks. "The warp core? Well, we can get it back, right?" he asked, more confused than usual. He hoped he'd get used to being as confused as a Klingon at a mime convention, but he doubted it.
"Engineering to Bridge," echoed the voice of Carol Smith. "Captain, we've got some major problems here."
"That's the understatement of the century, Lieutenant. What's going on?"
"It seems every command sent through the computer is having immediate and unpredictable outcomes. Until we figure out what's happening, I suggest we avoid all major ship functions."
"And what about the core?" asked Reed, barely changing her slumped pose.
"Oh that. Well, we'll have to take a shuttle out to get the core back."
"I'd should say so. Do that first, okay?"
"Yes, Commander. Engineering out."
"Well, Captain, it seems we're adrift in space, much like our dead fiends out there. What do we do now?"
Reming was about to speak when the communication system came on once again. Reming breathed a sigh of relief. He had no idea what to say anyway. "Sickbay to Bridge. Captain, if you and the Commander aren't busy, and I'm sure you're not, I like you both to come down here. My patient is stable."
On the bridge of the USS Condor, two lone figures sat silently at their posts. One of them, Ensign Nicholas Smith, stared at the drifting Jem'Hadar ship on the view screen. The other, Lieutenant Commander Michael Parks, sat with his head propped up on his fist, drifting to sleep.
"Hey Mike?" said Nick.
"Huh? Yes, sir?" said Mike, startled back to consciousness. "Oh it's you. What do you want?"
"I wonder if Carol got the warp core back yet?"
"I dunno. Let's see." Mike proceeded to close a few specific contacts on his console.
"What are you doing? The Captain said not to touch anything until Carol figures out why the computer is acting so crazy."
"Relax. You wanted an answer to your question, didn't you? It looks like their reinstalling it now."
"The Doc said that Vorta he beamed back over here was pretty bad off. I wonder how he was able to keep him alive this long?"
"I have a good idea how he did it. And if the Captain finds out, he'll go ballistic."
Commander Donna Reed and Captain Philip Reming stood at the foot of the bio-bed, staring at its occupant. The Vota lying there was pale, but, in general, all Vortas were. That alone could not be considered when judging the creature's health. On the other hand, the bruises and gashes covering his face and body were enough for anyone to realize that he was in serious health. At the moment the creature was asleep.
Doctor Edward Tedmoore stepped forward and spoke softly to his patient's visitors. "Don't push him too hard. He is extremely weak. I had to take some extreme measures to keep him alive this long. Keep your questions short and to the point. I'm going to wake him now." The Doctor pressed the hypo-spray against the Vorta's neck. Seconds after the injection, he awoke.
Commander Reed spoke first. "What is your name?"
The Vorta swallowed hard, then spoke. "I am called Caliban, grateful servant to the Founders."
"And what about your mission. What was your mission?"
The Vorta named Caliban forced a smile. "Now, I don't think your are really interested in that."
Reed was visibly shaken by the Vorta's response. She struggled to keep her composure. She knew of people that were trained interrogators. Some had turned it into an art form. A few even found perverse pleasure in breaking the spirit of their prisoner. A skilled interrogator, Reed was not. She hated the whole ugly business. After the awkward moment passed, Reed continued. "If your mission had anything to do with the death of your crew, then I am interested."
Caliban looked away from Reed. "It didn't."
Reming stepped forward. He thought he'd try the direct approach. "Caliban, what happened to the crew of you're ship?"
"They got sick and they died," he said in a matter-of-fact manner.
"We know that much, damn-it!" said Reed. She was clearly starting to lose her cool. "We want to know how? How did they die?"
"Why should I tell you? You don't want to save me. You only want to save yourselves."
The Vorta's choice of words interested Reming. "Save ourselves? What do you mean?"
"Your people were on the my ship. Soon enough, you and your crew will get sick and soon you will all die," Caliban spoke the last line with a gleam in his eye.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but we were in environment suits and you went threw the bio-filters when we beamed you here. We did not bring it back here," said Reed.
"It doesn't matter. The plague that killed my men is here. You will all get sick very soon."
"And so will the rest of the Jem'Hadar and the Cardassians, I'm sure. You probably passed it on to them the last time you and your crew were on Cardassia Prime."
"We were not sick then." Caliban was agitated now. In his present condition, stress would only make him weaker. "We didn't start to get sick until a few days ago."
"A few days ago?" said Reming. "You mean the sickness killed your entire crew in a matter of days?"
