After dictating his latest medical log entry, Leonard McCoy wandered over to the bed where Ensign Pavel Chekov was lying down. The doctor passed the medical sensor over the navigator's head, nodding to himself. "Brain waves have returned back to normal. Good!"
"Vwhat's going on? I barely remember anything about the past several days." The sound of worry was obvious in the young Russian's thickly accented voice.
The doctor smiled at the ensign. "An alien has been affecting your mind the last few days."
"An alien?" Apprehension crept into the ensign's voice.
"But it's gone now, and you're back to normal, son. You're free to leave Sickbay whenever you're ready. I'll inform Captain Kirk that you can resume normal duties tomorrow."
"I'm not so sure I'm ready. I can't remember anything!"
"That's okay, Chekov. You've had some trauma. But I don't want you worrying about it. Your memories may even return." He tabbed the computer. "Come back and see me in forty-eight hours for a follow-up. Until then, you're free to go."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Pavel Chekov left Sickbay and returned to his quarters. He welcomed the chance to relax, away from the scrutiny of the sickbay personnel. One orderly had even teased him about how Captain Kirk had carried him to Sickbay as though he were a child.
He settled down into a chair and reflected on recent events, trying to reconstruct the memories of what had happened. His jumbled thoughts were interrupted when the chime of his quarter's annunciator rang, indicating a visitor at his door.
Chekov beckoned, "Come in."
The door to his quarters whooshed open, revealing the voluptuous blond-haired figure of Ensign Angela "Angel Face" Moretti. "Do you feel better, Pav?" Moretti looked at her friend, a concerned expression evident on her face.
"I think so. But it makes me nervous that I can't remember much about the last few days. I feel as though I've lost a part of myself."
Moretti laughed. "I can't tell you about anything that happened on the upper decks because I was trapped by the emergency bulkheads, along with most of the crew. I basically missed out on all the action."
"Which meant only a handful of us were left to fight the Klingons, including me. But I have no real recollection of what went on."
"I wouldn't worry about it, Pavel." She took him in her arms. "Let's try to make some new memories."
The next day, after Chekov's shift was over, Moretti came to visit him in his quarters.
"How was your first day back on duty, Pav?"
"Wvery difficult. I did find out more about vwhat happened during the last few days. It sounds like I totally lost control. Everyone is vwondering vwhat sort of bizarre behavior I'll exhibit next."
"It's not your fault. From what I hear, that alien had affected everyone's minds, not just yours. Even the captain fell under its spell, from what I heard."
"I seem to have gotten the worst of it. I wonder if I'm losing my sanity."
"Why do you think that?"
"It seems that when this entity came on the Enterprise, it affected me worse than anyone else. From everything I've heard, I was trying to get revenge against the Klingons for killing my brother."
"You don't have a brother, do you?"
"Exactly! For some reason, I made up a brother named Piotr and claimed the Klingons killed him."
"You have an uncle named Piotr."
"Maybe this thing just confused you, twisted your recollections..."
"Perhaps. But did you know I left my post and tried to rape the wife of the Klingon commander?"
"Pav, that was not you. It was the alien. And I've heard some pretty wild stories about what some other crewmembers did also. Johnson from Security got stabbed, and once he recovered, left Sickbay to fight the Klingons again. It sounds like the only person here playing with a full deck was Commander Spock."
"Spock is a Vulcan with almost perfect emotional control," Chekov pointed out.
"Yet even he almost got into a fight with Scott, from what's going around the ship."
"Nobody else hallucinated about non-existent siblings or tried to rape a Klingon! Only me! The worst part of it is that I don't remember any of it. Everyone keeps making remarks about stuff I've done. It's as if they're wondering what that Crazy Cossack Chekov' will do next."
Moretti placed a hand on her friend's shoulder, trying to reassure him. "I'm not sure I would have acted any better than you if I had been on that landing party. I'm not exactly a big fan of the Klingons either."
"It's not just our experience with that creature that has me worried. Remember when we encountered the Tholians about three weeks ago? I was the first one who went insane on that mission as well."
"You weren't the only one affected. The whole crew was. It just happened that you went aboard the Defiant and was exposed first."
"But no one else on that landing party acted like me. I can't help but wonder why I am more affected by the stuff we encounter in space than anyone else?"
"Possibly because you're usually younger than everyone else involved in these situations you're the youngest on bridge duty and the youngest on most landing parties. The other day I was reading an article about the fact that the brain is still maturing until the age of twenty-five. Your youth makes your brain more flexible. On the other hand, it makes you us more vulnerable to takeovers by alien entities. But it also saved your life on Gamma Hydrae Four, remember?"
"You mean I just have to hang in there until I'm twenty-five?" Chekov laughed a little.
"I'm sure it will help. Greater maturity and more experience."
