Elizabeth Knauel and Nomad
Note: This story
contains graphic violence and sexual situations.
It is not intended for readers until the age of 17.
The giant ship moved slowly through the darkness of space. It was orbiting a small planet in solar system, one of ten circling the small K0 III sun.
Inside the ship a somber processional was walking down the corridor. The portholes, normally exposed, were shuttered tight. Six black-robed figures, hoods drawn over their heads, moved slowly, carrying tall candle holders with long dark tapers.
In their midst was another figure, also robed and hooded. His robe was dark blood red, setting him apart from the others. While his hood covered his head, it was drawn back to reveal a strong masculine face, pale and drawn with locks of raven black hair draped over the yoke of the robe. There was pain in his expression; pain and sadness and hate and anguish and anger all blended together. He sighed as he passed the shuttered ports, but continued, not wishing to delay this any more than was necessary.
Finally, they reached a large room. The courtroom. They paused at the entrance and the red-robed figure stared at the scene before him. On a dais were seven large chairs. In front of six of the seven chairs stood figures garbed in red-trimmed black robes, their cowls draped back over their shoulders. The space in front of the center chair was vacant, waiting for him, waiting for the senior judge of the tribunal.
He stood at the door, studying the six. Three were men, three were women. All looked the same as he: drawn, pale, sorrowful. The women had their dark hair arranged according to custom, loose and flowing in the front, and bound loosely in back. The men wore their dark hair shorter, save for a long lock on either side of their face covering their ears. He met their gazes, light brown eyes meeting green or hazel or light brown eyes.
Finally, they bowed to him slightly, and he bowed back even more slightly. He then walked into the room and took his place in front of the center chair. He let his cowl fall back on his shoulders, revealing his dark hair worn the same way as the other men on the dais.
The six black-robed figures acolytes, assistants, guards placed the long poles holding the giant tapers into wells in the floor creating an aisle to the dais. When the last one was securely in place, the six figures moved to stand behind the six chairs. Then the seven in front of the chairs sat down.
The man in the center looked at the three on his right side; they looked back at him and nodded. He looked at the three on his left and received nods from them.
Finally, the man in the center chair looked at the figure, another in black robes, standing by the door. "Bring in the condemned," he said, his deep resonating voice almost echoing in the large chamber.
The door slid open again. This time it admitted two more black-robed figures, guards with pikes, with a third figure, a female, wearing what had once been an elegant floor-length royal blue gown between them. The female stumbled and only the firm grip by her two guards kept her from falling to the floor. Her hands were bound in front of her, and her legs had shackles, making it difficult for her to walk. Unlike the other women, her hair was honey-colored, loose, unbound. Her green eyes were sharp, green, and full of anger.
The three made their way up the candle-lined aisle slowly, impeded by the female's unsteady gait. Finally, they stood below the dais, facing the man in the red robe. The two guards released their grasps on her arms, and the female sank to the floor inelegantly.
The judge in the center chair looked down at the figure, a myriad of emotions playing on his face. Finally, he closed his eyes, then opened them, his face now emotionless.
In the same tones, the judge commanded, "Arise, Akia. Arise and face your accusers."
The blonde head lifted from the floor. Blazing green eyes met the judge's brown eyes. Silently, she moved to her knees and slowly made her way to her feet, only to fall back to her knees. Again, she glared at the judge, her eyes now glowing a ruddy red.
The judge refused to respond to her silent challenge. She was thin, he noted. Much thinner than he remembered. He noted the gown hung loosely over her frame. Once it had accentuated her feminine form; now it emphasized her gauntness.
Steadying herself on her knees, she glared up at her guards. Her face drew back in a snarl, exposing her sharp teeth, a growl erupting from her throat. The two guards drew back from her bringing their pikes up defensively.
Akia turned her angry glare back to the judge. "Belan, how do you expect me to rise and face you and this court when I have been deprived of all nourishment for weeks? Look at me! I can barely stay on my knees, let alone stand."
Belan, the judge, nodded to the two guards. They lowered their pikes and moved toward her, helping the woman to stand, keeping a firm grip on her slender arms.
Belan's head nodded once, and a hologram appeared between the prisoner and judge. The planet that turned between them was green and blue, full of forests and meadows and mountains and oceans.
"Akia," Belan intoned, standing in front of his chair, "you have been accused of breaking the most sacred of our laws, of infecting innocents with the Curse that afflicts us who remain alive of the Ghanil. You have also been accused of enslaving innocents for your personal enjoyment, causing serious injury and even death to the indigent life of the planet we have been exploring. You have been tried and found guilty."
Akia snorted and tossed her head, momentarily unbalancing herself. When she regained her balance she snorted again. "Of course I was found guilty. Who would speak for me once you condemned me?"
"Your actions condemned you, Akia," Belan shook his head sadly. "You are a danger to all sentient life."
A harsh laugh erupted from Akia's throat. "I am no more dangerous than you. Any of you!" she added as her glare rested on the six judges flanking Belan.
"Enough!" Belan roared, red-rimmed brown eyes flashing back at the prisoner. "We know what we are. But we abide by the Rules which we formed for our people. You have refused to follow them!"
"Bah!" Akia retorted. "Those rules were created by you and them," she pulled free of the two guards and waved her bound hands at the seven on the dais. "Those rules have stopped us from taking our rightful place in the universe!"
"Silence!" Belan thundered. His eyes were fully red now, and his incisors seemed sharper than before. "You seek to enslave the universe. Those you don't enslave you kill. We want to live in harmony with the universe, not dominate it. We have only taken what is needed to survive, and even then it is with reluctance."
"Belan, you are a fool!" Akia spat back. "We were given the means to dominate the universe! Why else were we Changed when the plague came to our people when so many others were not? The Change saved us, and gave us the power to rule others."
"That plague," Belan's voice lowered in sorrow, his head bowed in grief, "was of our own making, a punishment for our pride, our arrogance, our greed in seeking immortality."
"Belan, we have the immortality we sought!" Akia screamed. "We have succeeded!"
"But at what price?" Belan responded in that same sad voice. "We are not the people we once were. Where is our art, our literature, our science, our culture? Gone, all gone. It is but a memory. We are wanderers, without a home, seeking a means to put an end to this accursed existence we now must lead."
"You're a fool, Belan!" Akia said disdainfully. "All of you are fools! We have the means to control the universe, turn it to our bidding, and you sit there and agonize over some minor inconveniences we have because of the Change. You should be reveling in the power we now wield. And you call it a curse. It is no curse! It's a blessing!"
Belan looked at her, shaking his head sadly. "Akia, you have gone mad. Insane from the effects of the Curse!" His voice filled with emotion. "You enslave those who catch your fancy and use them to sate your lusts and appetites. When they no longer please you, or when another comes along that catches your eye, you kill them as if they were nothing. Less than nothing! And you enjoy the killing as much as the enslaving! And worst of all, you inflict innocents with the very Curse that afflicts us!"
Akia attempted to take a step closer to Belan, but stopped when her balance again betrayed her. "Why shouldn't I?" she demanded. "I am strong! I take what I want, when I want it. And I want the power and the control I have because of the Change. And as for those innocents that you are so worried about, why they are grateful to me for Changing them. Grateful enough to give me more power!"
"And that is why we have found you guilty, Akia. And that is why we are condemning you to exile on this planet," Belan said heavily as his long arm swept forward and indicated the small hologram between them.
Akia turned her attention to the globe before her. Her eyes glittered with silent amusement and her tongue slide over her teeth, pausing at the sharp points of her incisors. "It is a pretty planet, Belan. Very pretty. Almost as pretty as the last planet we were on." She looked up at her judge, her tone neutral now. "I take it there are no higher life forms on this planet. Of course not. Otherwise, I would not be allowed to live out my existence there."
"There are only lower life forms," Belan admitted slowly, almost reluctantly. "Many of them are warm-blooded. A few are cold-blooded."
"Well, at least I won't starve," Akia smirked.
"Their existence will not matter to you Akia," Belan continued, his tones becoming more reluctant, more grave. He sat back down in his chair heavily, his eyes now light brown and full of anguish. "You are to be transported into the rock strata of the planet. There is a small cavern, completely enclosed. Not even you could escape from there."
Akia stared at Belan, disbelief and fear etched in her features. "What?" She stared at him for a long minute, then at turned her wide gaze on the six flanking him. "What do you have planned for me?" She searched their faces again, then turned her attention to the judge again. "Belan, no! You cannot do this to me! Not after what we have been to each other!" She lost her balance and sank to the floor, to her knees. Her hands raised beseechingly to the seven on the dais. "You dare to call me evil? How much more evil can one be to condemn another to be entombed in solid rock, as you are doing to me?"
Belan shook his head. "Akia, this is the only way that we can be sure that you will not escape to plague the rest of the galaxy."
Akia drew herself up haughtily. "I see."
"We had no choice, Akia," the judge lamented.
"You had a choice, Belan! You have a choice! You choose to stop me from fulfilling my destiny!" Akia shakily found her feet again. "Well, I also have a choice. I curse you, Belan. All of you!" Her fierce glare took in the entire tribunal. "You and your descendants!"
With her last word she tried to lunge from her guards and reach the dais and Belan. One of her guards caught her by an arm and pulled her back. She turned on him, hissing and snarling, her incisors exposed as she tried to lunge at him. He stepped back deftly and struck her with the back of his hand. Akia fell to the ground, stunned, a small trickle of blood appearing from the corner of her mouth.
The room became deathly quiet as everyone stared at her. And at the small amount of blood that appeared on the ground near her head. One of her guards stared down at her, mesmerized. Then he began to move on her, his tongue wetting his lips.
"Stop!" Belan's voice boomed from the silence. The guard stopped in his tracks and stared up at the dais and at the judge, now standing at the edge of the dais. "That is her way. It is not our way. It will never be our way!"
The guard looked down at groggy woman at his feet, at the small puddle of blood near her head, then up at the judge, then back down at Akia. Finally, he stepped back, his head bowed in submission.
Belan motioned to the guards, and they assisted the woman to her feet. She was much weaker now, but still her glare was full of defiance. Belan turned his look at the others on the tribunal. They stood and moved to stand by Belan's side, looking down at the condemned woman.
"The Supreme Court of the Ghanil has declared that Akia of the Ghanil has committed the foulest of all crimes against the Ghanil, and against the people of the third planet of the Star System 14972. By law she is condemned to eternity in exile, encased in the rock chamber of this planet." Belan's tone was once again devoid of emotion, his expression carefully neutral. "Alive forever, and forever separated from the ones she would enslave and infect and kill. The sentence is to be carried out forthwith."
Belan nodded to her guards. They half-dragged, half-carried her toward the hologram. It disappeared, and a dark pad raised up from beneath the floor. Two of the acolytes moved toward a small recess in a wall and exposed a control panel. As the two guards removed her chains, the others moved from behind the judges and stood around her, pikes aimed at her, ready for use if she should try and bolt for freedom.
Belan nodded again, his expression filled with grief as his gaze met hers. Akia glared back at him, hate filling her green eyes. Then she disappeared.
Belan sighed heavily, finding his way back to his seat. "It is done," he said at last.
The black-robed guards lowered the cowls on their robes and stared at the spot where Akia had last stood. "It is done," they all repeated. They stood at their posts, expectantly.
"Go," Belan waved his hand at the group. "This is over now. Go back to your families."
"Belan," one of the women started to walk toward him, her hand reaching for him comfortingly.
"Go, Sharana," Belan looked at her. "I will be fine." Then as he noted the grief in her eyes, he added, "I will join you and the family shortly."
"Very well, brother," she murmured softly.
The judges and all but three of the acolytes walked out of the room. Two of the acolytes stayed behind to extinguish the flames on the tapers. When that task was finished, they gathered the candles and the poles and began to leave the courtroom. The third acolyte studied the control panel in front of him.
Belan looked over at him, taking in the young man's expression. His face was full of anguish. He had never had to carry out a sentence before.
"Lyco," Belan stood up and walked toward the panel. "Signal the bridge. Tell the captain to leave orbit."
"Lord Belan," Lyco nodded briefly as his hands moved to blank the screen in front of him.
"No, don't." Belan put a gentle restraining hand over Lyco's. "Akia was right. It is a pretty planet. Let us enjoy the view as we depart this system."
"Yes, Lord Belan," Lyco moved his hand back and the two looked at the screen as the planet disappeared behind them.
"Is there any news from your brother, the scientist?" Belan asked when the planet was no more than a speck on their viewscreen some minutes later. "Does he have news of a cure?"
"No, Lord Belan. The cure still eludes us."
"And the substitute nutrients? What of those?"
"They have proven to be useless. We are not nourished by the nutrients at all. In fact, the craving becomes worse."
"I see," Belan sighed sadly. He tapped another button on the control panel. "Bridge, set course for the next system on the list. Best speed."
"Yes, Lord Belan," came the soft voice of the ship's captain.
"We won't get any closer to our goal by loitering and brooding about the past," he clasped Lyco's shoulder. "We must continue to search for the cure. And until then, we must care for our people's needs."
"Yes, Lord Belan," nodded Lyco.
"Lord Belan, I still have ."
"Go, Lyco. I still remember how to secure the panel and do whatever else has to be done. Go." Belan told him firmly. Then he smiled at the young man. "Be with your love."
"Thank you, Lord Belan," Lyco nodded and smiled at the senior judge, then darted out the door.
Belan let the smile slide from his face, and he punched up the hologram of the planet again. He looked at the hologram, his eyes now full of anguish. A tear made its way down his face, but he didn't seem to notice it.
His hand reached toward the planet, shaking minutely. "Akia, my love, my life, you know we are cursed already. And without a cure, we will remain so."
Captain's Log, Stardate 0432.6
We are on a routine survey mission, cataloging an area that is fairly well mapped. We are checking out new scanning equipment that Starfleet has been working on. I can't think of a better way to end a mission. Lieutenant Montgomery Scott is watching the new equipment closer than a mother watches her new-born child.
Personal note: This is my last mission on the Enterprise. I have to admit that while a part of me doesn't want to leave this ship, another part of me can hardly wait for the ship to sail into Earth orbit. I'll miss the ship and the crew, but not the missions. I'm ready for a change, to move on. When this mission is over, I will be moving on and up, spending my time behind a desk, sending others out on missions. And the Enterprise will have a new captain.
Captain Christopher Pike sat back in his chair and turned off his log. He looked around him, noting the crew that was on the bridge with him. Number One was calmly at the helm, moving her hands over the panel with practiced skill. José Tyler, his navigator, was tapping in commands on his panel in response to Number One's actions. They worked well together, he noted.
Lieutenant Spock was busy at the science station, working with the new equipment. Lieutenant Scott at the engineering station was working closely with the Vulcan to calibrate the equipment when needed.
Standing behind Pike was Philip Boyce, the ship's CMO. Boyce had a tendency to check on the bridge crew. Pike had joked that it was to fulfill a secret desire of the doctor's to be a bridge officer and be in the thick of the battle. Boyce had refuted that statement, commenting it was the only way he could even come close to fulfilling the required medical checkups on certain members of the bridge crew.
The only position not occupied at the present, was communications. Newly promoted Lieutenant J. M. Colt was on a break at the moment, having worked the Gamma shift as well as working the Alpha shift.
Leaning forward to take in the scene on the viewscreen, Pike sighed. "Not a bad way to end our tour, eh Joe? A milk run."
Tyler looked back at his captain, a dubious look on his face. "Sir, this place is empty of just about anything that might be interesting. No inhabited planets for light years. And after the action we've had and seen over the last five years, this assignment is, to be blunt, boring."
Pike leaned back in his command chair, a large grin on his face. "Yeah," he sighed, "it is, isn't it?"
Tyler shook his head and turned back to his panel momentarily, then spun around and looked at the dark-haired captain. "So, sir, are you ready to become Fleet Captain?"
Pike, still leaning back, looked at his navigator. The grin was slowly replaced by a reflective express. Then, "Yes. Yes I am. I'll miss you folks, of course," his voice lowered, and he leaned forward, resting his chin on his hand, letting his gaze fix on the starfield on the viewscreen. "And this." Then he stood up and walked around the circular bridge. "But I'm sure I'll find myself with plenty of challenges to keep me busy." He tried, but he found he couldn't quite keep the wistful note out of his voice.
He stopped behind Scott's chair, placing a hand on the chair's back and looking at the readouts on the monitors. "How's it going, Scotty?"
"Smooth, sair," Scotty replied. "Smooth as glass. Everythin' is workin' exactly as they said it would. We're scannin' every wee planet in the area that's already been mapped. An' we've found a few wee planetoids and moons that were nae on the maps. Ah think that Starfleet will be most pleased wi' the improvements t' the scanners."
"Good." Pike walked back to his chair.
Jeanne Marie Colt
The strawberry blonde walked out of the lavatory, pulling on a clean gold tunic. She shook her head and fluffed the bangs with her hand to straighten out her hair as she walked to a small table and the breakfast that was waiting for her.
She glanced briefly at the chronometer and noted that she still had twenty-five minutes before she had to return to the bridge. Normally she'd be on the bridge at this time, but since she'd worked both Gamma and Alpha shift, having traded with Myrsh Taylor so she could enjoy an evening with her current love, she was allowed an extra break.
As she sat down to her breakfast, she sighed deeply. Back to the bridge, to sit off of his right side. But he'd only notice her if she reported a communications for him. At least, he acknowledged her presence off duty since she'd transferred from support staff to ship's services and received her promotion to lieutenant. Spoke to her if they happened to both be in the rec room. Treated like a person, in fact.
But she wanted more than that. She wanted him.
It had taken her a long time to admit that to herself. She'd daydreamed about it ever since she'd been assigned as his yeoman. On Talos IV, when she and the first officer had been kidnapped to find a "mate" for the captain she'd found that her secret desires were all but completely exposed.
At least the Talosians had not totally embarrassed her in front of the two senior officers. She'd managed to do that all by herself afterwards when she'd asked him who he would have chosen.
And now no one could ask her about it, since, officially, Talos IV was a taboo subject. To mention the planet was enough to get one investigated by the J.A.G. And that could effectively sideline one's chances at career advancement.
She'd managed to crawl back into her dreams, keep them hidden as she'd studied for her officer's exams. And in the meantime, he'd found himself someone else. Someone who had looks and a body and a brain that made her look woefully inadequate. Colt had often believed that Ariel Cord had had many enhancements done to her body--no one could be that beautiful without them. It had made her feel better. A little better.
And then she'd met the lady on one their shore leaves on Chrysalis. And found herself liking the lady. Which made things even more difficult for her. If Ariel Cord knew that Jeanne Marie Colt had a severe crush on Christopher Pike, she pretended not to be aware of it.
As she cleared up her breakfast tray, she sighed deeply. She desperately wanted to be more than just a crewmember to Captain Pike. The problem was, she wasn't sure how to go about it; and then she had precious little time to implement any plan she came up with.
Still, she sighed as walked out of her quarters, come up with a plan she would before they reached Earth.
Come up with a plan and implement it.
In A Dark Place
The shaking of the surroundings disrupted the sleep cycle. There were only cycles in this place. Sleep cycle. Wake cycle. Neither cycle had a specific time. The sleep cycle came whenever boredom from being awake occurred, and the wake cycle came whenever the body was tired of sleeping.
Not that one could do anything during the wake cycle. Except remember the past. And feel the hate that was the only nourishment allowed in this natural prison cell.
The surroundings moved again, this time with more force, causing the rock to scrape the skin on a limb.
And then there was the small stream of light playing over the rocky surface. Visual perception was something that had been denied for so long. There was fear at first, fear of the light, then relief when it was discovered that the light was safe.
A third tremor cracked the wall allowing movement, something denied for just as long as vision had been denied.
The fourth tremor sent a shower of pebbles down to the floor of the cavern. The cavern was no longer safe. It was time to leave. Long past time.
Slowly, limbs long denied movement, began to move. Difficult at first, but with growing ease with each movement.
Now, a direction had to be chosen. The dim light showed a way. Up.
The ascent was not easy. Cloth fell off limbs, and the body. Sharp edges cut into flesh. Still, the light above continued to beckon, to welcome.
A figure moved across the path. A hand darted out, catching it, bringing it to lips that had not tasted anything for even longer than sight and movement had been denied. There was no taste as it was quickly swallowed. The throat, dry from misuse, had difficulty getting the creature's fluid down at first . But it did, finally. And a warmth spread from the stomach to the rest of the body.
The minute meal gave strength to the limbs. Not much, to be sure. But more than had been available.
Noise drew attention to a small crevice. Squeaking. Chittering. Eyes sought the source. Small creatures in a nest. Hands flashed and soon two of the animals were squeaking no more. Again the bodies were brought to lips and teeth and soon more warm fluid was trickling down a throat and into a stomach long denied.
This time, it was tasted as it touched the tongue. It tasted sweet. Not as sweet as remembered. But sweet none the less.
The nest now held only the drained bodies of the creatures. Eyes looked down at them, feeling only regret that there wasn't more to drain. But there was more available. Further up the way.
A long time, and many meals later, the scents changed. Now dirt, water and air could be smelled. And larger game too. A smile, small at first, grew as the scents tickled olfactory nerves, awakening old memories.
A flash of light interrupted the reverie and aroused the fear that had struck before. This time, the light was not safe. A strangled whimper escaped from vocal cords not used as a sanctuary was sought and found.
The ground was hard on the body as it settled down to wait until it was safe to continue again. Sleep time again. This time, the sleep cycle would be spent recumbent.
As the freed creature settled for rest, a stray thought entered.
Eyes closed, the mind began to stretch itself, hunting for another mind to touch. It took time, but time was one thing that there was plenty of.
Then a quiver shook the body, and a look of feral pleasure crossed the face and filled eyes now open. Sentient life. In space. And not too far from here. Far enough, to be sure, but, not too far.
Taking a deep breath, the emaciated, half-clad form closed its eyes and a message formed in the mind, then was sent to the sentients. When the message was sent, the form sank back on the dirt floor of the cavern, a pleased smile covering the thin face.
Soon. They would come soon. And she would be freed from this hell that she'd been condemned to. Soon.
Her long wavy auburn hair covered both of their faces as she giggled and kissed the shaggy blond man that was in the bed with her.
"And you thought we couldn't do it that way," he murmured into her lips.
"Okay, babe, you proved me wrong." She shifted her position and grabbed his still-damp body and pulled it close to her own. "I think that means I have to pay up."
"Yeah," he grinned. "You sure do, Teri."
Teri Mettens, a young lieutenant in security laughed, allowing her ample form to vibrate against her current lover. She loved sex almost as much as she loved working security. Sex in any variety and in any form. She loved it so much that she had bet her roommate and best friend, Beth Lange, that before the ship returned from the five-year mission, she would score with at least 100 men. Species was not important.
It hadn't been easy. Many had been married and took their marriage vows seriously. Some of the non-Humans had not been interested in adding a Human female to their notches. But, with the help of transfers and replacements she was near her goal. Chris Garrity, the man currently endeavoring to arouse her for another round of mutual pleasure was number 99.
"Come on baby," Garrity commanded, shaking his shaggy blond hair out of his blue eyes. "I'm ready for round two."
Mettens smiled, green eye full of mischief and lust. "Okay, babe. But," she added, almost seriously as she moved her body in the bed to a different position, "it's gonna have to be a quickie. Beth will coming back soon, and she made it clear that she needed privacy."
Garrity shrugged and stretched out on the bed, looking up into her face. "Fine by me."
Mettens carefully straddled his trunk and bent over him, letting her breasts brush against his chest. She started kissing his face, slowly, letting her tongue work its magic on him. She smiled as she felt his response to her touch. She paused for a brief moment, then continued down his body, smiling behind the auburn veil as she felt his desire building. This one might be quick, she thought to herself as she approached her goal, but it would definitely be good.
Her lips continued on their trek, and curved into a smile as she felt his muscles bunch. Mettens looked up at him from under her reddish bangs, smiling broadly as she saw him breathing shallowly, clenching and unclenching his fists. He was definitely ready.
Mettens moved again on the bed and straddled herself over his erect member. "Get ready, babe," she whispered throatily, teasing him again with her body.
Suddenly, she stiffened and gasped, falling to the bed along side of Garrity. "Gods, what was that?" she gasped, staring at Garrity.
"You heard it, too?" he stared at her.
"Yeah." Mettens nodded slowly. "I did. It's weird. I mean, I can hear it real clear, but not with my ears. And even though I can hear it clearly, I can't make out the words."
"Same here," he replied.
Mettens rolled to sit up in the bed, and hugged herself, rocking. "This is strange, Chris. Real strange. I've never experienced anything like it."
"Neither have I," he admitted.
"We have to tell someone," Mettens said suddenly as she sprang off the bed and grabbed her clothes from the pile that was at the foot of the bed. "Commander Grek. The first officer. The captain. Someone. It could be important."
"Yeah," she heard him say slowly as she pulled her red tunic over her head. "It is. But, uh, Teri, I've got this little problem ."
Mettens paused on her way to the door and looked back at the naked male in her bed. She grinned broadly as she saw his "problem" still erect and eager for action. "Sorry, babe," she walked back over to him, and kissed first it, then him. "But I'm just not in the mood any more. Not after that whatever-it-was that sounded in my head. Guess I'll have to give you a rain check." She shrugged and crossed the room to the door.
"Teri! What about when Beth comes back?"
Mettens paused in the open door and looked back at him. "Well, you might see if she's in the mood. Bye!" she waggled her fingers at him and walked out of the room.
Groaning, Garrity sank back in the bed and shook his head sadly. Teri Mettens, good-time girl of the ship, was reputed to have the stamina of several women. It took very little to arouse her, and once aroused it took a lot of sex to satisfy her.
Slowly he relaxed and finally felt himself become flaccid. As he got up and got dressed, he decided that whatever it was that had interrupted his tryst had a lot to answer for.
J. M. Colt's fingers were flying over the communications board. Pike looked over at her, frowning as he watched the action.
Colt paused momentarily and glanced over at Pike. "Sir, I have over a hundred calls from crew reporting a strange mental call."
"Excuse me?" He raised an eyebrow.
"The crew are reporting that they have received a mental call of some kind," Colt repeated. "Some heard words, but they couldn't really make them out. Others just heard sounds."
"I see," Pike nodded. "Very well, log them and ."
Suddenly, a motion from the other side of the bridge caught his attention. Number One stiffened, then trance-like moved toward the viewscreen. Pike stared around the bridge, seeing that even Spock was staring at the screen, seemingly oblivious to everything around him.
"Yes," Number One murmured softly, still staring at the screen. "Of course, we will come."
Pike's frown deepened. "Number One? Spock?"
Spock seemed to shake himself, and composed himself. "Sir, I am definitely receiving some sort of mental impression. It appears to be a distress call, sir. However, I am at a loss to explain why, or how, we are getting a signal of this strength."
"Number One?" Pike turned to his first officer. She stood in front of the screen, eyes unblinking. Pike stood and approached her. "Number One?" he repeated. When she did not answer, he grabbed her shoulder roughly and spun her around to face him. "Number One!" he demanded sharply. "Report!"
Number One pulled away from his hold, and stood there, still in a trance, then she shook her head, and looked at Pike, her hand halfway to her head. "Yes, Captain," she nodded as she slowly made her way back to her station and sat down. "There is someone calling. A woman. She's in need of our help."
"I cannot say, sir," she answered. "I did not get a name. But," she looked up at him, "I know where the message is coming from."
"Where?" Pike asked.
Fully recovered, Number One tapped in commands into her console, and brought up the schematics of nearby star systems. She stood and walked to the viewscreen and pointed to a small K0 III star. "There, Captain. Alpha Indi."
From his station, Spock magnified the star system on the screen. "Alpha Indi. A K0 III class star system with ten planets. The fourth is a class-M planet, and suitable for sustaining humanoid life. However, as of the last survey, there were no reports of humanoid life on the planet, or in the sector."
Pike walked over to the viewscreen. "One hundred one light years from Earth. At least one class-M planet in the system." He walked back to his chair and sat down, noting as he did so that at least the communications console was no longer blinking brightly. "We seem to have a bit of a problem. Either we continue our mission and complete the survey, which will make Starfleet very happy, or we divert and go to this planet--"
"Alpha Indi Four," supplied Number One.
"--Alpha Indi Four," Pike continued as if he had never been interrupted, "and see if this distress call, which seems to only be in the minds of my crew, is based on fact."
Number One's back stiffened noticeably. "Sir, someone is on that planet, and is calling for help. There is someone there in need of our assistance."
"Number One, your impressions are duly noted."
"Sir," Number One continued insistently, "that woman, whoever she is, is alone on that planet. She has no one to help her. There could be indigenous life forms on that planet that could be dangerous to her. She has no way to defend herself."
"Sir," Spock added, almost reluctantly, "the fact that almost half of the crew received some sort of telepathic call from this person should be ample reason to investigate. If nothing more, we must find out if there is a new life form with which we have had no prior contact."
José Tyler leaned back in his chair, shaking his head in something akin to regret. "I think we just recently went through something similar to this, and with less than ideal results." His obvious reference to the Talosians was unnerving.
Number One looked at Pike, deep concern in her indigo blue eyes, something that Pike had rarely seen. "Sir, she has no means to get off the planet. She has no one to help her. Now, I know that telepathic evidence is not considered reliable, but we have gone off on less than this--"
Pike sighed and nodded at his first officer. "Okay, Number One. We'll see if we can help this female."
"Thank you sir," Number One looked gratefully at the captain then turned around to return to her duty.
"Mister Tyler set a course for Alpha Indi Four."
"Aye sir." Tyler began laying in the course, shaking his head.
"Time Warp: Factor Three."
Number One turned around suddenly and protested, "Sir, at that speed, it will take us a week to get there!"
Pike counted to ten silently, keeping his face neutral. His first officer rarely questioned his orders; and when she did, there was usually a good reason. But this time, there was something different.
"Number One, I cannot, and I will not, in all good conscience, risk this ship or this crew without more proof. All the calls from the crew about receiving that telepathic message for help notwithstanding."
Number One bowed her head, and turned back to her station. "Understood sir." She stared straight ahead.
She tapped a few buttons on the panel in front of her.
Captain's Log, Supplemental
Over two-thirds of my crew have 'heard' or 'felt' a telepathic call for help from the Alpha Indi system. While we have no other information, we cannot ignore this call, no matter how it was made, for help. I can only hope that whoever it is can hold on for the seven days it will take to get there.
Number One sat up suddenly from a deep sleep, her breath coming sharp and fast. Something or someone had aroused her from her sleep. She looked around her room. No one was there.
Of course not. It was 0430. Only Gamma shift was up at this time. And perhaps some of the younger crew members who were involved with each other.
Then she heard it again. The something that had aroused her. A telepathic call. She frowned and went over the list of telepaths on the ship. Not many, true, but all of them known to her. None of them would call out to her during her sleep period. Not without a good reason.
Then the same something invaded her mind. It wasn't from anyone on the ship, Number One realized. It was from the woman on the planet, still calling out for help.
Settling back in the bed, Number One closed her eyes and opened her mind, allowing the call to be unfiltered. She was still alive. For some reason that pleased Number One.
Number One took a deep breath and channeled her thoughts. The woman needed to know help was on the way. She sent out a message, simple and concise. And waited for a response.
Pressing her lips together firmly, Number One repeated the process and sent out the same short message.
Again, no response.
No indication that the woman had even heard her.
Number One continued the procedure until the dull ache behind her eyes became pounding. As powerful a telepath as Number One was, she could not reach the woman.
Number One rolled over in the bed and stared at the chronometer. She'd been trying to communicate with the exiled woman over an hour. It was almost time for her to get up, she realized.
The first officer slowly got out of bed and walked over to the small processor and ordered a cup of black coffee. It was too late to go back to sleep; she might as well get up and get some of her work done before she had to report to the bridge.
Alpha Indi IV
The woman stared up at the stars, sighing sadly. She had sent another message for help to the sentients she had found the previous day. So far, none had responded to her calls for help.
But, she looked up into the night sky, one was trying. She could feel the other's attempts and frustration. The blonde woman sighed and closed her eyes, resting. The other was weak or unskilled, or both. But the potential was there. Much potential. And with the proper tutoring .
Akia quieted her mental calls and deftly caught the furry, long-tailed octoped that tried to scurry past her in the shadows. She brought its body to her mouth and let her teeth sink slowly into its neck. The squirming soon stopped as its warm red blood trickled down her throat. When she was finished with the animal, she tossed the carcass aside and leaned back against her makeshift lounging chair, looking through the stars.
"It's too soon, I see," she said aloud, reveling in the sound of her own voice again. "But soon, we two will communicate mind to mind. I can feel it."
She paused, noting the golden glow off the mountain. Sighing, Akia slowly rose to her feet and retreated back into the cave that she now called home. It gave her all the protection she needed, but little else. Still, it was more comfortable than the cavern that had been her cell.
She stared out of the cave as the light grew brighter. "And when we do, we will forge a link that no one will ever break!"
Number One sat on the bridge, waiting for Captain Pike to finish reading the reports. It was his ritual to read the reports before anything but his morning coffee. Only Red Alerts and a General Order One would even dare disturb the ritual. And what she had to report did not fit either category.
When he leaned back, coffee cup in hand, handing the compuclipboard back to Cloris Brown, one of his current yeoman, his eyes met those of Number One. Recognizing the look in his first officer's eyes, he sighed and said, "What?"
"Sir, I have had additional contact with the lifeform on Alpha Indi Four," she reported.
"No," she shook her head. "Nothing new."
"Very well." She saw him mentally dismiss the subject as unimportant. "Keep me posted."
Number One stopped from sighing deeply. It was clear he did not understand how powerful a telepath this lifeform was...or possibly he did not care. "Yes, sir."
Number One woke up, breathing slowly as her mind identified what had aroused her in the early hours of the morning. A small smile softened the sharp features of her face as she recognized the caller. Number One got up and walked to the small carafe that was always full of herbal tea. This was the third morning that she had received the call. But today, she would make contact. She had to.
The first contact with the woman had shown Number One that she was alone, in need of rescue, in fear of her life. The next two calls had only intensified the woman's need and fear. But tonight, this call was different. Number One would never be able to explain how she knew that within seconds of the contact, but she knew.
Taking the carafe and a cup of tea, Number One settled herself comfortably back on the bed and closed her eyes. Clearing her mind, she send her thoughts back to the woman on the planet, concentrating on sending her message of comfort, of hope.
Suddenly: You hear me!?
Number One nearly spilled her drink as the woman's thoughts seemed to engulf her. Personal contact.
Yes, we have heard you. Number One responded, trying to keep the elation from her thoughts. But we have not been able to answer you.
Until now. There was no denying the excitement in the woman's thought. Until now.
We are coming as fast as we can, Number One told her. It will take four more days
Four days! Anguish quickly replaced excitement. I don't know if I can last that long
Number One found herself receiving a bombardment of images: a woman, half-naked, in front of a tribunal, then on a transporter pad. A woman, still barely clothed, on a planet surface, struggling to stay alive as the wild animals sought to kill her. Of making primitive weapons, of recreating fire, of surviving terrible storms, heat, cold .
Please try! Number One urged. We are coming as quickly as we safely can. Number One hoped that the woman could not read her innermost thoughts, else she'd find out that they could come faster, if Captain Pike would order it . Please try!
Suddenly, the connection was terminated.
"No!" Number One sat up abruptly, surprised that she had spoken aloud.
She found herself trembling. She put the cup, still full of now-cold tea, down on the small bedside stand. She'd succeeded! She'd made contact with the woman on the planet. The woman was still alive!
Number One stood up and walked to the lavatory, her mind still reeling from the visions that the woman had sent her. She found her energy levels building. Adrenaline was sitting in her tissues, increasing her shaking. Not even a cold shower seemed to calm her.
Meditation and Tai Chi were the only means left to calm her. Two hours later, she felt more in control of herself. Another quick shower to wash away the sweat from her workout completed the calming ritual.
She glanced at the chronometer, sighing deeply. There was no time for a short nap before she had to report for duty. Placing the untouched cup of tea in the recycler, Number One called up a cup of coffee from the small food processor. It was the only answer, unfortunately. She had to be able to function on the bridge.
Alpha Indi IV
Akia sat back against the rock and laughed throatily. "I was right," she said aloud. "I knew you would answer me one day."
She paused and held up the squeaking creature she'd caught. It was a pity that this was her only means of nourishment. They kept her alive, barely. But they were becoming more difficult to catch. Its neck soon was between her teeth and its blood coursing down her throat. After she had supped, she licked her lips, not willing to waste one precious drop.