"Shocking, huh? You’d better start making out your wills."
Read had had enough of this chess game. She seized Caliban's shoulders tightly and shook. "Where were you a few days ago? Tell us! Were did you get this plague of yours? Where?! Tell us!"
Reming watch his first officer react. He wondered if she was truly losing all control or if she was merely acting. If she was acting, she deserved an award for her performance. "You'd better tell her, Caliban. I can't control her when she's like this."
"Release me!" cried Caliban.
"I'll release you. I release you right out the nearest airlock if you don't tell me!" growled Reed.
Caliban struggled to speak. "We were…we were…we were destroying your Fifth Fleet! Blowing them all to bits. It's so funny how easily your ships blow up! And colorful too" Then Caliban broke out in a fit of laughter. Sadly, laughter wasn't the best medicine in his case. The laughing caused the pressure in his body to rise. The rising pressure pushed his damaged body to the limit. Suddenly, his laughing stopped as his eyes rolled back into his skull.
Reming pulled Reed off the motionless figure. "Commander, he's dead. Let go." She was breathing hard. He looked into her eyes, hoping his steady stare would help her calm down. "Get a hold of yourself, Commander."
"I'm sorry, sir. I just lost it," she said, rubbing her hands over her face. "I'm all right."
"So, how's my patient?" asked Doctor Tedmoore, on his way back to the bio-bed. "Oh, dead I see. Well, I'm a little surprised he lasted that long."
"I'm curious, Doctor. How did you keep him alive so long?"
The Doctor looked at the Captain without expression. "It doesn't matter, sir."
"Oh you didn't…" Reed said.
"It was my only option."
"What?" asked Reming. His head bounced from Reed to Tedmoore, as if he were watching a very narrow tennis match.
"I knew his body was in bad shape. Clearly, his crew had beaten him half to death. I could only think of one way to keep him alive. I implanted the Communing chip in him."
"You did what?" said Reming as his face turned different shades of red. "Why?"
"The Communing chip has the ability to increase the body's own ability to heal itself. It worked too, at least for a little while."
"I don’t think you did it to save him. You did it because you saw a new way to test your invention. You never had his well being in mind at all!"
"You didn't want to bring him here for questioning," said Reed, shaking her head with disappointment "You wanted to experiment on him."
"Well, he did make an interesting test subject, I admit."
"Doctor, this is the most unethical, irresponsible thing you've done yet." yelled Reming. "What do you propose to do now? What if Starfleet wants to examine his body? They will find the chip."
"I'll take it out. After all, removing it won't kill him. He's already dead," Tedmoore made the last comment with a chuckle in his voice.
"No, Leave it in him. That is an order. I don't want a cover up on my hands. And put it in your report that you used experimental technology on an alien species without my permission."
"As you wish, sir," said the Doctor, almost too calmly for Reming to handle. Unfortunately, the doctor's smug expression was too much for Commander Reed. Her eyes grew dark and her fists tightened.
As Captain Reming turned to leave Sickbay, he felt something rush past him. He quickly turned to see what it was. To his shock, he found Commander Reed diving at the Doctor. She pushed the man across the room and wrapped her hands around his throat. "You used me. You used me to get to him! " Reed cried. "What if his Jem'Hadar friends came looking for him!? What if they rescued him while he had that damn chip inside him? Huh? You could have handed it right over to the enemy!"
The Doctor struggled to catch is breath. He wrapped his hands around the Commander's arms, trying to pull them off, but she was too strong. Her arms were stiff and solid, like two led pipes. As is body was robbed of more oxygen, he felt his strength leaving his body. Just as the room began to grow dark, Captain Reming came to his rescue.
Reming forced his body between Reed and Tedmoore. "Let go of him! Donna, let go!" He grabbed her shoulders and pushed her off. Doctor Tedmoore dropped to the floor, rolling to his back coughing and struggling to replenish the air his body missed so much.
"Commander Donna Reed, what is wrong with you? What are you doing?" shouted Reming, shaking her, as if trying to wake her from a deep sleep.
A flash of anger crossed Reed's eyes. She raised her arms to break Reming's grip. Then, just before she was about to strike back, her eyes rolled back and her body grew limp. Reming, grabbed her tightly, trying to prevent her from falling hard to the ground. "Doctor, help!"
Doctor Tedmoore, still struggling to catch his breath, reached for the nearest medical tri-corder. As quickly as he could, he staggered over to the semi-conscious body lying on the deck.