"Now let's go get some dinner. I'm starved."
Moretti considered her friend's current predicament. As a fellow junior officer, she was not in a position of power. Yet, as a security officer with a sub-specialty of astrophysics and currently assigned to Sciences, conducting an investigation on recently encountered phenomena fit within the scope of her duties.
When Moretti reported to duty at the astrophysics laboratory, she approached Science Officer Spock. "Commander, I have noticed that some of the recent events on this ship have affected our crew emotionally."
The Vulcan, who had oversight over all scientific investigations, agreed. "Indeed. Emotional reactions of this ship's crew have been more extreme than normal since our mission to Beta Twelve-A. While Humans are an emotional species, the recent behaviors I have observed are outside their normal parameters."
"I also think our encounter with the zone of interphase may be a contributing factor."
"Indeed. That is quite logical, Miss Moretti. As the fabric of space destabilized near Tholian territory, so did the mental stability of many of our crew. The Defiant had encountered the same phenomenon, which ultimately resulted in the deaths of that ship's entire crew. It was most fortuitous that our medical staff realized the magnitude of the problem and was able to reverse the effects before any fatalities occurred on our vessel."
"Commander, given my knowledge of the physical sciences, I would like to research both events, determine the commonalities between them and prepare a report for Starfleet. The landing parties for both missions have gathered a copious amount of information, including the ship's logs and the medical logs from the Defiant."
"Logical, Ensign. Quite logical. I approve of your suggestion and your project. Please commence work on it immediately."
"Aye, sir," agreed Moretti, obviously eager for the assignment.
An hour later, Moretti arrived in Science Lab 2. She loaded a data chit into the computer and commanded, "Play back file, Beta Seven Gamma Four."
A whirr sounded, which was followed by the holovid footage being projected onto a viewscreen. It showed Captain Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Chekov beaming down to the planet, encountering the Klingons, and the ensuing arguments. Upon seeing Chekov lunging at the Klingon in anger, Moretti ordered the computer, "Freeze image!" This was followed by a second command. "Superimpose K-Three energy on image."
At that point, the image was overlaid with disjointed yellow clouds, with the strongest cloud above Ensign Chekov.
Moretti's next command was "Continue playback, showing K-Three energy and levels."
The recording continued, updating the energy levels as events folded. The cloud above Chekov grew larger and moved towards the Klingons as the members of the landing party continued to express anger towards each other. Below the image was a readout of each crewmember's K-3 level.
"Look at how much stronger this entity became by the time everyone returned to the Enterprise," Moretti remarked to herself as she jotted down her notes. "Amazing!"
The young officer continued to view tricorder readings and log entries from the previous mission. After finishing her review, Moretti thought to herself, "I can certainly see why Pavel is so embarrassed by recent events. But it's not his fault. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Moretti took a turbolift to the engine room where she planned to interview the Enterprise's chief engineer.
"A pleasure to see you, lass." Scott beamed at her.
"It's a pleasure to see you also, Mister Scott," Moretti greeted him in return. "I wanted to talk to you about the events of our last mission."
The Scot smiled. "The only regret I have about things being back to normal is losing the beautiful sword that I had. It was an antique, basket-hilted claymore. I would have loved to have kept it with my dress uniform."
Moretti's eyes brightened. "So the stories of sword fighting were true?"
Scott nodded. "Aye."
"Sulu told me that your sword was a really cutlass and not a claymore."
"He was mistaken. That was Captain Kirk's sword. Granted, my sword was the basket-hilted claymore rather than the earlier and more famous two-handed claymore. But t'was a claymore!" The Scot sounded insistent.
"Okay," Moretti conceded the point.
The engineer's tone of voice became sadder. "That was an extremely frustrating time. I felt like the ship was out of my control. The entity had caused it to head for the edge of the galaxy at Warp Nine, and I couldna do anything to stop it." The engineer frowned as he paused. He hesitated before continuing. "And I was out of control also. I was angry with the Klingons. I swore that I should have left them in the transporter buffer and not have rematerialized them. Spock tried to calm me down, and I nearly came to blows with him. I found myself insulting him and his race. Ye canna imagine t'what it was like; I've known Spock for longer than just about anyone, and it hurts me t'imagine th' pain I must've caused."
Moretti stared at him in shock. "Oh my word!" She calmed down before continuing. "Chekov obviously was not the only one behaving irrationally then?"
Scott shook his head. "No, he wasn't. In fact, none of us senior officers behaved very well. Cap'n Kirk himself was even affected."
"And yet Chekov feels so much worse about it than anyone else."
"Lass, I know you're close to the lad. I want you to know that in my humble non-medical opinion, these problems are not his fault. He tends to be too hard on himself, sometimes, and this is one of those times."