Akia looked around, frowning as she noted the rising of the sun. Time to withdraw again. She looked up at the stars before retreating to her cavern shelter. "We will continue to communicate, my friend," she murmured softly. "And we will meet. Soon."
Number One sat expectantly at her station, watching the captain as he finished the reports and settled back in his chair. She was surprised when he addressed her.
"Anything new on the life form?"
"Y-yes sir." She silently cursed herself for the stammer. "She is continuing to call out to us."
"Good," he said shortly. "That means she's still alive."
"Yes," Number One nodded, turning to face her captain. "But she is fearful that she will not last much longer ."
"Keep me posted on anything substantial," he cut her off.
Number One bit her tongue, nodding her answer and turned back to watching the viewscreen.
Number One was sitting comfortably on the floor, her eyes closed, her breathing slow and shallow. To all appearances, she was meditating, not an unusual activity for her when she was not on duty. Although, perhaps a bit unusual for this time of the day.
Only she was not meditating. She was communicating with the stranded woman on the planet less than two days away. Each contact was becoming easier, placing less strain on Number One's abilities. Still, each interaction was abruptly ended, which gave Number One a wary feeling. Was there a creature that was threatening her, breaking her concentration, and the link? Or was she failing?
Number One stared at the blank wall frowning as she reflected on this latest conversation. Still full of urgency, need.
Number One closed her eyes and concentrated on re-establishing the bond with the woman on Alpha Indi IV. Hang on, my friend, she thought. Please, hang on. One more day. We'll be there in one more day.
The dark-haired woman slumped forward, exhausted as she felt the connection slip away. She sluggishly unfolded her body and stood, letting her glance touch on the chronometer. Another long night. Her eyes caught a glimpse of her appearance in the mirror as she moved to the food processor for a cup of tea.
Her eyes widened in shock. Puffy red-rimmed eyes in a pale face stared back at her. She rubbed her eyes wearily as she made her way to the shower and let the warm water relax her. Warm water to relax her, cool water on her face to reduce the puffiness of her eyes. To revive her.
The strain was beginning to tell on her. But it was necessary. After the third day, no one else had heard the woman's mental calls. Or admitted to hearing the calls.
Only her. She was the woman's only link with another sentient being. The only one to let the castaway know that someone in the universe cared for her.
So far, no one had seemed to notice her strain, or if they did, no one was saying anything. Not Captain Pike. Not Spock. Not even Doctor Boyce.
Number One let the turtleneck slide over her head. She took a final look at her appearance in the mirror. The eyes were less puffy, the red nearly gone. There was still signs of strain in the indigo blue, but if no one stared into them, no one would notice.
Alpha Indi IV
Akia stood under a tree staring out at the starfield, smiling as she spotted a speck of light streaking toward her. Her gaunt face softened as a smile etched itself on her lips, exposing sharp fangs.
"I heard you, my friend," Akia whispered aloud as well as mentally. "I heard you. One more day." She severed the mental link suddenly and laughed quietly. "One more day."
She leaned wearily against the tree, licking her lips hungrily. She hadn't been able to catch the scent of any of the creatures that had become her only means of sustenance this day. "One more day. I can survive one more day. Then I will be free of this hell that you sentenced me to, Belan. And I will seek you out, and make you and all the others pay for my exile." She let her eyes find the streak in the star field. "And then I will do what I was destined to do."
Alpha Indi IV
Captain's Log, Stardate 0439.4
We have just entered orbit around Alpha Indi IV. During our trek here, only one of the crew has continued to periodically 'hear' or 'feel' the urgent call for help that many of them felt eight days ago.
Since establishing orbit, we have been scanning the planet surface. So far, we have detected many life forms, but only lower life forms. If there ever was a female down there in trouble, she has either died during our approach to this system, or for some reason, our scanners are unable to read her life signs. I have called for a senior staff meeting.
Christopher Pike walked into the main briefing room on Deck Seven. He was thirty seconds late. He was always thirty seconds late. It was again another one of the 'rituals' to which he adhered. It gave time for everyone to be seated and to focus on the matter at hand. As the doors closed, he absently noted that Lieutenant Spock, Number One, Lieutenant Tyler, Doctor Boyce and Lieutenant Scott were seated, waiting for him expectantly.
"I've called this meeting to get your input on our next course of action," he began as he took the seat at the head of the table. "Lieutenant Spock, what do we know about this planet?"
"Alpha Indi Four is an unremarkable class M planet slated for colonization in the next few years. It has been surveyed somewhat extensively due to its proximity to Earth and Vulcan, however, there is little of interest. No valuable minerals, no transuranic elements present. The ecosystem is quite similar to that of Earth. The planet's most highly evolved life forms are roughly equivalent to a Terran lupine predator."
Tyler chuckled. "You mean a wolf."
Spock blinked. "Is that not what I said, Mister Tyler?"
Pike ignored the two's usual antagonism. "So, Number One, have you...'heard' from your friend?"
"I have continued to maintain contact, usually in the morning when my mind is clearest. She is down there, Captain. And she is still alive."
"Yet we cannot detect her with our instruments. Scotty?" prompted Pike.
"Och, I dinna ken how we could possibly nae detect her if she's there," argued the chief engineer.
"While these systems are new, they have proven themselves in the field, Captain, and it bothers me that we don't detect her. What if this is some sort of trap?" suggested Tyler.
Spock raised an eyebrow. "I find that a remarkably paranoid statement, Lieutenant."
"I've detected no animosity toward us in the mental images I've received from her, Captain. She was apparently marooned there by her former crewmates."
"What could she have done to have been left here?" wondered Tyler.
"Aye, it must've been somethin' truly terrible," agreed Scott.
"Unknown, Captain," Number One shook her head. "We are not able to communicate well enough for her to tell me." She added, "She bears us no ill will. I'm sure of that!"
The passion in his first officer's voice surprised Pike. He looked at the senior officers and came to his decision. "Because we must know if this woman is still alive or not, I am ordering a landing party to the planet surface to search for her. We will question her closely regarding the circumstances by which she came to be here, and take appropriate action at that time. Dismissed."
His decision made, he strolled from the briefing room, leaving his senior staff to make the necessary orders and arrangements. Leisurely, he went to his room and put on his field jacket, grabbed his cap and checked his laser pistol. Suddenly, it dawned on him what was so disturbing about Number One's comments. "So, she bears us no ill will. I wonder how she feels about those who left her behind?"
No answer coming from the walls, he made his way down the corridor to the transporter room.
Christopher Pike walked into the transporter room, noting that everyone else was waiting for him. Standing on the pads, waiting for him, were Number One and Lieutenant Spock and the three security officers assigned to them: Lieutenant Maleva Blasko, a small dark-haired and dark-eyed woman with a reputation for being able to take down even the taller, stronger men in Security, Ensign T'Pon, a dark-skinned Vulcan female, and Lieutenant Tom Fairbanks, a dark-skinned Human male with a friendly grin and easy-going nature that belied his quick reflexes. Two teams of security officers had preceded them to the surface, awaiting the senior officers.
Pike hopped on the transporter pad. "Energize," he ordered.
When the party rematerialized, they found themselves in a small meadow at the base of a mountain, surrounded by rocky outgrowths, making the ground uneven. Trees were growing, some at angles due to the rocks nearby. Shadows were long, cast by the trees and rocks, the evening sun sliding behind the mountain.
The ground trembled ever so slightly. "According to sensor readings, there has been recent seismic activity in this vicinity," Number One noted.
"So I gathered," Pike answered. "Possibly the reason that your friend called for help."
"Possibly," Number One agreed coolly. For some reason, his continued casual references to the woman rankled her. In fact, his behavior toward this entire event had served to strain his relationship with her.
"Would the seismic activity in any way give us difficulty scanning this woman?" Pike asked.
Spock shook his head, bringing his tricorder up. "Negative, sir," he answered.
Number One was also scanning the area with her tricorder, a frown on her face. "I cannot understand it," she mused. "She has been contacting us all along, but I cannot scan her anywhere."
"Are we even in the right spot?" Pike glared at her.
"Yes," Number One glared back at her superior. "This was the scene she showed me."
"Okay, where is she?"
"I cannot answer that." Number One kept her voice neutral, cool. "Perhaps she had to move between the first time she contacted us and now. There are no sentient life forms registering on any of the scanners. I am detecting several of the large lupine predators in the vicinity. Perhaps she is in hiding."
"Perhaps she's been killed," Pike suggested. "Wolves aren't the friendliest of creatures."
Number One felt herself tense at his suggestion. They'd communicated not twelve hours ago, and though weak and frail-sounding, the woman was still alive. But even though she had told him this; he hadn't seemed to be interested in her brief mental encounters with the woman. She could not prove to him the woman was still alive.
Suddenly, she stiffened as she felt the mental touch of the refugee. "Wait," she held up a hand as her eyes sought the horizon. "She's still alive, and she's near here."
Pike studied her with narrowed eyes. "You sure? It's not just wishful thinking?"
Number One whirled on him, barely keeping her anger in check. "No, sir," she said coldly. "It is not wishful thinking. She is alive. But weak. Very weak. We have to find her. Fast."
Pike looked into her indigo eyes, then nodded minutely. "Very well. Let's find her. Teams, fan out, and keep alert."
Amid various voices of "Aye sir" the teams broke off and went off in various directions.
Lieutenant Teri Mettens and Lieutenant Ben Shapiro were crawling over rocks and uneven ground, moving slowly and carefully. She kept her eyes on the surroundings, hunting for something, anything. She took the lead, moving through the rocks, occasionally slipping, falling against Shapiro.
"You know, Teri," he stated as he helped her regain her balance yet again, "if I didn't know better, I'd swear you were doing this on purpose."
Laughing throatily, Mettens glanced at him provocatively. "If we weren't on duty, I probably would be," she admitted. "Especially after last night."
Shapiro chuckled, remembering their orgy in his room, as Mettens continued on, letting her hips sway suggestively in front of him, "Let's get off duty and back to the ship and I'll show you more of the same."
"That a threat or a promise?" Mettens challenged as she stood between two large boulders, readjusting her scanner.
"Both," Shapiro responded. "Move it, Mettens."
"All right, all right," Mettens pouted. "You're such a slave driver."
"You didn't complain last night," he said.
Before she could respond, she felt herself pushed from behind and her head collided with a nearby boulder. The auburn-haired female dropped to the ground, unconscious.
Shapiro, also shoved from behind, grabbed hold onto the hand in his back, surprised to feel cool bony flesh. He turned to face his attacker, and found himself facing a wild-haired, red-eyed creature.
A kick to its groin area loosened its hold on him, but only for a brief instant. He felt razor-sharp nails strike him, slashing his chest, his face. The blood in his eyes blinded him momentarily. Long enough.
Akia grabbed the Human again, and pulled his still-struggling body closer to hers, the scent of the flowing blood all but maddening her. Again the male struck out at her, the blow connecting with her body. Pain registered in a small corner of her brain. But hunger registered louder. Again her long nails raked over his body, scoring again, and releasing more blood.
She flung him against the rocks, stunning him. As he slid down the rock face to the ground, she pounced on him, burying her fangs in his throat. The blood bubbled into her mouth, and she drank hungrily.
Long moments later, she raised her head and stared down at the white face half buried in the dirt. Memories long since hidden away resurfaced. Memories tied to current plans.
She needed followers. Many followers.
She would start here.
She raised her body off of his, turning it over, and drew her sharp fingernail slowly along her breast, then moved until it was over his slack mouth. She pressed it to his lips, stroking his throat gently as her dark blood trickled into his mouth and down his throat.
"Drink," she murmured softly. "Drink deeply, my son."
He gagged and gagged, but the Curse had been passed on.
Teri Mettens groaned and tried to sit up. The world spun. Her head hurt.
She heard a voice, soft and low, almost crooning. Forcing herself to sit up, she looked toward the source of the noise. All she could see was a form. "Ben?" she called fearfully. "Benny?"
The form turned toward her.
Mettens blinked and looked at the form again. Blood was smeared over the face of the form, and dripped from fangs. Mettens' eyes widened and a scream erupted from her throat.
A hand automatically grabbed for a communicator and pistol on her utility belt. Both spots were empty. Panic filled the young female security guard as another scream tore itself from her mouth.
The form separated from the still frame on the ground, and seemed to float toward her. A third scream echoed through the rocks as she scrambled to her feet and ran. Ran for the beam-down site. Ran for safety.
She felt long thin nails grab at her shoulder. Mettens dipped down and continued on, hearing her tunic rip, feeling the cool night air on her back. Fear spurred her on.
Again the long, iron-strong talons caught her shoulders. This time, Mettens couldn't shake free of her pursuer. She found herself being turned to face the thing that had attacked Shapiro.
It was a nightmare come to life. Blood covered mouth and nose, and was smeared over the rest of its face. Powerful arms pulled the struggling female closer to the blood-smeared mouth. Mettens, strengthened by panic and fear, fought against the creature. She felt razor-sharp claws score over her body again and again, effectively beating her to the ground.
She heard a harsh chuckle as she felt herself, against her will being drawn closer and closer to the fetid-smelling mouth. A final scream was cut off as sharp fangs sank into her flesh. The slurping noise near her ear was the last noise she heard.
Akia drank greedily from her second victim, savoring the red thick liquid that was drawn from the neck into her mouth. The scream had died down; only a few moans were audible from the female beneath her, and even they were fading away.
She leaned back away from her latest source of nourishment. There was still one thing left to do. Again her fingernail scored a small laceration on her breast and again she forced the blood to drip into the open mouth, to trickle down the still throat of her victim.
"Drink, daughter. Drink deeply."
Captain Pike was making a sweep of the area with Lieutenant Blasko not far behind him. As far as he was concerned, this whole escapade was a waste of time. Telepathy was still virtually an unproven ability. Vulcans could do it. So could Betazeds like his first officer. But it was not consistent. It could not be measured with accuracy. And as much as he trusted Number One, he still found it difficult to trust this talent, ability, whatever you wanted to call it of hers as much as he trusted her skill as his helmsman.
And to commence a search of the planet at nightfall ? But Number One had been insistent that they not wait till morning. That the woman on the planet could not wait till the morning. And to be truthful, he had to admit to himself, the sooner he proved it was all in Number One's head, the sooner he could command they leave with a clear conscious.
Still, this foray gave him a few more days to spend with his crew, his ship...while it still was his ship. No matter what he had said, or admitted, he was still going to miss the adventure. Being tied to a desk was hardly exciting. And internal politics was hardly honorable combat. And that was what he had to look forward to. Unless he hitched a ride on a ship periodically .
The screams echoed in the foothills behind him. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand upright.
"What the--" he began, grabbing his pistol. Blasko mirrored his action. "Let's go!" Pike darted toward the direction of the screams, Blasko running fast to keep up with him.
As he entered the moon-lit meadow where they'd beamed down, he found the other teams converging as well.
"Who's missing?" he demanded.
"Shapiro and Mettens," Ensign T'Pon supplied.
"They went off in that direction," Lieutenant Geiger added, pointing, ready to take the point, if that was required.
Pike pulled his communicator off his belt. "Pike to Enterprise."
Colt's voice sounded over the communicator. "Enterprise here."
"Have Sickbay standing by, and we'll need a doctor ready to beam down. We might have casualties."
"Understood," Colt's voice answered.
"Pike out." Putting the communicator back on his belt, he commanded the landing party, "Fan out. Be prepared for anything. And don't hesitate to shoot to kill."
Akia sat back, nearly sated for the first time in centuries. Her sharp hearing heard the sound of others in the distance. Their companions, no doubt.
And She was with them.
That made Akia smile with pleasure. Her friend was coming.
Her smile faded as she realized that the group was no longer trying to find her. They were trying to find these two, her new followers. They feared for their safety.
For a brief moment, panic flooded her mind, blinding her to what she should do next. Then she calmed herself, and thought of a plan. They would come across this female first, the male next. Blood covered her face, her hands, what remained of her clothes.
The smile returned as a plan began to form. She would have to hurry .
Pike led the landing party from the meadow to the foothills. As the group entered the rocky trail, he saw a pale, bloodied creature with strings and something else trailing from its body moving up the rocky path, away from a still form in the center of the path. It paused on the rock, staring at him, blazing red eyes fixing on his. Then its arms raised and leaped into the night.
Pike shot his laser at the form, seeing the beam hit the form. Other beams seemed to strike it as well, as the others also fired on it. It seemed to sneer at him, then disappear.
"Get that thing!" he commanded as he raced to the downed form. "Stay in pairs!" He pulled his communicator out as he stared down at the pale, bloodied form. "Pike to Enterprise!"
"Enterprise here," Colt's voice answered calmly.
"Get me a doctor down here, now!"
"Understood," Colt responded.
Six figures shimmered into existence near the tableau. Boyce with a nurse, Angela Carstairs and a med tech, Alonzo Styles, immediately moved to the fallen officer while the other three, security officers, received a briefing from Lieutenant Blasko and joined in the search.
Boyce scanned the woman briefly, issued orders to Carstairs and Styles then pulled his own communicator out and signaled the ship to beam up Styles with Mettens.
Akia stood by the still form of her first follower. She noted the black whirring machine by his body. Picking it up, she smashed it against the rocks. "We mustn't let anyone know what really happened," she crooned as she arranged herself near his stationary body. "They will know only what I wish them to."
She looked down at her own body. "Ah, not quite convincing, my son. Although, your sister did attempt to inflict serious harm. It was not her fault that it takes much more to harm me." Her sharp fingernails raked over her body. "I can do better."
She let her head rest on his broad shoulder and closed her eyes. His heartbeat was slowed, his breathing barely noticeable. Her lips curved briefly into a smile. "Soon," she promised, patting his chest. "But for now, as your sister does, you must rest."
The sound of running on the dirt path alerted her. She waited until the first running figure was visible, then she lifted a limp arm and cried out, weakly, "Help us! For pity's sake, help us!"
"Over here!" the dark-haired man in the lead yelled over his shoulder. "Bring the doc! We got another one down!"
Pike and Boyce with Blasko bringing up the rear entered the area. Several of the other security officers had already taken up defensive positions around the small area.
"Well, I'll be damned," Pike muttered under his breath. "There really is someone here."
"Did you ever doubt your first officer before?" Boyce questioned as he hurried past the man to the two, his medical scanner already playing over the two forms. "Carstairs," he turned to the nurse by his side, "take Shapiro to Sickbay. Same procedure as with Mettens."
The blonde nurse nodded and signaled the ship. The two disappeared into the sparkle of the transporter beam.
Boyce moved to the woman as Number One and Ensign Fairbanks entered the area.
"Glad you could join us, Number One," Pike commented as she walked up to him.
"We were further out," Number One responded coolly.
"True," Pike admitted grudgingly.
The woman, laying still on the ground, allowing the doctor to minister to her, moved at the sound of Number One's voice. Her eyes seemed to spring to life, and her hand lifted weakly. "You! It is you! I knew you would come! You promised!"
Pike frowned as Number One moved past him and knelt on the other side of the woman, grasping the outreached hand. "I do attempt to keep my promises," she said softly. "You're hurt."
"Not badly," the woman shook her head. "The brave young officers, they protected me. How are they?"
"Too soon to say," Boyce looked down at his medical scanner, a confused frown creasing his face.
"Who, or what, attacked you?" Pike asked.
The woman grasped Number One's hand tighter and shook her head. "I didn't see it. But I fear it is one of the predators in the area. The two officers, they found me and were taking me to the meadow. They said that was the meeting area. And then, suddenly ." Her voice faltered as her eyes squeezed shut in pain. Her head turned and rested on Number One's arm.
"It's all right," Number One's voice was surprisingly gentle. "You're safe now."
"We need to get her to the ship," Boyce said as he stood up stiffly. "I can't do anything more here."
Pike nodded and signaled the security teams. "Anyone find anything?"
"Negative, sir," was repeated several times over the communicator.
"Call it a night," he commanded. "Report back to the meadow and return to the ship. We'll continue this in the morning, when we have better lighting."
"What the hell's going on?" Boyce demanded as they walked back to the meadow, Number One helping the woman to her feet and assisting her to walk to the meadow.
"I wish to hell I knew," Pike answered. "One minute, we're looking for this woman that Number One claims is somewhere around here. The next minute there's a scream."
"What attacked them? Did you see it?"
Pike looked at Boyce, then shook his head slowly. "I saw something standing on the rocks, running from Lieutenant Mettens' body," he finally admitted.
"I don't think you'd believe me, Phil."
"Try me," Boyce suggested firmly.
"It had wild red-rimmed eyes, and fangs the size of a Capellan Power Cat, and claws as big as a man's hand. And I swear I saw wings. Bat-like."
"No, Kyptin," Blasko spoke from behind the two men. "It vas no bat, Kyptin. It was vroucolac. Wampyr. Vampire."
Both men turned to face her. Boyce canted an eyebrow at her statement, but Pike snorted in derision. "Pull yourself together, Lieutenant," he commanded. "This isn't some holovid horror. This is an alien world, filled with alien dangers, and I will not allow one of my security officers to allow any sort of superstitious bullshit to influence their actions."
"Kyptin " she began again.
"I said, pull yourself together, or you'll find yourself on Starbase duty for the rest of your life."
"Yes, sir," she mumbled, staring at the ground.
Pike looked around, noting that the security teams were assembled. Spock was the last to enter the meadow. In his hand was a object he couldn't identity. "What have you got, Spock?" Pike asked.
"Lieutenant Shapiro's tricorder. Though damaged, I believe I can obtain information from it which might let us know what occurred there."
"Let me know when you have something," Pike said as he signaled for the landing party to be beamed up.
Captain's Log, Supplemental
We have found the one who has apparently been calling out telepathically. Unfortunately, the woman, who says her name is Akia from Ghanis, was attacked by some creature on the planet, as were two of my security officers. She survived; my crew members did not. We will be staying in orbit, not only to find the creature who attacked her and my crewmembers, but to survey the planet for Starfleet.
Pike turned to the Tellarite standing by his chair on the bridge. "Commander Grek, I want a dozen teams on the planet surface searching for that thing."
The chief security officer nodded and blinked. "Understood. I already have teams down on the planet."
"But I want the teams to be three people. Being in pairs didn't do Mettens or Shapiro any good," Pike added bitterly.
"Already done," Grek all but grunted derisively as he marched off the bridge.
Pike turned to his chief engineer. "Mister Scott," he began, "I want those scanners of yours going over the entire planet."
"Already on it, sair," the Scotsman responded. "An' I'm checking out the scanners as well. Ah dinna ken why we dinna scan the lassie ye found. But, before we leave this planet, we'll be able t' scan not only the lass, but the beastie that attacked the landing party, or I'll know the reason why."
"Good." Pike stood up and headed toward the turbolift. "I'll be in Sickbay. Carry on."
He found Boyce in his office, filling out papers on the two figures now occupying stasis cubes in the morgue. They'd been pronounced dead soon after the landing party had returned to the ship. Boyce had told him that they had died on the planet, but he'd hoped to revive the two on the ship. After half an hour, however, Boyce had admitted defeat and had pulled the sheets over their heads.
"How's your third patient?" Pike questioned softly, looking over at the third biobed in the room.
Akia was reclining on the bed, looking up into Number One's face, still grasping her hand tightly, as if letting go would cause the first officer to disappear, and maroon her back on the planet. She looked wan and frail, but she wasn't as pasty-looking as she had been under the moonlight on the planet below. Her tattered blue dress had been traded for a light blue smock, the logo of the United Federation of Planets on the left breast.
"Fine, I think," Boyce frowned.
"You think?" Pike let an eyebrow creep upward.
"I think," Boyce repeated as he walked out of the office and approached the biobed and began reading the scanners over the blonde head. Pike followed close behind.
"Bah! This is ridiculous!" Boyce grabbed his portable scanner and ran it over her body. The woman watched him intently, an amused glint in her green eyes. His expression said he didn't like the readings he was getting from it either. "Sickbay to Engineering!" he bellowed into a comm panel. "Get someone up here and I mean now, and check out all the medical scanners!"
"What's the problem, Doctor?" Number One looked at him, the concern for her new friend evident on her face.
"Nothing," Boyce shook his head. "New equipment that isn't working right. So," he went on, grabbing Akia's slender wrist, "until they get fixed, I'm going to have to do things the old-fashioned way."
After a few minutes, and after finding an old stethoscope from the bottom of his desk drawer, Boyce shook his head in exasperation. "Pulse: twelve beats per minute. Respirations: four per minute. Blood pressure: doesn't even register. Madam," he looked at her, "those readings are hardly compatible with life."
Akia laughed, a pleasant tinkling sound. "But I feel perfectly well. Especially now that I am no longer alone on that planet...." Her eyes moved from the two men back to Number One. "Perhaps these are normal for me?"
"Normal?" Boyce's eyebrows shot up. "Normal?!"
"I am, after all, Ghanil, Doctor Boyce," Akia reminded him gently, letting her free hand rest reassuringly on his arm.
"True," Boyce sighed. "True."
"So, may I leave this medical center?" Akia sat up, letting her legs dangle over the edge of the bed.
Boyce looked at her. "Don't feel dizzy, weak, strange in any way?"
"No," Akia smiled at him.
"Then," Boyce shrugged, "I don't see why you can't leave Sickbay. There's nothing I can do for you here. Just see me in the morning."
"Of course," Akia beamed at him.
As Number One assisted the Ghanil to the floor, she looked at both Boyce and Pike. "I'll see to her berthing assignment, sir."
"Carry on," Pike nodded.
As the two women walked out of the room, Pike turned to the doctor, "What killed my two crewmembers, Phil?"
"Well, the preliminary scans show an extremely low blood count," Boyce began. "As a guess, I'd say exsanguination. Loss of blood," he added at Pike's puzzled look. "Both had pretty large wounds on their neck. Might have been how the blood was lost or withdrawn. But ."
"But?" Pike looked at him.
"But, there wasn't that much blood under or around the bodies. So, if you don't want to believe Lieutenant Blasko's rather ridiculous explanation, where's the missing blood?"
Pike glared at him. "You have got to be joking, Phil. Perhaps your tricorder is malfunctioning. They're still pretty new, still being field-tested."
"I used several tricorders, and an older scanner devised by Sarah April herself, plus some old-fashioned tests," Boyce countered.
"Phil ." There was a no-nonsense tone in Pike's voice.
"And then, there's something else," Boyce went on. "This was how they looked on the surface." He brought up a holopicture of both the officers as they had appeared on the planet.
Pike grimaced as he saw the deep gashes on their young faces and torso under the gore and dirt.
"But this was how they looked just before I pronounced them."
The second set of pictures flashed on the monitor. Pike frowned, noting the gashes and cuts. Most of the dirt and gore were gone, having been cleaned by the medical staff. "So?"
"So, if you note, the cuts and lacerations are significantly smaller. Almost like they're healing."
"Maybe it was just the dirt and gore," Pike suggested.
"No, it wasn't," Boyce glared at Pike. "At any rate, I found some tissue under Mettens' and Shapiro's fingernails. Maybe I can give the teams a clue about what kind of creature that they're looking for."
Pike nodded, standing up to leave. "Let me know when you have something." His glance spotted some small tubes with dark liquid in it. "What's that?"
"Blood samples from Mettens and Shapiro. For tests," Boyce said.
"Pretty damned dark, isn't it?" Pike questioned.
"Yeah," Boyce agreed tiredly. "Too damned dark. I want to study it, see what caused it. Hopefully, I'll find some answers to give you. But I'm going to get a little rest first. Six hours of staring at it is long enough."
Number One walked into her quarters and poured herself a cup of warm herbal tea. It had been a long day. But they had found her, found Akia.
Now there was a name to go with the mental touch. And a face.
She could tell that it had been some time since Akia had had anything coming close to the amenities of life. She touched each piece of furniture, each article of clothing that Number One had requisitioned for her, and had gone ecstatic when she found the sonic shower coupled with the hydroshower.
Leaving the woman to enjoy her first bath in who knew how long, Number One had gone to her own quarters. Sitting in front of her personal monitor, Number One leaned her chin on her hand. She knew so little about her new friend.
"Computer, access all references to Ghanis," she said abruptly.
"Working," the metallic computer voice responded. "Ghanis is believed to be the home of the Ghanil, an old race coming from Murasaki sector of the galaxy, forced by a planetary plague to abandon their homeworld and search the galaxy for a new home."
"Description of Ghanil."
"None available," the computer stated. "Believed to be humanoid."
Number One let a smile curve her lips. "Most definitely humanoid," she murmured as she took a sip of the warm tea. "Information on the homeworld.'
"Ghanis is not listed on any stellar map. The Ghanil are said to have touched on many planets in this sector, but did not stay long in any one place. However, every planet where the Ghanil have supposedly touched have a similar legend of undead creatures walking the night, searching for blood."
Number One felt her eyebrow raise ever so slightly. If she didn't know better, she'd swear someone was attempting to play a practical joke on her. First Maleva Blasko, now the computer spouting vampire tales. "Indeed. Are there records of the Ghanil coming to Earth?"
Number One sipped her tea as she leaned back in the chair. "Continue information on the Ghanil, including legends from the other planets.'
"It is believed that the Ghanil were seeking a means to prolong their life span and in the process, released a mutagenic plague that devastated their planet, destroying many of their inhabitants. Survivors were reported to have a condition, that, while not fatal, changed them.
"Changed them?" Number One frowned thoughtfully as she sipped her tea. "How?"
"Details vary, depending on the source."
"Of course," Number One grumbled. "Give me all the details."
"They are reported to have an aversion to sunlight, a fear of certain metals and an aversion of certain elements. It is also said that they are able to change shapes, able to hypnotize others, and have no reflection. It is also stated that they require blood to survive. Reports indicate that they hypnotize their victim, and drain the victim's blood directly from a vein. The neck vein is preferred; however, any large accessible vein is acceptable. They are reported to change their victims to be like themselves by forcing the victim to drink the Ghanil blood."
"I see," Number One shook her head and leaned back. "Computer, end data search and program."
Number One stared at the dark monitor. "Nonsense. Utter nonsense." She got up and poured herself another drink. "Akia has a pulse, however slow it might be," she continued on. "And she has a reflection. She didn't seem to be afraid of any of the metals or elements in Sickbay, or in her room."
She frowned momentarily remembering how Akia had shrank from the porthole, then nodded as she recalled Akia's reason for wanting the window shaded. "Would you want to constantly view your former prisoner, my friend?" she had demanded. "Even the starfield reminds me of my isolation on the planet."
Finishing the tea, she glanced at the chronometer, then back at the work station. She had a mountain of reports to get to; and an early shift.
Akia twirled around her quarters, touching the furniture and lifting objects to examine them. She could tell the Ghanil influence in several items, and her smile deepened in secretive pleasure. If they only knew the true meaning of the symbols.
She stopped in front of her mirror and looked at her reflection with a critical eye. Her blonde hair once again had a healthy shine and bounce, instead of being listless and brittle. She'd found a barrette to gather and bind it in the back, letting the front locks drape over her shoulders. Now she looked like a proper Ghanil noblewoman.
She felt her hunger build again. While her two new followers had fed her well, they had not fed her enough. It would take several more such feedings to fully sate her. She'd been hungry for a long time.
She sighed as she stripped off the smock, readying herself for the hunt. This ship didn't have much prey on board, true, and she'd have to ration herself, but this ship could take her to other places full of prey. All she needed was followers and one to command the ship.
Akia looked at the small collection of clothes that her new friend had supplied her with. She settled on a long flowing blue-green shimmering pantsuit with a matching long vest that flowed around her body. Though not Ghanil in fashion, or suitable to her station, it would suffice until she was able to have proper clothing made.
Akia stepped to the door. Her senses revealed the two guards outside her quarters, placed there no doubt by the Enterprise captain. As if that could contain her, she scoffed. She came up behind the door, and listened through it.
"T'Pon, you were there!" the low excited female voice insisted. "You had to have seen something!"
"Ensign Sanchez, I told you what I saw," T'Pon responded calmly.
"Then why didn't we see something when we were on the planet?" Sanchez demanded.
"Perhaps because it was daytime and not nighttime," T'Pon said. "It could be a nocturnal predator."
"But we didn't find any tracks, trails, bodies, blood . Nothing!" Sanchez's slender arms gesticulated wildly in the air, but surprisingly didn't hit anything or anyone.
"A successful hunter rarely leaves any trail," T'Pon pointed out. "If anyone could follow it, then one that could cause it serious harm could find it."
"But it doesn't make any sense!" Sanchez went on. "Look, you and everyone else arrived on the scene not that long after Mettens screamed. And you saw it jump over the rocks. Where did it go? Into thin air?"
"That is illogical," T'Pon stated firmly.
"Exactly," Sanchez nodded emphatically. "So, my wise, logical friend, where did it go?"
T'Pon tilted her head thoughtfully. "Unknown. Without more data, speculation is pointless."
In the shadows of the guest quarters, Akia listened to the two, letting her tongue slowly lick her lips and teeth, pausing over the sharp points of her canines. The guards were both young, and full of life. Perfect candidates.
Sanchez closed her eyes and exhaled slowly before speaking again. "Sometimes, you have to speculate, T'Pon. Because you won't always have all the facts presented to you."
"And you would have me..." T'Pon paused suddenly, stiffening, her eyes darting around the corridor, searching.
"I'd have you use your imagination, if you have any!" Sanchez all but shouted. Then she noted the strained expression on the young Vulcan's face. "What's wrong?"
"We must leave here." T'Pon grabbed Sanchez by the arm and propelled her down the corridor.
"What?" Sanchez frowned, dragging back.
"Leave!" T'Pon commanded forcefully, as she pushed Sanchez down the hall and whirled to meet the creature that was charging out of the guest quarters toward them.
Akia roared as she crashed into the Vulcan and into the wall. Sanchez squealed then raced down the corridor toward a comm panel. Akia, recovering before T'Pon, reached over and grabbed the small Latin female's ankle, tripping her, bringing her crashing to the deck. Both got up at the same time, but it was Akia who struck first, smashing the small Human against the wall. She slid to the deck, unconscious.
Akia turned to the Vulcan, now fully recovered and moving quickly toward the comm panel.
"Oh no," Akia snarled as she dove after her. "This is a private party. Invitation only. My invitation!"
She grabbed the Vulcan by the arm, spinning her around, away from the panel. A backhand smashed against T'Pon's surprised face, then returned, snapping the Vulcan's head back. Akia, still snarling, drove her fist into the comm panel. "No interruptions!"
The Vulcan, though still stunned, charged at the Ghanil, only to be met by Akia's powerful fist in her mid-section. Then the fist moved up and snapped T'Pon's head back against the wall.
T'Pon stared at the creature in front of her, and her eyes narrowed slightly. "You were on the planet surface," she breathed faintly.
"Your people rescued me from the planet surface. Don't you remember?" snorted Akia as she moved closer to the Vulcan, grabbing the Vulcan's jaw tightly, moving it to expose the Vulcan's neck.
"No," T'Pon struggled to free herself from the iron grip. "You are the one who attacked Lieutenant Mettens and Lieutenant Shapiro."
Akia swatted the hand away that was grasping for her neck, then pinning T'Pon's hands against her chest. "Yes, I was," Akia admitted, her lips touching T'Pon's neck. "And I will do to you what I did to them."
"No!" T'Pon protested.
"Yes! Now silence, my little one. You are going to enjoy this," Akia hissed as her fangs slid into T'Pon's neck.
Akia took a deep draught of the Vulcan's blood that bubbled at her lips, her eyes closed in blissful anticipation.
They suddenly snapped open, and she drew back, spitting the dark green liquid from her mouth. The Vulcan, still conscious and pinned against the wall, struggled to free herself, met Akia's eyes, a question in her dark eyes.
Akia's face contorted in rage and she continued to turn the Vulcan's neck, seeing awareness in her eyes as Akia continued to twist her head until there was a satisfying snap. She watched as the light disappeared from the dark eyes and the body fell limp against the wall.
Akia stared at the body at her feet, feeling a sense of gratification. Then she turned to the other female on the deck, slowly stirring.
"You, my little one, will wash the poisonous taste of that one's blood from my mouth," she said as she straddled Sanchez and pushed her head back to expose the girl's slender neck.
Akia felt the woman struggle briefly beneath her, smiling as her fangs slid through the skin, freeing the dark red blood to be drank. Akia drank, hearing the whimpers fade away, feeling the struggles become weaker.
Finally sated, Akia looked down at the pale face of the nearly-unconscious female beneath her. Her fingers opened the top of her pantsuit. Using her sharp nail, she drew a line on her breast, watching as her own blood welled along the scratch. Then, moving her body so that her breast was in the slack mouth, Akia forced her blood down Sanchez's throat. "Drink, daughter. Drink deeply."