"What's wrong with her?" asked Reming. "Her skin is cold and she's sweating."
The doctor waved the tri-corder over Reed. "She's sick. Real sick. Her adrenaline levels are extremely high. Come on, we need to get her up on the table."
Reming quickly placed his arms under Reed and scooped her up. Without effort, he placed her onto the bio-bed. Tedmoore pressed a button, causing several medial apparatuses to spring from seemingly nowhere. Two significantly large pieces of medical equipment moved over Reed's body and locked into place.
Reming watched as Reed seemed to struggle against herself. "Donna, what's wrong?" he asked.
"Aaahhh, I don't know. I feel so sick," Reed grimaced.
Reming looked up at Tedmoore. He returned the glance, but continued to work, reading the instant test results returned by the bed. He reached for a hypo spray and moved it toward Reed. Her hand shot up and grabbed his at the wrist.
"No don't," Reed said. She shifted her eyes to Reming. "Don't let him but the chip in me. I don't want that thing in me. I don't care how much it'll help. I don't want it."
Reming looked up at the Tedmoore. "Doctor, if you implant that chip without her permission, so help me I…"
"Don't worry, Captain. This is just a sedative. It'll help her to relax. I have no intentions to implant the Communing chip in the Commander. You have my word."
Reming sighed and gave the Doctor a nod. Tedmoore gently removed Reed's hand from his wrist and continued the hypo-spray on its path to Reed's neck. Instantly after the injection, every muscle in the Commander's body relaxed and her eyelids grew heavy as she drifted off to sleep.
Doctor Tedmoore moved a few feet from the bed and motioned Reming to follow.
"What is it? What's wrong with her?" asked Reming.
"Some kind of wart like lesions are appearing throughout her body, including her brain. The same types of lesions were also present on the dead Jem'Hadar solders."
"The plague he spoke of - she has it."
Captain Philip Reming looked back at his first officer lying on the bed a few feet from him. Just a few hours ago Commander Reed was warning him of the dangers locked in the adrift Jem'Hadar warship. As he watched her, he realized she was right all along. Reming wished she were well enough to boast how right she was.
Now the pressure of the situation had real gravity. Reming could feel it pressing down on him. For his short tenure as Captain, he always found himself relying heavily on her. After all, she had more experience than he did. Now he didn't have her to lean on. The safety of the ship and crew was now solely his responsibility.
"Captain, we may have an epidemic on our hands here. Since you, the Commander, and I all had direct contact with the Vorta, I think we should quarantine ourselves in Sickbay. We have to do whatever is necessary to contain whatever this is," said Doctor Tedmoore.
Reming looked up at the Doctor. He knew he was right, but Reming couldn't do what the Doctor asked. Reming had a ship to run and he couldn't run it in Sickbay. He had to think of something to change the Doctor's mind. "Maybe the plague has already spread, in which case a quarantine wouldn't do any good."
"What? No, that's not possible. The Vorta and I beamed directly to Sickbay."
"Maybe Donna caught it while she was on the Jem'Hadar ship with you and Carol. Did the Vorta even have any the symptoms?"
The Doctor's face settled into a state resembling exasperation. It was a state it assumed quite often. "Well no, but Captain, it doesn't make a difference whether he exhibited symptoms or not. He could be a carrier of the disease. We simply can't take the chance."
"Doctor, I need to figure out what's going on here. I can't do that locked up in Sickbay."
"If you leave here, sir, you may make things worse. I don't know anything about this disease. Is it a virus? How is it spread? I don't know. If you leave here, it could spread to the entire ship. If that happens, I may not be able to stop it. Respectfully sir, who is being irresponsible now?"
"Doctor, we both have our jobs to do. I need to find where the plague may have come from. You need to find a way to stop it. Do all you can for Donna. Let me know if there's any change in her condition."
"Captain, you know I have the authority to keep you here."
"You do what you think you need to do."
With that, Captain Reming turned and started walking out. As he headed for the exit, he waited for Tedmoore to make his move. To Reming's surprise, he didn't stop him.
When Captain Reming stepped onto the bridge, he was struck by something unusual. It seemed no one was there. This bothered him, since he distinctly remembered leaving Parks and Smith when he left. As he looked closer, though, he could see two figures sitting on the deck just in front of the view screen.
"You got any two's?" asked Ensign Smith.
"Nope, go fish," said Parks.