Moretti's next stop was Sickbay where she met with Chief Medical Officer McCoy. "Doctor?"
The physician smiled in greeting and addressed her with his characteristic Southern drawl. "Ensign Moretti, what can I do for you?"
"I'm working on a research project for Mister Spock on the incident with the Tholians and our recent encounter with the Beta X Twelve-A entity and how they affected the minds of our crew."
"Well, those two incidents have kept me very busy in Sickbay these past several weeks."
"Given that you've been treating crewmen affected by both incidents, I'd like to talk to you about it."
McCoy nodded. "I believe I can spare the time. So Spock's got you researching?"
"I was thinking a lot about the recent things that have happened to our crew and mentioned it to Mister Spock this morning. I came up with this research project."
Leonard McCoy smiled at the young officer. "Ensign, have you ever heard the old adage Never volunteer?'"
"I have," she admitted, sheepishly.
McCoy's voice became more serious. "Well, I must say you're showing very good initiative. Mister Spock should certainly notice."
"I can't help it. One of my friends has been personally been affected," admitted Moretti.
McCoy flashed her a wide toothed grin. "I've been paying attention. I know that you and Ensign Chekov are pretty close."
"We've been friends ever since he came on board the Enterprise. He was always so driven to achieve, but now he feels so embarrassed about all the recent things that have happened. He's always been such a perfectionist, and now feels like he has no margin for error."
"So I've noticed."
"Doctor," Moretti looked towards McCoy, "have you had a chance to take a look at the medical logs from the Defiant?"
"Yes, I've read them and so have Doctors M'Benga and Sanchez. It sounded like many of their crew exhibited the same symptoms as Chekov and other members of our crew. Their chief medical officer was also so badly affected that he was at a loss to figure out what was happening."
McCoy shook his head sadly. He described the appearance of Chekov's insanity after their return, the subsequent development of the same insanity in other crewmembers, and his discovery of the cure. "Unlike the Defiant's chief medical officer, I soon found out that the cause was not a virus but the area of space we were in. The molecular structure of the brain tissues in the central nervous system was becoming distorted."
Moretti looked up at the doctor. "In general, were the younger officers more affected?"
"That seemed to be the case on the Enterprise." McCoy then paused, before continuing. "My orderly, Ensign Hough, and Engineering Technician Bhatti were both affected. Both of them are pretty young, now that I think about it. It does seem that there is a correlation between youth and being more prone to that type of madness. I think I'll have Doctor Sanchez analyze the Defiant's ship's logs to see if that was the case."
During the next two days, Moretti continued to study the logs detailing recent events on the ship. She analyzed the recent historical data on the K3 energy level readings. From there, she could reconstruct the hostile entity's movements on the ship. Peak energy levels seemed to correlate with the stories she had heard about crewmembers' behavior. She looked at the engram readings taken on the brains of crew members and noticed that Chekov's were not normal. She immediately rushed to Sickbay.
The doctor smiled at her as she entered. "So how's your project coming?"
"I'm making good progress, but I've found a problem with Pavel!"
"Calm down! Calm down!" McCoy escorted her to a computer monitor. "I've been analyzing recent medical data and found a concern myself."
"Really?" Moretti's eyes widened.
"Our encounter with the interphase had resulted in some almost undetectable damage to Chekov's brain. But it was just enough that he was more vulnerable to the Beta Twelve-B entity and, thus, was more susceptible to hallucinating. We're treating him with oxipyrilene." McCoy pointed to a bio-bed where Chekov was sleeping.
As Angela Moretti stepped closer to his bed, the Russian stirred slightly. Soon, he opened his eyes. Almost immediately, he noticed her, "So what brings you here?"
He smiled sleepily. "Me?"
"I was finishing some research on our last mission when I saw an anomalous reading on your engrams. I came here to inform Doctor McCoy, but he had already found it. This entity caused people to act as though they were possessed by a demon. You were merely one more victim."
McCoy added, "But Captain Kirk and the Klingon captain Kang have exorcised this demon from our ship so everyone's behavior is back to normal."
"Except for embarrassment," cracked Moretti.
Nurse Christine Chapel, who had overhead the conversation, approached them. She noticed Angela. "Ensign Moretti, you're such a faithful friend. You can be friends with almost anyone."
McCoy smiled and said teasingly, "Even with a gloomy Russian who sometimes worries about his sanity."
"Sometime I have good reason," retorted Chekov.
"Anyway, how do you feel about your sanity now?"
"Slowly getting back to normal."
"These things take time."
"Or as they say in Russia, time heals all wounds.'" He smiled back at the doctor.
Free counters provided by Andale.
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES --
2266-2270 The First Mission
Return to the index of ORION ARCHIVES On-Line Fiction
Click Here to Return to the Orion Press Website