Akia's eyes closed and a blissful expression crossed her face as the weak lips responded to the Ghanil's command. Finally, she removed her breast and stared down at the glazed eyes of Morisa Sanchez, smiling at her lovingly. Her hand stroked the soft face and neck gently. "Sleep, child. Soon we will hunt together. But for now, sleep."
Obediently the Human closed her eyes, her breath coming slow and shallow.
Standing, Akia took a deep breath, steadying herself. She felt dizzy, euphoric. Finally, she could say her hunger was sated. Now, she could truly attend to the matter at hand.
She stared to bend over to pick up her child when her gaze lit on the crumpled form of the dead Vulcan. Her lips curled as she remembered the acrid taste in her mouth and the burning in her belly. If she had her way, the body would stay there and rot. But, she knew that was impossible here on the ship. If they'd been on the planet...
She marched over to the body and dragged it to a nearby vent and stuffed the body in. Satisfied it was safe from detection for now, she returned to the slumbering form of her newest follower.
Akia's gaze softened as she studied the face of the woman on the floor. Bending, Akia picked her up with the tenderness of a mother with a child. Then she made her way to Morisa Sanchez's room.
Captain's Log, Stardate 0441.2
We remain in orbit above Alpha Indi IV, trying to solve the mystery of our guest, Akia. I have scheduled a full debriefing of all department heads for tomorrow morning, and I have asked them to present all information available to me at that time. I have also asked my executive officer to personally interview Akia prior to the official debriefing.
Pike walked off of the turbolift, a cup of coffee in his hand. He nodded briefly at Lieutenant Blasko who was standing guard by the door of the lift then proceeded to his chair. He stopped before he sat down, his attention caught by Spock's intense expression as he worked at the Science Station.
"What are you doing, Spock?"
"I am attempting to analyze the recording made by this tricorder," Spock reported.
"What's the problem?" Pike walked over to the station, mild interest on his face.
"This is Lieutenant Shapiro's tricorder," Spock explained. "Severely damaged when the lieutenant was killed by the creature on the planet. However, I believe I may be able to retrieve most of the information recorded. It will, however, take time."
"I see," Pike nodded as he walked back to his chair. "Let me know when you have something."
"I have already been able to isolate something on the infrared recording," Spock reported.
"Really?" Pike turned around in his chair. "Let's see it."
Spock tapped a button and the stars on the view screen faded as the reds, greens, yellows and blues of the infrared recording were projected from his station.
"Prior to this, the standard recording was operational; after Lieutenant Shapiro was attacked from behind, it was damaged."
"Understood," Pike said, leaning back in the chair.
A form of green was on the ground while a fiery red form was seen to be struggling with something. What the form was struggling with was a mystery.
"Looks pretty," Pike finally said. "But I want to know what Shapiro was fighting."
"Unknown," Spock stated. "It does not register on the infrared scan. Nor on the ultraviolet portion of the scan."
"What could do that?"
"Again, unknown," Spock said. He could sense as well as see Pike's irritation at the lack of answers. "Most of the species of life forms that barely scan in infrared, such as the Flying Sandbats of Manark Four are generally metamorphs. But," he added, "they are rarely large enough to overwhelm one crewmember, let alone two."
"Well it seems we've found one," Pike said.
"Indeed. And it is deadly."
Pike frowned as he watched the scene, seeing the form's head tipped to one side and observed the warm fluid flow from the form into the nothingness that had bested him. Before he could comment, he saw the head repositioned yet again. "What the hell is going on?"
"I have been unable to ascertain the exact nature of what is being done to him, or what he was forced to do," admitted Spock. "Most unusual behavior."
"No," said a tight voice from the back of the bridge. "Not unusual."
Pike turned in his chair to look at the speaker, Lieutenant Blasko. She was white-faced, and her lips were trembling. "It is the vway of the wampyr. They drink the blood of the vwictim, then force the vwictim to drink their blood, to make them wampyr as well."
Pike felt his jaw tense. "This is the twenty-third century, Lieutenant," he snapped. "Not medieval Europe. Vampires are legends, myths, folklore."
Maleva Blasko glared back at the captain, her dark eyes smoldering in contained anger at the rebuff. "No, Kyptin, they are not!" She closed her eyes and suppressed a shudder. "They are real. They exist. I have seen the undead myself in Romania."
"That's enough! Dismissed." Pike snapped, turning his chair back to face the screen. Staring at the screen. He waited until he heard Blasko exit via the turbolift, then barked, "Any more?"
"Yes," Spock nodded.
The cooler green form in the background grew warmer and redder. A groggy voice whimpered, "Ben? Benny?"
The form became redder as a scream punctuated the tape, then several more. Again, there was a struggle of the red form with nothing. And again the siphoning of warm fluid from the body of Teri Mettens into the formless creature that had attacked her. A faint color was seen over Mettens' form, as though something had added warmth to the form.
A second murmuring voice could be heard, faintly, in the background.
Spock cut the tape at that point. "After this, the infrared was flooded with the presence of the landing party."
"Spock," Pike's voice was tense and brittle. "I saw a creature over Mettens. I shot it. It was as real as you and I."
"Sir," Spock's tone was carefully neutral, "we all saw it. Besides this tricorder, I have been checking the rest of the tricorders from the landing party. None seemed to have been recording at the time, or pointed in the proper direction. Not even mine," he admitted ruefully. "Perhaps these predators have some sort of mental shield. If so, they would represent a grave threat to any colony started here."
Pike nodded and turned back to a report that was handed to him by Boris Smithson, one of his yeoman. "Keep me apprised, Lieutenant."
Pike walked into Phil Boyce's office in time to hear him swear sharply.
"What's the problem, Phil?" Pike asked.
"This is the damnedest test I've ever tried to run," Boyce snorted.
"On some tissue I found under Mettens' fingernails." He tossed a compuclipboard at Pike. "That is the results of the tests I've run on the blood I collected from Mettens and Shapiro. Remember what you said about it?"
"It looked dark," Pike said. "And you told me it was too damned dark."
"I was right." Boyce headed for the lab.
Pike looked at the board, following the doctor. Handing it back to Boyce, he stated, "Now tell me what it says."
"All right," Boyce sighed deeply. "It's Human, of course. But, there's a mutation in the main heme structure. There's no oxygen in the heme. I haven't begun to figure out how, let alone why." Taking the board from Pike, he tossed it on counter. "And then there's this." He tapped the other set of tubes.
"What?" Pike prompted.
"Tissue from under Mettens' fingernails," Boyce said. "Mettens managed to get a few good licks in before it killed her." He walked back to the office, another compuclip in his hand and sat down at his desk. "It wasn't her own, or Shapiro's."
Pike stared at Boyce in shock, then sat down. The thought that one of his crew might attack another was virtually unthinkable!
"I had to rule it out, Chris. Especially with both of them with scratches all over their bodies. But I can tell you, whatever attacked them, it was real."
Pike snorted, "It's real. It just doesn't show up on any scanners."
"True." Boyce frowned deeply, leaning back in his chair. "But--" He lifted his eyes and stared at Pike. "I thought you said it was bat-like."
Pike pressed his lips tightly together. "I said it had red-rimmed eyes, fangs of a Capellan Power Cat and long claws with hands as big as my hand. And yes, I did see something resembling bat wings."
Boyce exhaled slowly, leaning forward to bring his arms to rest on the desk. "Well, whatever it was, it was humanoid."
"I tested it using every means available to us, starting with Carbon-14 dating and moving up to Aluminum-23 and finally to the most recent techniques in the Federation. And I come up with the same answer."
"What?" Pike demanded.
"It's been dead over two thousand years."
Alpha Indi IV
Commander Grek with Lieutenant Bekel, another Tellarite, and Lieutenant Commander Doreen Trask, a willowy blonde Human and Grek's second-in-command, were going back over the scene of Mettens' and Shapiro's deaths. Normally a crime scene was gone over immediately after the discovery of the crime, and continued on until all the evidence was uncovered. Because the planet was deserted, the scene had been left alone while the teams had tried to find the creature that had killed their comrades.
Other teams were still scouring the planet for the beast while Grek and his team were now combing the rocky path.
Bekel stood up and snorted loudly. "Now I see why she did not call for assistance." His finger pointed to debris between rocks. "Her communicator is worthless. That rock made a mess of it."
"It also made a mess of Teri's head," Trask growled as she moved over to the rocks.
Grek nodded, looking at the remains. "Ah, this is why she could not defend herself," he added as he picked up the mangled remains of a laser pistol." His beady eyes lifted and he scanned the horizon. "The creature disappeared in that direction. Perhaps we will find something if we head that way."
They paused at the site where Shapiro had been found. A search there showed similar finds in the rocks. But of the creature that had taken their comrades from them, there was no sign.
"Let's move on. The other teams have not searched there," Grek commanded as he set out over the uneven ground.
Several hours later, their trek ended in a meadow. No frightening creature, no vicious beast was seen on their way to this idyllic setting. All they saw were large quadrupeds that closely resembled Earth buffalo down to their coloring and horns, but much taller and heavier.
"Nothing," Grek sighed. "We had best go back and choose another path to follow."
They turned to find their path blocked by giant lupine creatures salivating as they moved onto the threesome. Their pointed ears were flat against their broad heads, their red-brown eyes fixed on the Human and Tellarites. Pointed teeth were visible in wide open mouths. They were almost the size of a pony, with bushy tails.
"Bring your lasers up slowly," Grek commanded in an uncharacteristic soft command. "On my command, fire above and below them. If you must shoot them, do not try to harm them."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Trask murmured back, hitting the lead lupine.
The creature howled loudly in pain, then bared its large fangs and limped toward the three Security guards.
"Oops," Trask said as the three moved closer together. "I don't think this is a good idea."
"I agree," Grek nodded as the pack moved closer. Pulling his communicator off his utility belt, he flipped the grid up and signaled the ship.
Science Lab 4
Spock frowned as he continued to work on the tape from Shapiro's tricorder. He had been excused from the bridge to continue his work here where he had access to more equipment.
So far, his efforts had been fruitless. But, he had more procedures to try on this tape. Perhaps one of them would enhance the figure that had killed the two security officers.
And then there was his tape. His tricorder had been running as he had entered the scene where Akia and the two officers had been found. He was hoping that it would yield more information.
He heard Captain Pike walk past the lab on his way back to the bridge. His step had been brisk, no-nonsense. And he had not stopped to check on Spock's progress.
Spock pressed his lips together and continued with his work. He would find the answers for the captain. Because he must.
Number One sat at her work station and read the report that Spock had given her. She smiled as she recalled the look in the Vulcan's eyes as she had dropped in on the lab after her stint on the bridge. She knew Pike had not walked in on his way back to the bridge from Sickbay.
Granted, the young science officer had practically nothing more to show the captain. Pike wanted results, not more questions. And right now, all Spock had was more questions. But she knew that Spock needed some encouragement, even though he wouldn't admit it. And he needed it from Captain Pike.
She sighed as she sat back and frowned. She and Fairbanks had been the last on the scene. She hadn't seen the creature as it fled. She'd only seen the woman on the ground, covered with blood and scratches. Nothing else.
She found herself feeling guilty suddenly. She'd been going to spend her lunch break with Akia, show her around the ship a bit more, but duty had interfered. Then she'd planned to spend the afternoon with Akia, only she'd stopped to see Spock, and he'd requested her input into what he had managed to work on. There was still dinner if she finished with this report for the captain's briefing tomorrow, that is.
The chime at the door startled her. She wasn't expecting anyone, especially at this hour.
"Come," Number One stood, awaiting her guest's entrance. Her eyes widened in pleasant surprise as Akia, dressed in a soft grey floor-length dress, walked in. "Akia!"
"I trust I am not interrupting anything," Akia said, her green eyes fixing on Number One's dark blue eyes.
"No," Number One found herself smiling warmly as she pulled a chair out. "Come, join me."
Number One studied her as she moved to the proffered chair. Was she paler than she had been?
"Are you all right?" Number One asked as Akia grasped her hand, holding it close to her chest. "You saw the doctor this morning?"
"Yes," Akia smiled at her, the green eyes sparkling brightly. "Your doctor could find nothing wrong with me."
"He couldn't find anything right about you, either," Number One chuckled. "You are a puzzle to him."
"For that I am truly sorry," Akia dipped her head briefly. "I wish I were a medical person; I would give him the answers he seeks. I am afraid I have upset him terribly."
"Don't worry. He'll find some way to get the answers."
"He tried to take some samples from me today," Akia said slowly. "I refused."
"That would upset him," agreed Number One. "May I offer you something? Water? Tea? Coffee? Some food?"
"I didn't come to eat. I came to visit," Akia placed her other hand lightly on Number One's lips, quieting her, then letting her hand fall to the table. "And I would have given him the samples if I could have done so without breaking Ghanil law."
"He'll get over it," Number One chuckled. "It'll just take longer. And as soon as he gets the medical scanners working the way they should be, he might get those specimens without violating your customs."
"And he will be welcome to them," Akia answered with a chuckle of her own.
"I am curious," Number One gently retrieved her hand and poured a cup of herbal tea for herself. "How did you come to be stranded on the planet?"
Akia's cheerful expression suddenly disappeared, as she clasped her hands in her lap. She bowed her head, moistening her lips momentarily. Then, "It is not something I wish to recall, my friend." The Ghanil stood up and began to pace back and forth in the small room. "I-I wasn't stranded there. I-I was exiled. I was accused of a crime." Her eyes met Number One's, their gaze haunting and fearful. "I didn't do it," she assured the first officer, "but among the Ghanil, if a woman is accused of a crime, she must prove her innocence. I could not." She went back to pacing, her hands still tightly clasped together. "So the tribunal sentenced me to live on that planet, alone." She stopped and brought her gaze back to Number One's, tears glinting in her emerald eyes. "I waited for them to return, to take me back, once my sentence was served, but ." She closed her eyes. A tear slid down her cheek and a small sob escaped her lips. "They never came back. They must have met with a disaster of some sort. That is the only explanation I can come up with."
"I'm so sorry," Number One pulled the distraught woman back to the chair, embracing her awkwardly. "So sorry for your loss."
"Yes," Akia let her head rest on the woman's shoulder, her smile hidden behind her locks of honey-colored hair. She let her expression become somber again as she looked into Number One's eyes. "But they did abandon me. I did not commit the crime. There was no way I could prove my innocence since the crime was never really committed."
"Akia, are you saying that someone framed you?"
Akia frowned at the idiom. "If you are saying, did someone tell a lie, and others support that lie, then yes, I was framed."
Number One studied the woman's face intently. "Why would someone want to do that to you?"
Akia let her hand be grasped firmly by the dark-haired woman. She lowered her face, letting her hair fall as veil between them as she softly entered Number One's mind. After all the time they had spent mentally conversing, she knew all the ways into her mind without being detected. Number One would never know she had encroached upon the inmost mental spaces.
"Because I sought to defy ancient custom. Ghanil women are not allowed to hold positions of power. I sought such a position. Against a most powerful male."
Number One stiffened slightly, her eyes becoming hard for a brief moment. "I see." She pulled away from Akia and got up to pace about the room herself. "I can see your difficulty."
Akia smiled behind the hair, nodding slowly as she withdrew from the woman's mind. She rearranged her face and looked up at Number One. "I believe you can." Then Akia smiled up at her, grabbing a hand, stopping the woman's pacing. "But that is all behind me. I wish to forget the past. Thanks to you and this ship, I have a new life."
"Yes," Number One smiled at her. "You do."
"But I will need help, my friend," Akia stood and moved close to Number One. "Will you help me?"
Number One felt a strange feeling, something she could not describe, as Akia placed her hands on her shoulders, moving closer to the first officer. It was briefly uncomfortable. She had never been needed by anyone before. No one had needed her help on such a personal level. Could that be the cause of her discomfort, she wondered as she looked into the bright green eyes of the Ghanil.
Shaking off the feeling, Number One put her hands on Akia's shoulders, letting herself be needed by someone else. "Yes, I'll help you," she smiled.
The smile on Akia's face was warm as she let her hands move to Number One's waist. "That pleases me. There is so much I want to do now that I am free." Akia took Number One's hands in hers. "And I have so much to thank you for already."
"Oh, no," Number One answered, her tone flustered. "No really, there's no need ."
"But there is," Akia insisted as she led the woman to the edge of the bed. Sitting down, she pulled the first officer down beside her, still holding tight to her hands. "You have saved my life. It is a life debt I owe you."
"The entire crew ," began Number One, finding herself disconcerted with the actions of her new friend.
"You were the one who heard me, and answered me," Akia asserted. "And Ghanil take life debts most seriously."
"Akia, as a Starfleet Officer, it was my duty to respond to your call for help," she tried to extricate herself from the seemingly intimate encounter.
"That may be true for you," Akia looked deep into Number One's eyes. "But it is still a life debt. I was trapped on that planet, with no way off, until you heard my call and came to my rescue. I was there for so long." She shuddered, and was pleased to see Number One move closer, placing a gentle arm around her shoulder, drawing her closer.
"It must have been terrible for you. The aloneness ."
Akia's shudder was more violent as she briefly relived her life in the cavern before the earthquake set her free. "You cannot begin to know."
"Well, it's all behind you now," Number One felt that same uncomfortable feeling. Felt a flush touch her cheeks as she noted the close proximity of her body to the Ghanil's.
"Yes," Akia nodded, staring into Number One's eyes, locking her gaze, holding the woman in her power. "It is. And now," she arranged the hypnotized woman comfortably on the bed, "you will continue to help me, my friend. There is much I do not know. But you will provide me with the information I need to take over this ship."
She moved closer to the dark-haired woman, staring down into the indigo eyes that stared back at her. Soon she smiled, closing the eyes gently. "Yes," she smiled as she stretched out beside the woman. "You have helped me greatly. And now, one last thing, my friend. A sip of your blood to bind us together forever as our thoughts do."
Akia stroked the slender neck of the woman beside her, smiling when Number One obediently turned her head to expose her neck to the Ghanil. She leaned close to the woman, inhaling her fragrance, feeling her body so close. Another hunger gnawed at the Ghanil, a hunger she hadn't felt since before she had been imprisoned by her people.
She let her sharp incisors slide every so gently through the first officer's skin into the vein of her neck. The dark red blood bubbled to the surface, and Akia began to sip the liquid. The enigmatic smile returned to her face as she rested her hand on Number One's body, feeling it move to accommodate her feeding.
Suddenly, she stopped and sat up on the bed, staring down at the woman. "No," she decided. "It will not be that way between us, my friend. I will not make you my slave. You are my friend. You will be my friend."
Akia moved closer to Number One as she scored her neck. Then she resumed sipping from the semi-conscious woman's neck as she positioned her neck over the woman's slack mouth. After a few minutes, she pulled back, and sealed her neck as she let her tongue lap the blood at her neck, sealing the punctures on Number One's neck.
Standing up, she stared down at the woman. "Now, sleep, my friend."
She waited until the gentle rise and fall of Number One's chest indicated she was indeed sleeping before she moved. She pulled out some sleep ware from a drawer and tenderly undressed the first officer, then dressed her in the sleep ware. Akia smiled down at the woman, then pulled down the covers. She lifted the woman's body easily and placed it in the bed, and covered her up.
"Sleep, my friend," Akia repeated, allowing herself to stroke the dark hair one more time before she let herself out.
Jeanne Marie Colt
Jeanne Marie Colt sank into the bed, suppressing a sob. She still hadn't thought of a way to make the captain notice her as a woman. A desirable woman. She rolled over, burying her head in the pillow and let her tears flow. It was so unfair. Why was it that the one man she truly desired, desired someone else. Had someone else.
Colt sat up, drying her face. "This is ridiculous," she grumbled. "I am a grown woman, not a stupid teenager suffering a first crush. He's not the only man in the universe ." She sniffed and hugged her knees to her chest. "He's just the only one I want." Her eyes brimmed with tears.
Raising her head, she continued to whimper, letting the tears stream down her face.
Then she frowned, sniffling, wiping her face. The woman standing at the foot of her bed looked like a dream. "Who--? Oh, you're Akia," she said. "But, what--? How--?"
The blonde woman walked toward the bed, her green eyes fixing on Colt's light blue eyes. "You let me in. Don't you remember?"
She smiled, pleased that the information she'd obtained from Number One had worked so well. She'd been wandering for a special someone when she'd felt the strong rush of mental anguish from Colt's cabin.
"No," Colt shook her head. "I don't."
"But you do," Akia whispered throatily as she sat beside the strawberry blonde on the bed. "I was out walking, and I lost my way. I knocked on your door, and you invited me in so I could rest before I went back to my cabin."
"I did?" Colt's forehead furrowed in confusion as Akia subtly moved into her mind, clouding her thoughts.
"And when I seemed tired, you offered to let me stay the night with you," Akia began to stroke the soft reddish hair, loosening the hair from the band that held it back.
"I did?" Colt's puzzlement increased. Where are the guards assigned to Akia?
"Yes," Akia's lips brushed the slender neck. "You didn't wish me to fatigue myself."
"Oh," Colt's head nodded slowly. "Of course." Everything is fine. Relax.
Akia continued to stroke her hair, then let her hands move to Colt's shoulders. Deftly she removed the silk nightshift, and continued to let her hands roam over the young body.
"So young, so beautiful, so healthy," Akia murmured. She still craved the warm liquid that flowed in the young body, but now, she craved something more. "So desirable. And desiring."
A moan bubbled from the Human's lips, bringing an appreciative smile to Akia's lips. She maneuvered the Human further back into the bed. Standing at the foot of the bed, she slipped out of her gown, then joined Colt on the bed.
Colt frowned and shook her head in confusion. She couldn't understand what was happening.
Akia continued to examine the young body with her skilled hands. "But denied desire for so long," Akia continued as she began to caress Colt most intimately. "I know that feeling, child."
"W-wait." Relax. Enjoy this.
Confusion and desire filled the young Human. She had never been attracted to a woman before. She'd never been desired by a woman before, either. It scared her.
"P-please, stop." Colt put up a beseeching hand to stop the skilled manipulations of the Ghanil laying by her and felt herself grab the woman's soft full breast.
"Yes, child," Akia's hand covered hers. "Yes, child. Continue."
Colt continued to shake her head, trying to get away from the woman's insistent touch.
"You are so sad, child," Akia continued, moving closer to the young form. "I can ease your sadness," she continued pulling Colt's body to hers, burying her head in the curve of Colt's neck. "Relax child. Relax." She smiled as the tenseness slowly left Colt's body. "That's better," she approved. "Much better."
Akia raised herself up and leaned over Colt's body. She began to kiss the girl's face starting with her eyes and moving down, pausing at her mouth. She let her kisses become more aggressive. Colt hesitated, but at the woman's insistence, finally let her mouth open and admit the Ghanil's tongue. The kissing became more heated, and Colt found herself beginning to explore the woman's body in much the same way that hers had been explored.
Akia moved back briefly, smiling at the girl, then continued to kiss Colt, lingering on her breasts before moving down to her navel. She felt the girl shudder with anticipation as another moan escaped her lips. Then she moved lower and continued to kiss her body, holding the girl's hips in place, delving deep into the girl's body, pleased when Colt cried out and arched in pleasure.
"And now my sweet one," Akia murmured as she moved back up to Colt's lips, "I believe it is my turn."
Colt looked up into Akia's eyes, nodding slowly. "Yes," she said thickly. "Of course. But--"
"Don't fret, my sweet child," Akia rolled to her back on the bed, pulling Colt on top of her, "you will do well. You will please me as I have pleased you."
"But--" began Colt again, "I've never--"
"Just do as I did," Akia pulled Colt's mouth to hers. "Just do as I did."
Colt obliged, beginning with Akia's green eyes and moving down. Again there was a lingering as Colt let her tongue enter Akia's eager mouth. She stopped and looked at her expectantly, then continued on as Akia nodded her satisfaction. Her tongue tickled the Ghanil's breasts, and Akia found herself pulling the girl even closer, then releasing her to let the girl move down her body, pausing at her navel before moving on.
She felt her own quiver of anticipation as the red head dipped between her legs. She found herself holding the girl's head, making sure she could not pull away until she had completed her ministrations. Colt's hands moved under Akia's hips as her tongue darted into Akia's nether regions, tentatively at first, then with more fervor as the girl felt the grateful response of the Ghanil.
Colt moved back onto the bed, her eyes seeking Akia's approval. Akia smiled up and pulled the Human down beside her. "You see, my sweet, you were able to do it." She rolled the girl under her and made as if to begin kissing her again. "And as you were able to do this when you thought you could not, you will obtain your heart's desire. I will give you the means."
Her sharp teeth bit Colt's neck. Colt gasped, then moved her head to expose her neck even more. Akia felt the girl shudder under her and smiled as she continued to feed.
Akia finally stopped, and leaned back to cut open her breast. She placed her breast into Colt's mouth. "Now, sweet child, drink. Drink deeply."
She cradled the Human's head as Colt did as she was bade. Finally, she removed the breast from Colt's mouth and kissed her lips tenderly. She kissed the neck that so recently had fed her, pleased to see the marks fade away.
Colt's head lay nestled against Akia's breast. The fluttering of her long lashes tickled the Ghanil faintly as she stroked the girl's cheek. Looking up into Akia's green eyes, Colt let herself smile. She raised a weak hand up and wiped the drop of blood that remained on Akia's lip with her finger, then placed the finger in her own mouth.
"Welcome child," Akia smiled down at her.
"M-mistress," Colt stumbled over the word.
"Come," Akia stood and assisted Colt to her feet. "We must awake the others."
Pike paused at the door to his CMO's office, looking at the older man bent over the desk. "Working late, aren't you, Phil?" Glancing at the wall chronometer, he saw the time: 00:12 ship's time.
Stifling a yawn, Boyce looked up as she rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Look who's talking. Besides, doctors are supposed to keep strange, long hours. It's an unwritten law."
"Believe it or not," Pike sank tiredly into the chair across from Boyce, "so do starship captains. Same unwritten law. Probably written by the same person." He indicated the compuclipboard in front of the doctor. "Problems?"
"Yeah," the doctor sighed, not bothering to hide his exhaustion.
"Them." Boyce jerked his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the morgue. "They're dead, and the best I can come up with is loss of blood as a cause of death." He leaned back, bringing his feet up on the desk. "I took them out of stasis and ran another scan on them."
"You can do that?" Pike looked at him in surprise.
"I'm the CMO. It's my morgue. I can do that," he said drolly. "Wanna know what I found?"
"Not unless you have answers."
"Nope, only more mysteries. Would you believe those scratches are nearly healed?"
"What?" Pike gave him a quizzical look.
"Never mind. I have no answers for you."
"Well," Pike got to his feet tiredly, "keep at it Phil. I want answers. I need answers. I want them tomorrow morning at the briefing." He stopped at the door, looking back at the older man still leaning back in the chair, his eyes closed. "But first, you'd better get some rest, Phil."
With his eyes still closed, Boyce asked, "Is that a prescription, Doctor?"
Chuckling, Pike shook his head. "You know what I mean, Phil."
Sighing deeply, Boyce brought his feet back to the floor and slowly, wearily, got to his feet. "Yeah, I do." He walked around the desk and walked out the office with Pike. "I am tired. I think I better call it a day."
As they walked out, the petite Human woman with raven black hair and grey eyes who was wearing a medical smock over a blue jumpsuit nodded at them. Mina Racine had been trying for hours to get the older doctor to leave. She picked up the compuclipboards that Boyce had been reading and sat down to continue the work.
She'd barely begun analyzing the data when the doors swooshed open. She put the boards to one side and entered the main sickbay, hoping it wouldn't be the start of a crazy night. Boyce always blamed her for crazy occurrences in the Sickbay on Gamma shift. Still, he kept her on Gamma shift, knowing that if there was going to be craziness, she could handle it without calling for reinforcements.
She was surprised to see the Ghanil woman dressed in a grey dress, her hands folded in front of her, with Lieutenant Colt and Ensign Sanchez, both in leisure suits, with her by the door.
"Yes?" Doctor Racine asked. "May I help you?"
"I am here to pay my respects," Akia stated regally, fixing the woman with her eyes. "To the two who gave their lives to save mine."
Doctor Racine sighed, stuffing her hands in her pockets. "The memorial service will be in a few days," she said, frowning as she noted a buzzing in her head. "You should pay your respects then."
"I must do so in private," Akia persisted continuing to fix the woman with her emerald green eyes. "The Ghanil way."
Racine closed her eyes and shrugged, wanting to get them out of the sickbay as soon as possible. Craziness she could handle. Religion was something else.
"Fine, okay," she turned away from the trio. "Through the double doors and to your right. Just don't touch anything."
Doctor Racine started to walk toward the office and back to her work. She stopped short of the office, a frown on her face. She hadn't heard the doors open. A prickly feeling moved up her neck. She turned back toward the trio. "I said " she started to say, then stopped.
She found herself almost toe to toe with her two crewmates. There was strange reddish glint in their eyes, and they were both licking their lips hungrily.
"Uh, do you two have a problem?" She tried to sound professional, but the nervousness she felt trickled through.
"Not any more," Colt answered in a low, almost animal tone as she shook her head.
"Excuse me?" Racine turned her head toward the communications officer in surprise.
"She said," Sanchez's voice said in her ear as the small woman clamped a surprisingly strong hand on her shoulder, firmly propelling the woman to the office, "not any more."
A shove sent the doctor sprawling onto the desk, scattering the compuclipboards and small notes that had been written on paper onto the floor. Racine struggled to regain both her composure and her feet, only to feel powerful hands grab her by her shoulders and slam her back onto the table, and continue to hold her there. Another pair of hands grabbed her hips, effectively pinning her to the desk.
"Now, children," she heard a hypnotic voice command. "She is yours. Feed."
Two faces came into her field of vision, and she gasped as she saw long incisors come toward her. "What--?" She struggled vainly against the three that held her down on the table.
"Don't fight," Colt's voice sounded in her ear.
"What--?" Racine's voice was cut off as another hand tilted her head up.
She felt sharp points on both sides of her neck, then heard lapping noises as a loud buzzing filled her head.
Akia watched as the two drank from the now semi-conscious woman on the desk, smiling serenely, no longer needing to hold the woman for her children. She monitored their feeding, letting them nearly drain the woman.
Finally, she placed a gentle, restraining hand on their shoulders, pulling them back from the pale woman. They stopped feeding obediently, and watched as Akia slipped her dress off of her breast and ran a razor-sharp fingernail along her breast then placed the breast in the slack mouth. "Drink child," she murmured. "Drink deeply."
A short time later, Akia pulled her dress strap up and smiled as the doctor's eyes fluttered. "Now, child, I must reclaim two of my children."
"Mistress," Racine's voice answered, sounding drugged.
"The two that are in stasis," Akia prompted her newest convert as she helped the doctor to sit up, straightening the neck of her jumpsuit. "We must get them out and let them feed as well."
"Yes, Mistress," Doctor Racine nodded.
Racine took a moment to steady herself, feeling a little giddy from the change that was taking effect in her body, then walked to the morgue and tapped the controls to release the bodies from stasis.
Akia smiled as she gazed at the two officers. So young, so beautiful. "Awaken, my children," she whispered. Two pair of eyes snapped open and looked around. "Come, children," Akia summoned them. "Come."
The two slowly sat up, and a brief look of confusion crossed both of their faces as they discovered their whereabouts.
Doctor Racine moved forward to help first Ben Shapiro, then Teri Mettens from the stasis cube, and to the floor. She draped them with spare lab coats that Colt had found and brought to the room.
"Hun-hungry," Mettens growled with a frown on her face. "So hun-hungry."
"I know, child," Akia placed a motherly arm around her shoulder. "And I have food for you. Both of you," she drew Shapiro to her with her other arm. "Come."
They walked slowly back to the main sickbay area. Doctor Racine walked to the small comm panel. "Ben, could you and Mary come here a minute?"
"Sure," came the deep bass of the male nurse in one of the bed bays. "What's up?"
"I'm not sure," Doctor Racine said. "Uh, who else is with you?"
"Artie," Ben answered. "Doc, is there a problem?"
"Nothing serious," Doctor Racine laughed nervously. "But, the sooner you three get here, the better."
"Should we bring reinforcements?" Ben asked brusquely.
"No," Doctor Racine managed to keep the nervousness from her voice as Akia shook her head. "No. I think you three can handle it."
"On our way."
The three stormed into the main sickbay, looking like a rescue party, armed with medical supplies instead of weapons. Ben Gainor, a short stocky man with beefy hands that were surprisingly gently, red hair and blue eyes, led the trio. Mary Hessan, a tall brown-haired, brown-eyed Human followed close behind. Artie Hanshaw, a tall slender blond with grey eyes brought up the rear. His slender build belied his strength; he'd been known to subdue many patients that outweighed him with little effort.
The three looked at Doctor Racine, standing in front of the desk, her eyes sparkling unnaturally, her tongue moistening her lips. "Doc?" Ben Gainor asked. "What's the problem?"
"Now, nothing," she answered as she launched herself at him, tackling him to the floor.
The other two rushed forward to grab the seemingly crazed doctor by her shoulders to drag her from Ben when iron talons grabbed their shoulders, pulling them backwards. They turned to defend themselves from their attackers.
"What the--?" Artie managed to get out before Teri Mettens knocked him to the floor and sank her incisors into his slender neck.
Ben Shapiro pulled Mary Hessan to him in a parody of an impassioned embrace and buried his fangs into her neck and drank his fill.
Akia, sat at the desk, smiling serenely as the three fledglings drank their fill. Colt and Sanchez stood behind her obediently, watching them, occasionally moistening their lips as if wanting to join in the feast. Finally, Akia stood and walked around the desk.
"Enough children," she commanded softly.
Teri Mettens raised her face briefly from Centauran's neck and growled angrily. Shapiro glared at Akia as he continued to drain the woman in his arms.
"I said enough!" Akia's low voice snapped at them.
Instantly, the two released their prey and slunk to a corner of the room, all but whimpering. The doctor stood and joined the two security officers. Stepping over the three bodies, Akia looked at the three tutorially. "We will need them, children, to complete my plan."
"Yes, Mistress," Mettens muttered contritely. "Just so hungry."
"That will pass, child," Akia told her. Turning to complete the ritual, she paused long enough to look at each one. "Watch what I do. Then the next time you feed, you can do the same."
"Yes, Mistress," they all responded.
When Akia had readjusted her dress again, she smiled down at the three on the floor. "Waken, children."
Ben Gainor was the first to sit up. He looked at her, a puzzled expression on his face. Soon the others were sitting up by him.
"Return to your work," she commanded. "Then rest." She helped each one to his or her feet, and sent them on their way.
Smiling at Doctor Racine she continued, "And I trust this incident can be explained away."
"Of course, Mistress," Doctor Racine nodded. "It will be."
"Good." Akia walked out of the room. "Come. We must let your sister work. We will hunt again, soon."
Main Briefing Room
Christopher Pike stared around at the empty seats at the table as Yeoman Boris Smithson handed him the night logs. Two chairs were vacant. All departments heads were present except for two.
Something was terribly wrong.
Jeanne Marie Colt managed to be late at least once every three months or so. It was just about time for her to come flying onto the bridge or into his office or wherever she was supposed to be, her hair barely regulation, her uniform hurriedly donned spouting some lame excuse or another. In fact, he had been waiting weeks for her to be late. Her excuses, while lame, were entertaining.
But Number One was never late. In fact, she was usually on duty before he was, making sure his coffee and his reports were waiting for him. It was one of things he respected in the enigmatic woman who was his first officer, her punctuality.
The door to the corridor whooshed open, and the brisk, no-nonsense steps of the dark-haired woman were heard. Number One stepped to the table, nodded to her fellow officers, murmured a few soft greetings before sliding into the empty chair.
Pike continued reading his logs.
A few moments later, the door slid open again, and the quick steps of his communications officer were heard.
Colt had barely slid into her seat when Pike handed both log and coffee cup back to Smithson. "So glad you could join us, ladies," he stated, his tone less than polite.
As he turned in his seat, he saw a flush creep up both women's faces. "Sorry, sir," Colt mumbled softly. "The sonic shower was acting up."
"I see." Pike's tone was all but sarcastic, causing Colt to color even a deeper shade of red. "And what was your problem this morning, Number One?"
The first officer stared at the computer terminal in front of her, her hands moving by memory to bring up the reports that had been ordered. Her mind was still fuzzy. She hadn't heard her alarm go off. She could not remember getting ready for bed, let alone going to bed, yet, when she'd awakened, she'd found herself clothed in her sleep ware and in bed. She didn't remember anything that happened shortly after the Ghanil had entered her room.