"What are you two doing?" asked Reming.
Parks and Smith looked up at the Captain with shock and embarrassment. Both jumped to their feet as fast as they could, brushing playing cards off their uniform. The two looked at the Captain like children that just got caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. Parks swallowed hard when he noticed the fire in Captain Reming's eyes.
"Uh, s…sorry sir," sputtered Parks, searching for the right explanation. "We were just…ah…"
"Playing cards?" suggested Reming.
"Yeah, I guess."
"Back to your stations with the both of you," Reming said with subdued anger. Both Parks and Smith darted to their consoles as fast as they could, leaving the deck of playing cards littering the floor.
"Now, let me just fill you two card sharks in," said Reming, shifting his stare from Parks to Smith, attempting to look both in the eyes at the same time. "As you are aware, the away team found all the Jem'Hadar solders dead on their ship. The away team, under the Doctor's recommendations, beamed the only living crewmember, a Vorta, to Sickbay. You are aware of that also. But what you don't know is the Vorta told the Commander and I that his entire crew died of a mysterious plague. And, what I'm sure you don't know is, while we were down in Sickbay, the Commander became ill with the plague. All indications are that it's the same disease that killed the Jem'Hadar. Right now, it's very likely the plague is spreading throughout the ship."
Ensign Smith continued to stare back at the Captain. Lieutenant Commander Parks let his gaze drift down to his console. Both their thoughts were suddenly with Commander Reed. After a moment of calm, Parks looked up at Reming. "What are your orders, sir?"
"Fist things first. Is the warp drive back on-line?"
Ensign Smith looked down at his console, "Uh, I'm still not getting a positive response from my console, but, since the computer is still on the fritz, I can't trust my readout."
Reming looked up. "Bridge to Engineering. What's the status of the warp drive?"
In Main Engineering, the warp core was back in its proper place, but the structure was dark. Chief engineer Carol Smith was running her small staff to the limit. The process now was to breathe life back into the core. The calculations needed to get the exact mixture of matter and antimatter had to be done precisely. This was usually a simple task for the computer, but Carol felt she couldn't trust the computer for any major task. The computer was grossly malfunctioning. The order to launch torpedoes was incorrectly processed as eject the warp core. That's what put the ship in its present state. For Carol, her only choice was to try and restart the warp drive manually.
"Captain," she said, "the warp core is back in place. We're working to get it restarted. I will notify you as soon as it's back up and running. We're working as fast as we can. Engineering out."
Indeed, Carol was working as fast as she could. As a matter of fact, she was working faster than humanly possible. Her hands were moving so fast, an observer would not be able to distinguish her individual digits. Her hands were a blur. Even her mind was working faster and better than ever. It occurred to Carol that something was wrong with her, but she didn't care at the moment. She was using it to her advantage. A moment later, she picked up a PADD and starting working on the calculations to restart the engines. The complex formulas that would have made the sharpest Vulcan dizzy, pored from her head with incredible ease. In a short while, she would have the answer.
Captain Reming fell back into his chair. He was without Commander Reed by his side for only a short time and already he was exhausted. "No Donna. No warp drive. What do I do now?" he asked himself. He had to think, but, for him, thinking was always tougher when stared at. Even with his eyes closed he could feel someone staring. Reming looked up to find Parks and Smith drilling him with their eyes.
Just then, an idea struck Reming. He pointed a finger at Parks. "The Vorta said something about the Fifth Fleet. They must have recently encountered the fleet. Can we retrieve the Jem'Hadar logs from here and find out exactly where they've been?"
"Well, it would be easier if we went over…"
"I don't want to send another away team over there. Can we do it from here?"
"Ummm….I'm not sure. I'm not even sure the Jem'Hadar keep logs like we do. We may be able to scan the navigation database. That way, we might be able to find out were they've been in the past few days."
"But how can we do that from here?"
Parks' mind began to race. He began to imagine all the interconnecting systems of the Condor with great ease. Never before had he been able to see all the ship functions with such clarity. Within seconds, an idea came to him. "Maybe we could increase the power of the sensor sweep to make direct contact with their data banks. The frequency of the sensor sweep will fluctuate when it comes in contact with each bit of data in the data banks. We, at this end, should be able to detect the fluctuations and record them in our ship's database. The net effect should result in an exact copy of their data banks into our data banks."
Reming looked at Parks' and scratched his head. "You think that'll work?"
"But, I'd rather not let the computer do the job in its current state. Can you make the modifications to the sensors and run the sweep manually?"