"Number One?" Pike repeated.
"My shower was also faulty this morning," she said stiffly. Falsehoods were foreign to her, and it showed. Being telepaths, Betazeds had never developed any skills for lying.
Pike nodded, looking at first one woman, then the other. "I see. Lieutenant Colt, have maintenance check all the sonic showers. I don't want them to delay my bridge crew again."
"Aye, sir." Colt made a few notes on her compuclipboard even as her face continued to burn.
Pike's gaze moved from the blushing female to the Vulcan. "What do we have from the planetary scans, Mister Spock?"
"Nothing new, Captain," Spock reported stiffly. "We are still only scanning the life forms that we have previously scanned."
"So we still have no idea what it was that attacked Akia and killed Lieutenants Mettens and Shapiro."
"No, sir." The young Vulcan looked as upset as he would allow himself to. "I am still endeavoring to retrieve data from the damaged tricorder."
"Very well. Keep at it." The captain turned to his chief medical officer. "Your report, Doctor? What have you got for me?"
Boyce glared. When he'd gotten to Sickbay in the morning, there was a tremendous mess on his office deck. Compuclipboards had been scattered hither and yon. Most were damaged, making information retrieval next to impossible. Worst, his hand-written notes were gone. What little information he had gathered was gone. Angrily he had collected the compuclipboards and dumped them on a corner of the desk.
"Right now," Boyce sighed, dropping a few disks in front of him, "a mess. Mina managed to wreck everything I had found out."
"Has she always been that destructive in your office with your reports?" Pike asked, his tone lighter.
"No," Boyce shook his head, his confusion evident in his voice. "She's even better at collating data than I am. That's what she was supposed to be doing last night."
"Back to square one," Boyce said.
Pike scowled. "Security: Report?"
"We've got one officer who hasn't reported to duty this morning," Commander Grek reported.
"Perhaps a problem with her sonic shower..." piped in José Tyler.
"On the planet, our teams are still surveying the area. We have concluded that the lupine predators on the planet's surface are the likely source for the attack on our landing party. They are also extremely resistant to our lasers."
Pike shook his head. "Negative, Commander. I've seen the holos you've sent up from the planet. Whatever it was that attacked our landing party and killed two of my crewmen was not one of your lupine predators."
"Well, sir, we've been unable to detect anything else on the surface of the planet that could be your attacker."
"That brings us to you, Mister Scott." Pike whirled his chair toward his chief engineer.
"Aye, it does. We're still recalibrating the scanners. We still canna detect this lass, Akia. It's as though she simply isnae there."
Pike turned to his executive officer. "And that brings us to you, Number One..."
"Akia is a Ghanil, Captain. According to her, she was stranded on the planet after being found guilty of a political crime."
"How long has she been there?"
Number One blinked. "Beg pardon, sir?"
"I said, 'How long has she been there?'"
The captain of the Enterprise stared at her intently. "You debriefed her, didn't you?"
"Yes, Captain. Last night, in fact. Per your orders."
"And yet you didn't ask her how long she'd been there?"
Dead silence until a few seconds later: "No, sir."
Pike sighed heavily and looked around the table. "Ladies and gentlemen, this has been the most non-productive staff meeting in the entire history of my command of this vessel. I suggest that the next staff meeting three days hence be more productive. Otherwise," he slowly pushed his chair back from the table and stood, leaning forward with his arms on the table to support him, "some asses are going to be in the fire. Dismissed."
Boyce had just finished recompiling as much of the data as he could find when Christopher Pike stormed into his office and flounced into a chair.
Leaning back in his chair, the doctor said, "I know why I want to chew off the bulkheads, but what's your problem?"
"Oh, just frustrated," Pike admitted as he slumped lazily in the chair. "I still have no idea what killed my officers. Still can't find the creature on the planet. My officers were unprepared for a briefing this morning."
"I know, I know. Looks like we all dropped the ball today, Chris." Boyce chuckled as he made himself more comfortable in the chair. "What surprised me was who was late for duty."
"Colt? She's late once every three months or so."
"Not her, Chris. Your first officer. That's not like her. She's got a built-in alarm clock."
Pike shook his head. The day was not progressing as he had planned. "What have you got?"
"I've got some of my data recompiled, but I still have to go and rescan those two and hope I can still get the same data. Care to join me?"
"Well ." Pike looked at him, his color paling slightly.
"Good. I need a hand, and right now, everyone else has other duties."
"Phil," Pike said as they walked into the stasis room, "I never did well in biology."
He stopped suddenly, brought up short by the sudden stop of Boyce in front of him. The two stasis cubes were pulled out of their chambers. And there was nothing in either of them.
"What the hell?" Boyce breathed as he stared back at Pike.
Pike strode to the comm panel, banging it angrily with the heel of his hand. "Security! Send a team to Sickbay on the double!"
Looking sick, Boyce leaned against the wall. "Who would want to take two dead bodies?"
Pike rubbed the back of his neck wearily. "Good question, Phil. Who the hell would want two dead bodies?"
Science Lab 4
Spock placed the tape in the viewer and prepared to enhance whatever he managed to find on it. Shapiro's tape had provided very little in answers for the captain. Perhaps his would supply more.
As he ran the tape, he felt a scowl furrow his brow. He stopped the tape and rewound it, then reran it again, slower. The third time he ran it even slower. The fourth time he ran it frame by frame.
He leaned close to the viewer, his hands moving the controls as he continued to work.
Teri Mettens and Ben Shapiro were occupying the bed when J. M. Colt walked into Akia's cabin. She blushed and averted her eyes, only to spy Mina Racine with Ben Gainor embracing each other on the floor in another corner of the room. Her face flushed a crimson color, causing Akia to chuckle indulgently.
"It is a natural function," Akia told her, caressing her soft cheek. "And we are all family here."
"Yes, Mistress," Colt bowed her head, feeling herself flush as Akia's hands moved from her cheek to her breast. "I-I just ."
"I understand," Akia nodded. "Cultural taboos are hard to overcome." She led the embarrassed Human to a chair, setting her down and kissing her gently. "Enough children," she commanded.
"You can never have enough sex," Mettens panted from the bed, her legs still wrapped tightly around Shapiro's waist.
"I said, enough," Akia repeated sternly, glaring at the auburn-haired female.
Mettens frowned as she unwound herself from Shapiro's form. She sat on the edge of the bed, unmindful of her nakedness, Shapiro joining her. Racine and Gainor sat next to each other on the floor, arms still around each other. Colt discovered that Sanchez and Hessan were in another corner of the room.
"It is time, children, for each of you to go hunting alone."
"Mistress?" Colt stared up at Akia.
"I know, we have not hunted together much," Akia cupped the girl's head in her hand, "but I have faith in each of you. I have shown you how to Change others to be as you are. Now you must go and Change others so that I can control this ship."
"Yes, Mistress," Colt nodded.
"We are too few to take over the ship. But with your new skills, our numbers will increase. And soon we will be numerous enough to control the ship. And then, we will seek out new hunting fields and nourishment."
Science Lab 4
Spock sat back from the viewer. He still didn't have a clear view of the creature that had killed the two security guards.
But he had something.
"Spock to Captain Pike."
"I believe I have discovered something."
"I'm on my way."
Pike entered the lab and made a beeline for Spock's workstation. "What have you got?"
Moving to one side, he motioned for the captain to take his chair. "Observe," he instructed as he ran the tape.
Patiently, Pike watched the scene, his jaw clenching tightly from the excitement he was trying to contain. Then the jaw jumped as excitement turned to irritation. "So far, I don't see anything I didn't see before."
"Wait, sir." Spock held up a finger. "Here." He froze the tape. "This is where we entered the area and shot at the creature as it stood over Lieutenant Mettens."
Pike stared as the tape resumed. The scenery bounced as the tricorder had on Spock's side as the Vulcan had run toward the rocky clearing. The creature snarled and headed for the rocks then glared back, giving another defiant snarl. The streaks of light from firing lasers was evident as they missed the creature, most by wide margins, a few by mere inches.
Pike stared at the screen, his jaw muscle jumping angrily. Straightening up angrily, he sent the chair skiddering across the floor. "I hit that thing! Dead center! I know I did."
"You believed you hit it, sir. As did I," Spock admitted, "and as did all the other officers. But as you can see, we did not."
"If you recall, I mentioned that it was possible that the creature has a mental defensive system. This would seem to indicate that is more of a probability."
"You mean, the creature is telepathic?" There was dismay on Pike's face. Not again.
Spock canted his head and raised an eyebrow. "It could be the reason that we have been unable to find it on the planet."
"But is such a thing possible?" Pike stared at Spock. "I was given to understand that telepathy was only found in higher life forms."
Spock nodded, clasping his hands behind his back. "You are correct, sir. Perhaps telepathy is not the correct term. It is obviously able to make us perceive something that is not real, or not to perceive something that is, namely it, but I seriously doubt if it could communicate complex concepts. And as far as I can ascertain, Akia is the only creature with which we have had any kind of telepathic contact."
"True." Pike stared at the screen. "Still can't see it clearly though."
"That is due to the darkness."
"Looks bipedal. Or is that--?"
"No, sir. It is bipedal. And large. The size of a woman or a small man."
"Grek's large carnivores?"
"No, sir," Spock stopped the tape. "This creature does not resemble the carnivores seen by Commander Grek and his teams. Observe." Spock brought up a still of the grainy creature as it glared at them from the rocks, then a still of the lupine animal that had circled the Tellarite and his team. "As you can see," Spock indicated, "there is a marked difference in the appearance of the creature that attacked Lieutenant Mettens and the carnivores that Commander Grek and his team encountered."
"Can you clean up this even further?" Pike asked as he stared at the shadowy form.
"I am working on it, sir. I have devised an algorithm that--"
"Good. Keep on it, Spock. I want answers, and right now, it looks like that tape has them."
Chris Garrity walked into his quarters. For once, he wished his roommate had the same duty shift as he did. Then he wouldn't be entering an empty quarters. It had been two days since something had killed Teri Mettens.
He couldn't claim to have loved her. One didn't love a sex machine. But one could desire it, and miss it when it was gone. And gods, he missed her. They hadn't even gotten started to enjoy each other when "something" had interrupted them And they had never managed to get back together. In spite of her promises.
"You're looking pretty down," a sultry voice said in the darkness of his sleep area.
"Computer, lights full," Garrity commanded. He didn't have his laser pistol with him, but he had his great-grandfather's throwing knife in his boot. It might not kill everything that existed in the universe, but it would sure slow them down.
He stared at his bed. His jaw dropped and his eyes widened in shocked surprise.
Teri giggled coyly as she turned around on the bed, letting him savor her naked form.
"You! But-but you're dead! You were killed! On the planet!"
"Gee, I don't feel dead," she tilted her head and looked at him from the corner of her eye, then leaned back in the bed, stretching invitingly. "Do I look dead?"
"N-no." Garrity shook his head as he walked toward her. "B-but this is impossible. Your body was in stasis."
"Boring," Teri shook her head. "And drafty. Although it was kind of sexy, too. Lying under that silly sheet, naked. The doctor would come in every now and again and scan me." She sighed. "But that's all he ever did. Never did give me an old-fashioned examination. Now that would have been kinky. You know what I mean? No, he never would. Too much respect for the dearly departed."
She reached up and pulled him down on the bed by her. "I've missed you," she whispered in his ear.
"I-I've missed you, too," he gulped as he let himself feel her soft cool flesh.
"Seems to me we have some unfinished business," she continued as her hands deftly began to undress him.
"Hmm." She stared into his blue eyes as her finger traced his jaw. "Seems to me I have a bet that needed to be paid off. And," she smiled wickedly, "I also seem to remember that I left you with a bit of problem to take care of by yourself." Her hand wandered below his belt. "Now, that wasn't nice of me at all."
"No," he agreed. "It wasn't."
"Well, I've come to make it up to you, babe," she pulled him down on her.
"No problem," he sighed contentedly, surrendering to her seduction.
He felt the exhilaration of making love to this woman. He felt joy that the woman he thought was dead was very much alive and in his bed. But he didn't feel the teeth sink into his neck or the blood being drained from his body.
Maleva Blasko hurried back to her quarters, barely able to contain her terror. In spite of what the captain said, she knew what had killed the sultry security officer and her partner. And she knew that It had come on board the ship. And she knew It still hungered for blood.
Maleva had torn through her few belongings until she had found the one thing needful, and then had set about to get the other things that would help her defend herself against It. She'd gotten some pretty strange looks from her roommate, but she'd ignored them. Strange looks could be ignored. Death could not.
She closed the door and secured it, and checked to see if Janos had removed any of the garlic strands from the door. He hadn't. Perhaps, in spite of the strange looks, he also believed.
She pulled the turtleneck tunic off and dressed in her night shift. Then she headed for the lavatory. It was a waste of resources, and sooner or later she would be called on to explain the waste, but until then, she would spend her nights in the shower with the water running.
She curled up in the corner of the shower, hugging her knees to her chest, letting the warm water run over her. One hand grasped the heavy crucifix that hung from her neck as she began to mouth prayers she had all but forgotten.
Ben Shapiro stopped in front of the door and tapped in the codes as Mistress had instructed him. He paused as he entered, looking at the garlic draped everywhere. He picked a clove from one of the strings and continued on, seeking his prey.
He followed the sound of the running water, shaking his head. Such a waste. And for nothing.
He opened the shower door and stared down at the trembling form. "Hello, Maleva," he said.
In answer, she screamed and held the cross up between them. "Leave, Demon! Wampyr! Stay away from me!"
Shapiro shoved the heavy cross away as he grabbed her by her arms and hauled her out of the shower. Pulling her close to his body, he examined the cross, then snapped the chain and tossed to one side. "Nice workmanship. Wrong religion. And ineffectual under any circumstance."
Maleva continued to scream, struggling to free herself from his iron grip. Once, she had dreamed of being held by him, caressed by him, loved by him. But that was when he was Human. Now he was not.
"Oh come on, Maleva," he said in exasperation. "I am not the devil incarnate. I'm still Ben, the guy you want in your bed."
"Maleva, it's not the crap that you've been taught in folklore," he pulled her down to the bed beside him. "You'll live forever. Be young and beautiful forever."
"But cursed to walk the night and drink the blood of the living!" she cried as she tried to pulled away from him.
"Drinking blood can be very sexy," he whispered in her ear.
"No," she whimpered as she found herself on the bed, Shapiro over her.
"Yes," he nodded.
She didn't realized that on the way from the lavatory to the bed he'd removed her shift and his clothes.
"Don't do this," she begged. "It's inhuman!"
"Actually," he responded as his hands explored her body, "it's very Human."
He smiled as her body began to betray her. When he was sated, he sank his fangs into her exposed neck and drank. And later, when he had scored his flesh and offered her his blood, she'd taken it, slowly at first, then readily.
When her eyes opened, they stared up into Shapiro's dark, red-rimmed eyes. He smiled down at her. "See, I told you it was sexy."
Captain Christopher Pike
Christopher Pike sat at his desk, finishing reports, checking other reports and filing reports. The life of a starship captain was ninety percent reports and ten percent action, J. M. Colt concluded as she watched him from her secluded corner. Not that he would see her. Unless she wished it. It was one of the talents that Akia had instilled in her and the others.
She watched as he sat staring at the blank compuclipboard in front of him. He'd been attempting to compose letters of condolences to the Mettens and Shapiro family. It was never an easy task. But this time, it was even harder for him. She could tell he was not comfortable with writing the patented formula letter that many did. And now he had to tell them that the bodies were missing as well.
Colt tentatively reached for him, to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, to let him know that someone cared about his pain. Then he reached for the small holocube on his desk and looked at the smiling face of his lover. Her rival.
"So how am I going to explain this, Ariel?" he spoke aloud to the cube. "Some milk run. Just scan a few systems and see how much better these scanners are. That's what the brass promised me. And then we get this telepathic call. I don't hear it. But half my crew does. I can't ignore it, even though my better judgment tells me to. And now two crewmembers are dead and their bodies are missing." He stood up, snapping off the monitor and tossing the compuclipboard to one side. "Hell, it'll be here in the morning. Perhaps I can write it with sleep under my belt."
He disrobed and changed into pajama bottoms, then crawled into bed.
Colt waited in her corner until his breathing assured her he was sound asleep. She walked close to the bed and stared down at him, melancholy etched on her face. All she had to do was drink his blood, then have him drink hers, and he would belong to her forever. Akia had said so.
But he was the captain. Her captain.
She felt herself smile as his face smoothed. "Right now, sleep eases your burden," she said. "But one day, I will do that for you. I'd do it tonight, if you'd let me."
Her hand brushed the hair off his forehead, then she kissed him ever so lightly.
Colt closed her eyes against the rush of hunger that assailed her. She knew his blood was near. And it would only take a few minutes and she would have all she needed to sustain her.
But this was the captain. Her captain.
She could not do that to him. Even if Akia said she could.
She smiled sadly down at him, then quietly slipped out of the room and made her way to another cabin. She pressed the chime and sighed deeply. Myron Jacobs was a young Centauran that worked the Beta shift on communications. And he'd been flirting with her ever since he transferred onto the ship, making it plain that he wanted more than friendship from her. If things had been different, if she didn't love the captain, perhaps He was good-looking, and personable enough.
Colt planted a bright smile on her face as the door opened, revealing Jacobs, half out of uniform as he eagerly ushered Colt into his quarters.
Number One took off her uniform top and stared at her neck. The red marks on her neck that she'd seen earlier in the day were gone. She was a fast healer, she knew, but not that fast. Not without help from Sickbay, and she'd not been able to go there.
Putting on a robe, she moved to the food processor, staring at the menu as she continued to ponder the day's mysteries. She'd overslept. She never overslept. Her internal clock always woke her up at least twenty minutes before she was due on duty. It didn't matter how late a night she spent on reports, she was woke up in time to grab a fast shower and breakfast before appearing on the bridge.
Her head had been pounding when she woke up. She had heard and occasionally felt what a hangover felt like. Not from personal experience; metabolism had a high tolerance for liquor when she did drink, which was rare at best. Rather, she had felt the sufferings of some of her crew as they had returned from a binge on a shore leave. But this morning the pain was not the mental echoes from a hungover junior officer, but her own.
The gnawing in her stomach reminded her she'd missed two meals. Breakfast was missed due to her oversleeping, something she had never done before in her life. Lunch had been ignored as she worked with Spock on his tapes, offering suggestions.
But dinner was going to be consumed. She ordered the quickest thing she could through the small food processor and wolfed it down, barely tasting it. She instantly regretted her haste as her stomach rolled angrily. Number One poured herself some of her herbal tea, hoping in addition to calming her nerves it would settle her stomach.
Sipping her tea she went over the daily logs. Several other crew members had been late for work this morning she noted. Besides herself and Colt, four security officers, Sanchez, T'Pon, Blasko, and Garrity were late for roll, all experiencing problems with their sonic showers. And none of them wanted to go to the planet surface. While she could understand why Maleva Blasko didn't want to return to a site where she believed a vampire lived, she couldn't understand what frightened the other two. Sanchez had been on the surface once before, and Garrity had a reputation for charging in when cooler heads would have waited for backup. And T'Pon, when she had tried to contact the officer, Sanchez had answered, reporting that the Vulcan was temporarily indisposed, and asked if there was anything she could do for her.
Somehow they'd convinced Commander Grek they could not go to the planet and ended up serving their duty time on the ship.
Besides, she knew the sonic showers were not at fault. Maintenance had checked on the showers and found nothing wrong with any of them.
Her frown deepened as she read the next report. It was actually a private note from Grek to her. T'Pon, the young Vulcan had not only been late for roll call, but had missed her duty shift; Sanchez had covered up for her. T'Pon never missed a duty shift. If it had been any other person, Number One would have marked them AWOL and reported it directly to the captain for the proper disciplinary action. But this was T'Pon, a Vulcan. And Grek had asked for more time to find out what was going on. The Tellarite like the dark Vulcan, seeing potential in her that not even T'Pon herself could see.
"Something is wrong," Grek had told her emphatically. "She's not in her quarters, and she hasn't reported in. Neither is like her. I need to find out what is going on before her record is blackened."
Number One had agreed, reluctantly. "But I can only give you two more days, Grek. After that, I have to report it to the captain."
"Understood," Grek had bowed briefly to her as he left to continue his search for the missing officer.
Number One leaned back and rubbed her eyes. That time she'd given Grek would run out in one day. It was all the time she could give him.
The door chime startled her.
"Yes?" she asked as she continued with her work.
"It is Akia. May I enter?"
Number One sighed as she rubbed her throbbing temples. Akia. She'd all but forgotten their passenger in the flurry of the day's activities. A part of her wanted to deny the woman entrance, but she couldn't, not in good conscious. The woman had no one else to communicate with. Not yet, anyway. That was something that Number One was going to have to rectify. While she cherished the bond that was developing between them, she did not want the woman to be totally dependent on her. It would bode ill for the woman when they returned to Earth and she moved on.
"Enter," Number One responded as she pushed her work to one side.
Akia glided in, wearing the same dove-grey gown she had worn the night before. "My friend, I have missed you."
"I'm sorry," Number One stood up and reached out for Akia's hands, clasping them in her own. "I've been busy ."
"I understand. Your duty to the ship," Akia nodded, pulling the woman closer to her as she made her way to sit at the edge of the bed. "As it should be."
Number One found herself sitting on the edge of the bed, uncomfortably close to the Ghanil woman. "Yes," Number One nodded, vainly trying to reclaim her hands and put some distance between them.
"You look tired," Akia's brow furrowed in consternation, one hand rubbing Number One's forehead.
Number One smiled warmly at the Ghanil. "Just a long day," she admitted, her unease fading. "Just a very long day."
"I would imagine so," Akia nodded consolingly. Her grasp on Number One's hand loosened. "Will we be here much longer?"
"I couldn't say," Number One shook her head, wondering if she had heard, or only imagined the tone in Akia's voice. "We haven't found the creature that attacked you and killed the two officers."
"But why is that important?" Akia persisted.
"Because the planet is scheduled for colonizing," Number One admitted. "We're here; we might as well complete a planetary survey and turn it in to the Federation. But we can't approve colonization until we have more data on this creature that attacked you."
"I see," Akia nodded.
"Captain Pike won't stop until he's sure he can't find your attacker. And once he finds out that a crewmember is missing, he'll search for her until he's sure she can't be found," Number One continued.
"So your captain cares for his crew?"
"Yes," Number One nodded, "he does."
"He'll never find it," Akia said suddenly. "This creature that killed them, he'll never find it."
"You sound pretty sure of that," Number One looked at her intently.
"I am," Akia looked back just as intently. "I never saw the creature, of course. But I saw the remains of its attacks."
"Then how did you survive?" Number One studied Akia.
Akia's eyes took on a faraway look. "It is a creature of the night, and hunts in dark places. So I made sure that I was not out in the open after dark."
"Until we came for you," Number One put in.
"Yes, until then," Akia nodded. "I had thought that it had moved on. I've found that the creature has different hunting areas, depending on the season. It had never stayed in that area this late in the season."
"You've learned a lot about this planet. How long were you there?"
"I cannot say. I am still learning your time keeping system."
"You could help us in our survey."
"No," Akia shook her head. "I am not skilled that way."
"You're obviously a fast learner," Number One studied her, trying to understand this strange woman.
"I am a survivor," Akia shrugged, a smile curving her red lips. "It is a pretty planet, but it is deadly," she added. "Your captain should leave this place."
"Perhaps you should talk to the captain," Number One suggested. She was surprised to see Akia become disconcerted.
"No," she shook her head vehemently. "I do not wish to bother him. He has much on his mind."
"That's true," Number One agreed as she got up and got another cup of tea. "Dead crewmembers that somehow disappear. Missing crewmembers. Creatures that can't be found ."
Akia stood and approached her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Rest easy, my friend. All will be well before much longer."
"If only I could believe that," Number One sighed.
"You can," Akia maneuvered her back to the bed. "You can."
"How do you know that?" Number One looked at her quizzically.
"I know many things," Akia answered, a mysterious glint in her eye. "Now, sit. Close your eyes. Come now, close them."
"Akia, I have a mound of work to do," Number One said. "As much as I want to, I don't have time ."
"You are tense," Akia continued, her voice soft, hypnotic. "You need to relax. A massage will help you do that, then you can continue your work, no?"
"I suppose," Number One looked at her.
She sat on the bed and closed her eyes. Akia sat on the bed behind her, and slowly began to knead the woman's tight muscles. Expertly she moved from the neck to the shoulders to the back, smiling as she felt the tension leaving Number One's body.
When the first officer was completely relaxed, she was also completely hypnotized. Akia brought the woman back further onto the bed, laying her down tenderly. Caressing the smooth face, Akia lay beside her and let her incisors glide through the skin and into the vein. The blood bubbled up and into her mouth.
Looking at the face by her, Akia paused in her sipping, smiling at her as she repositioned herself and scored her neck. "Come my friend, join me," she whispered as placed her mouth back on Number One's neck. "Join me."
A short time later, she lapped the wounds on Number One's neck and sealed her own. Again she undressed Number One and redressed the woman for bed, then covered her with the sheets on the bed.
"Now sleep, my friend. I have children to attend to," Akia stood up and made her way to the door. "Many new children."
Briefing Room Four
Commander Grek stood at the head of the table, staring at the thirty officers around the giant table. Lieutenant Commander Doreen Trask and Morisa Sanchez sat on either side of Grek. Among the other officers were Chris Garrity, Bekel, Hank Greenley, Randy Geiger, and Beth Lange.
Grek frowned as he studied the brown-haired woman. Beth Lange and Teri Mettens had been roommates and close friends. Very close friends. It was something he didn't encouraged in Security, but he didn't forbid it either.
"As you know," he began without preamble, "there is something on the planet surface that attacked our passenger, Akia, and killed Lieutenant Mettens and Lieutenant Shapiro. While we have discovered a carnivore on the planet," he nodded and the small hologram in the center of the table appeared, "it does not seem to be the same creature. It is quadruped, while our quarry is bipedal. And this hunts in packs not alone. Unfortunately we are finding it difficult to search for the creature. It is nocturnal, and apparently not around during the day. Also these carnivores," Grek pointed to the hologram on the table, "are always about and very territorial. And they take the highest setting of a Type I laser to even stun it."
"That means it's going to be more difficult to find this creature," Lange observed.
"True. Be sure you have obtained the correct weapon before going on the planet," Grek ordered. "I understand some of you have volunteered to go planetside during the night."
Sanchez shrugged. "Makes more sense to try to find it while it's awake than when it's holed up somewhere asleep."
"True," he agreed. Then sighing deeply, Grek began to pace. "We have another problem as well. Someone has apparently broken in to Sickbay and stolen the two bodies."
Beth Lange covered a gasp of horror as the rest of the officers stared in surprise at the Tellarite.
"I know," he nodded. The tightness of his voice showed how much he was restraining his own anger. "I, too, was stunned to hear of such a thing. We will have teams searching the ship to find the bodies. And the perpetrators." His demeanor bode ill will toward the crewmember who had pulled such a prank.
"Finally," he concluded, "in case you haven't noticed, we are missing someone ourselves. T'Pon didn't report for duty yesterday."
Lange frowned brushing tears from her eyes. "That's not like her," she shook her head. "She's more punctual than anyone else on the ship."
Sanchez squirmed in her chair. "She, uh, wasn't feeling very well. That's why I covered her duty shift for her. I told you I would..."
Grek frowned. "I know. But I had to report her absence. I have persuaded the executive officer not to classify her as AWOL until we find her."
Garrity spoke up. "Commander, I saw T'Pon last night, sir," he volunteered.
Grek moved his bulk toward him. "Report!"
Garrity shrugged. "We were on our way to dinner when she said she had thought about happened on the planet. Said she wanted to follow up on it. She said she'd meet us later in the Rec Room for dinner, but she never showed. I just figured she found something that tied her up. You know how she can be. And then I thought yesterday was her day off ." He shrugged again.
"Did she indicate where she was going?"
Garrity shook her head. "No."
"Could she have gone back to the planet?"
"Possibly," he nodded.
"Foolhardy without a backup," Grek grunted. "Not like her at all. Still, if it was important, she might try it, if she believed she had a lead." He turned to the rest of the room. "You know the drill. Check out the transporter logs. See if we can find out what happened to T'Pon."
"On it," Sanchez and Garrity nodded, looking at each other with a faint hint of amusement in their eyes, a hint that no one in the room noticed.
"Good hunting!" Grek dismissed them.
Sanchez rushed to Transporter Chief Brownlee at her duty station. "Michelle, you have to do something for me."
Brownlee looked at her. "What?"
"You have to amend the transporter record."
"Do you know how difficult that is?" Brownlee stared at her.
"I know, but you have to. For the Mistress," she added.
Brownlee pressed her lips together and nodded. "What do you want the record to read?"
"That T'Pon went back to the planet a day and a half ago."
"That won't be easy," Brownlee warned her. "Tampering with the records can cause other problems. Especially if it's not done right."
Sanchez canted her head. "The records officer could help us. But we don't have a records officer."
"Yet," Brownlee added.
Sanchez nodded. "I'll take care of it. Harold Beller is getting ready to go on his break soon."
"Harold?" Brownlee stared at Sanchez with a shocked look. "Harold?!"
"Changing doesn't always involve sex, you know," Sanchez said. "Fortunately."
Beth Lange walked the ship's corridor. For the past two days, she had been spending her off-duty hours scouring every inch of the ship, going over areas that had already been searched. Her friend's body had been taken from its stasis cube. She would find it and return it to stasis.
Tiredly, she leaned against the wall, suppressing a sob. "Damn it, Teri, why'd you get yourself killed?"
The long hours were beginning to affect her. If she didn't stop and get some sleep soon, she'd wind up in Sickbay. And then she'd never find her friend.
She shook her head and closed her eyes, not wanting to stop and rest, but knowing that if she didn't, she could miss something. Something important.
If only T'Pon were here, she mused. And that was the other thing that was bothering her, she realized. T'Pon. The Vulcan would never go anywhere without backup, especially after two officers had been killed.
She looked at her feet, her despondency overwhelming her. "Buck up, damn it," she ordered herself. "You can't let it do this to you. If you do, you won't find Teri, or Ben. Or T'Pon."
She blinked the tears from her eyes. "All right. First things first. You're tired. Exhausted," she admitted. "So it's time to regroup. Recharge. Then continue the search."
She took a step and stopped as her down-cast eyes caught sight of something on the deck. Something that didn't belong.
Bending down, she touched the green-black spots on the deck. She noted other spots a further up the corridor. Rust colored. And more green-black spots. A trail of them.
No longer tired, Lange followed the spots down the corridor until she came to the vent. Her critical eye noted the grate had not been put back the way it should have been. With shaking fingers, she removed the grate.
"Oh, God!" She stood upright, staring at the dead body of T'Pon. Her breath caught in throat. "Oh no."
Her training took over, and she moved to the nearest communications panel to alert Commander Grek. Her eyes widened in shock when she saw the caved-in panel.
She didn't stare it long. Something was on the ship. Something that was a danger to it and the crew. The next panel would be all right. It had to be.
The shadows on the deck warned her that someone, someones, were blocking her path to the next panel. She whirled on them, hoping her sudden action would catch whomever off guard.
She gasped when she saw the identity of the someones in her way.
"T-teri?" she squeaked.
"You really shouldn't have done that, Beth," Mettens sighed sadly. Lange's mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out. Her eyes widened in fear as she looked into the hard expression of her friend. "Now we have to deal with you."
"I'll handle her, Teri," Garrity said as he advanced on her.
Fear finally freed Lange from her frozen state. She whirled away from the two and ran toward the nearest turbolift. Before she had gotten a dozen steps away, she found herself being slammed against the wall. She struggled against his iron grip, fear giving her strength, but not enough.
"Easy, Chris." Mettens' voice sounded behind them. "We still have work to do for the Mistress." The auburn security officer moved so that she was standing close to Lange's head. "Now, I can take care of T'Pon's body by myself. And you," she smiled up into Garrity's blue eyes, "you can take care of Beth. As the Mistress would want."
Understanding filled his eyes, and a knowing smile creased his face as his grip on Lange changed. "With pleasure," he said. "Hurry back, we'll have a party."
"N-no!" Lange struggled as Garrity dragged her into a small deserted bay.
As the door closed, Teri heard another scream of protest from her friend. "Don't fight it, Beth," she shook her head. "Just let it happen. You'll enjoy it." A third scream, this one more muffled was heard, then nothing.
Sighing, Teri looked at the body in the vent. Grabbing an arm, she pulled it out of the vent, then slung it over her shoulder and walked to the nearby cargo transporter. She dropped the body unceremoniously on the pad and moved to the control panels. She paused just before she activated the transporter. "Sorry, T'Pon," she said. "I know this isn't the way Vulcans usually take care of their dead. But we don't have a choice. I just wish you could have been Changed." She tapped in coordinates and activated the transporter. "We said you went back to the planet, and so you shall."
Mettens walked hurriedly back to the bay and slipped in, a smile erupting on her face as she saw Garrity and Lange, sans clothes on the deck. Garrity looked up briefly, as the door closed behind Mettens.
"Having fun?" Mettens sat on a packing crate.
"Now," Garrity admitted as he moved over the semi-conscious woman under him. "Took a bit to persuade her to play along."
"Had to hypnotize her, huh?" she sniggered.
Garrity spared her a dirty glare, then chuckled as he turned his attention back to Beth Lange. "A little," he admitted. "But once we got going, she was more than willing to accommodate me."
"So, have you Changed her yet?" Mettens asked as Lange moaned and whimpered.
"Thought I'd wait for you," Garrity rolled off of Lange. "You gotta be as hungry as I am." He tilted Lange's head back, exposing both sides of her neck. "Bon appetite!"
Mettens slid from the crate to the floor and buried her long incisors into her friend's neck as Garrity did the same on the other side.
There was a quiet whimper as the two sets of fangs sank into Lange's neck then nothing.
Mettens stopped feeding first and stared down at her friend, shocked at the pallid face. Garrity continued to drain the woman. "Stop, Chris," Mettens said. He ignored her. "I said stop!" Mettens voice was harsh, commanding. "You'll kill her."
Garrity glared at her, his eyes red, his fangs still in Lange's neck. Mettens shifted her weight slightly, her eyes as red as his, her fangs snarling in anger. Garrity slowly withdrew his fangs and moved away from the woman.
"That's better." Mettens looked down at her friend. "Beth is still my friend," she said as she exposed her large breast and scored it. "Whatever else, she is my friend. And now," she added as she place it into Lange's mouth and forced the woman to swallow the dark liquid that was trickling from the scratch, "she will be my sister as well."
When Mettens was satisfied that Lange had taken enough of the her blood, she sat back and pulled her shirt down. A few minutes later, Lange's eyes opened slowly and stared up at the face that stared back at hers.
"Welcome, sister," Mettens kissed her forehead. "Welcome."
Number One removed her uniform and pulled on a robe, then took a look a her neck. The marks were there, faded, but there. When she'd noted them the first time, four days before, they'd faded before evening. But each succeeding day, the marks took longer to fade. And tonight, they were still here, faint, but still visible.
This wasn't the only strange thing that had been happening since coming to the planet. It was just one of the most personal.
"Computer," she said. "Begin recording."
"Since coming to Alpha Indii, several unusual incidents have occurred." She got up and began pacing. "We lost two crewmembers. Their bodies vanished from their stasis cubes. T'Pon has disappeared. I was late for duty. And several crew members personalities have undergone a subtle change."
Number One frowned and stared at the monitor, trying to decide how to proceed. "First of all, Lieutenant Colt has become more secretive. She seems to be watching me closely; why I cannot begin to fathom. And she also seems to be keeping an extremely close eye on the captain."
She stopped again and resumed pacing for a few minutes, then she stopped and sat down at her work station. "In addition, I have noticed several of the security officers are behaving strange. They are refusing to go to the planet during planetary day. They come up with strange and exotic reasons, but they do not go to the planet.
"And finally," she concluded, sighing deeply, "I seem to have been afflicted with some sort of malady. I find strange marks on my neck which once faded away before the evening. Lately, though, those marks are not fading as fast. It concerns me. If they are still visible in the morning, though I dread it, I will have the doctor examine them."
The chimes at the door interrupted her. Shutting off the computer, she answered the door, drawing the robe close around her neck. "Come in, Akia," she greeted the Ghanil at the door.
"You look extremely tired tonight," Akia frowned as she walked to her usual perch at the edge of the bed, drawing the first officer to the bed with her.
"Another long day," Number One shrugged. "We've completed an extensive survey of the planet, using every scanning system we have."
"I imagine it must be quite tedious." Akia canted her head. "Will we be here much longer?"
Gently disengaging herself from the Ghanil, Number One moved herself away from Akia. "I have no idea, Akia. I may be the first officer, but I am not privy to the captain's private thoughts."
"You could be," Akia said, her tone suggestive.
Number One stared at the Ghanil in shock before dropping her eyes. "I do not believe in entering where I am not invited."
Looking at Number One through half-shut eyes, Akia murmured, "You could enter and depart, and he would never know."
"I do not believe in doing that," Number One said coldly. "It would be an invasion of his privacy."
"You could even make him change his mind, if you so chose," Akia continued. "You have the potential. You have the skills, even if they are not honed to their fullest."
"I would never do that!" Number One jerked her hand from Akia's grasp and stood up. "My mother's people are telepaths, but we would never misuse our talent." She whirled and faced the Ghanil. "You cannot imagine what it is like, being a telepath among non-telepaths. They are so...distrustful."
"They are fearful of your power, no doubt." Akia snorted. "More so because you are female."
Number One glared at her. "That is changing."
"Changing? I am already aware that your captain 'can't get used to having a woman on the bridge. Present company excluded, of course.... You're...different.'"
The executive officer whirled in heated anger. "If I cannot gain what I seek through ordinary means, I don't want it. That includes my position in this society."
"I see." Akia pursed her lips and changed the subject. "So, is the captain still searching for the crew person who is missing?"
"For Ensign T'Pon, yes." Number One nodded as she poured herself a cup of tea. "Until he is satisfied he has exhausted all possibilities. Or until he knows she is dead."
"What good will that do?" Akia asked.
"He feels it's his duty to make the attempt. For the families." Number One sat down on the edge of the bed next to Akia. "May I get you something? Tea? Coffee?"
"No," Akia shook her head. "I have not acquired a taste for that liquid."
Chuckling softly as she sipped her tea, Number One agreed, "It is an acquired taste."
"If you wished, my friend, you could convince the captain to leave now."
Pressing her lips together, Number One shook her head. "I doubt it. He's a very determined man, Akia."
"As I said," Akia murmured, "you have not attempted to reach your full potential."
"And I have said I will not misuse my talent in such a way."
"I see you are also very determined, my friend," Akia smiled at her.
"Yes," Number One nodded, fixing her friend with a steely gaze. "I am."
"We are much alike," Akia rested a hand on Number One's thigh, "you and I."
"We are?" Number One looked at her quizzically, ignoring the gentle pressure Akia was exerting on her leg.
"Yes," Akia smiled at her. "Strong fierce warriors. Leaders." She leaned closer to Number One. "Forced to take subservient roles to males when we are definitely the stronger, the better."
Number One tilted her head and placed the cup on the night stand. "Perhaps."
"You are subservient to this Captain Pike, are you not?"
"Captain Pike is my superior officer," Number One stated neutrally.
"But you should be captain. If not of this ship, of a ship of your own. You are his equal. Why was he promoted and not you?"
Number One felt her spine stiffen as she responded, almost as if by rote. "I prefer my duties--"
"Bah!" Akia snorted. "The others, the males, decided that you weren't good enough. This ship should have been yours and you know it."
There was silence in the room for a long moment. Then, "I once felt that way. But, after serving with Captain Pike, I find that I was lacking certain necessary skills to be a captain. Skills I have since learned serving as his first officer."
"I see." Akia nodded. "I have heard that Captain Pike will be leaving the ship once it returns to his Homeworld. Will you get command of this vessel now that Captain Pike is leaving?"
"No," Number One shook her head sadly. "Someone else has been chosen."
"The ways of bureaucracy," Number One sighed as she stood up and walked toward the carafe as if to pour another cup, then changed her mind, "are strange and not logical in the least."
"I see. And you will stay and be this new captain's first officer?"
Number One back became ramrod straight. "I understand he has requested someone else to be his first officer. And I," she pressed her lips together, "have asked for a transfer to a new ship. When we reach Earth, I will be leaving the Enterprise."
"Will you be happy there?"
"Happiness is not required. Satisfaction is. I will be satisfied on a different ship."
Moving closer to Number One, Akia placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I have upset you, my friend." Her voice was full of regret. "That was not my intention. I only wished . Have I jeopardized our visits?"
"No," Number One shook her head and turned, taking the woman's hand in her own. "You have not. And you do not need to apologize." She let the hand drop to Akia's side and walked to her work station and sat down.
"But I do," Akia walked up behind her, placing her hands on Number One's neck. "And I will." Her hands began to knead the muscles, and she smiled as she felt the tension slowly leave the woman's body. "But first, we must talk some more."
"Talk?" Number One frowned as her mind fogged and the fangs slipped into her neck.
Captain Christopher Pike
Jeanne Marie Colt sighed softly as she brushed the hair from Pike's forehead. She let herself move closer to the sleeping man, smiling as his arm curled around her shoulders and drew her even closer.
She kissed the man, and he responded to her kiss. She smiled as he continued on, insisting on more than kissing, and she acquiesced willingly. When he was sated and she was lying once again in his arms, she kissed his neck then let her fangs slide under the skin and drank from the punctured vein. When she was sated, she kissed him once again and slid from his embrace.
Her gaze fell on the holocube on his desk, and she sighed again. "Soon, Captain, soon you will be mine. And you will forget her. But for now, sleep. And dream."
Christopher Pike found himself fighting to wake up. He'd been finding it more difficult each morning to wake up. He had no explanation for it. Of course he'd been spending late hours trying to find the answers to the questions that were plaguing him. But he'd done that before and not felt as drained as he did now.
His bleary eyes focused with difficulty on the chronometer.
Then he shot out of bed, stumbled to the wardrobe and pulled on his uniform and rushed to the Rec Room. If he hurried, no one would notice that he was late this morning.
He slowed to a walk when he saw Boyce already sitting at a table eating a breakfast. Grabbing some toast and a strong cup of coffee, he joined the doctor.
"Late night?" the ship's physician asked conversationally. "And, for the record, that's hardly a hearty breakfast."
"No time, Phil," Pike said as wolfed down the slice of toast.
"You take the time now, or I guarantee you'll be seeing me for something to cure that heartburn." Pike glared at Boyce who glared right back. Taking another forkful of eggs, Boyce added, "Consider it doctor's orders."
Pike's eyes dropped to his plate, and he sighed, then he got up and ordered another plate of breakfast. He paused and let the doctor inspect the eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice.
"Better," Boyce nodded. "Now eat it, don't inhale it."
Pike decided to forget the glare he wanted to give the doctor and get down to eating the meal. "And no," Pike said around a mouthful of food. "Not a late night. I just overslept for some reason." He ate a few more bites. "And strange dreams. Very strange."
"Care to discuss it?" Boyce asked conversationally.
The word came out sharper than Pike had intended. He had the grace to look embarrassed at the retort as both of them continued to consume their meals.
"Making any headway on that mutagen you found in the blood?" Pike asked, holding the olive branch out first.
"Still working on it, Chris. It's strange," Boyce sighed. "It doesn't seem to fit in any one category. But," he added, "I will find the answer." He stared bleakly into his coffee cup. "Sooner or later."
Akia stood on a landing skid of a shuttle and smiled at the group that was assembled around her. Her children. Her followers. In almost two weeks, their numbers had swelled to over fifty. And while many were security, every section of the ship was represented.
"You have done well, children," she beamed at them. The time is coming to take the ship and make it our own."
"What of the others, Mistress?" Randy Geiger asked.
"We need them for food," Akia said calmly. "So we keep them. Once we have control of the ship, we will find others to feed on. Then, we may Change a few of these as well. But mostly, they will be our food source."
Mina Racine questioned, "What of those whose blood we cannot consume?"
Akia felt the burning in her mouth once again. "Kill them. All of them."
Chief Petty Officer Garrison looked at the ensemble, then at the Ghanil. "We don't have a captain, Mistress," he commented.
"We will, soon," Akia promised.
"Mistress," Colt spoke up hesitantly, "Captain Pike has not yet been brought over. Perhaps ?"
"No!" The word snapped and stung the strawberry blonde as Akia snarled. Her expression softened as she saw the pained expression on the girl's face. Stepping down, she cupped the girl's chin in her hand and looked into her sad eyes. "If you wish him as your personal slave, my sweet, precious one, you may have him. But," she added firmly, "I will not have him in command of my ship. I have chosen my captain."
Colt nodded. "Yes, Mistress."
"Soon I will over the one I have chosen as my captain," Akia stated. "I will be Changing her soon."
Ben Shapiro frowned and looked at Akia. "Her?"
"Yes. Her." Akia glared at him. "Do you have a problem with that, my son?"
Shapiro shook his head. "Not if she knows her stuff, I don't. Just a little strange to have a woman in the center seat, is all. Might take a little getting used to."
Akia continued to stare at him. "See that you adjust quickly."
Stepping back on the skid, she went on. "Soon we will leave this place of my imprisonment. As soon as the ship leaves orbit, We will take over the ship. Now go, and wait for my command to act."
Captain's Log, Stardate 0452.4
After two weeks of searching the planet Alpha Indi IV we still have not found the creature that attacked and killed my two crewmembers and attacked the woman Akia. I doubt that we ever will. I have decided to quarantine the planet. I don't want any other ship or crew or any colony to suffer what we have.
To date, we still have not found Ensign T'Pon. While we first believed that she beamed back to the ship after her tour on the planet and stayed here, new evidence seems to indicate that she beamed back down to the planet and Security Officer Blasko has uncovered evidence that the Vulcan has become the third member of my crew to succumb to whatever that creature is.
Finally, we have not found the two missing bodies. Neither Doctor Boyce or Doctor Racine can not find any way that the morgue was entered to obtain the bodies, and again, a ship-wide search has revealed nothing. Doctor Racine has postulated that the bodies may have simply disintegrated as a result of the strange mutagen in their bodies. Without evidence to the contrary, and without a workable alternative hypothesis, I have no choice but to concur.
We will be leaving orbit tomorrow and head back to Earth. I cannot spend any more time here, as much as I would like to, to solve this mystery. That will have to be left for my successor to solve, if he chooses to do so. I wish him luck.
Christopher Pike finished his log and took the compuclipboard from Cloris Brown, signed it and handed it back. His relief was coming on the bridge as was the rest of Beta shift.
Number One stood and let her relief take her seat. A motion caught her attention. Pike rubbed his neck as he turned the conn over to the young officer, a man who was trying for command. If he ever made it, it would be a miracle, Number One thought to herself as she rubbed her neck.
A frown crossed her face as she realized what she had just done, noting it was almost the same action that Pike had done as he walked to the turbolift.
The frown stayed as she waited for José Tyler to join her on the turbolift.
The Ghanil woman studied her meager wardrobe with a critical eye. None of the clothes was truly appropriate for the occasion, but she had not been able get a proper wardrobe made. Other matters had gotten in the way. But soon all that would change.
She settled on the blue-green pant suit and changed.
Tonight was the night, she decided. Tonight her friend would become one of the Ghanil.
Number One walked into her quarters and stripped off the uniform quickly. She stopped before putting on the robe, studying the marks on her neck. They were darker. And they were no longer fading.
She'd planned on going to Sickbay a week ago about them, but had decided against it at the last minute. Now she was sorry she hadn't gone. Perhaps she'd have found out what was causing it.
She pulled out a leisure suit and climbed into it, her mind still pondering over the marks on her neck. She'd never had them until recently, she recalled. The first had appeared when? Her brow furrowed as she went back, day by day, event by event, and narrowed it down to the first time she'd spotted the marks.
The day she had been late for duty.
The day after her first late evening visit from Akia.
Number One sat down with her herbal tea and stared at the ceiling.
Akia. Her friend. The woman who'd called out to her for help and then for friendship.
Why did she suddenly feel that Akia wanted something else from her?
She went over each visit with the woman, remembering each gesture, finding her discomfort reappearing at certain gestures. Nothing overt. Everything subtle.
She frowned, as she continued going over the visits. She could recall everything from the time the woman entered the room until .
Number One poured herself another cup of tea as she realized that she could not recall the woman leaving. Ever.
She knew the Ghanil was a powerful telepath. The question was, how powerful? Powerful enough to cloud her mind? Would she dare enter a mind without being given permission?
A chill went down Number One's spine as she recalled one conversation when Akia had all but urged her to do just that to the captain. If she could suggest it, she could very possibly do it.
She felt her stomach twist in knots. She had called Akia her friend, extended her friendship, something she rarely did. And Akia had taken her friendship, and in return had called her friend. Friends did not use each other that way.
The chime at the door started her, bringing her back to the present.
Composing herself, she sat up straight in the chair and said, "Enter."
"I was afraid you had gone to bed early," Akia walked over to her, placing a gently hand on the Number One's shoulder. "You've seemed so tired."
"I have a great deal of work," Number One said shortly as she worked on the compuclipboards in front of her.
"Don't you ever take a day off?" Akia asked, pulling up a chair to sit by her.
"I rarely need to." Number One continued to work. She gave Akia a brief glance, then returned her attention to the monitor in front of her. "By the way, the captain has decided to leave the planet tomorrow."
"Tomorrow?" Akia's tone sounded eager.
"Yes," Number One nodded. "We will be heading to Earth. Is there somewhere you'd like to go? We can arrange transportation for you."
"I don't know. My people, even though they are my people, I don't think I wish to see them any time soon."
Number One paused her work and looked at the Ghanil. "Surely they will accept you back. You've served your sentence. More."
"But they never forget," Akia snapped. "They can never forget that I chose not to remain subservient to them, that I tried to create a new order."
"No!" Akia's tone was sharp and angry. She took a breath, then went on, "My friend, I am Ghanil. And I will always be Ghanil. I adhere to many of the customs of my people because I choose to. But I will never, ever be content to serve a man. I can never follow the rules that they would force on me."
"I see." Number One's tone was cool and neutral.
Akia shook her head and placed a hand on Number One's thigh. "Let us talk about something else, please."
"As you wish," Number One nodded, ignoring the gentle pressure on her leg.
"I don't worry about my future. I will make my future. But what of yours?"
"Mine is already established," Number One said, signing off the latest report and blanking the screen. "Yours is not. Where will you go? What will you do?"
Akia smiled at Number One and turned to the small computer. "Show me the sector."
The screen came to life with a myriad of stars.
"I will," she said, studying the stars, smiling as she recognized one, "just point my finger toward a star," her finger touched the star, "and go there." She turned back to Number One, her smile serene yet calculating. "That is how I decide where to go. It won't matter. As long as there are people . But what of you?" She snapped the screen off.
"I have received my transfer orders," Number One said. "I will be transferring to the U.S.S. Potemkin.
"As captain?" Akia asked cautiously.
"No," Number One shook her head. "As Science Officer."
Akia retorted, "But you should be captain! You are strong, intelligent ."
"But it is not to be, Akia," Number One replied. "At least, not yet." She smiled indulgently at Akia.
"How soon?" Akia demanded.
"I have patience. I can wait," Number One said calmly.
"How long?" Akia persisted.
"As long as it takes."
"You won't even be the first officer on this new ship," Akia protested. "You have been demoted."
"Not really." This time Number One smiled at Akia and placed a reassuring hand on her knee. "I enjoy being Science Officer."
"But you should be a captain!"
"Perhaps." Number One shrugged her shoulders and removed her hand from the woman's knee. "Perhaps not."
"Bah!" Akia stood up abruptly and began to pace in the room. "You belong in command of your own ship."
"And when the time is right, I will be," Number One assured the agitated woman.
"How long, my friend? How long can you wait?"
"As I have said," Number One's tone became a little shorter with the Ghanil, "as long as it takes. She turned back to the monitor and her work. "I'm afraid I won't be able to talk tonight, Akia."
"You won't?" Akia stared at her, shock and near panic in her green eyes. "Why?"
"I have work that I must finish before we reach Earth and I am reassigned. A lot of it," she added. "I've put it off as long as I dare, but I can't put it off any longer. If I don't start now, I won't be finished in time." She paused in her work long enough to give Akia a good night nod. "I will see you tomorrow."
Akia stared at the dark head in front of her. She narrowed her eyes and began to move into Number One's mind.
And ran into a mental brick wall.
Akia raised an eyebrow, but proceeded to work on gaining access to the woman's mind. After ten minutes, she closed her eyes in pain and left the room quietly. She could have taken the woman and Changed her, but that would ruin everything. Number One would become her slave, her child. She wanted Number One to be her friend forever.
The time would come, Akia decided. Only later than she had planned.
She walked down the corridor, feeling the twinges of hunger. She would have to hunt for her meal tonight. She scanned the passers by, waiting until she found one lone man. Young, good-looking.
Akia smiled at him from half-veiled eyes. He smiled back. She raised her hand to his face and touched his cheek invitingly. He took her arm in his and let her lead him to her quarters.
Number One heard the door finally close behind her guest and leaned back in her chair, rubbing her forehead. The headache was nasty. Very nasty. She'd never had one this bad that she could recall. At least not recently. She only got headaches like this when she was resisting someone telepathically.
She frowned. She hadn't been consciously aware of using any of her blocking abilities. Of course, she had drilled herself in the use of the ability until she could use them without thinking, as a means of defending herself. For some reason, tonight she had felt a need to use those skills.
She got up to get a different blend of herbal tea to ease the pain behind her eyes. Idly she stopped in front of the mirror and stared at her neck. The marks were still there, still faint. They didn't seem to be fading away as fast as they used to, she mused.
She reached for a small tricorder and scanned the marks at her throat. She read the results, the frown on her face deepening. She couldn't quite believe the readings. She was a scientist, not a physician. She could read the results, but not make sense of them.
She shook her head, tossing the scanner on the bureau and returned to the work station. Seven days was not a long time. Hopefully it would be long enough to finish all this work.
Akia sat at the table and tapped the comm panel that had come to life. "Yes, sweet one?" she responded to the call.
"Mistress, the order has just been given," Colt's soft voice said over the speaker. "We are leaving orbit."
"Thank you, sweetness," Akia smiled. "Come to me when you are off duty."
"Understood," Colt broke the connection.
Akia looked over the small crowd that was gathered in her room, "Pass the word, children. The day is here. We are no longer in orbit around the prison world."
"And when do we take over, Mistress?" Shapiro asked.
"Soon," Akia promised. "Soon. We must be careful to protect ourselves. Before long, we will rule the ship. But for now, we celebrate."
Boyce stared at the list of physicals already done by his colleague. "Mina, you've been a busy girl," he muttered. "Well, at least everyone is still hale and hearty. That should make Captain Kirk very happy."
He checked over the names of the crew yet to be done, noting that ones that always resisted until the last minute were still resisting. Still, he'd have everything done and ready for his replacement.
His thin face registered a smile as he saw Number One walk in to Sickbay. Her face seemed to register a hint of annoyance. And in truth, he could not blame her. She had to undergo her yearly physical here, and in less than a month, she'd have to have the same thing done by a different doctor on the Potemkin.
Angela Carstairs walked toward the woman, but Boyce reached her first. "Finish what you were doing, Angela," he said. "I'll take care of the commander."
When the physical was completed, Number One joined the doctor in his office. "I know that look," she said standing in front of his desk. "What's the problem?"
"For starters, you're anemic," Boyce frowned over his report as he sat down. "You're deficit in several minerals, and your blood chemistry is out of balance. It's a wonder you weren't seeing me sooner."
Number One walked around the desk and stared at the results.
"If you were any other female," Boyce continued, "I'd demand to know what kind of fad diet you were indulging in." He felt before he saw the murderous glare Number One shot at him. "I said, if you were any other female. I know you better than that. If you felt a need to change your diet, you'd come to me or another doctor."
Number One looked uncomfortable. "The truth of the matter is, Doctor Boyce," she said, "I haven't been eating well lately."
"I just didn't seem to have an appetite," she shrugged. "You know how busy we all have been."
"That's no excuse for missing a meal," he scolded her. "That could explain the chemistry and minerals, but not the low blood count. It's down almost five points. There's no sign of bleeding. I'm actually surprised that you weren't in my office earlier on your own. You should be feeling fatigued."
Number One sighed. "I have been feeling a bit fatigued lately."
"How long?" Boyce glared at her. "First your appetite, now this. It's not nice to keep things from your friendly doctor."
Number One glared at him, then her eyes lowered and she studied the tips of her boots. Finally, "About two weeks. About the same time I seemed to lose my appetite."
"That long?!" Boyce all but shouted at her. "And you never said anything?!"
"It--" She began and stopped, then began again, "I didn't think it was anything serious." She shrugged. "I'd wake up feeling tired, drained, hungry. After breakfast, when I remembered to eat it, I would not feel so fatigued."
"You haven't been eating well, and you haven't been sleeping well. Why didn't you come to me?" he demanded.
"I did not say I was not sleeping well," Number One said stiffly.
"Then what exactly do you mean?" Boyce stared at her.
"I have been putting in extra hours updating personnel files, and other such duties that I have to fulfill before I transfer off the ship," she began pacing, studying her hands.
"Too many hours?" he hinted.
"No," she stopped and shook her head. "I know how to pace myself. In addition to my duties, I have been spending a lot of time with Akia."
"Understandable," Boyce nodded. "She needs a friend. And she seemed to have made a special bond with you when she called for help."
"Yes." Number One closed her eyes, stopping her pacing. "Doctor, I never told anyone, but "
"Akia was able to do more than just send messages of help to me. And I was able to make contact with her. We communicated daily."
"Why the hell didn't you say something?" Boyce shook his head in exasperation. "Over half the crew kept hearing her calls for help while we traveled to the planet. Chris knows about your abilities ."
"But he doesn't trust them. He trusts telepaths even less since you know. Besides, the way we communicated it's not easy to explain to a non-telepath. It is more and less than words and on a level that is above and below consciousness." She resumed pacing. "We were becoming attuned to each other, more receptive to each other. What we were sharing was personal. Perhaps that was why I could not bring myself to tell anyone about it. But the fatigue, the malaise, and the change in appetite didn't start until after we all returned from the planet."
"Right after?" Boyce asked, concerned.
"No, about a day later."
"Did anything unusual happen?"
"No," Number One shook her head. "Akia visited and then ."
"Yes?" Boyce prompted her, feeling more like an old-fashioned dentist trying to remove a tooth than a modern doctor trying to gain information.
"I thought she looked paler at first, but I was wrong."
"With her physiology, anything is possible," Boyce interrupted with a snort. "You know she wouldn't give me any specimens."
"She told me," Number One suppressed a smile. "Cultural taboos. We've come across other species with similar taboos."
"Yeah, but with those, I was able to get some decent readings from my scanners. Her?" he snorted again. "Her readings are what I'd expect to get from someone who's dying." Number One looked at him drolly. "At any rate, how long did she keep you up? Or, put another way, how long after she left did you stay up working on those damned reports?"
"I--" Number One began, frowned, tilting her head. Her frown deepened. Then, looking directly at Boyce, she shook her head. "I-I don't know."
"What'd you do? Fall asleep while she was there?" Boyce asked in amazement.
The frown continued as Number One found the chair and sat down. "I must have," she finally admitted. "We talked, and then...then she would not how tired I seemed, and then ." She shook her head, her confusion evident. "I remember nothing after she would start to massage my shoulders or my neck ."
"Nothing." Number One looked at Boyce. "I would wake up in bed. In my night clothes. But, Doctor, I do not remember seeing Akia out, or changing my clothes. Or even getting into bed." Her eyes flickered.
"What?" Boyce demanded. "What do you remember?"
Number One shook her head. "Nothing. It was a dream. Nonsense."
"Let me be the judge of that."
"Doctor," she protested, leaning back in the chair, "it was nothing. A dream."
"You let me be the judge of what is and what is not nothing," Boyce said sharply.
Number One closed her eyes and sighed deeply. "I dreamt that she bit me." Her voice dropped low, barely audible.
"Excuse me?" Boyce's eyes widened as he stared at her. "Bit you?"
"Yes." Her discomfort was plainly visible as was her embarrassment. "Bit me. On-on the neck." She touched the base of her neck. "More of a nibble at first, then ." Her eyes flickered for a moment. "And in the morning I found some-some marks on my neck. Sometimes one side, sometimes the other. They were gone by the late afternoon. Or they used to be."
Boyce got up and agilely moved to the other side of the desk to stand over the commander. "Let me see," he commanded.
Obediently, Number One rolled the collar down to expose the faint pink marks. He scanned them with his medical scanner, then examined them with his hands and eyes.
"This the way they usually look?" he finally asked.
"No," she shook her head as she rolled the collar up. "They're usually darker in the morning, lighter in the evening."
"Did Akia spend the night?"
"She came by," Number One said, "but I've fallen behind, so I couldn't talk long. I had to ask her to leave." She pressed her lips together. "I think it upset her. But, it couldn't be helped."
"Did you have any fatigue this morning? Any problems with your appetite?"
"No to both questions."
"I wonder ." He leaned against the desk, rubbing his chin.
Number One stared up at him, her eyes narrowed. "Doctor?"
"Well, you know if we were in a certain area of Earth, someone would say that you were being visited by a vampire."
"Doctor." The tone is sharp. "That is legend. Not fact." Her eyes flickered briefly, and her gaze dropped from meeting the doctor's.
"Legends often have a basis in fact," he countered firmly.
Number One stood up abruptly and started for the door. "I refuse to listen to any more of this."
"Commander, how would you explain this sudden loss of blood and chemical imbalance? Logically?"
She stopped at the door, pressing her lips together. "I cannot. Logically."
She turned and stared at him stonily. "Doctor, I am due back on duty in ten point five minutes."
"All right," he sighed.
He reached for a hypospray, adjusted the settings on the handle, then walked toward her. She arched an eyebrow as he pressed it against her neck. "Vitamin supplement. I want you back here after your shift for another."
Sighing, she shook her head. "Doctor "
"It's the fastest way I know to get your count and chemistry back to normal. You should probably have a transfusion as well," he added, then seeing the cold protest in her indigo eyes, continued, "but since your count isn't dangerously low, we can hold off on that for now."
"Understood," she nodded.
"And," he went on, "I want you to stop putting in so many hours. You are to be in bed, early, every night until we reach Earth orbit."
"Doctor," Number One glared at him.
"It's that," he glared back, "or you will spend the next week here in Sickbay and then several weeks in a hospital bed at Sector General on Earth. And you know I can do it, Commander."
"Don't let your new position as Starfleet Surgeon General go to your head, Doctor."
"Me? Let a position go to my head? Perish the thought," he grinned at her as she marched out of the office.
He chuckled softly as he went back to his desk. Then he sighed and picked up the reports to continue reading where he left off. He looked up as Pike's shadow fell across his desk.
"Ah, good, Chris. Here for your physical, right?"
"No." Pike shook his head as he sat down in the chair recently vacated by Number One. "I want to know what else you have for me."
"I've been working on what I still have, and ."
"And?" Pike asked hopefully. "Anything?"
"Maybe." He nodded his head. "I've been working with the mutagen, testing it on other tissues. I don't know how, but it seems to be able to slow down the catabolic phase. When the tissue is damaged, the anabolic phase is accelerated until the damage is repaired. I watched it. But I couldn't scan it. Scotty checked out the scanners, and there's nothing wrong with them. He decided to build a new scanner for me. One that hopefully will give me some answers."
"Well, at least on Earth, at Starfleet's Sector General, you'll have the unlimited resources that you don't have here."
"Perhaps." Boyce got up and brought a vial back to the desk. "Perhaps not. Take a look at this, Chris."
The doctor handed the vial to Pike. It was full of red-black powder. Pike stared at it, then up at the doctor.
"I have no idea. I found it this morning when I came in. It's all I have left from the samples I took from Mettens and Shapiro. Every vial looks the same," he swept his hand toward the rack which was situated next to a small plant under a plant light.
"Damn!" Pike exploded.
"In spades," Boyce agreed.
"Keep on it, Phil." Pike stood up. "I want answers. I want to know what killed them."
Boyce stared at him. "You may never get your answers, Chris."
"But it won't be because we didn't go seeking," he rubbed his eyes tiredly. "I'll be in my quarters if you find anything."
Boyce stared at him as he turned to go. "Quarters?" He checked the chronometer. "At this time of the morning?"
Pike turned and looked at Boyce. "I'm going to sit in on Gamma shift," he explained. "I know Number One is evaluating everyone, but I want to see for myself what's going on."
"Ah," Boyce nodded. "Need something to help you sleep?"
"No," Pike shook his head. "But I might need a wake-up call. Seem to have more trouble waking up lately than falling asleep." He laughed. "Must be old age creeping up on me."
Boyce looked at the captain. "Maybe we had better do that physical now, Chris."
"Later, Phil," Pike shook his head. "I need my beauty sleep."
"Now, Chris," Boyce said firmly. "It won't take long."
"It's that or I relieve you of command." Boyce's tone was low and determined.
Pike studied his CMO's eyes, then, just as low and determined said, "Five minutes, Phil. That's all you get."
"That's all I'll need."
Number One sat in the center seat, watching the crew work. The stars on the screen in front of her streaked as the ship sped from Alpha Indi toward Earth. Everything was quiet. As it should be.
As she sat and watched, her mind continued to spin and reel from the data she had received from the doctor. It didn't make sense. It was illogical.
She stood and walked to the science station. Lieutenant Spock stepped to one side as she ran a study. The information was unsettling.
Then she pulled up the results from Spock's labors. A frown appeared on her face as she looked at the enhanced tape. She stared and froze the tape, studying the frame.
"This can't be," she murmured, shaking her head.
"Commander?" Spock questioned behind her.
"This tape. Where did it come from?"
"This is the recording from my tricorder, Commander."
"Has the captain seen this yet?"
"Negative, Commander. I just recently finished working with it." Spock sighed and managed to look contrite. "It is not of the best quality, unfortunately. And I have been unable to enhance or clear the figure any more than this. Also I was not aware that I permitted my arm to get in the way of the viewer."
"You've done a remarkable job, considering the lighting and the situation, Mister Spock," she allowed a small smile to turn her lips. "The captain is going to want to see this."
"I understand he will be on Gamma shift
Number One nodded as she recalled the duty roster. "Of course." She looked at Spock. "I'll take care of it."
Number One walked straight to Boyce's office and sat down, waiting for the physician to finish the physical on another crew member.
He smiled when he saw her waiting patiently, picked up the hypospray and gave her another injection.
"Glad to see you kept your appointment."
"Did you give me much choice, Doctor?"
Boyce chuckled and sat down. "No, I don't suppose I did."
"Have you managed to ascertain what might have caused this condition of mine?"
"No." Boyce shook his head, then shrugged. "Looks like it might have be a vampire after all."
"Doctor." Number One glared at him.
"Just kidding," Boyce held up his hands placatingly. "But you have to admit, everything fits the legends."
"Unfortunately," Number One nodded.
"Hope you're not planning on a late night, Commander," Boyce commented as she stood to leave.
"I believe part of your prescription included plenty of rest and sleep," Number One responded acerbically.
"Since when did that mean that the senior staff followed my orders?" Boyce retorted.
Number One closed her eyes and counted to ten. "No, Doctor, I was not planning on a late night, as you put it. I am hoping to complete all my reports before we reach Earth, in spite of your constraints."
Boyce sighed, "I wish Chris would take my advice as readily as you do."
"What?" Number One turned and stared at the doctor.
"Well, Chris isn't exactly in top form himself."
"Indeed?" Number One stepped back into the office. "I had not noticed any deficit."
"No one noticed your fatigue," Boyce countered as he sat down.
"The captain is experiencing fatigue?" Number One sat down opposite Boyce.
"Yes," Boyce sighed. "Apparently he is. And strange dreams. But," he added, "he won't tell me what's he's dreaming about." He frowned, studying his hand. "But I can tell it's bothering him."
"Has the captain has his physical yet?" Number One's hands were clasped loosely in front of her as she sat on the edge of the chair.
Boyce looked up to see her staring at the wall over his head. "Yes, he has. But, it wasn't easy."
Boyce picked up a stylus and twiddled with it. "He's also anemic. Not as much as you, but definitely anemic. And his chemistry is slightly abnormal. As soon as I can get him in here, I'm going to put him on the same regimen that I have you on."
"The captain is aware of this?" she tilted her head.
"No," Boyce shook his head. "He didn't hang around to hear the results."
"Was there anything else?" Number One asked.
"Well, he's got those strange marks on his neck as you do."
"Indeed." Number One pursed her lips and continued to study the wall. Then, in thoughtful resignation, "Perhaps Lieutenant Blasko was not so hysterical after all. And perhaps I have been somewhat prejudiced in my thinking."
Boyce stared at her. "Are you telling me that you now believe in vampires?"
"What was it Sherlock Holmes is reported to have said? Something about after eliminating the impossible, what is left, no matter how improbable, has to be the answer?"
"Something like that," Boyce nodded slowly.
"Do you a logical reason that both the captain and I would become anemic and have abnormal lab values?"
"No," Boyce answered slowly. "I don't."
"Is there any condition known to you that you would not have discovered even on a simple physical that would account for these results?"
"And you even said that legends are based in fact."
"Still, who on board could be our vampire, Commander?"
Number One closed her eyes briefly, then opened them again. "There is only one person, Doctor."
"Akia," Boyce said.
"Exactly," Number One sighed.
"You're serious!" Boyce stared at her.
"Yes, I am," Number One nodded. "Doctor, did you know that almost every planet visited by the Ghanil have legends of vampire-type creatures?"
"Really?" Boyce studied her, his eyebrows raised in surprise.
"But she doesn't fit the typical description of a vampire." Boyce frowned. "We can see her reflection in a mirror. She hasn't turned into a bat or a wolf, or even a mist cloud. And she hasn't walked through walls, either."
Number One let herself smile briefly. "Perhaps that is where fiction departs from fact."
"Perhaps," the doctor agreed.
"The Ghanil are strong telepaths," Number One added. "Perhaps they used their telepathic talents to create certain illusions that became part of the folklore."
"All right," Boyce agreed. "We know that certain telepathic races can make us believe things that weren't real."
Boyce looked at Number One. "Perhaps we'd better disturb the captain."
"Perhaps," she nodded.
He walked toward the door, letting Number One precede him. "He's not going to like it," he sighed.
Number One took a deep breath. "He is going to like the news even less."
Number One and Boyce walked briskly from Sickbay towards Pike's quarters. Boyce grumbled as they walked, "I still don't see why we couldn't use the comm panel."
"It's just a feeling," Number One answered. "I cannot explain it any other way. We must not let her know that we know."
"Number One, you never struck me as the paranoid type before."
"Doctor," Number One spared a glare at him. "I am exercising caution. Which," she added, "may not be necessary. However--"
Number One paused and studied the several security officers that were walking through the corridor, checking the doors. Her sharp eyes watched their actions even as her mind questioned the reason for the action. The three officers moved around the bend, out of sight.
Number One continued to frown as the two senior officers continued on their way. There was something familiar about one of them. Very familiar.
Suddenly, she turned and walked in the direction that the guards had taken, and looked around for the three security guards. Her frown deepened. There was no one in the corridor.
"What's the matter?" Boyce's voice sounded from behind her.
"I thought " Number One searched the corridors, seeking, but not finding what she sought. "I could have sworn "
"What?!" Boyce demanded.
"Never mind, Doctor," she shook her head as she turned and made her way to Pike's quarters.. "It was merely fatigue."
"Uh-huh." Boyce followed her. "And I'm a monkey's uncle."
Captain Christopher Pike
Jeanne Marie Colt was in heaven. Or as close as she thought she would ever come. Pike was holding her possessively after their latest assignation, not willing to let her go. Both were sweat-soaked and the bed sheets bore testimony of their activity. He started to murmur in her ear, and she placed a restraining finger on his lips. If he said her name, it would ruin the illusion.
Gradually, she repositioned the two of them so that she was straddling him, staring down at him. She smiled at him, stroking his jawline. "It's time," she said. "After this, you will be mine forever. And you will forget her."
She moved his head slightly, exposing the man's neck and sank her fangs into his jugular vein, drinking slowly and steadily from the man. Then she sat back and placed her nail on her breast to score it.
The knock at the door halted her. Her eyes narrowed angrily. He was not due on shift for nearly seven hours. She had planned things so that she had plenty of time to Change him.
Taking a deep breath, Colt sat still, calming the man under her, waiting for whoever was at the door to leave. Perhaps it was someone who didn't know that Pike wasn't to be disturbed.
Then her heart beat faster. Her sharp ears caught the low whisper of the executive officer's voice. And with her was Doctor Boyce.