During the conversation, Ensign Nick Smith turned back to his console for a second, then turned back and interrupted. "Uh, sir?"
"Yes?" asked Reming.
"The modifications can be done by hand. I just made them."
"You? You just made the modifications? You? At your console? You?" Reming was stunned, to say the least. "But you were only back at your console for a second."
"It's all the time I needed," smiled Ensign Smith.
Reming rubbed the back of his neck. "Something is REALLY wrong here."
"What, sir? " blinked Parks.
"Never mind, Lieutenant. Start the scan. How long will the process take?"
"About an hour."
"Fine, let me know when the job is done. I'll be in Sickbay."
Captain Reming stepped hurriedly into Sickbay. His bridge crew was acting beyond odd. He had to discuss the situation with Doctor Tedmoore. Reming was about to get the Doctor's attention when he noticed his first officer still lying down, unconscious. His concern for her well being made his heart skip a beat. Until this moment, he really hadn't realized how much he cared about her. For a moment, he watched her sleep, wondering if she'd recover at all.
Reming tore his eyes off Commander Reed and turned his attention to Doctor Tedmoore. Reming found the Doctor at the other end of Sickbay. Instead of calling the Doctor, he decided to make his way over to him. Calling out might disturb the resting Commander.
As Reming neared the Doctor, he realized the Tedmoore was attending to another crewman lying unconscious. "What happened, Doctor? Someone else came down with the disease?" His heart sank when he recognized the patient. It was his Chief Engineer, Carol Smith.
"No, she doesn't have it. At least not yet."
"Then what's the problem?"
"She passed out from exhaustion."
"I know she and her people were working hard to get the engines back on line. Did she push herself too hard?"
"No, it's more serious than that. She was working, moving, thinking at a level too high for a human to handle. People around her said she was moving like a video playback in fast forward. Indications suggest her thinking abilities had increased too. She was solving mathematical calculations that only the computer could solve. Finally, her body couldn't take the stress any longer. That's when she fainted. I think it's a problem with the Communing chip. It's malfunctioning. I don't know if the malfunction is a result of something external or if it’s a flaw in the chip."
"Do you think it's related the ship's computer malfunctions?"
"Well, I hadn't thought of that. It's possible. After all, we know s symbiotic bond exists between ship and anyone with the communing chip. I'm keeping her asleep. It's the only way to keep her mind quiet."
"What about Donna?"
"No change yet. Right now I'm trying to pin down whatever this disease is. I have all manner of bug on file from past to present and from countless worlds and cultures, including information on cross species illnesses. I have information on diseases ranging from AIDS to the Ferrengi Flu, but the computer can't find an exact match. The only thing that comes close is the Athenian Plague."
"The Athenian plague. It's a plague that struck the Greeks in the fifth century. It supposedly killed as much as one third of the population of Athens. The symptoms didn't match any other known illness at the time. Then, as mysteriously as it appeared, it vanished."
"You think it's the same thing?"
Tedmoore shook his head in aggravation. "I just don't know." The Doctor then picked up a tri-corder and passed it in front of Reming. "You're okay. What are you doing down here besides bugging me?"
"The Communing chip malfunction you mentioned, Lieutenant Parks and Ensign Smith are experiencing the same symptoms as Carol right now."
Tedmoore turned away from his patient to face the Captain. For the first time Reming saw real tension building on the Doctor's face. "You know, we're in real trouble here," said Tedmoore. "Now we have two separate emergencies. First the plague and now this Communing chip break down. Not to mention the computer failures."
"Doc, take it easy. We'll get out of this. At least we don't have anyone else with symptoms of the plague. Maybe Commander Reed is an isolated case. Maybe it's not spreading."
"No, it's spreading all right."
"How do you know?"
"I've got it."
On the bridge, two living beings worked over their respective consoles, each with the speed and efficiency of an automaton. Although seated apart, both were worked together toward the same goal - retrieving the Jem'Hadar navigation logs.
"Data recognition software active," announced Ensign Smith.
"Beam sweep in progress," said Lieutenant Commander Parks. "Beam will complete pass one in four point seven seconds."
"Data recognized. Beginning data storage algorithm. "
"Pass one complete. Pass two initiated."
"Data replication is…finished. Navigation data in Condor data banks. Process is complete."