Swearing in frustration, she slipped from the bed to the deck and grabbed her clothes from the pile on the deck. Staring at the man in the bed as she dressed, she commanded, "You will not remember this. When the door opens, you will awaken. Later, when they leave, I will return, and we will resume the Ritual, and you will be mine. And once you are mine, you will remember this night, and all the other nights. And you will remember that it was me you made love to. And you will forget her."
She pulled back into the shadows, slowing her breathing to almost nothing.
The door swished open, and Boyce and Number One entered. She waited until they walked past her hiding place, then slipped out before the door closed behind the two officers.
Pike frowned as his found his sleep interrupted by the opening of his door.
"What the hell?" he grumbled tiredly. "This had better be good, or someone is going to do some serious brig time," he added.
His glance happened fall on his naked form. A dull red colored his ears, as he grabbed the sheet and stared up at the two officers. The two were studiously looking everywhere but at him.
"We have something to report," Number One began without preamble.
"And it couldn't wait a few more hours?" he stared at the chronometer blearily while he tried to find something to slip on his body.
"No, sir," Number One shook her head. "It is something that must be taken care of before we reach Earth."
Unsuccessful at finding any of his sleep ware, Pike swung his legs over the side of the bed, keeping the top sheet securely over his lower torso. "What, for the sake of all that's sacred?"
"It concerns our passenger, Akia."
"Akia?" Pike frowned. "What about her?"
"I believe that she is somehow responsible for the deaths of Lieutenant Mettens, Lieutenant Shapiro and Ensign T'Pon," Number One responded calmly. She ignored the smirk from Boyce when she didn't mention vampires or vampirism.
"What?" Pike stared up at her, trying to figure out if he was having a bad dream or if his first officer was crazy. Or both.
"I believe," she started again, then stared hard at his neck.
Boyce followed her glance and stared at the puncture marks in Pike's neck and the blood that was trailing down this throat. He pulled his tricorder up and held it next to the captain's head.
"What the hell?" Pike pulled back from the machine, anger and confusion filling his face.
Boyce looked at Number One and said tightly, "It's recent."
Number One stared around the room, then closed her eyes, seeking for something with her mind. Nothing.
"Would someone please explain what the hell is going on?!" Pike all but exploded.
"She's not here," Number One assured Boyce. Then she turned to Pike. "I believe you were attacked, and recently it seems, by Akia."
"Have you lost your mind, Number One?" Pike continued to stare at her in disbelief.
"Captain, I believe that the reason we could never find the creature that attacked and killed the two security guards was that it was not on the planet. It--she--was on the ship." Number One closed her eyes, feeling as though she were betraying her friend. "I believe she killed them, then made it appear as if she were also attacked."
"Why the hell would she do that?" Pike slowly stood, keeping the sheet around his body as carefully moved to his wardrobe.
"Because she had to get off the planet," Number One continued. "As I told you in the briefing, it seems that she was convicted of a crime by her people, the Ghanil and exiled there on the planet. She contended that the crime for which she was convicted was a trumped-up charge. That in actuality, she was a political prisoner. I believed her. Now ."
"So the woman we rescued was really a criminal?" Pike pulled on a uniform, then sat down at his work station. "And she sends out telepathic messages for help until someone finally comes and rescues her from exile?"
"I believe so," Number One nodded, pressing her lips together.
"So why hasn't her mental call for help been heard before now?" Pike stood up slowly, steadying himself and hoping the doctor hadn't noticed.
"I-I cannot say, sir," the commander answered honestly. "It could be that she had not tried before now; believing her people were on their way back to pick her up after her sentence was completed. When they didn't ."
"When they didn't, she decided to holler for help as loud as she could to anyone who could hear her mental calls," Pike finished as he walked back to the bed, spying his clothes on the floor. He picked them up and nearly fell over. He sat heavily on the bed to regain his balance.
"Yes," Number One nodded.
"So she calls and we answer. Why kill those two? They would have escorted her to the beam-down site and brought to the ship, off of the planet. Sorry, Number One, it doesn't wash."
Number One exchanged glances with Boyce, getting little support from the doctor.
"Sir," she answered, "I believe she attacked them because she needed their blood for nourishment."
Pike stare at her for a long moment, then retorted, "Oh come on, Number One! I expect that sort of remark from Lieutenant Blasko, or Lieutenant Lapinski, or even Lieutenant Colt. But you?"
Number One stared at him levelly, continuing her report. "I have studied the few reports we have in the databanks on the Ghanil. While admittedly sparse, there is a constant. Every planet ever visited by the Ghanil have legends of night-walkers, the undead, the vampires."
Pike continued to stare at her as if she were crazy. "And now you think Akia is a vampire?"
"Sir, I have never seen her eat a meal," Number One said. "She never takes any offered food when she visited me. And when I studied the food processing log, she has consumed nothing for the past fifteen days that she has been on the ship, yet she looks quite healthy.
"You're telling me she's eaten nothing? At all?" Pike's forehead crinkled in a frown.
"Nothing," Number One confirmed. "And both you and I are suffering from anemia, and we both have the same marks on our necks.
"She's right, Chris," Boyce stopped Pike's next comment. "That's part of your fatigue. When you put that together with the strange marks on your neck," Pike raised a hand to cover the puncture marks, "and the chemical imbalance, there's not much else we can conclude but that you and Number One are victims of a vampire."
"I scanned the marks on my own neck. There were traces of saliva in the marks. Non-Human saliva," Number One said, ignoring the angry stare from the doctor. "I believe when Doctor Boyce scans the marks on your neck, he will find the same thing."
"But," Pike argued as Boyce scanned the marks again, "she's never been to my quarters. I haven't seen since she beamed on board over two weeks ago."
"That you are aware of," Number One added. "Remember, Captain, she is a telepath. A strong telepath."
His hand fell from his neck as he stared up at his first officer. "How strong?" he finally asked.
"Perhaps as strong as the Talosians, sir," she said quietly.
Pike shook his head as he got up and began to pace, slowly. It all made sense in a crazy sort of way. But it was the craziness that bothered him. "Well," he sighed in resignation, "if what you believe is true, then the rest of the crew is in danger as well."
"In more ways than one," Boyce said tightly as he closed his tricorder.
"What do you mean?" Pike stared at the doctor.
"The saliva in your wounds is Human."
"Human?" pike sat down in the chair. "Human?"
Number One took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"What?" Boyce stared at her.
"You remember, Doctor, that we discussed legend versus fact?" Number One looked at Boyce.
"Yes," Boyce nodded.
"There is more to the legend of the Ghanil, but I did not credit it as factual." She moistened her lips, then continued. "The Ghanil are supposed to be able to make others like themselves."
Boyce tilted his head as Pike demanded, "You mean change Humans to vampires?"
"That is what the legends state," Number One replied. "And considering the fact that your marks have Human saliva in them," she shrugged, "it seems to be a part of the legend that is fact."
"But why change the crew?" Pike charged. "If what you say is true, it would seem she'd need us for our blood?"
"Because she may need a crew." Number One closed her eyes. "When I asked her what her plans were after we reached Earth, she said that she would just point her finger toward a star and go there. She never said how she would get there, how she would obtain transportation. Her tone indicated that she would have no trouble doing so."
"You mean she's trying to take my ship?!" Pike leaped to his feet.
"I believe so, sir," Number One answered.
"Well, then," Pike headed out of his quarters, Number One and Boyce close behind him, "I guess I'm going to see Beta shift as well as Gamma shift today."
Teri Mettens, with Ben Shapiro and Chris Garrity were seeing to the quarters of the senior officers that were not yet changed. They were more dangerous to the Mistress and her plan than the junior officers. As she walked and checked the doors, she continued to look over her shoulder.
Garrity finally grabbed Mettens by the shoulder and spun her around. "What's with you, Teri?"
Mettens bit her lip as she continued to scan the corridor. "She recognized me, Chris."
Shapiro frowned. "Who?"
Mettens flared at him, "The first officer, that's who. Who else? Didn't you see the way she was watching us?"
Garrity wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Teri, she was just watching us. Look," he tilted her head up and looked in her eyes, "our actions are a little out of the ordinary. There's no real reason for us to be checking the doors of senior officers."
"No, Chris," Mettens shook her head, pulling away from him. "She recognized me. Me! I'm supposed to be dead!"
"So it's a good thing we're moving now instead of later," Garrity said.
"Still " Mettens stared back down the corridor. "You two go one. I'll take care of the commander and the doctor. Nothing's going to interfere with the Mistress' plans."
Garrity frowned, but nodded. "Okay, Teri. Watch your back."
She nodded and hurried back the way they'd come. Garrity and Shapiro watched her disappear then continued on their way.
A form came out of the shadows. After a pause, it glided down the corridor after Mettens.
It was late evening when Akia walked onto the bridge during Beta shift's watch. Behind her were Harold Varney, Beth Lange and Morisa Sanchez. She was determined to take control of the ship, here and now.
She looked around and smiled serenely. Her children were busy on the bridge. Michael Smith was in the center seat, having just finished his Beta shift duty, and he'd volunteered to work Gamma shift for Barry Smithers at the helm. Myron Jacobs was busy at the communications panel, seeing that no signals got out until she wanted them to. Estelle Markson was in the navigators seat. Carla Morris sat at the science station while Byron Teller manned engineering. Cloris Brown, normally holding reports and doing whatever needed for the captain, now served Akia in a similar function.
As Akia stepped into the well she was greeted by each of her children. Then she was helped to the center seat. As she sat down, Akia allowed a brief flash of disappointment to cross her face. Her friend should be here, in this seat, as the new captain of the ship and her sister. But she had rebuffed Akia at the very last minute. And had managed to block her hypnotic suggestion.
Akia watched the star fields on the view screen, pressing her lips together. She would not be deterred in her destiny. She would take this ship, make it her own. Once she had control of the ship, she knew she could convince her friend to become her captain.
And her sister.
José Tyler and the Andorian helmsman, Parsis, shared the turbolift to the bridge. It wasn't their shift, but they had decided to help the Gamma shift survive the captain's visit. José knew for a fact that Estelle always got nervous when Pike was around, making mistakes she'd normally never make. And Parsis knew that Smith was going to need something to help him through his second half of a double shift. He usually needed something to get him through a single shift, Tyler snorted to himself.
As the door opened, the two stepped out and started to the well.
And stopped short when they saw the center seat occupied by a stranger.
"Uh," Tyler asked no one in particular, "where's the captain?"
"He is not here," Ensign Varney answered.
"That I can see," Tyler snorted. "I asked where he is."
"He is--occupied," Akia smiled knowingly.
"Mike," Tyler started toward the young man, "you don't let civilians on the bridge. And you damn well don't let them take the captain's seat." He turned to Akia. "Ma'am, you're going to have to--"
The weapon in his back effectively shut him up. Turning around slowly, he saw that Parsis was similarly stopped.
"From this moment on, this ship is mine," Akia said staring at him. "Take them away. Kill the blue one, but save the man. He will make a fine addition to our family."
"Wait," Tyler put himself between the weapons and the Andorian at his side. "Next to the commander, Parsis here is the best helm officer on the ship. "You want the best to run this ship, he's it."
"I have this one," Akia indicated Smith. "And this one," she indicated Markson, "will take your place."
"Parsis is better. And I'm the best navigator on board."
Akia studied him from half-shuttered eyes. She could tell he wasn't lying about the alien's abilities. Michael Smith was one of her children, true, but not nearly as skilled as Number One in spite of his boasts. And she had heard some of the others speak about his skills when they thought she wasn't listening.
"Very well," Akia raised a hand and fixed the Andorian with a cold glare. "Your life is spared. For now." She turned to Varney. Take them to their quarters and secure them there. When I need them, I will send for them."
"Yes, Mistress," Varney nodded. "Okay, fellas, let's go."
He waved them to the turbolift in front of him, his laser still aimed at them. The three entered the lift. Tyler took the control in his hand, and commanded, "Deck six." He saw Varney nod at him in approval. He looked at Parsis and an unspoken message passed between the two. Parsis gripped the bar by him. Then Tyler, still gripping the handle, snapped, "Emergency stop!"
The sudden stop sent everyone careening into the walls. Parsis was the first to recover, grabbing the laser from the stunned security guard. He turned it on the man. "Hold fast," he commanded. "Do not advance."
In answer, Varney snarled, and leaped at the Andorian. The laser bolt met his chest solidly. Varney fell to the floor.
"Are you well, Tyler?" Parsis asked.
"I'm fine," Tyler got up. "How about Varney?"
"Dead, I believe." Parsis looked at the navigator. "We must find the captain."
"You got that right, pal." Tyler gripped the turbolift controls. "Resume."
The turbolift proceeded to the required deck. As they were getting off, Parsis frowned. "What shall we do with this one?" he indicated the corpse.
"Leave it," Tyler said as he headed down the corridor at a brisk trot. "It's not going anywhere. Come on; we gotta find the captain and let him know what's going on."
As the door to the turbolift closed, Varney's body disintegrated into a soot and ash.
Pike struggled to sit on the biobed as Boyce and Number One held him down.
"Get me four units of O negative and set up for an emergency transfusion," he barked as Angela Carstairs came out of her office.
"We don't have time for this, Phil," Pike argued as he continued to struggle.
"I wasn't the one who damned near fell flat on my face in the corridor," Boyce looked down at the captain. "And then had to be carried into Sickbay over Number One's shoulder like a sack of potatoes." Pike glared at Boyce. "Now just lay back and behave, and I'll have you back on your feet in no time."
"But--" Pike continued to protest.
"No buts, Chris," Boyce snapped. "She took a hell of a lot of blood out of you. Your count was low this morning, and it's down another five points. Any more blood loss, and I'm going to find myself having to activate another stasis cube."
Pike stopped struggling as he absorbed what Boyce had told him. "She?"
"She." Boyce nodded his approval of the equipment that Carstairs brought to the bedside. "Chromosomal pattern in the saliva has two X's. Your attacker was female."
Number One stepped back, musing. "Perhaps she was getting ready to Change the captain. The legends indicate that the victim must lose a large quantity of blood and then drink some of the," she paused and took a deep breath, then went on, "some of the vampire's bloods to be Changed."
Angela Carstairs stiffened slightly, then resumed her work, barely controlling her hands.
"Go back to what you were doing, Angie," Boyce said, setting up the equipment. "I'll do this one myself."
She stared at him, her eyes slightly wide in fear. "You're sure, sir?"
"Yes, I'm sure," Boyce nodded. "Go on. I know you have plenty of work to do without having to do this, too."
"Yes, sir," Carstairs nodded and disappeared.
Boyce found the antecubital vein and inserted the large bore needle. "Sorry, Chris," he said, not sounding sorry at all.
"You're enjoying this," Pike groused, flinching as the needle was inserted. "You'd think they'd find a better way to do this. Without needles."
"Some things have to be done the old-fashioned way," Boyce lectured as he wrapped an old-fashioned blood-pressure cuff around his other arm. "Of course, if you'd have come in when you first felt fatigued, we might not be doing this now."
Number One shook her head, but said nothing. It could just as easily be her in the biobed, she realized.
The door swooshed open, and a blur launched itself at Number One's back knocking her to the deck. The thing continued to pin the first officer to the deck and placed its steely fingers around her neck, squeezing tightly. Boyce moved to pull the form from the Number One's back when Angela Carstairs blocked his path, her eyes wide and red-rimmed, her mouth wide open and her incisors seeming to be extra long.
Pike tried to sit up, but found that bending the arm with the needle in it created pain, and the cuff around the other arm seemed to tie him down to the bed, hampering his movement. He balled his fist and gritted his teeth angrily as he watched his two officers fighting two of his other officers.
The door swished open again, and another form blurred across the room and slammed into the figure that was strangling the first officer. The strawberry blonde form yanked the auburn-haired female from Number One's back and, using her long hair, flung the other woman against the bulkhead.
Without wasting a minute, Colt launched herself at the stunned woman and, as Pike watched in stunned amazement, growled and made to tear her throat out as the other woman, who looked surprisingly like the deceased Teri Mettens, tried to do the same to Colt. They fell to the floor, entangled in each other. It looked more like a brawl in a fifth-rate drinking hall, but the two were definitely inflicting severe damage on each other.
Not far from his biobed, Pike saw Boyce was struggling with one his nurses, trying to keep her dangerous-looking teeth from his neck. Carstairs, a tall, thin woman seemed to be besting the man with little or no effort.
The door opened a third time, and Montgomery Scott sauntered holding a scanner in his hand. "Now, Ah've done all Ah can to fine-tune the instrument. If ye canna ."
The swinging fist brushed past his head as a body collided with his. Without missing a step or a beat, Scot dropped the scanner on an empty biobed, dodged the next blow and pushed the two females to one side as he saw Boyce battling Carstairs, and losing.
His beefy hand clamped on Carstairs' shoulders, yanking her from the doctor's throat. She roared and turned on him. Scott, normally a gallant gentleman, forgot all his manners and swung a roundhouse right at the nurse who was endeavoring to tear him apart with her bare hands. She ducked under his fist and launched one of her own that connected solidly with his jaw, snapping his head back. The other fist connected with his jaw again, sending him crashing against a biobed. The back of his head connected with the edge of the bed. He fell heavily to the deck, unconscious.
Carstairs whirled back to the doctor, advancing menacingly on him. Boyce, somewhat recovered from her first assault, dodged her attack, his hip connecting with a table near Pike's biobed. She pressed forward, her hand grabbing and encircling his throat.
Boyce's hand dropped to the table as her body pressed closer. His fingers closed around something. She continued pressing closer. He brought the something around and slammed it into her stomach. His sensitive fingers found the activator on the end of the instrument and pressed it.
Carstairs face grimaced as the instrument connected with her stomach, but continued to squeeze the thin doctor's neck. When the activator was pressed, however, she screamed, a high, piercing, haunting scream. She backed away from the doctor one step, still screaming in agony and pain as smoke curled from her abdomen.
The smoke soon encompassed her entire body as her screams continued. Then, abruptly, the screams stopped and a pile of ash appeared on the floor at Boyce's feet. He stared at pile in stunned amazement.
"Boyce!" Pike's shouts finally registered on the shocked doctor's awareness.
He shook his head, moved to Pike's side and checked on the transfusion.
"Get this stuff off of me!" Pike bellowed.
"Later," Boyce said as he studied the instrument in his hand, frowning.
His sterilizer. Set on ultraviolet, wide-angle. At the wide-angle setting it would kill most bacterial organisms and many viral organisms. It might give a larger organism a minor "sunburn." It should not turn an organism the size of a Human into an ash heap in a few seconds.
"Boyce!" Pike yelled as Boyce helped the shaken Number One to her feet. A cursory exam showed she was not injured.
"Be quiet, Chris," Boyce commanded as he glared at his patient. "You're not in charge right now. I am."
The scuffling behind him caused Boyce to turn around. Mettens was straddling Colt on the floor, her hands firmly around the communications officer's throat. The snarling was angry, bestial. Colt's face snarled back at Mettens, her hands also clamped around Mettens' throat, but it was obvious that she was less effective than Mettens.
It was also obvious that Colt was losing as Mettens pulled the girl's neck toward her mouth.
Boyce advanced on the struggling duo and pressed the sterilizer into Mettens' back and activated it. Mettens stiffened and turned on Boyce, Colt already forgotten. Smoke raised from the auburn-haired female's back. She stood and took a halting step toward Boyce as the smoke swallowed her form.
Another pile of ash appeared at Boyce's feet.
J. M. Colt rolled to her side, coughing, her hand rubbing her throat. She stared at the pile of dust inches from her face and shuddered.
"Here, let me help."
Boyce's hand came into her field of view. Looking up, she gratefully took it and let him assist her to her feet. Wrapping his other arm around her waist, he guided her to a biobed.
"Sit," he commanded as he began to examine her.
"Phil!" Pike yelled at the doctor again.
Boyce spared the captain a glimpse then returned to examining his latest patient. "You're doing just fine," he commented. "Just a few more minutes, and you'll be finished."
Colt lowered her head and tried to move away from the doctor. Her face was covered with scratches, her tunic top torn, and the skin that was exposed was also lacerated. "I'm fine, Doctor," she whispered. "Take care of the captain. And the exec."
"I'll be the judge of who's fine and who's not, young lady," he snorted as he grabbed a scanner and ran it over her body. "What the--?" He stared up at her, stunned.
A moan and the sound of someone struggling to their feet momentarily distracted Boyce. He turned and rushed to the engineer's side helping the Scotsman to the bed that had knocked him out. Scott's one hand rubbed the back of his head as a stream of words, most of them unintelligible, but definitely curses cascaded from his lips. Gaelic curses, Boyce guessed.
He ran the scanner over the engineer's body, feeling relieved that the machine seemed to be working. He turned back to Colt and ran it over her body, and the frustrated frown returned.
Colt ignored the second scanning, turning her attention to the captain lying on the biobed, fuming, as the red liquid finished dripping from the bag into the man's arm. She looked over at Number One, noting the woman's keen eyes were staring intently at her. She let her gaze drop to study her hands in her lap.
"Boyce!" Pike's tone was threatening.
Boyce looked over at the angry captain, noted that the blood was finished and disconnected the apparatus from Pike. "Sit up slow. I got it in fast, but you're still a few pints low."
Pike swung his legs over the side of the bed, made to slide to the floor, then changed his mind as wave of giddiness washed over him. He sat, waiting for the feeling to pass. Then he looked at the deck and saw the two mounds of soot.
"Would someone," the captain managed to encompass everyone with his glare, "like to explain to me what the hell is going on?"
Moistening her lips, and wrapping her arms around herself, Colt answered, surprising everyone but Number One. "It'd take too long to explain, sir. The important thing is for you to get off the ship."
Pike managed not to gape in surprise. "Excuse me, Lieutenant," he finally said when he found his voice. "I have to what?"
Colt looked at him, fear in her eyes and her voice. "You have to leave. You and everyone who isn't Human."
Boyce moved from Pike's side to Scotty's bed and pushed the man back recumbent. "Down!"
"Och, Ah'm fine," he protested. "It's just a wee bump on the head."
"You have a concussion," Boyce stated firmly. "It's a wonder you don't see two of me."
"Ah'm fine," Scotty countered. "Check me wi' the scanner."
"I did. It says concussion."
"Not that one!" Scotty growled angrily, shoving the one in the doctor's hand to one side. "That one." He pointed to the one that lying on the only unoccupied bed in the ward.
"Stay put," Boyce ordered as he reached for the new scanner. Turning it on, he ran it over the man's body, noting the pleased, smug expression on the engineer's face. "Well, what do you know?" He smiled just as smugly back at the Scotsman. "I was right. Concussion."
"Balderdash!" Scotty shoved the doctor to one side and dropped to the floor.
Boyce glared at the Scotsman and moved back to stand by Colt's bed, running the new scanner over her. "Good God," he breathed.
Pike frowned at Boyce, his surprise and anger at Colt momentarily forgotten. "What's the matter, Phil?"
"It's her entire system. It's totally changed."
"Changed," repeated Boyce as he turned around a monitor and called up a file. "Mutated beyond recognition. And what I'm getting is nothing like what Doctor Racine got on Colt's physical two days ago." He glared are Colt, noting she refused to meet his gaze. "What is going on?"
Feeling better, Pike slipped from the bed and walked toward Colt and Boyce. "What do you mean, her system has changed?"
Boyce turned the monitor off and looked at Colt and Pike. "Respirations: five per minute. Heart rate: ten beats per minute. No blood pressure. No sign of hypoxia. And she looks a hell of a lot better than you do," he glared at Pike. "You fall on the floor and I'll restrain you in the bed," he promised. He turned back to Colt, and squinted, studying her face closely. "And she's healing pretty damned fast too." He frowned as he readjusted some setting on the scanner.
"Now what, Phil?" Pike demanded.
"I was just trying to get her body temperature on the infrared portion of this scanner." He continued to turn dials on the new scanner. "But, I can't get anything."
Colt closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "We don't have stable body temperatures. We tend to mimic the ambient temperature. Something to do with the Change, I think."
"Change?" Pike looked at her. "We?"
Colt licked her lips and continued to avoid everyone's eyes. "Those of Us who are like Akia," she answered slowly.
"Like Akia?" Pike questioned, puzzled. "But she's Ghanil."
"And now," Colt answered, "apparently, so am I, sir." She let her gaze study the ceiling over her head. "Akia she changed me. And others of the crew. And we've Changed even dozens more of the crew."
"Changed?" Pike moved closer, forcing her to look at him.
"Yes sir," Colt swallowed and went on. "Changed. To be like Akia." She wet her lips again. "Sir, we--you are running out of time. You have to leave the ship. Now. If you don't, you will either be Changed to be one of Us, or else forced to be a slave to one of the Ghanil."
Number One stepped close to the captain. "Why are we running out of time, Lieutenant?"
"Because Akia is going to take over the ship," Colt answered, her eyes bright with tears. "The crew on Gamma shift are Ghanil. It won't be difficult for her to take control."
"As I surmised," Number One told Pike neutrally.
Pike's jaw tightened. "She's not getting my ship. Not while I'm the captain."
"You can't hope to fight her, Captain," Colt protested. "Not and win. She's too strong. And so are the ones she's Changed. Most of the Changed ones are in Security. Most of the senior crew who haven't been changed have been locked in their quarters. She's also secured the non-Humans in their quarters. You won't get any help there."
Pike moved from Colt's biobed and moved to one of the piles on the sickbay floor. Kneeling by it, he looked up at the group. "I'd say we do have a means to defend ourselves." Getting up, he walked back to the bed. "What was that thing you used, Phil?"
Boyce, still studying the woman in front of him, frowned at the readings on the scanner. "What? Oh, that. It was an ultraviolet sterilizer."
"A sterilizer?" Pike didn't bother to hide the surprise he felt.
"It was the first thing I got my hands on," Boyce retorted defensively. "I was rather busy at the time."
"No," Number One shook her head. "It was an ultraviolet sterilizer." Turning to Pike, she went on. "The Ghanil legends, the vampire legends," she couldn't hide the grimace as she said the word, "all indicate an extreme sensitivity to sunlight. What if it was a particular portion of the sunlight?"
"Such as ultraviolet?"
"That would explain what happened to my samples," Boyce put it. "They were sitting near the plant light. An ultraviolet plant light."
"Then our laser pistols would be effective against them," Pike said. "Assuming we modified the beam emitters for the ultraviolet frequency bands."
"Except that those same security officers also locked up all the weapons not in use by the Ghanil," Colt added.
"Not all the weapons," Scotty said. "Ah took the weapons from the first landing party t' check them out. Especially since everyone said they hit the creature and dinna seem to touch it. Ah was makin' sure the weapons were functioning correctly. But wi' the doctor demanding thot Ah fix the medical scanners on the double, Ah never got to them. They're still in me office."
"How many, Scotty?" Pike asked eagerly.
"Well, there are four of us--"
"Five," Colt slid off her biobed to stand by Pike.
"What?" They all stared at her in shock.
"There are five of us," Colt said. "I can help you, sir. I know who is Ghanil and who isn't. And I'm stronger than any of you."
"It won't work," Number One interjected. "Akia could be reading your mind, discovering that you've changed sides. You have no training in mental barriers against her telepathic powers. She could be reading your mind right now, and you'd never know it."
"No, Commander." Colt shook her head. "Before I was Changed, that was true. But after--." She looked up at Number One. "Since the Change I can always tell when Akia is in my mind. And right now, she's too busy trying to take over the ship. Without a captain, she's going to have more on her mind than me."
"Really?" Number One arched an eyebrow at her. "And why aren't you on the bridge?"
Colt turned a darker shade of pink as her eyes dropped to the floor. "I told her I was going to be busy for the next two shifts. And since Jacobs is also Ghanil, she said it would be all right ."
"Busy?" Number One seemed to be boring holes through the lieutenant with her dark eyes. "Doing what?"
"It doesn't matter," Pike interrupted her. "Right now, we have work to do, and apparently not a hell of a lot of time to do it in."
"No, sir, you don't," Colt responded, sounding relieved at the interruption. "There is one thing, sir. When you have a laser pistol, you have to set it kill. And then, you have to hit Us directly in the chest, or We won't be killed."
"You won't? I mean, they won't?"
"It will hurt Us," she went on. "And possibly burn Us. But We can recover from those wounds. It has to be set at full power, and you have to score a direct hit."
"So a near miss--"
"Will only slow the Ghanil down. And make them angry."
The chief engineer spoke up like a man with a sudden inspiration. "Weel, since the ultraviolet sterilizer did such a permanent job on those two harridans, perhaps we can adjust the environmental controls an' make things more than a wee bit uncomfortable of the witch an' her followers."
"No," Pike shook his head. "It will also affect some of the non-Humans we have on board. And Lieutenant Colt. If we try and warn the others, we'll end up warning the Ghanil as well."
"Aye, so it would. So we would," Scotty sighed, giving Colt an apologetic look. "Then Ah'll suppose Ah'll have to tinker a bit wi' the pistols an' see if Ah can give them an ultraviolet punch."
"Exactly as we discussed. How long will it take?"
"Jus' a wee bit o' time an' Ah'll have a working weapon thot will blast those monsters ." He managed to blush as his eye caught Colt's. "A weapon thot will blast Them off the ship."
"You will need help," Number One said.
"Aye," Scotty admitted reluctantly. "But only t' get them finished faster. Hiram Stein will be more than ."
"No," Colt shook her head. "Not Hiram. He's been Changed."
"He's been Changed?!" If Colt had managed to sucker punch the engineer, he couldn't have looked more shocked.
"But-but...he-he seemed ."
"I know." Colt said. "So did I. So did they." She waved a hand at the two mounds on the floor. "And so do the others that have been Changed. Really, the only difference between Ghanil and Humans is the dietary needs."
"And a few other things," Boyce stated.
"So how do we tell the difference?" Pike demanded.
"Well, if they're not Human, and don't have iron-based blood, you can be pretty sure that they aren't Ghanil," Colt reported matter-of-factly. "The others," she sighed, "you'll need a scanner such as the one that Doctor Boyce has."
"Aye. Lieutenant Tavan is handy wi' his hands," Scotty said. "So is Malus ." He stopped and looked at Colt in askance.
"No, he hasn't been Changed," Colt shook her head. "Yet. Now we have to get going. Akia might be busy taking over the ship, but she'll know something has happened. She might send some of the security guards to investigate."
"Right." Pike nodded. "Mister Scott, you and Doctor Boyce get down to Engineering. Get us some weapons. Make up a few more scanners if you can. Number One, Lieutenant Colt and I will go to the Auxiliary Bridge and see if we can make her difficult job even more difficult. And Mister Scott, don't take too long."
Akia stared at the star screen, waiting for Varney to return to the bridge. It was true, what the Human had said, she admitted to herself grudgingly. Her children were good, but they were not necessarily the best at what they did. And some of the non-Humans were better at some of the other necessary skills for running the ship than her children. She would have to rethink her blanket execution order on those aliens.
She felt a strange twinge and stared into space. It had been a long time since she had felt such a feeling. She knew it was important, but she couldn't remember why.
Markson looked at Akia. "What are your orders, Mistress?"
"Child?" Akia looked at her, confused, pushing the feeling aside.
"I need to know where you wish to go. Right now we are on a heading for Earth," Markson explained. "I don't think you want to go there, yet."
"You're right child," Akia nodded. "Pull up a star chart. I saw something once on her monitor ." Markson tapped a few buttons and the screen lit up with several star systems. Akia stood and walked to screen, studying the systems. "That one." She pointed.
"The Makus system," Markson frowned. "Near T Tauri in the Murasaki sector." She looked at the information. "Has two class M planets. That means they can support humanoid life," she added.
"Yes," Akia smiled. "Let us go for that planet," she pointed to the fourth sphere.
"Makus Four?" Markson looked at her quizzically.
"So that's what they call it now," Akia mused. "Yes, child. Makus Four. It will be our base of operations."
"We don't know much about the fourth planet," Markson hedged. "There might be indigenous life forms ."
"I sincerely doubt any of them are left," Akia shrugged. "And if there are, we will handle them. I understand there is a colony on Makus Three."
"Yes, Mistress. Plenty of Humans," Carla Morris answered from the library computer station.
"Then let us be on our way, children," Akia smiled as she moved back to the captain's chair.
Smith waited as Markson entered the coordinates into the ship's navigational system. "Speed, Mistress?"
Akia frowned. There was so much she did not know about commanding a starship in spite of the many mental visits with her friend. So much she had hoped her friend would handle for her. "What is our current speed?"
"Time Warp: Factor Six."
"And how long will it take to get there at this speed?"
Smith turned back to his panel and entered the numbers. Akia grimaced as she waited. Her friend would have had the answer in a trice. "Approximately two weeks, Mistress."
Turning to Teller at Engineering, she demanded impatiently, "Can we go any faster?"
"Mistress," Teller responded, "we can always go faster. The danger is that we may damage the engines. Or the ship from the stress of traveling that fast. The crystals used to stabilize the warping engines are not overly plentiful. After this, we're not going to find it easy to find parts or anyone to help repair the ship. We may even have the Federation coming after us."
Akia scowled and turned back to the star system chart. "I see." She nibbled her lip for a moment. "Very well. We will continue at this speed. We will just have to sip our meals until we reach the Makus system. It will only be for a few weeks. And then we can once again drink deeply."
Smith nodded and tapped the buttons on his panel.
Slowly, majestically, the ship arched and moved from its path to Earth.
Montgomery Scott led Phil Boyce through Main Engineering to his office. Boyce managed to tilt his scanner at the nine who were working at their stations. Once in the officer, Scotty shut the door and looked at Boyce as he collected the laser pistols and put them in a pouch, then slung the pouch over his shoulder.
"Trouble," Boyce answered. "The only two I can read are Tavan and Malus."
"Aye, trouble it is," Scotty sighed as he looked at the group through the clear aluminum panel. "Och, the poor lads."
"So how do we get to the tools so we can create these nasty little laser pistols of yours?"
"Ah still have a few means o' gettin' this lot of beasties out of here. Follow me, laddie."
Nonchalantly, Scotty walked to a vacant panel, smiling broadly. Environmental controls. He tapped a few buttons then stepped back and waited expectantly. In only a few seconds, smoke began to curl from all but George Malus and Tavan, and they screamed in pain. A twinge of regret crossed his face as he heard them shriek in agony and saw the others, Stein, Stebbins, Vogel, and Smythe turn into a pile a soot on the deck. He tapped the same buttons and turned to Boyce.
Waving his hand at the survivors, Scotty said. "Ah may not be able to flood the entire ship wi' ultraviolet radiation, but thot doesna mean Ah canna flood my own section." Examining the back of his own hands, then the others, he added, "Ah think ye can cure a wee bit o' sunburn on the rest o' us."
"I think I can do that," Boyce nodded as he started first with himself, then the others.
"Sir?" Lieutenant j.g. George Malus looked at Scotty perplexed.
Dumping the pistols on the bench, Scotty looked at the two others. Before he could say anything, a scream of anger and rage sounded from behind him. The scream continued as C.P.O. Barnard Garrison rushed at Lieutenant Scott from a Jefferies tube behind the warp core, a spanner in his hand.
"Ah lad, ye poor sod," Scotty sighed as he grabbed one of the pistols and fired it at the young man's chest.
Garrison stared at the chief engineer in shock and surprise, then crumpled to the deck.
"Stand back," Scotty ordered as he activated the ultraviolet lights briefly and watched as the body turned into ashes. "Ye were a good engineer, laddie, a good engineer. Ye jus' ran into the wrong person." He looked down at the remains in regret. "Anyone else here?"
"No," Tavan, the Andorian answered. "No one else. But what happened to the others?"
"Now laddies," he draped an arm around each of their shoulders and led them to a work bench, "Ah'll be tellin' ye a story thot ye may no believe. Ah dinna believe it meself until Ah saw a similar demonstration. We have demons on the Enterprise, an' it's up to us to come up wi' a weapon thot will be the death o' them." He pulled the laser pistols out and placed them on the bench in front of him. "We must turn these simple laser pistols into those weapons."
George Malus sighed and pulled a heavy neck chain out from under his shirt. On the end dangled a triangle in a circle. "I've had a bad feeling ever since Mettens and Shapiro were killed on Alpha Indii. It got worse after I heard that their bodies were missing from the morgue. Gramma used to scare us with tales of blood-suckers. I never believed them before."
Tavan snorted and picked up a pistol. "Nonsense. No one would want to drink the blood of an Andorian."
"That's because there's not enough blood in an Andorian to feed a vampire," Boyce snorted.
"What do we need to do to fight them?" Malus asked as he picked up a second pistol.
Akia gasped in pain, then cried out as another wave of agony washed over her. She remembered the pain now. And what it meant.
Beth Lange raced down from her post by the turbolift as Estelle Markson whirled around in her chair, catching the Ghanil before she toppled to the floor.
"Mistress?" Markson cradled the woman's head in her arms, looking worriedly down at her.
Akia took a breath and slowly regained her feet and her composure. "I'm fine, child," she smiled briefly at the navigator, then sobered. "But some of your brothers and sisters are not."
"Mistress?" Lange looked at Akia warily.
"Someone has managed to kill a few of your brethren."
"What?" Brown gasped from behind her.
"How?" Lange demanded. "How could they kill Us? We are stronger, more powerful!"
"They may be weaker, child," Akia rested a calming, comforting hand on Lange's cheek, "but they are not ignorant fools. There have always been ways to hurt and kill Us. They have found a way to hurt Us. Kill Us. Go, child. Get some of the others in security. Find Them. Take care of Them."
Lange nodded. "At once, Mistress."
Tom Fairbanks sat at the controls of the Auxiliary Bridge. Somehow he'd gotten the short straw. Stuck here by himself, alone. Everyone else had someone else to work with.
Not Tom Fairbanks.
Still, he consoled himself, should any of the Others tried to take the ship back, they would come here.
And he would be ready for them.
The door opened. He whirled in surprise, his pistol suddenly in his hand. His eyes widened as he recognized the captain and the first officer march in, followed by Lieutenant Colt. His finger pressed the firing stud on his weapon. Pike and Number One quickly withdrew and let the doors close, deflecting the laser bolts.
Colt rushed through the doors and launched herself at him, dragging him to the deck. Her hand grabbed at the weapon in his hand, attempting to wrestle it from his grasp. The two rolled on the deck, the weapon between them.
Number One and Pike reentered the room just in time to hear the familiar whine of a laser pistol firing. Their eyes widened as they saw the tableau in one corner of the room. Colt and Fairbanks with their hands on a weapon, staring wildly into each others eyes. Then Fairbanks slumped to the deck, the weapon slipping from his lax grip.
Colt slid away from the body, her face ashen, her hands trembling, her eyes still on Fairbanks' still form. Then slowly it turned dissolved to ash at her feet.
"Are you all right, Lieutenant?" Pike was at her side, his hand encircling her arm, pulling her toward him.
"Y-yes, sir," she answered, the tremor evident in her voice.
"You weren't injured?" Number One joined them.
Colt looked down at her tunic, now scorched as well as torn. "I'm fine, Commander. Just a little shaken. I'm fine, really," she nodded at the two officers. "Come on. We have work to do."
"Right," Pike agreed, releasing her arm and taking his position at the auxiliary controls.
Beth Lange skidded to a halt in the corridor, using her hearing to find whom she was seeking. She knew that her friend was in one of the patrols to keep the non-Ghanil in their quarters and out of the way. And right now she needed to see Teri. She'd nearly lost her best friend once. She couldn't bear the thought of losing her again.
Shapiro and Garrity round the corner and stopped when they saw her. "What are you doing here?" Shapiro demanded. "You're supposed to be on the bridge with the Mistress."
"Where's Teri?" she demanded worriedly as she grabbed Garrity's arms.
"She's checking out something, Beth," Garrity replied. "She got spooked when the first officer passed her in the corridor. Said she was going to make sure that she didn't interfere with the plans."
"Where is she now?" Lange demanded again.
"Beth, I don't know," Garrity pulled out of her grasp. "Look, Teri's a big girl. She can take care of herself."
"You don't understand," Lange stared at him, her voice filled with terror. "The Mistress nearly collapsed on the bridge."
"She's all right, isn't she?" Shapiro turned her around. "The Mistress is all right?"
Lange nodded. "Yes, she's fine. But she said that some of Us had been killed. By Them."
Shapiro stared at her, then scoffed, "Some of Us were killed? How?"
"I don't know!" Lange cried in desperation. "But I'm afraid that Teri--"
Garrity pulled the trembling girl to him in a tender embrace. "Take it easy, hon. Teri can take handle herself. Hell, she's one of the few that's managed to survive an entire five-year mission on this ship."
Lange nodded. "I know, but ." She wiped her eyes and looked at them. "At any rate, the Mistress gave us a mission. We have to find the killers and deal with them."
"Let's go," Shapiro pulled his laser pistol and set it to kill.
"She said deal with them," Lange glared at him, "not kill them. We still need their blood, remember?"
"And if they're not Human?"
"If they're not Human, I suppose it's okay," Lange nodded slowly, then added, "But only if they're not Human."
Shapiro glared at her as he reset the weapon for heavy stun. "Okay, Bethie. Let's do it.
The three engineers were busily modifying the few weapons that that were on the bench in front of them. One had been completed and rested in the uncomfortable hands of Phil Boyce who was standing watch at the door. They'd secured the doors, but no one felt secure. Not with some of the members of security in the enemy camp.
The door slid open. Boyce stared at the opening, gripping the pistol tightly as Scott darted toward the environmental panel.
Then, a soft, familiar voice spoke, "Doctor, I would appreciate it if you would lower your weapon. I would prefer to survive this particular incident without injury."
With trembling hands, Boyce lowered the pistol and raised his tricorder. He sighed and nodded to the others. Scott moved back to the bench and picked the laser pistol he'd been working on.
The Vulcan entered and joined the engineers at the work bench.
"Don't get this wrong, Spock," Boyce said from the door, resuming his lookout position, "but what the hell are you doing here?"
Spock looked over the modifications that Scott was making, nodded, and picked up another pistol, beginning to work on it. "The executive officer summoned me, telepathically, and let me know what has been transpiring. She suggested that you might be able to use my help. Especially since many of the ones who could have assisted are either secured in their quarters or," he frowned, pausing in what he was doing as he looked at Humans around him, "'Changed.'"
"And how did you manage to get out of your quarters?" Boyce continued his questions.
Picking up a tool from the center of the table, he did a minor adjustment on the weapon in his hand, stared at it critically, then replied, "As I was not in my quarters, I could not be secured there."
"An' where were ye, lad?" Scott asked as he checked Spock's work critically.
"I was in the Science Lab, still working on some of the tricorder data tapes. I have not been pleased with the results that I have obtained to date," Spock picked up another pistol. "I still am not pleased, although the commander seemed satisfied with what she had seen."
"An' no one knew ye were there?" Scotty asked.
Spock picked up the scanner that lay on the bench, noted the changes that needed to be made and continued working. "Since I was not on duty, Mister Scott, I did not see the need to inform anyone of my whereabouts."
"Fortunate for us," Boyce commented.
Spock checked over the table, noting that the nine remaining pistols were now completed and that there were now two more scanners like the one that Boyce wore.
"Most fortuitous, Doctor Boyce," Spock stated. "I believe we have finished this portion of our task, gentlemen."
"Aye, thot we have," Scotty answered. Picking up one, he looked it over critically. "Pity we canna test them before we must use them."
Spock took one of the scanners and gave the other to Scott, then assisted in dividing the weapons between them. "That is most unfortunate," he stated. "However, Captain Pike has great faith in your abilities, and I have great trust in Captain Pike's judgment."
"Then good huntin' lads," Scott stated as he handed the scanner and all but one weapon to Malus.
"Mister Scott," Spock began, "I was given to understand that you would be joining us."
Scott walked to the main control panel in Engineering, settling himself comfortably in the chair. "Nae, laddie. I'll be stayin' here."
"Doing what, if I may ask?" Spock stared at him intently.
Smiling at the Vulcan, he answered, "Makin' sure thot thot creature doesnae damage my engines. An' perhaps tossin' a wee monkey wrench into her plans."
Spock let his eyebrows wander up to his hairline. "Indeed."
"Captain," Number One reported from her post, "Akia has made a course change."
Pike stopped his pacing to stand behind her. "Where?"
"The Makus system. Makus Four," she replied. "And sir, Makus Three is inhabited by Humans. If she reaches there, she will have a ready source of blood. It is a relatively new colony, Captain, and has already experienced difficulty with its communications systems."
"There are enough of Us that could further sabotage the communications systems," Colt added.
"What's the last colony count?" Pike wanted to know.
"Between fifty and one hundred thousand," Number One informed him.
Colt unconsciously licked her sharp incisors. "That would take care of Our needs for many months, even a year."
Pike stared at her, concern on his face. "Are you all right, Lieutenant? Do you need--?"
"No," Colt answered hurriedly as she turned back to her board, not wishing to meet either of their eyes. "No, sir. I..." She found herself turning to meet his demanding eyes. "I recently fed. I won't need to feed for a while."
Pike nodded and found a seat. "Very well, Lieutenant." Turning back to Number One, he ordered, "Let's let Akia go for a while. Then we'll pull the rug out from under her."
Spock and Malus walked quickly through the corridor on their way to Auxiliary Bridge. Boyce and Tavan were also on their way to the Auxiliary Bridge, taking another route. As Spock had pointed out, he had managed to avoid the roving patrols only by skill.
They rounded a bend and found themselves face to face with Lange, Garrity, and Shapiro. They had their weapons out, while the two did not. Spock mentally berated himself on such a mistake. And after he had lectured the others on being alert. Spock merely canted an eyebrow as he studied them, letting his glance rest a few minutes longer on Shapiro.
"I see that the report of your demise was premature."
"That's right, Spock," Shapiro said shortly. "And I intend to keep it that way. The Mistress has given me immortality. I intend to enjoy every second of it. And no pointed-eared half-breed is going to take it away from me."
Spock saw Shapiro's finger tense over the firing stud. Then his body arced and fell to the deck, then dissolved into a mound of dust. Before the other two could turn and fire on whomever had fired on them, Lange and Garrity were turned into similar piles on the deck.
Spock looked briefly at the three mounds on the deck, then raised his gaze to see Commander Grek holding one of the transformed pistols in his big hand, his beady eyes glaring at the mounds. Behind the commander were Boyce and Tavan. And behind them were Lieutenant Commander Marsha Rhuska, Lieutenant Tosk, Lieutenant Janos Lapinski and Ensign Stass.
"If they thought they could keep me and my top officers in our quarters, they were thinking wrong," the Tellarite security chief grunted.
"Your timing is impeccable, Commander," Spock noted as picked up the three weapons lying on the floor.
Grek smiled at him. "Of course it is. That is why I am the head of security."
Scott leaned back in his chair, studying the readouts that were playing across his screens. "Ah, so thot's where the witch is headin', is it now?" he mused. "Well, she's nae makin' flank speed. Perhaps the lad she has under her thumb has told her the folly of pushin' the engines too hard. At least he's nae lost his senses."
He leaned forward, checking different gauges, then turned a few knobs and slid a few bars. "But, jus' t' make sure she doesna try to go any faster ." He sat there until he got the readouts he wanted. Then he leaned back, whistling a Gaelic air. "Thot will take the winds out o' her sails."
Akia looked over at Teller as he suddenly moved and began working on his board. She wished she knew what he was doing. If he was doing it right. And again she wished that her friend was here by her side to do all that was needed to captain the ship.
"What is the problem, son?" she asked coolly.
"Our speed has slowed," he answered, his confusion evident.
"I thought you said that our speed would not cause any problems," Akia accused him.
"It shouldn't," Teller said defensively. "Those engines have been tested and checked many times. They're in top condition." He checked a few more gauges, then turned back to her. "Wait, the command to slow came from Engineering."
"Aren't our people manning Engineering?" Akia glared fiercely at him.
"All but Malus and Tavan. And neither of them would do something like this. Not without a reason." Teller felt fear for the first time since he had been Changed. He turned back to his board and hit a button. "Bridge to Engineering."
"Engineering, aye," came back the male voice.
Teller stared hard at the speaker, then at the board, feeling his panic rise. He slammed his hand on the button, closing the connection.
"What is it, child?" Akia asked, now worried.
"That was Lieutenant Scott, Chief Engineer. And not yet one of Us."
"I thought you told me he was on Alpha shift," she complained. "What is he doing there?"
"I don't know!" Teller exploded angrily. "He was on Alpha shift. He's not supposed to be there! But, sometimes--" He looked at Akia, fear in his brown eyes. "Mistress, he's a strange one. He-he talks to the engines as if they were his children. The only thing is, sometimes it seems as if they listen." Teller took the laser pistol from his belt, checking its setting and headed for the turbolift. "Don't worry, Mistress, I can take care of him."
"See that you do, child," she said icily. "See that you do."
Spock frowned then seemed to nod his head in approval. "It would appear that Mister Scott is doing his part to delay Akia from reaching her goal," he said.
Footfalls in the corridor made all the officers react as one, weapons drawn, fingers on firing studs. Tyler and Parsis skidded to a halt as they saw the reception they were getting.
"Take it easy," Boyce said, as he put his scanner down. "They're okay."
"I am pleased that you could join us, gentlemen," Spock said. "The more we have assisting us, the quicker we can reclaim the ship."
"Yeah, well, could someone tell us what is going on?" Tyler asked, staring in stunned amazement at the ash on the deck.
"It would appear that Akia has found a way to transform some of the crew, and now has them hijacking the ship," Spock replied.
"Transform the crew?" Tyler and Parsis looked at each other.
"It is a very long narrative," Spock stated. "At present, we have found a way to effectively neutralize them. The captain with the commander and Lieutenant Colt are in the auxiliary bridge, and Mister Scott is in Engineering, apparently acting to delay and deter Akia from realizing her goal."
"Parsis and I will go to the auxiliary bridge," Tyler stated. "Cap's gonna need our help there."
"Excellent," Spock nodded.
Before he could say anything more, everyone was flung against the bulkhead.
Recovering, Spock canted an eyebrow. "It would seem that Mister Scott had decided to start throwing monkey wrenches."
Grek nodded his agreement. "Go on your way," he told Spock and the others. "I will go to Engineering. I have a feeling Mister Scott will soon need me." Turning to the other security guards, he added, "Make your way to the weapons locker and get more laser pistols for Mister Scott to convert.
"Have you enough weapons?" Spock asked as he opened his pouch.
Boyce stopped him. "Grek convinced us to give him our shipment."
"I see." Spock closed the flap on the pouch and walked down the corridor, the others close behind.
Marsha Rhuska looked up into Grek's squinty eyes. "We will meet you in Engineering."
Grek smiled and nodded his head. "I will be waiting."
Number One looked over her readings, grabbing the panel as the ship dipped then righted itself. "It would seem Mister Scott has decided to take matters into his own hands."
Pike pulled himself upright at the panel where he had decided to sit. "I can tell. Slowing her down. Good."
Lieutenant Colt looked over at him soberly. "Sir, Akia will send someone to stop him."
Pike looked at her, seeing the worry furrow her young face. "I know, Lieutenant. But, if he's done his job, and I know he has, he'll be fine."
"Of course sir," she nodded, returning her attention to her board.
Pike stood and walked over to Number One, seeming to study her board. Leaning forward, he added softly. "But just in case, be prepared to take over, Number One."
Number One nodded briefly. "Understood."
Scott leaned back in his chair as he studied the controls in front of him. For the first time that he could ever remember, he was doing things simply for the hell of it. He'd apologized to the ship before beginning his crazy scheme, telling her it was for the good of the crew, and for her. After all, he didn't want his sweet ship thinking he'd gone daft and was trying to ruin her.
And she had acquiesced, understanding the need for the strange handling that the Scotsman was giving her.
Scott sighed and picked up the laser pistol that was laying on the panel in front of him. It had been a mistake to answer the comm signal, he realized. But not answering it would have made her suspicious. It was a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. Someone would be coming to check things out. Soon.
The laser blast hit the panel near Scott's hand as the door slid open. Startled, the pistol slipped from his hand to the floor. Not bothering to see who was standing in the doorway attempting to do him bodily harm, he joined it on the deck, rolling to behind the work bench and a semblance of cover.
A whine of a laser was soon followed by high-pierced scream. He peeked around the bench and saw that another ash heap occupied his engineering deck. Grabbing the pistol tightly, he looked around the bench and saw, standing in the doorway, Commander Grek.
"I thought you could use some help," Grek grunted.
"Aye, sair, thot Ah could. Thot Ah could."
Grek walked over to the engineer and hoisted the man to his feet. Taking the pistol from Scott, he turned and took a stance in the middle of the room, his feet wide apart, a laser in each hand, his head high. "Continue with your task, Mister Scott," he commanded. "You will not be disturbed any more."
Akia took a deep breath as the spasm hit her. Another one had been taken from her.
"Mistress?" Sanchez's voice whispered behind her.
Patting her hand reassuringly, Akia stated, "There has just been a little difficulty, child."
Frowning at the buttons on the chair's handle, she tried to remember which one Jacobs had told her to use to contact her children not on the bridge. Sanchez pointed to the colored button, but said nothing.
"Randy, child," she began.
"Mistress?" Behind Geiger's voice was the unmistakable sound of a disappointed female.
"Collect some of your security brothers and sisters. Search the ship. Some of the Others have managed to leave their quarters and are disrupting things."
"At once, Mistress." Geiger cut the connection.
"Shall I join them?" Sanchez asked the Ghanil.
Taking the hand in her own, Akia shook her head. Her elation was long gone. Now she was desperately trying to hang on. "No, child," she smiled at the woman next to her. "Stay here. Stay by me. For now."
"Sir," Colt's voice broke the silence again. "The Mistress--Akia," she corrected herself, "has called on Lieutenant Geiger to get more security teams out to find and stop us."
Pike looked over at her, pressing his lips together. "I see." Standing he began to pace. "Well, we'll go down fighting. That's a promise."
They were caught short by the knock on the door. Grabbing the pistol in his hand, Pike moved to the side of the door. Colt slid from her chair and stood in front of the door. Number One waited until she was sure that they were in position, then released the door. Colt felt herself stiffen, then relax when she saw Boyce and the others standing there waiting admittance.
"You made good time," Number One stated as she secured the door.
Spock handed the pouch to Pike and moved to the smaller science station on the bridge. "Mister Scott," he said as he sat down, "was nearly completed when I arrived."
"Welcome to the party, Joe, Parsis," Pike said as he took the pouch and started to hand out the weapons. He frowned suddenly. "I thought Scotty said there were ten weapons. We're short."
Spock took the weapon from Pike and began to tinker with it. "On our way here, we also encountered Commander Grek with Commander Rhuska and Lieutenants Tosk and Lapinski, and Ensign Stass." Pike raised his eyebrows in mild surprise. "I believed that they needed the weapons more than we do. And," he added, "once I finish the adjustments on this one, we will have another for our arsenal."
Pike nodded. "We still headed for Makus Four?"
"Confirmed," Number One nodded. "But with Mister Scott slowing the speed and doing other things, our estimated time of arrival has been increased from two to almost four weeks."
"That could cause a problem," Colt said slowly.
"Indeed?" Number One arched an eyebrow.
Colt flushed, not feeling comfortable explaining things in front of those who did not know about her condition. "There are less than two persons for each Ghanil on the ship," she began.
"Wait," Tyler halted her. "What do you mean 'each Ghanil'? Akia is the only Ghanil on board."
"Not any more," Pike said. "Akia can transform Humans into Ghanil."
"What? Like Dracula changed people to vampires or something like that?" Tyler scoffed.
"Exactly like that," Colt said softly.
"Huh?" he stared at her. "I was kidding."
"I'm not." Colt stared back at him. "And I'm Ghanil. She Changed me."
"Oh, come on!" Tyler continued to stare at her.
"It's true, Joe," Pike said, cutting things short. "What's the problem with the extended time?"
"Most of the Ghanil will sip their nourishment "
"Sip their nourishment? As in their blood?" Tyler gaped at her, his hand moving to cover his neck as he drew away from her.
"Yes," Colt snapped. "As I was saying, sir, most will sip their nourishment, but some will nearly drain their prey until they are nearly dead. And there isn't enough blood in the Sickbay to sustain Us. And if one of Us decides to Change someone," she swallowed, not able to continue to meet Pike's steady gaze, "there'll be another to feed."
"She's kidding, right?" Tyler stared at the senior officers.
"No, she's not," Number One said. "The captain and I are both victims."
"Bite marks and all?" Tyler looked at Number One speculatively.
Number One merely glared at him.
"I see the cause of your concern," Boyce said, frowning at Tyler.
Pike began to pace tautly. "I'm not going to see my crew bled dry by a-a," he stopped and pressed his lips together then spit out the word, "vampire. And I won't have them changed into one either." He turned to the first officer. "Can we take control of the ship?"
"Whenever you give the word?"
"Okay, let's do it."
Tyler asked, "Heading?"
"Back to Alpha Indi Four," Pike decided. "Her people sentenced her there. Obviously, they knew what they were doing."
"Heading laid in," Tyler acknowledged.
"Speed?" Number One asked, her face white.
Pike looked at the smaller screen, his eyes narrowed. "Let's get this over with. Time Warp: Factor Eight."
"Aye sir," Number One nodded.
Akia was pacing on the deck, a deep frown on her face. Nothing was going right. It had stopped going right the day her friend had rebuffed her. She should have held back taking over the ship until her friend had been Changed.
But she had wanted this ship. Because her friend had wanted this ship. And she had wanted to give to her as a present.
Turning to Jacobs, Akia snapped, "Have you heard from Randy yet?"
"No, Mistress," Jacobs replied.
"Get him," she commanded.
"Mistress," Jacobs worked the comm panel.
"Yes, Mistress?" Geiger's voice sounded.
"What have you discovered?" she asked sharply.
"I--we--have found several piles of ash on the decks in the corridor." There was a faint tremor in his voice. "And some more in Sickbay. And one in a turbolift."
Akia glared at the comm panel. "I have expected that, child. What of Engineering?"
Geiger answered, "We cannot enter, Mistress."
"I have given you the override codes--" she snarled at the comm panel, her hand balled into a fist.
"And we have used them," Geiger interrupted her. "But the Human has an assistant: Commander Grek."
"And?" Her tone was taunting.
"And they have a weapon."
"And as long as they do not hit you directly in the chest or the head, it will not cause you serious harm," Akia snapped.
Geiger's voice interrupted her. "No, Mistress. This is a new weapon. Three of Us have been killed when we tried to rush him. And they weren't all direct hits. They just turned into ashes in front of my eyes."
Akia stared at the comm panel, her eyes suddenly filled with fear. Her hand raised to her lips, and she stumbled back to the captain's chair. It was all disintegrating, falling apart. It wouldn't be if she were here, Akia closed her eyes.
"What do you want us to do, Mistress?" Geiger's voice broke through her mental fog.
Akia opened her eyes and looked around the bridge, seeing the wide, frightened eyes of her crew staring back at her. What to do? What to do? she thought. "Stay where you are, child. Don't rush them any more. Just keep them there. And don't let anyone else get in."
Akia looked at the two officers in front her. Perhaps she should have kept the cocky Human and the blue creature with the antennae on the bridge and had them piloting it.
"Can we get more speed?" she asked Smith.
"If Jonson can override the controls, yes," Smith answered.
Turning to Jonson who had come on the bridge to take Teller's place, Akia narrowed her eyes. "I want more speed. I want to reach G--Makus Four as soon as possible. Once there, this ship will be fumigated. All those not Changed will be enslaved "
"Mistress," Smith's scared voice cut into her tirade, "we are no longer on course for Makus Four."
"What!" Akia whirled around and glared at him, her face filled with rage.
"We are no longer on course for Makus Four, Mistress."
"Where are we going?" she demanded moving to stand behind Smith.
"We are headed back to Alpha Indi Four," he whispered faintly.
"What!?" Akia grabbed his shoulder and spun him around. "How is that possible?"
"I-I " he stammered.
"Change it back!" she spun him back to the panel. "Now!" She slammed him in the back in anger.
Smith and Markson worked furiously over their panels together. "Unable to change course," Markson said. "Helm isn't responding."
"Why not?" she roared.
"I-I don't know, Mistress. We can't get the helm to respond to any commands."
"Then do something!" Akia bellowed.
"We can't!" Markson cried in frustration. "Our controls have been overridden!"
Colt looked up at Pike, still pacing in the small room. "The Mistress--Akia--has discovered we are headed back to Alpha Indi Four."
"Upset, is she?" Pike smirked.
"That would be an understatement, sir," Colt said. "She--she doesn't like that place. After being imprisoned there, in the rock of the mountain for so long ."
Number One looked at Colt in shock. "In the rock?"
Colt met Number One's stunned look steadily. "Yes, Commander. In the rock. When the Ghanil Supreme Court condemned her, they sentenced her to life imprisonment in the rock strata of Alpha Indi Four. In a small cave."
Pike found a chair and sat down, shock on his face as well. "Why would they do that to her?"
"It's a rather long story, sir," Colt hedged.
"But she told you, didn't she?" Pike asked, leaning forward, his hands folded.
Colt nodded. "Yes, sir. She did. One evening when the others were out hunting. I-I didn't feel like going out, so she stayed behind and we talked."
"Tell me," Pike commanded.
"Sir?" Colt looked at him.
"We have a little time, Lieutenant," Pike repeated. "Tell me her story."
"All right," Colt nodded nervously. "It seems that the Ghanil had been searching for a way to extend their life span. They thought they had, but instead they created a mutation. It did extend their lives, but it changed them. Drastically. Those that survived, that is. Many of the Ghanil died as a result of the mutation."
Number One nodded. "The computer data indicated such."
Colt continued. "The ones Changed suddenly found themselves unable to eat their normal food, a diet that was similar to our own. They found themselves craving blood. Blood from any mammal. Blood from their own kind was best. Is best," she added in a soft voice. "The Changed ones began attacking the ones not Changed for their blood. Akia said the planet soon resembled a war zone with the Unchanged Ones barricading themselves in areas they hoped were safe, and the Changed Ones attacking them in spite of their defenses just to get the blood they needed.
"Their civilization was falling apart, disintegrating. Those unchanged, seeing their numbers dwindling, decided to fight back in any way they could. They found that sunlight was especially deadly to the Changed Ones. Also direct hits to the head and chest were fatal. But, the mutation had given the Changed Ones other abilities--perhaps it enhanced abilities they had and never--used Akia wasn't too clear on that--and the Unchanged Ones found themselves losing the battle, being defeated the telepathic skills of the Changed ones.
"Before long, the only ones left on Ghanis was the Changed Ones. And the lesser animals, of course. And even they were dying out. Akia didn't say what was killing them off. It could have been the mutation. Could have been the result of the war between the Changed and Unchanged. The end result was the same. The food source was dying out. So they set out in a large community ship, traveling over the entire galaxy, seeking a new home...and food.
"It was on one of the first planets they came to that they found out they could Change others to be like themselves, quite by accident. The victim must drink the blood of a Changed One. It wasn't accepted readily, of course. Every new Changed One meant another one competing for the limited blood supply.
"It was on that first planet that they were called undead, demons, beasts. It got so bad that many decided that they didn't want to live any more. And they found ways to kill themselves. Standing in the sun was the most common form of suicide. Others decided that the answer was to reverse the condition and began searching for a cure to the condition.
"They also decided that they were going to return to some old ways. They created a tribunal and enacted laws to live by. Laws to protect those Unchanged. Laws that Akia found oppressive. She defied the tribunal and broke those laws. On one planet, she never said which one, she was caught breaking the laws. There was a trial, and she was found guilty and sentenced." Colt licked her lips. "Sentenced to spend the rest of her life in the rock cavern on the planet Alpha Indi Four. She was protected from the sun, but denied sustenance and companionship."
"Did she happen to say which law?" Number One asked.
"No," Colt shook her head. "She didn't. Not directly. But I think it had to do with the fact that Akia was Changing others. Every time she welcomed a new Ghanil to the group, she would smile and laugh and say, 'You see, Belan, your rules are foolish. I will not be stopped.' Of course, she also said that when she gave the order to begin to take over the ship."
Number One and Tyler tapped on their panels together.
"Trouble, Number One?" Pike asked, turning his attention from Colt to her.
"They just tried to take back control of the helm," Number One reported.
"I take it they were not successful," Pike stated.
Number One leveled a disdainful look at her superior officer. "Of course not. I have made the auxiliary bridge the primary control center. There is no way they can take control back without going through the computer and finding a way to override my lockout code.
Pike leaned back, a contented grin on his face. "Good. Continue on course."
Akia was pacing again. Pacing furiously. Pacing angrily. She stopped and stared at the navigator and helm officer. "Well? What is the problem?"
Markson sat back. "We've been locked out, Mistress. I can't regain control of Helm."
"How did that happen?" Akia raged.
"Someone must have transferred primary control from Main Bridge to Auxiliary Bridge, "Markson answered.
"But We have Auxiliary Bridge secured!" Akia ranted.
"Do We?" Sanchez, from near the turbolift asked. "Do We?"
Akia whirled on the small Latino. "What do you mean? We sent Tom Fairbanks there to safeguard it."
Sanchez stepped closer to the Ghanil woman, meeting her flashing eyes calmly. "We controlled Engineering too, and now we do not. If They took one area from us, They can try and take another."
Akia continued to glare at her, feeling her world crumbling around her. If only She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself.
"You're right, child," she nodded, cupping the Human's chin in her hand. "You're right." She turned to Jacobs. "Summon Doreen to me, child."
She resumed pacing, pausing occasionally to stare at the main screen. "We have work to do, children. Much work. And we must start it sooner than I would have wanted to."
Rhuska with Stass, Tosk and Janos Lapinski hugged the wall and stared at the door leading to the weapons locker. Standing guard was Mark Black. He was leaning against the wall, seemingly bored with his assignment. Rhuska shook her head sadly. She'd been counseling him on his lackadaisical behavior for weeks, trying to tell him that it would get someone killed sooner or later; if not him, then his partner.
"Okay, we're here," Lapinski noted softly. "Now what do we do?"
"We regain control of the weapons locker," Rhuska remarked tightly as she lifted her weapon and fired on the unsuspecting man.
She saw the surprised look on Black's face just before it disappeared into cinders on the deck. "Told him he needed to be more observant," she remarked as they made their way to the door.
The three junior officers took up defensive positions while Rhuska tapped in the code to open the door. A scowl crossed her face. She punched in the code again. Still the door stayed closed.
"If I may, Commander?" Stass offered.
She shrugged and took his place while he moved his fingers over the keypad. Before long she heard the gently whoosh of the door opening. She was the last one in the weapons locker, choosing to stand guard at the door.
"Collect all the weapons you can," she told them. "Then we'll make our way back to Engineering."
"We didn't run into any trouble getting here," Lapinski said. "Shouldn't have any trouble getting there."
"Don't be too sure," Rhuska warned him. "We had the element of surprise. We may not have that any more."
"I have severely underestimated your crewmates, child," Akia admitted to the tall blonde security officer standing next to her.
Lieutenant Commander Doreen Trask was listening intently to Akia, trying hard not say "I told you so." Instead she nodded and said. "This crew is noted for being highly innovative, Mistress."
Akia narrowed her eyes and began to pace around the well. "Yes, well, at this moment, they are being particularly loathsome."
"Leave it to me, Mistress," Trask said. "I'll handle the pests."
"They hold Engineering and the Auxiliary Bridge," Akia informed her.
Trask pressed her lips together. A part of her wanted to hit something. She bit back the rebuke she wanted to give the Ghanil. She should have been notified sooner! "I see," was all Trask said.
"Randy has a team outside of Engineering," Akia added. "They may hold it, but They cannot leave it."
Trask nodded. At least the woman had called for someone to try and get the situation controlled before it all fell apart. "Then I'll take care of Auxiliary Bridge."
Akia placed a restraining hand on the woman's arm as Trask headed toward the turbolift. "Take care, child. I have lost enough children this day. I don't want to lose any more."
Trask looked into the green eyes, seeing the strain in them. She gave the woman a reassuring smile. "I will, Mistress. I will."
Rhuska was at point while Toss brought up the rear. Between them, Stass and Lapinski held a pistol in one hand and the strap of a pouch slung over their shoulder, full of laser pistols and rifles, in the other.
Suddenly the red-headed woman held up her hand and moved to hug the wall. The other three followed her lead. Rhuska studied the team of five that was positioned around Engineering's door. Her brow wrinkled in pain when she recognized Randy Geiger among the five.
Randy. Her protégé. "Damn!" she blasted softly.
Lapinski took a deep breath and shook his head. His own roommate, and he'd never known. "The undead have a tendency to choose those we care most about," he finally said. "We must now free them from their curse."
Rhuska glared back at him, her hazel eyes hard. "I know all about the blood-suckers," she said tightly. "I can still be angry about the ones taken. They're fellow Security officers. We fought side by side, risked our lives together countless times. And now, they're the enemy!"
"Perhaps we can convince them to change their alliances. They've worked with us longer than they've worked for Akia," Tosk suggested.
"And what do we offer them?" Stass asked. "We have nothing. She promises them immortality."
Rhuska sighed and lifted her pistol. "Perhaps we show them she can't give them immortality."
Putting their pouches down on the deck, Stass and Lapinski joined Rhuska and Tosk in attack formation. Rhuska sighted on an ensign, a new transfer whose name she could not recall but who already had shown he was a reckless hothead and headed for disaster, and fired. He turned into a black mound on the deck.
The remaining officers turned and fired their weapons at Rhuska. She ducked and rolled, feeling the singe of the blast over her head. Another whine sounded and a blast came over her head from the other direction as Lapinski returned fire, scoring a direct hit on another ensign, turning him to dust.
More blasts criss-crossed between the two groups. Geiger glared at Lapinski and fired at him. Lapinski dropped to the deck clutching his arm. Stass moved up and fired at Geiger, scoring a hit that caused the lieutenant to be transformed into ashes on the deck. Rhuska and Tosk fired together, scoring together on the remaining two officers.
Rhuska grabbed the pouch as Tosk helped Lapinski to his feet. Stass picked up the other sack and brought up the rear. "Commander Grek," she called at the door.
The door slid open, and Grek stood there, smiling, a laser pistol in each hand. "You've made good time."
Rhuska dumped the sack on the bench, then found the first aid kit and started working on Lapinski.
"Ye've been busy, lass," Chief Engineer Scott commented as he grabbed one and started working on it.
Looking up from her task, Rhuska said, "Just fix 'em up, Mister Scott. We may need every one to get the ship back."
Main Briefing Room
Doreen Trask looked at the seven officers that were standing by her and managed not to shake her head in dismay. From so many in control to so few fighting for their lives.
"We're going on a two-prong attack to take back control," she began without preamble. "Keller, you take three and go to Engineering, help Geiger take control there." She looked at the remaining three, "We are going to Auxiliary Bridge and take it from the Unchanged."
Keller stared at her. "We've heard about a strange new weapon that They have. What about it?"
Trask nodded grimly. "It's true. They have a weapon that can kill Us. But they can't have too many. Or too many people to use them. We'll have to be careful, make sure They can't fire on us. We can prevail. We'll lure them out and stun them. Then lock them in their quarters." Looking at them somberly, she picked up her pistol. "Move out."
Scott had a sheen of perspiration on his brow as he finished yet another weapon. Stass, working next to him, showed no such evidence of his exertion as he put another weapon on the pile of completed weapons.
Scott smiled as he put his weapon on the mound. "Thot's the last one, laddie," he sighed. "Do ye really think we'll need all these?"
"I have no idea," Rhuska admitted. "I just figured that more was better."
Grek moved over to the mound, nodding in approval. "Now we need to get them to our people. I will lead the assault team to get to them. Stass," he looked at the young Vulcan, "you stay here with Lieutenants Scott and Lapinski. Keep this place secured."
Stass nodded and picked up one of converted rifles and took up a position at the door. Lapinski picked up his pistol with his one hand and slid it into the sling that held his other arm, then picked up another one and moved to a place behind Stass. Scott picked up his pistol and moved back to his control panel.
Grek, Rhuska and Tosk took a moment to adjust the pistols on their hips, then grasp the rifles that were in their hands. Without a word, the three started toward the turbolift at the far end of the corridor.
The laser bolts scored the bulkhead over Grek's head and the three dove for the deck and whatever cover they could find. Grek was the first to return fire, followed by the other two.
Keller and the three security officers continued to fire at the trio, keeping Grek and his team neatly pinned to where they found protection. They were unable to advance, however; though pinned down, the three were still able to fire on them, and they were not willing to be hit as they once had been.
Suddenly Keller screamed as Grek's bolt finally hit the man. It was cut short as the man turned to ash on the deck. Before the others could turn and run for cover, Grek fired three times, hitting his mark each time.
The chief security officer stood slowly, stiffly, and walked to the four mounds on the deck, a grim expression on his porcine face.