The job was done. The navigational information stored in the Jem'Hadar computer was now exactly replicated within the Condor's computer database. With the task now complete, both Michael and Nicholas sighed deeply and sat back in their seats. Nether realized how hard they'd pushed their bodies. Parks looked at Smith and smiled. He didn't notice his increased respiration and perspiration. "We did it!"
"Yeah," said Smith. "Hey, you don't look to good. You all right?"
"You look kind of sick yourself. You think we've got the plague?"
"Maybe. We'd better get down to sickbay. Oh, by the way, while we were working, I think I figured out how to resolve the side effects of the Communing chip. I even figured out how the Doctor can safely remove the chip without endangering the patient."
"Really? That's good news. When you see him, explain it to him."
"Okay, I will."
With the strong sense of a job well done, both Nick and Mike stood up and prepared to head down to Sickbay. However, nether made it. Both passed out the moment they stood up.
Captain Reming walked slowly down the corridor that led to the turbo lift, but he wasn't conscious of the trip. His mind was busy trying to in vain to find answers to the problems at hand. Lucky for him, his legs knew their way around the ship.
He brain kept jumping from problem to problem. First, the plague, then the computer malfunctions, then the communing chip failures. Around and around, the three puzzles whirled, seemingly mocking him from inside his head. His confidence sank like the Asian stock market toward the end of the twentieth century. Fear and worry began to take him over. Then, as he emotionally hit bottom, an idea hit him. What if all three problems were connected? Maybe Carol was also infected, but not like Donna. Maybe the Communing chip attempted to fight off the disease. Or maybe the chip caused the disease to mutate in Carol's brain somehow.
Suddenly, things stated to make sense to Reming. The dancing problems stopped swirling and slowly merged into one. But what about the computer malfunctions? The Communing chip does link with the ship's computer…somehow. Maybe the Communing chip malfunction bounced from Carol to the computer. But then why would Parks' and Smith's Communing chip malfunction too? They were not members of the away team. Well, if the malfunction could bounce from Carol to the ship's computer, maybe it could bounce from the computer to Parks and Smith. That's it! Instead of three problems to solve, he had only one: the plague.
Reming looked up to see the turbo lift doors slide open. Before he knew it, he was back on the bridge. He made it back without being conscious of the trip.
But, when he walked onto the bridge, something was missing. Then he realized what was wrong. His bridge-crew was missing again. "Parks, Smith, stop playing cards and get back to your stations," he said, but no one answered. Reming walked down where his two officers should be. There, lying on the ground, were Parks and Smith. Reming knelt down searched for a pulse on the unconscious two. Their pulses were strong but very rapid. Reming had to get them down to Sickbay. "Computer…" Reming started, then stopped himself. Could he trust the computer to handle the sight - to - sight transport? He decided to take the chance. "Computer, transport Lieutenant Commander Michael Parks and Ensign Nicholas Smith directly to Sickbay "
As expected, the computer initiated the transporter beam. After a few short seconds, Parks and Smith were gone. "Bridge to Sickbay, I just beamed Parks and Smith down to you. I found them in the condition they're in now. Take care of them. Oh and Doctor, I believe the problems with the Communing chip are connected with the plague. I think Carol, Mike and Nick all have it, but their Communing chips caused them not to be affected in the same way as the Commander."
"Uh, sir, You said you beamed Mike and Nick down here? They're not here. Are you sure you beamed them down?" asked Tedmoore.
"Stand by Sickbay." Reming began to look around the empty bridge for some hint of where they went. His heart jumped to his throat, and he began to panic. Where did the computer send them? Were they still on the ship? While Reming looked, the comm. system chirped. "Uh…Yeoman Pitt to Bridge? Captain, Lieutenant Parks and Ensign Smith just beamed into engineering. Did you want them beamed down here for a reason?"
"Are they all right?"
"Uh, well, they appear to be unconscious, sir," the female crewman nervously answered.
"Okay, please get them down to Sickbay. Have someone carry them, if necessary."
"Oh, and Yeoman, you ever work on the bridge?"
"Well, no sir. To be honest, the Bridge makes me nervous."
"Come up here anyway. I need some help."
"Yes, sir," sighed the ensign.
Doctor Tedmoore sat at his console, purring over the results of the tests performed on Commander Reed. He was finding it very difficult to concentrate. His throat was beginning to hurt and he was having trouble keeping his eyes focused on the readouts. He had the Athenian Plague, there was no doubt.
He sat back and rubbed his eyes. "Something's depleting all her enzymes. What is it? Why can't I see the damn thing? My instruments should be screaming with information on the bug. Why isn't it?" He began to wonder about his instruments - were they working? He decided to test a theory.
Tedmoore walked over to a cabinet and pulled out a device. It was clearly an antique. It was something not used for decades at least. It was a called a microscope.
The doctor took a blood sample from Reed and placed it in front of the microscope's lens. He looked into the eyepiece. He focused the instrument until the image was crystal clear. The image gave him a chill down his spine. "There it is."
"Good to meet you, Yeoman. Please take the science station," said the Captain.
"Yes sir, but Captain, I think you should know. This is very knew to me."
"That makes two of us," said Reming. He meant it as a joke, but he wished he hadn't said it. The last thing he wanted to do was make the young woman even more nervous. "Parks was attempting to get information from that Jem'Hadar ship. Can you find out if he was successful?"
"I'll try." Miss Pitt was about to place her hands on the console, but quickly pulled them back. "Captain, about this plague…how contagious is it?"
"We don't know, but the doctor is very near a cure," lied Reming. "So, don't worry."
"Aye, sir." The young woman looked over the readouts. "Here it is, sir." She closed several contacts until a chart came up on the view screen.
Reming walked over to the screen to get a better look. "It appears that the Jem'Hadar hit the Fifth Fleet pretty hard at… the Bijani border, wherever the hell that is," said Reming. "Wow, twenty-seven Federation ships destroyed."
"Yes, sir. The story was all over the war updates the last couple of days."
"I never read them. They're depressing."
"Well, that's true," said Miss Pitt, thoughtfully.
Reming stepped closer to the view screen. "I wonder…"
"Could the Jem'Hadar have gotten the disease from a Federation starship? Maybe they beamed over to take prisoners and somehow contracted the disease there. Is that possible?"
"That's a distinct possibility," said a loud voice from the back of the bridge.
Reming turned to see who spoke. It was Doctor Tedmoore. Reming was shocked to see him stepping off the turbo lift. He was even more surprised to see Commander Reed right behind him. Reming blinked hard. "Donna?"
"Reporting for duty, sir," said Reed, smiling widely.
"She's fine, Captain," assured Tedmoore. "She's free of the virus. Once I found it, and saw how it was made, it wasn't too difficult to get rid of."
"Oh, I see," said Reming, even though he didn't. "Wait, did you say the plague was made?'"
"Oh yes, man made in fact. It's interesting. It's the only virus in history to have a cloaking ability."
"A what?" said both Reming and Reed, almost simultaneously.
"Well, not like you think of a cloaking device. The bug has the ability to mask itself from all present day medical equipment. I had to pull out an old style microscope to see it. Strip away all the tech and there it was. That's how I knew it was man made. And, as you pointed out, that Jem'Hadar ship's last attack was with the Fifth Fleet at the Bijani border. According to this," continued Tedmoore, pointing at the chart on the view screen, "it's the last time this Jem'Hadar warship had contact with any other ship besides us. Therefore, they must have contracted it from a Federation ship in the battle."
"You think Starfleet planted the plague on one of our starships on purpose? You think they were counting on the Jem'Hadar to bring it back with them?" asked Reming.
"I don't know, but since it appears the plague is only deadly to Jem'Hadar, then it's a possibility."
"Only deadly to the Jem'Hadar? What do you mean?" asked Reed.
"Well, although the plague was doing serious damage to your immune system, and to mine as well, it wasn't doing enough to kill us. It seemed to need some other chemical in the victim's blood stream in order to be deadly. Since neither of us have the chemical, it didn't kill us."
"What's the chemical?"
"I don't know."
Reming rubbed his head, "But, you know, I'm still confused about something. We took all possible precautions before sending you over there. How the hell did we wind up bringing it back here?"
"I have a theory about that," said Reed. "I think we brought it back the same way the Jem'Hadar solders brought it back to their ship - through the transporters."
"Yes, sir. When we beamed back to the Condor, the virus must have been on our suits. Somehow, it got caught in the transporter's matrix when we materialized. From there, it jumped to the computer system, then to Parks and Smith."
"Oh by the way, Captain," interrupted the Doctor, "You were right. Carol, Mike, and Nick had the disease. When the bug got into the computer, the symbiotic link between Communing chip and computer was the conduit that allowed it to move to Parks and Smith. The Communing chip caused the bug to mutate in their bodies, thus causing them to have …uh…different symptoms."