"Grek?" Rhuska touched his shoulder, also staring at the stacks.
"I knew them all," the Tellarite said slowly. "Trained most of them. I knew their life expectancy was short, that the next mission I sent them on could be their last. But I never thought I would be the one that would be the cause of their death."
"Grek, you didn't kill them," Rhuska said softly.
"My finger pressed the firing stud." He glared at her.
"You are not responsible for their deaths, Grek. Only their demise," Rhuska persisted.
"I know." Grek looked at her, his head shaking sadly. "My head knows you are right, Rhuska. But my heart," he sighed and shook his head again, "my heart will take some convincing."
"As does mine," Rhuska whispered, resting her hand on his broad shoulder. "As does mine."
They shared a bleak look, then Grek shook himself. "Let's go. We have a ship to take back."
Christopher Pike studied his crew as they worked at their stations. If he didn't know better, he'd swear he was on the main bridge, on Alpha shift. They did their jobs as the ship made its way back to the planet from which they'd so recently come.
Suddenly Lieutenant Colt took a pistol and moved to stand by the door, her face grim.
"Lieutenant?" Pike asked her softly.
Gripping the weapon tightly, Colt responded just as softly. "Ghanil, outside. They're here to take control of Auxiliary Bridge."
"Here?" Tyler snorted. "How can you tell?"
"Because I can hear them," Colt all but snarled at him. "Now quiet. If I can hear them, they can hear us!"
"What are they doing?" Pike wanted to know as he took another pistol and took up a position beside her.
Colt managed to keep her emotions controlled. "They'll rush as soon as they enter the security override code, sir."
"Well, we knew they'd come here sooner or later." He looked at the rest of the crew that was crowded in the Auxiliary Bridge. "Posts, people."
Number One, Malus and Tavan picked up the other pistols and took positions on either side of the door. Parsis slid into Number One's spot.
The door slowly moved open as the override code was completed. A laser blast entered the room, and everyone dove for cover. They waited, holding their breath, for the next volley of fire.
There was the whining sound of pistol blasts, and the sound of Human screams filled the corridor outside the room. Then silence.
Then the door slowly whooshed open and figure came from the shadows to stand in the doorway, a rifle clasped in its hands, its feet wide-spread. It was joined by two other figures, also holding laser rifles, filling the doorway.
"Engineering and Auxiliary Bridge are secure, Captain," Grek said proudly, his small eyes blazing.
It seemed that of late all Akia did was pace to and fro, Sanchez noted to herself as she stood by the turbolift. No one else was watching her. All were busy, doing what they'd normally do on their watch.
Markson and Smith were still laboring at trying to regain control of the helm and return on their way to Makus IV. They were hoping for something, anything, to show her that they were worthy of her trust, her confidence, her faith, her love.
Suddenly Akia gasped and grabbed at her chest. She fell against Helm. Markson caught her as she toppled, stopping the Ghanil from falling to the floor. Sanchez appeared as if from nowhere and took her by the arm, guiding her back the captain's chair.
"Mistress?" she asked lowly.
"Dead," Akia said almost numbly. "All dead."
"You mean Lieutenant Commander Trask and the others?" Sanchez felt a wave of giddiness wash over her.
"Yes," Akia nodded.
Sanchez looked at Maleva Blasko, and saw the pained expression on her friend's face as the realization hit her that she was now the senior officer of Security. There were but twelve left of the Changed in Security, all young and for the most part, inexperienced. The rest of the Changed were from other sections of the ship. Their numbers were being cut down.
She felt Akia straighten her shoulders and move slightly in the chair. "Mistress?"
"We cannot afford to dally any longer," Akia said stonily. Turning to Jacobs, she commanded, "Summon all the children. We must attack them, subdue them and lock them away. Use them as the cattle they are. We will enjoy their blood as we travel to Ghanis. Once there, we may Change them. Or not."
"And the non-Humans?" Sanchez asked.
"Kill them unless they surrender," Akia decided. She still remembered the words of the arrogant Human who, it seemed, had escaped Varney. There were those that could be of use to her. For a time. "Call the children," she repeated firmly. "We act. Now."
Grek and Pike sat to one side planning battle strategies for getting to the rest of the Unchanged crew and securing those Changed.
"Think you can change 'em back, Phil?" Pike had asked his CMO as he looked over the list that Colt had given him.
"I have no idea," Boyce had admitted. "I couldn't even get a handle on the mutagen, let alone figure out how to reverse it. But," he added as he studied Colt's profile as she continued to work at her station, seeming not to be aware of what they were saying, "I'll do my best. The question is, what do we do to them? Try them for treason?"
"They have tried to take over my ship," Pike pointed out, barely able to control his temper.
"But how much of this is due to telepathic influence? Once it's gone, they might be the same officers we knew before. They may not even remember this whole thing. Or we might find out that they were trying to fight the influence, but didn't have enough strength to do so."
Pike sighed. As usual, Phil Boyce loved to make things more complicated.
"Sir," Colt interrupted them, "Akia's just summoned all the Changed. I think she's planning a final attack."
Grek picked up his rifle. "Then we have no time to waste," he grunted. "We must get to the ones who are not Changed and see that the Changed ones do not regain control of the ship. After I have my assault team, we will find the Ghanil and stop them."
"They'll probably meet in one of the cargo bays. Or the hangar deck."
"We used to meet there, when our numbers got to be too large to meet in Akia's quarters," Colt answered. "She'd tell us stories of her past, how it used to be, how she wanted it to be again. Make plans to go somewhere and start over."
"With your permission," Grek turned to Pike.
"Yes. And I'll be joining you," he added. "Number One, you have the conn. Joe, you were griping about being bored. Care to join us?"
"I will never, ever complain about a milk run again as long as I live," Tyler said as he stood and took a weapon from Tosk. "And you couldn't keep me away if you tried, sir."
The ten security officers looked nervously around as the other Ghanil-changed Humans joined them. Ensign Mickey Silbert, tousle-haired and looking almost too young to be a graduate of the Academy, was the senior officer of the security contingent. He was in charge. He'd never been in charge of anything before.
He'd been given his orders by Lieutenant Blasko and Ensign Sanchez. Both had made it quite clear failure was not an option. Everyone's survival demanded success.
He watched as the other security guards handed weapons to the other Ghanil that were there. At least, they all knew how to handle the laser pistols, he sighed. The problem was that some were better at it than others.
"Okay," he said. "Everyone in pairs. One security guard with one who isn't." He nodded as they paired off. It gave him ten teams, including the one he was in, to cover the ship, and secure everyone in their quarters. "Remember, we don't have time for niceties. Everyone who isn't Changed must be secured. And be on the lookout for rogue teams out. Good hunting," he concluded. "The Mistress is depending on us."
"Stand down, Ensign," came the voice of Christopher Pike from somewhere in the shadows.
"Take cover!" Silbert commanded as he dove under the skid of a shuttle.
The others followed suit. Silence loomed in the semi-dark hangar deck.
Pike continued, "I understand that you are under the influence of Ghanil telepathy. If you surrender now, I will see to it that no one is court-martialed. I'll see to it that you're given whatever it is you'll need."
"Including the blood we need for nourishment?" Doctor Racine asked from somewhere else in the bay.
"Yes," Pike agreed. "Including the blood."
"I think not," said another voice as an arc of light came from behind another shuttle and scored a hit on the bulkhead not far from where Pike was under cover.
"Then suffer the fate of your fellow Changed Ones!" roared Grek as he moved agilely from his hiding place to the open and scored a direct hit on the security officer who had fired on the captain.
Suddenly, the deck was ablaze with laser blasts arcing and ricocheting around, leaving black scorch marks on the bulkhead and decks as well as the shuttles on the deck. The whine of the lasers was occasionally punctuated by screams, some from the Ghanil which was suddenly cut off as their bodies were reduced to ash, some from the assault team under the command of Pike.
Then there was silence. Complete silence.
Silbert looked out from his place of cover and felt himself get ill. The deck was full of black soot. All that remained of his comrades. He knew he was alone. He alone survived.
A noise caught his attention. Captain Pike and Commander Grek coming into the open, moving cautiously, not sure if they had managed to neutralize all of the Ghanil, checking the deck for survivors.
Silbert waited patiently as Pike and the others moved cautiously through the deck. And then what? What if they found him? Would they capture him? Or just create another pile of soot and ash? Silbert felt his jaw tighten. He would not go out with a whimper, but with a roar.
As Pike walked passed the shuttle, Silbert rolled out and came up to his knees, taking aim at Pike's back. As he pressed the firing stud, he felt a searing, agonizing flame engulf his back. His body jerked, his arm was flung out. The blast from the laser scored a hit on another person in the bay, not direct, not deadly, but a hit nonetheless. Only Silbert never knew it.
The captain whirled and looked at the latest mound on the deck floor, then at the stony face of José Tyler. "Thanks, Joe," Pike finally said.
"No problem, Cap," Tyler responded.
Pike walked over to a communications panel and activated it. "Pike to Number One," he said, wearily. "Hangar deck secured. Tell Phil we have a few casualties for him to take care of." Before anyone could respond, he cut the panel and looked at his crew. "Next stop, the bridge."
Akia was sitting in the chair, her fingers drumming nervously on the armrest. The others were no longer attempting to do anything. They couldn't. The bridge was nothing more than a meeting room at this point. Until her children forced the vermin from the auxiliary bridge and returned control to this bridge that was all it could be.
The pain gripped her chest, squeezing tightly, forcing a scream of anguish from her lips as she doubled over in agony. The entire bridge crew surrounded her, supporting her, stopping her from toppling from the chair.
"Gone," she whispered weakly. "All gone."
Blasko looked around at the crew, pressing her lips together. "We are all that is left," she told them.
"What are we going to do?" Cloris Brown wailed.
"We are going to do whatever we have to do to survive," Blasko glared at her. Looking up at Jonson and Smith she indicated Akia, whimpering softly, hugging herself. "Help the Mistress. Get her somewhere safe."
"Where?" Smith demanded.
"Anywhere!" Blasko yelled at him. "Anywhere!" She closed her eyes and took a breath, calming herself. She was the senior officer here, second only to Akia herself. She could not indulge in a tirade. "The captain and his people will be coming here to take back control of the ship. We can't let him take the Mistress prisoner."
"We can wait here and overpower them," Sanchez looked over Blasko.
"And what of their weapons?" Blasko leveled a gaze at the junior security officer. "That would be foolish. We retreat, for now. We survive. We help the Mistress survive. And we regroup."
"So where do we go?" Smith demanded.
"Go to the hangar deck," Blasko said after a moment. "Take a shuttle. Head for Makus Four. It will take years instead of weeks, but you'll make it." She took a breath. "I'll stay here, make sure you get off all right. I'll take another shuttle and join you."
"Maleva," Sanchez stared at her bleakly. "What makes you think you can survive without backup?"
Blasko smiled at Sanchez. "They'll be looking for a bridge full of Ghanil, not one person sneaking around the ship. I'll stay out of sight. I'll be fine. Now go. Guard yourselves."
"And you, sister," Sanchez squeezed her hands, then took her laser pistol from her belt and led the way off the bridge.
Maleva Blasko watched them leave then looked around the bridge, sighing deeply. She knew Sanchez would see that the Mistress made it off the ship safely.
And she would take care of the ones who had devastated the Mistress.
Number One led the others from the Auxiliary Bridge to the turbolift. Boyce had already returned from Sickbay, leaving the injured from the clash in the shuttle hangar deck in the hands of his remaining nurses and med techs. They required rest right now, and very little else.
Pike, with Grek and a contingent of security officers joined them. Number One saw the grimness in Pike's hazel eyes, in the set of his jaw. He'd had to order the deaths of crewmembers. Not order them on a mission that could lead to their deaths, but their deaths.
Still holding the pistol in his hand, he looked at them. "Ready?" he asked, his tones clipped.
"Ready," Colt answered for them.
Number One watched as the contingent got on the turbolift. She'd let the others get on first, deciding to the be last one in the car. Then she felt a tingling, a sensation. And she knew she could not go with the captain. Not this time.
This situation was her doing, she told herself. She had been the one who had insisted that Pike answer the call for help. It had been at her urging that they beam down to the planet even when their sensors found nothing. She had been the one who had brought the woman to the ship, allowing her to roam free. To Change the crew.
So now it was up to her to handle the situation.
The door closed, but they didn't seem to notice that she had remained behind.
Number One sighed heavily as she looked at the pistol in her hand, studying it. She hoped it wouldn't come to that. But if it did
She walked briskly down the corridor, back toward the hangar deck.
Sanchez stopped the group just short of the hangar deck. Akia walked between Smith and Jonson, still numb, seemingly unaware of what was going on. Markson, Brown and the others hovered around her, worried.
They had every right to be worried. From a grand total of sixty to seven. Six, she corrected herself, then angrily corrected herself again. Seven. Maleva would make it out. Would join them in their long trek to Makus IV.
"Stay here," Sanchez told the others. "Guard the Mistress. I'm going to check out the deck. Make sure there's no surprises."
"Be careful," Markson whispered, white-lipped. "We can't afford any more losses."
"I know," Sanchez nodded as grimly. "I know."
She walked cautiously into the deck, crouching low, making herself as small a target as possible. As she walked, she used all her senses to check the deck out. She heard nothing on the deck. Not a whisper. Not a breath.
Sanchez let herself relax. A little.
No one was there to impede her.
Sanchez walked to the shuttle that was first in the line. It was ready for launching. She smiled for the first time in many hours.
Returning to the group, Sanchez nodded. "It's clear. We can leave."
"First, we have to preflight it," Smith countered, standing up. Akia stayed seated on the deck. "And make sure we have enough fuel to get to Makus Four."
"Well, how long will that take?" Sanchez demanded kneeling beside the Ghanil.
"About fifteen minutes," Smith calculated. "Faster if I have help."
"We all know how to flight check a shuttle," Markson suggested. "We could speed up the process if we all helped."
"Good," Sanchez nodded. "I'll stay here with Mistress."
Smith sat in the pilot seat and ran down the list with Markson in the copilot seat. Behind him, Cloris Brown and Carla Morris moved supplies into the shuttle: items that would make their long journey bearable and Michael Jonson checked the engines.
Finally, Smith looked at the group. "Ready."
Sanchez heard the quiet footfalls before she saw the person. Not Maleva. Gripping Akia firmly, she helped the woman to her feet. "Come, Mistress," she said in hushed tones.
"Child?" Akia looked at her, as if finally waking up.
"We have to hide." Sanchez said. "Come."
"The others?" she frowned, looking around her. "Where are the others?"
"Checking the shuttle out," Sanchez tightened her grip on the Ghanil and started to propel away from the hangar deck. "They're fine, but we're in the open, vulnerable."
Akia frowned, then nodded. "Right," she agreed. "Lead on."
Number One stood outside the shuttle and watched as the remaining Ghanil readied the shuttle. She could allow them to leave, she reflected. They would be confined to the shuttle for years before they reached Makus IV. And another starship could intercept them before they reached the planet.
Michael Jonson stepped out of the shuttle and nearly collided with the first officer. He grabbed her and stared at her, stunned. Then his eyes narrowed. There was one thing missing on the shuttle: nourishment. His mouth opened slightly, his tongue licking his lips hungrily. Here was nourishment.
They grappled briefly. Jonson slammed her against the shuttle, stunning her. Number One's fingers found her laser pistol and without a conscious thought, she brought the weapon up and fired it as he launched himself at her.
Their scuffle alerted the others in the shuttle, and Number One found herself surrounded by the rest of the Ghanil. She didn't hesitate; she pressed the firing stud again.
When she released the stud, she stared down at the piles at her feet.
They were all gone, she sighed. Then she raised her head.
The group exited the turbolift to an empty bridge. Colt stood in the doorway, looking around, listening. Then she moved out of the way, taking her position at communications.
Pike moved to his chair in the center of the bridge. "I want the ship scanned. Find them. Make sure they can't get off the ship."
"Aye, sir," Scott moved to his station as Spock made his way to the science station.
Suddenly a blur launched itself at Pike's back, and another blur dove between Pike and the first blur as Colt slammed into the form, bringing them both to the deck. The two forms rolled on the floor, each grabbing for the other's throat and attempting to scratch at each others eyes.
Pike leaped from his chair while Grek and his security officers tried to break up the fight. They stepped back when the powerful fists connected soundly with their bodies. Tosk brought up his rifle and aimed at the two females.
"No!" Pike ordered. "You might hit Colt."
Grudgingly, he lowered the weapon, but kept it ready. If Colt moved just enough, he'd get his chance, and he'd take out the other one.
A whine of the laser, slightly muffled by the two bodies, sounded, then the two separated. Colt stared in shock at Maleva Blasko who stared back at the communications officer.
"Lieutenant?" Pike asked, a touch of fear in his voice.
The two still stared at each other.
"Colt?" Pike's voice persisted.
Both females wavered, then Colt fell back, groaning, clutching her ribs as Maleva Blasko turned to ash.
Hangar Deck Storage Locker
Akia seemed to be recovering, finally. Morisa Sanchez felt some of the tenseness leave her body. The Mistress was well. All would be well.
Then she gasped and crushed Sanchez's hand in her own as her eyes squeezed tight. When Akia opened her eyes, she stared desolately at Sanchez.
"No!" Sanchez cried jumping to her feet. "No!"
"We are alone, child," Akia said dully. "The others are gone."
"All gone?" Sanchez fell back into the chair by Akia, her eyes welling with tears.
"We are alone," Akia repeated.
"We have to leave here," Sanchez choked back her tears. "Now."
"I agree," Akia nodded.
"They were pre-flighting a shuttle," Sanchez went on. "It's still there. And ready. I'm not a great pilot, Mistress," she went on, "but I will do what I can. We will reach Makus Four."
"Very well," Akia smiled at Sanchez, placing a gentle hand on the girl's cheek. "Let's be off." There was another grimace, then Akia looked into Sanchez's eyes. "Now."
"Very well," Sanchez bowed her head in obeisance. "We will leave. I will check the way first. Make sure no one is waiting for us in the corridor or the deck. Or the shuttle."
"I will await your return," Akia smiled at the Latino as Sanchez left the room.
Boyce reached the communications office first, moving his scanner over her. Then he stopped and let the scanner drop to his side. Pike was kneeling on the deck on the other side of the young woman, trying hard to conceal the fear he felt when he saw the scorch mark on her tunic and the skin beneath it. "All you all right?"
Colt looked up into his hazel eyes, and saw the concern and fear in them. She smiled up at him, suppressing the pain in her side. "I'm fine, sir," she whispered.
"I'm guessing," Boyce said from the other side as he helped her to her feet, "that a transfusion will take care of you."
"Yes," Colt nodded. "And a little rest."
"Good," Boyce nodded. He chuckled as he placed an arm around her and let her lean against him for support as they went to the turbolift. "You know, I'm going to have to write a whole new medical protocol for you. The medical profession is going to have a field day when they read it."
The door opened before they reached the sensor, and a streak of light hit J. M. Colt squarely in the chest. Colt gasped in pain, looking at Boyce with utmost horror before she disappeared, leaving only dark ash at the doctor's feet.
Another laser blast came from the turbolift sending the rest of the bridge crew for cover. "Traitor!" came the wild scream from the wild-eyed woman in the car as she continued to press the firing stud, aiming recklessly as if she didn't care if she scored a direct hit or not. "You betrayed the Mistress!"
Then she stepped out of the turbolift and Sanchez moved toward Pike. "It's all your fault," Sanchez continued to rant. "Your fault! You've destroyed everything! Everything!"
She raised the laser and pointed at Pike's face. "And now I'm going to destroy you!"
There was the sound of a laser firing, but Pike felt nothing. Instead, the crazed woman crumpled into cinders on the deck. The laser dropped to the deck, landing in the center of the pile.
"Not on my watch," Grek said stonily as he stared down at the mound on the deck. "Not on my watch."
Akia stared around the hangar deck. She was disheveled, her eyes red-rimmed, her fangs showing from beneath her lips. She no longer looked like the regal woman she was. She had felt the final twinge that told her she was truly alone.
She forced her mind to concentrate on the task at hand. She had to escape, to flee. For now. Vengeance would have to wait.
They'd said they were checking on a shuttle before taking off. She grasped a hatch handle of the nearest one. Even with her strength, she could not open it. Akia moved to the next one. And the next.
Then one opened. Akia rushed in and secured the hatch behind her, looking around. This was the one they'd prepared for her. She smiled at the panel as she slid into the pilot seat.
"This is child's play," she grinned. "You may think you are so advanced, but this is but a toy to my race, one like those with which our children played."
Akia moved the levers and was rewarded with the slow forward movement of the shuttle toward the hangar deck door. Her smile widened as the doors opened, and the shuttle leaped free of the ship.
"I will never be exiled again," Akia breathed as the shuttle soared toward the distant star. "I didn't let Belan do it. I won't let you. I will go to Ghanis. There I will make a new family. One more powerful than this. And then I will find you and mete out justice."
"No," said the calm voice from behind her.
Everyone stared at the ashes that once had been Jeanne Marie Colt, then silently moved to their stations. Christopher Pike seemed to be staring harder than anyone else, longer than anyone else, a pained, sad expression on his face.
"Number One, get me some crew up here," he ordered, still staring at the remains of the young communications officer.
"Number One?" he repeated and turned to look around the bridge. He saw Tyler at his post, Parsis at the helm, Scott at Engineering, Spock at Science. Meeting each person's gaze, he demanded, "Where the hell is Number One?"
Number One slid into the seat next to Akia. "No. You won't." Her hands moved over the control and felt the ship move in a circle then straighten out and continue on the course that she had laid in. She felt the Ghanil tense as she recognized the star of Alpha Indii. "I won't let you change any more people, destroy their lives."
"My friend, you don't understand," Akia pleaded. "I don't destroy their lives. I make their lives better."
"Better?" Number One spared her a brief glance, and the Ghanil could see the disbelief in the dark eyes.
"I give them immortality," Akia explained.
"At what cost?" Number One demanded.
Leaning back, Akia snorted, "You sound like Belan and those other weaklings on the tribunal."
"So weak they were able to imprison you inside a mountain," Number One countered. "Imprisoned for how long?" She looked at the Ghanil, her eyes registering absolutely nothing. "Months? Years?" An eyebrow raised up slightly. "Centuries?"
Akia leaned toward the woman and let her lip curl in a snarl, exposing her sharp fangs. "Millennia!" she spat out. "Millennia! I could feel time move on without me." Boring holes into the first officer, Akia went on, "They enclosed me in a small cave. I could neither sit nor lie nor fully stand. All I could do is take one step in any direction. But there was nowhere I could go. And I was denied nourishment. And rest. And comfort. I was denied life!"
"As you denied the lives of others," Number One responded emotionlessly.
"Bah!" Akia sneered. "They were weak! I was strong! Is that not the law of survival? The weak provide sustenance for the strong."
"Only if one is an animal," Number One agreed levelly.
Akia leaned back and shuttered her eyes, slowly letting her mental tendrils slowly seek out her friend's mind. She felt barriers again.
"I will not be imprisoned on that planet again, my friend," Akia tried a different tactic.
Number One shook her head, smiling sadly. "No, you won't. I couldn't do that to any living thing."
"Then turn the craft around," she suggested, again seeking the passage to her friend's mind. "Turn back to Makus Four. Let me live there. It is the lesser of the two planets. You could quarantine it, as your captain did to Alpha Indi Four. You could leave in the shuttle. With no shuttle, I won't be able to leave the planet."
"I can't do that either," Number One shook her head again. "You see, the planet might be quarantined, but that won't stop some from landing on the planet. And I can't risk you ever being free in the universe again."
Akia stared in terror at the first officer. She was not able to enter the woman's mind. She could not influence her. "Then what--?"
Number One tapped the controls again, adjusting the shuttle's course. "I will end this, Akia. Here. Now."
Akia stared out the shuttle window, and her eyes widened in terror as the primary star of the system grew larger. "Nooo!"
Pike stared at the viewscreen, watching as the shuttle raced for the sun.
"What the hell was she thinking?" Pike fumed.
"Perhaps she was attempting to stop the woman from escaping," Spock suggested.
"Can we tractor it back to the hangar?" he asked his engineer.
"No, sir," the Scotsman shook his head. "Tractor beam is off-line. An' I'm on it," he added as he worked on his board. "Och, there's the problem. Ah'll have t' fix it in Main Engineering."
"Increase speed to Time Warp: Factor Eight," Pike turned to Tyler. "I want to overtake that shuttle."
"Sir," Spock's steady tones came from behind him, "we are approaching the primary. If we do not drop to impulse speed in seven point five seconds, we will start a cascading effect on the primary."
Pike whipped around in his chair and stared at the Vulcan. His hand curled into a fist. "Joe, take us to impulse. Flank speed, though. Overtake that shuttle."
"Aye, sir." Tyler and Parsis worked in tandem guiding the ship through the system after the smaller vessel.
"Sir," Spock broke the silence again, "there is something most peculiar about the shuttle's trajectory."
"What do you mean?" Pike demanded.
"It is not headed toward Alpha Indi Four."
"It's not?" Pike turned back to look at Spock.
"No, sir," Spock shook his head.
"Then where is it headed?"
"Straight for the primary."
"You are mad!" Akia screamed as her hand hit a control, sending the shuttle swerving from the course set in by Number One. "Mad!"
As Number One set about to readjust the course, Akia snarled and let her arm swing and connect with the woman's head, sending her flying against the bulkhead. Number One shook her head as her hand reached for the converted laser pistol on her belt. Another sharp blow numbed her fingers, sending the weapons sliding away from her on the deck, under the chairs.
"I am not a weak, helpless woman," Akia growled in anger. "And I am not one of my children which you and your kind so cruelly butchered. I am Ghanil. I was one of the First to be Changed. And I am more powerful than you will ever imagine."
Number One launched herself at the woman, tackling her at the knees, forcing her against the other bulkhead. Akia snarled, pulling the woman's head back by her hair and striking it with her fist, sending the woman reeling back against the bulkhead.
"I offered my friendship," Akia continued ranting, her eyes red-rimmed, her fangs prominent. "My trust. My love. I would have made you my captain. My sister, not my child, ruling at my side as we roamed the galaxy. And what did you do? You betrayed my friendship. My trust. My love."
Number One attempted to get up and stopped as her head began to spin and her legs failed her. She could not survive many more such blows, she knew. "You betrayed our friendship and our trust," she answered the woman, ignoring the Ghanil's personalizations. "We would have taken you anywhere you wished to go."
"And then what?" Akia advanced on her. "Force me to beg for my meals? Hope that the locals would permit me to feed from their blood?"
"Akia," Number One stared at the woman, her friend, bleakly, "this is not the universe you remember. We would have found a way to nourish you without endangering anyone."
"And I should be grateful for that?" Akia's breath was hot on Number One's neck. "To be given a soupçon of blood instead of enjoying a feast?" Her body was over Number One's, her long fangs centimeters away from the woman's neck. "Never! When I drink, I drink deeply!"
Suddenly, Number One's legs were between the two bodies, propelling the Ghanil away from her, across the shuttle. Akia landed heavily on the control panel. Number One scrambled down the small aisle, toward the pistol.
Her fingers closed on the handle as strong, talon-like fingers dug into her shoulder, pulling her back toward Akia. The Ghanil turned her around and pulled Number One toward her in a parody of an embrace, her mouth wide open, the fangs seeking her throat.
Number One felt the firing stud under her finger and pressed it.
The vice grip loosened, and Number One stepped back as Akia stared at her in shock and horror. And fear. Akia lifted a beseeching hand toward her.
"I would have given you the universe, my friend," Akia whispered. "Power, strength, and the position you deserve. And you would have had my friendship, my love for eternity."
Her knees buckled. Her body fell to the floor at Number One's feet and turned to ashes.
Number One stared down at the remains, feeling the stinging of tears behind her eyes. Slowly, painfully, she knelt beside the mound, touching it softly, tenderly with her fingers. "And I might have accepted it all, my friend, if the price had not been so high."
The signal from the comm panel aroused her some time later. She got to her feet, an even more painful process than getting down had been, and stepped over the cinders to slide into the copilot's seat.
"Enterprise to Shuttlecraft Agamemnon," the voice of Myrsh Taylor repeated. "Come in, Agamemnon."
"Agamemnon, aye," she answered.
"Number One!" Pike's voice exclaimed. "You're there? And you're all right?"
"Obviously," Number One let her eyebrow arc and her tone become superior.
"Reverse your course now." Pike's tone was urgent. "You're heading into the sun's gravitational well."
Number One looked at the course and frowned. She'd laid in a course that would have had the shuttle orbiting the star beyond the well, hoping that the ultraviolet radiation in the outer flares would be enough to kill Akia. The course had been changed during their altercation.
"Understood, Enterprise," she said as her hands flew over the panel. "Reversing course, now."
She looked up. The sun, instead of moving from her view screen continued to loom large in front of her. The frown deepened on her face as she repeated the course entry. Again nothing.
"Number One, reverse your thrusters," Pike ordered urgently. "Now!"
"I am attempting to do so, Enterprise."
She kept her voice calm as her fingers continue to race over the panel, entering commands that were not obeyed. She looked up at the view screen, seeing the sun blazing in front of her. Her eyes dipped, and from the periphery of her field of vision, she saw the panel in front of the pilot seat.
The panel was caved in, buttons and levers bent and twisted. She felt a strange, unfamiliar knot in her stomach.
"Enterprise, my control panel has received damage. I am unable to manually reverse thrusters or to change course," she reported. "I have cut my engines. Please use your tractor beam to bring me back on board."
Pike stood between Parsis and Tyler, his hands balled into fists at his side. "Understood, Number One," he acknowledged. He looked at the two of them.
"Shuttle engines are off," Tyler reported. "But tractors are still off-line."
"Bridge to Engineering." Pike's voice was hard. "What's going on with the tractors?"
"I've found the problem sair," Scott's voice said. "It'll take me a few minutes t' bypass this circuit an' get them back on line."
"Mister Scott," Pike said tightly. "Number One doesn't have a few minutes."
"Try them now," Scott suddenly commanded.
Pike looked at Tyler. "Tractor engaged."
Every eye stared at the view screen, watching for the small ship to slowly reverse its path and return to the hangar. Instead, the vessel seemed to increase its speed away from the starship.
Number One's voice filtered through the subspace filters, crackling from the interference from the star. "I would suggest you engage the tractor beam immediately."
"We're trying, Number One," Pike said, fighting to keep the panic from his voice.
"The electromagnetic field from the sun is neutralizing the tractor beam," Spock reported. He moved to the engineering panel to adjust the beam's magnitude and power.
"I have confidence in Mister Scott's ability to overcome the difficulty before it is too late," she said dryly.
Pike looked at the young Vulcan. "Mister Scott and I are already on it, sir. Increasing power to the tractor beam ."
Tyler's hands moved over the board, his head shaking side to side minutely. "She's pretty damned close to the corona," he stated.
"Now!" Scott's voice roared over the comm. Tyler engaged the tractor beam and stared at the view screen.
The ship continued to spiral into the yellow-white gaseous ball, its speed continuing to increase. The outer hull glowed a dull cherry red.
Pike was standing behind Spock, reading the monitors on the tractor beam, noting the problem. "Switch all power except life support to the tractor beam."
"Increasing power," Spock reported.
Pike looked back toward the viewscreen. His hands continued to ball into fists at his side. His breath became rapid and shallow as he saw the tiny vessel glow a brighter red. He moved back to his chair, grabbing the back tightly, just to give his hands something to do.
"Give it everything, Mister Spock," he commanded as moved to stand in front of his chair again. "Every last drop."
"Tractor beam at full power," Spock reported. In the background there was a Gaelic shout in agreement.
"Now!" Pike ordered Tyler.
Suddenly, there was a flash on the screen. Not large. Not blinding. But a flash. Then there was nothing but the steady yellow-white ball of the star Alpha Indii.
Silence filled the bridge. No one moved. No one could move. It was as if the universe had stopped.
Then Christopher Pike sank down into his chair. But no one else moved. Or could move.
Finally, Pike pulled his gaze away from the view screen to look around him. Everyone was studying him, stunned anguish on their faces. He was surprised to find his face damp. He looked down at his hands and found them still clenched tightly, his nails biting into the palms.
It hurt to breathe. It hurt not to breathe.
Then, "Reverse full impulse, Mister Tyler, and get us the hell out of here."
Captain Christopher Pike
Pike tapped the comm panel. "Sir, you asked to be notified when we were twelve hours from Earth," the quiet voice of Myrsh Taylor reported.
"Thank you, Ensign," he responded as he cut off the communications.
His attention returned to the small compuclipboard in front of him as he scrolled through the names yet again. Sixty-one names.
Sixty-one names leading to sixty-one letters to sixty-one families. The last two had been the most difficult to write. The letters to the families of J. M. Colt and Number One.
He leaned back in his chair and let his gaze wander to Ariel's smiling face. She'd be upset about this news as well. Ariel Cord was one of those rare women that could make anyone like her. Even those who were potential rivals.
"J.M. Colt thought I didn't know, Ariel," Pike murmured. "But I did. I just knew I wasn't the right guy for her."
He let his mind wander some more, remembering better times on the bridge with Number One at the helm and Colt at communications.
An enigma to the end. He'd known her name. Or thought he did. Only to find out, it was only a part of her full name. But she would forever be Number One to him. No one else would ever be Number One to him. Ever.
His eyes moved toward the porthole, spying Earth. Home.
His door opened and closed behind him. Doctor Boyce walked in, and set a small bag on the edge of his work table. Pike scowled as he watched the man work on opening the bag. He didn't want company. He wanted the solitude.
"I don't remember calling for you, Doctor," he said gruffly.
Boyce looked up briefly, then returned to what he was doing. "You didn't. But I don't mind making house calls. Especially," he added pointedly, "when my patients don't keep their appointments."
Pike closed his eyes and groaned. He'd forgotten. Again. He was still getting several vitamin supplements to help build up his blood count. But the letters had been weighing heavily on his mind, and he couldn't put them off any longer.
"I wanted to make sure that you were okay," Boyce added. "Make sure there was nothing wrong."
Pike snorted. "There's absolutely nothing wrong, Doctor."
"You let your doctor be the judge of that," Boyce countered. "In case you've forgotten, I had to transfuse you less than a week ago."
Pike let a grimace cross his face as he tried to blot out memories. "I'd rather not be reminded of that."
"However," Boyce said cheerily, "I am not here in the capacity as your CMO." He placed a tall glass full of a clear liquid in front the captain. "After writing all those damned letters, I figured you needed the services of your friendly neighborhood bartender."
Pike looked at the glass, then up at Boyce. Taking the glass, he sampled the drink. Nodding his approval, he sighed. "You won't get an argument from me on that, Phil."
He leaned back in the chair, letting his head drop back to study the ceiling as Boyce finished mixing his drink and settled himself in the only chair in the room.
"You know, Phil," Pike finally said, "I've written all those letters to all those families, and I still don't have a good answer. Why, Phil? Why my crew? Why these crewmembers?"
Boyce sampled his drink, then set the glass on the table and folded his hands, studying them intently. "Chris, I'm a doctor and a bartender. I suppose being a philosopher is a part of both of those professions. So I ask you, why not?" he looked up at Chris. "We just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Pike set his glass down hard and glared at the doctor. "Right place? Right time?"
Boyce rubbed his jaw, then picked up his glass and studied the reflected light on the surface. "Chris, I doubt if any other ship's crew could have done any better than this one did. Who knows? Perhaps another ship would have been taken over, the crew killed or Changed. Perhaps a fledgling colony would have been at the mercy of Akia's blood lust. But this crew stopped her."
"But at what cost?" Pike argued.
"Who can say if the cost was too high or just right?" Boyce looked over at the stricken man.
"Damn it, Phil," Pike exploded. "Sixty-one lives. Sixty-one! A good sized chunk of my crew is dead because of her blood lust." He took a large swallow of the liquor and let it burn going down.
Boyce savored another swallow of his drink. "And the universe is safe from a creature who would have turned it to her bidding. They'll never know it; their families will never know it. But I know it. The rest of the crew knows it. You know it."
Pike sighed sadly, staring out the port as the blue-green orb began to grow larger. "Well, when you put it that way Still, I wonder ."
"What?" Boyce asked. "What it would have been like to be immortal? To drink deeply from another?"
Christopher Pike looked over at Phil Boyce and set his glass, now empty, between them. "No. What it will take to get the bartender to shut up long enough to serve another round."
Boyce smiled and took the glass from his long-time friend. As he mixed a second drink for the man he said, "All you have to do is ask, Chris. Here. Drink deeply."
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