"And how did you get rid of it?"
"In all the victims, a special viral microbe hid in the brain. This microbe controlled the virus throughout the victim's body. Once I tweaked my scanners to get past the cloak, I was able to track down the boss microbe and kill it. The rest of the virus dies once the controller is dead."
"How did you you'd find a 'boss' microbe in the brain in the first place?"
The Doctor smiled. "Let's just say, I had some experience with …"
The Doctor's confession was interrupted by the swishing sound of the turbo lift. As soon as the doors slid open, out stepped Lieutenant Commander Parks and Ensign Nicholas Smith.
"We're back! You miss us, sir?" asked the Ensign.
"Good to have both of you back," beamed Reming. He never thought he'd be so happy to see the bumbling duo back on the bridge. "Come and take your posts."
"Oh thank God." Said Yeoman Pitt, still seated at the Science station. "Can I go back to Engineering now?"
"Of course, Miss Pitt. You may go," said Reming. He'd forgotten the woman was still sitting there. As the ensign left, Parks and Smith took their empty stations. Commander Reed took her place back next to the Captain's seat as well.
"Superb job, Doctor. You have my thanks," said Reming. He could almost feel the canyon sized trust gap that existed between them finally starting to shrink.
" If you need me, you know where to find me," said Tedmoore as he left the bridge.
Reming sat down, and turned to his first officer seated beside him. He wanted to tell her how much he missed seeing her there, but he couldn't. It just didn't seem right. "Well Commander, what do we do now?"
"How should I know, you're the Captain," she said with a small smile creasing her face.
"You're right." He turned to Parks. "Is the computer functioning normally now?"
"Yes sir. The computer is free of the virus."
"Good. Target quantum torpedoes at that Jem'Hadar ship and destroy it."
On the view screen, three quantum torpedoes rocketed across space toward the adrift warship. The impact was spectacular. The explosion grew around the entire enemy ship until it was completely destroyed.
"Now, open a channel to Starfleet Command, Mister Parks," said Reed. "I think we should fill them in on our experience here."
"Aye, sir," said Parks. He moved his hands over the proper buttons to open the channel to Starfleet Command, but before he could close the contact, a flashing light caught his eye. "What's this?"
"We're getting a wide band distress call. It's from the USS Katana, sir."
Reming turned to Reed. "What do you think? Should we check it out?"
"Well, the Condor isn't up for a skirmish with the Cardassians or the Jem'Hadar, but we can't ignore any Federation starship if they need our help."
"Agreed, but what about the warp drive? Is it back on line?"
Reed spoke up. "Bridge to Engineering. Carol, are the engines up and running?"
"Yes, ma'am," answered the Chief Engineer Carol Smith. "We are good to go."
Reming took one quick look around the bridge. His heart beat with pride to see his crew back where they should be. The bridge felt so empty without them. After all, the bridge was empty without them. Reming turned his attention back to his job. "Ahem, Ensign Smith, lay in a course for the Katana and engage."
Borg Like Me, part deux, part two
|Episode Thirteen - Deep in the Delta Quadrant the Condor crew find an exploded Borg cube. With help from The Resistance they take action to find their missing crew in Borg space! You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder why it took 10 years to write 44 pages. Second half of Story One of Three in the Delta Story Arc|
|Launched December 2004, TrekFiction.com (Version 1.0) is a readers resource from Trek Writer's Guild. This website is a collaboration between the many TWG/SotF authors and Mediaboy Productions. All stories are original and copyrighted by the respective authors under United States law, as well as every other country that matters. (Including Canada) All graphics are original and copyrighted, either separately or collaborativly, by Mediaboy Productions and/or others as specified. The stories and graphics on this site may not be copied, reprinted, or reposted without express and written permission of the original creators. Trek Writer's Guild is in no way affiliated with Paramount Pictures Inc. Star Trek : Enterprise ( Archer T'Pol Reed Tucker Hoshi ), Star Trek ( Kirk Spock Bones McCoy Scotty Enterprise ), Star Trek: The Next Generation ( Picard Data Riker Worf Enterprise ), Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ( Sisko Dax O'Brian Odo Quark Kira Defiant ), Star Trek: Voyager ( Voyager Janeway Chakotay Tuvok Paris Torres Be'lanna Neelix Seven of Nine ) are property and copyright of Paramount Pictures Inc. These properties are used in good faith by the authors of Trek Writer's Guild, to further the human adventure through positive storytelling.|