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Cathy German



I float.

For a while, just to pass the time, I pretend that I’m corn silk caught in a hot August Iowa breeze. After that, I try believing that I’m dandelion fluff, flying over a green carpet of grass.

I’m not very good at this kind of thing.

Then I briefly attempt some Vulcan meditation techniques. Spock is a good teacher. I am an average student. His techniques require the mind and body to be still. I’ve always found that part difficult.

Except for now. What else do I have to do?

I float.

I’ve lost all notion of time. I’ve been here forever in this, I think, and then nanoseconds later, I believe that it’s been a few minutes. But I am here at least. I think.

They’ll nail me for this at Starfleet. Absolutely nail my ass to the wall. I know there’s a regulation—and I’m sure that Spock could quote it to me verbatim—that says I should have been first off the Defiant, the first to be transported when there was any hint of trouble, when our surroundings began to shimmer and cloud.

There’s one I’ll never get right, that first-off-at-signs-of-trouble thing. I admit it. I’m hopeless. Always will be at that.

So sue me.

I’m not quite sure what kind of anomaly I’m in. Spatial sink? Some kind of galaxy riptide? Parallel universe? I’m sure Spock has figured it all out by now.

Float. Float. Move my right arm in circles. Move my left arm in circles. Bring my legs as far up to my chest as the environmental suit will allow, pull tight, release. Flex my gloved fingers. Roll my shoulders and try to ease the tension there. Roll my head on my shoulders. It’s hard to do. The helmet doesn’t allow for enough movement. I keep banging my forehead against the faceplate. And there’s something scratchy right between my shoulder blades, something on the inside of the suit. That should drive me perfectly nuts within the next few minutes.

Must meditate. Must not think of that.

Is it cold out here, or is it just me?

Every so often, I actually think I see the Enterprise shimmering in front of me. I reach out. I wave. I—believe it or not—shout out loud. As if they could hear me through the vacuum of space. I know better, but I can’t help myself. I’m a little desperate. And who knows? Maybe they can see me, because I can see them.

I think.

Space. Plenty of it out here. Plenty for everybody. I twist around and gaze out at the vast blackness, at the pinpricks of light. This is where I’ve always wanted to be.

Well, not exactly like this.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been out in it, free- floating. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve done this since the Farragut. But then I’ve never done this, exactly. All alone. No tether. No jet-pack. No ship in sight. I suppress a shiver. I am not a man who frightens easily, but there is something unsettling about this.

Unsettling, hell. It’s damned creepy.

In my heart, I’m a bit of a loner. So you’d think this would feel better than it does. But there’s a difference between being alone on a ship of 400 plus people and being out here, where the only things I can see moving are my hands in front of the faceplate.

But I’m not really worried about myself. I’m discomfited, no question about that, but it’s my crew I’m really concerned with. I’m worried about what I saw on the Defiant before it winked out.

They killed each other.

What’s happening on the Enterprise now I wonder? Are they going mad, the way that it looks like they did on the Defiant? And come to think of it, am I going mad? When you’re floating around out here, unharnessed, talking to yourself, alternately sweating and freezing and feeling generally itchy all over, are you going nuts, too?

Are you talkin’ to me?

I’m starting to wonder.

My heart stops. What’s this? What’s this flying in just over my left shoulder? And the Enterprise, maybe real, maybe a figment of my imagination, shimmers into existence.

Can’t read any official markings on this interloper from my vantage point, but it certainly is a pretty thing. Never seen the likes of it before. A clean dart-like shape. Reds. Oranges. Yellows. And stops on a dime.

And as I’m stupidly admiring this lovely alien vessel, the son-of-a-bitch fires on my ship. Pow! Just like that. No warning shot over the bow. Just pow! and I actually scream and thrash at the air. If I could just get over there to the damned thing, I’d ... what? Bang on a fin? Poke a hole in the bulkhead with a finger? Plaster myself up against a porthole and flip them off? Who am I kidding?

I have to stop myself. I’m gasping for breath. I know there are limits to the air reserves in the environmental suit, and I briefly struggle to remember my last recurrent environmental suit training. How many hours or minutes do I have left?

Does it matter? When it goes, it goes.

It fires again! My God, this is killing me! All the hairs on my body stand at attention and I think my head is going to explode. I hear an odd moaning sound, and realize that it’s me. For a moment I consider trying to twist away and put my back to it, it’s a sight so horrific.

Now the Enterprise fires. I’m yelling, and forcefully enough to steam up the faceplate: "Run, damn it! You’ve got to be able to outrun this thing! Move!" And as soon as it’s out of my mouth, I understand why they’re not running. It’s me. They’ve figured out how to get me and they can’t or won’t leave until they do.


And here comes another ship, a twin to the first. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to slow the beating of my heart. All of this just might not be happening. I might be asleep, or unconscious, and witness to my own worst nightmare as just that: a nightmare. I breathe out slowly through my lips and open my eyes.

I am mesmerized by what I see. What the hell are they doing? It looks like ... a web. A web. They’re spinning a web.

And my ship is in it.

Whip me. Beat me. Threaten me with disembowelment and strap me to a Klingon Mind-Sifter. Cut off my fingers and toes. Hold a disruptor to my forehead and threaten to pull the trigger. But don’t make me watch this. Please. I’m helpless. I’m floating. My heart is threatening to pound its way through my ribcage.

And there’s not a damned thing I can do about it.

Captain James T. Kirk, youngest ever to captain a starship, helplessly watched his ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, be destroyed by unidentified alien ships. Sources who have visited him at the Home for the Shocked Senseless say that he has no comment.

With that sight—the glittering Enterprise being trapped by gossamer threads—I simply decide to go away for a while. The gods have pity and the tableau before me winks out just before I close my eyes.

Float. Float.

Are they going mad on my ship, I wonder? Are they attacking each other in the corridors? Going for each others’ throats? Are they using knives from the galley to stab each other? Or will madness be kinder and do the deed painlessly, with phasers set on kill?

Assuming that’s painless.

I know at least two people that will be at each others’ throats. My first officer and chief medical officer should be locked in mortal combat about now. It would be pleasant to believe that just this once they might toss out the script and do a little honest improvisation, that they might have seen and understood what was happening and hitched their strengths together for the good of the ship.

I could not run the ship without them, but sometimes I think I’d like to try. Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes I want to haul their righteous butts to the brig and lock them up together for a couple of weeks just so I don’t have to listen to them. But even though they can annoy, they are my right arm and my left arm. I could not do this without them.

My eyes fly open. My message tape! Maybe they’ll listen to it. I struggle to remember the contents of it. I’d done it a short while ago.

Spock, use logic but temper it with intuition. Seek out McCoy and take his advice. Bones, help him, and remember that he’s the captain. Spock deserves your loyalty.

Maybe—just maybe—they’ve listened to it, and maybe it’s helped.

And maybe Aldeberan MuleHogs will fly out of my butt.

The Enterprise! Suddenly it’s right in front of me, closer this time, close enough to touch it seems, and then I’m floating through it, literally through the bulkhead and the walls, wondering all the while if they can see me. And as I’m thinking this, I pass through a deck and then a wall and then—my God. I’m in Uhura’s boudoir.

At least she doesn’t look crazed. In fact, she looks lovely, and I wave at her, feeling desperate and silly at the same time, not sure that I’m truly there or that she can see me, not sure that I haven’t died and am experiencing some kind of post-demise visit to a cherished crewmember.

She spots me. Her mouth opens wide in surprise and tears spring to her eyes and she reaches up to me, and I find myself tearing up in response. Her mouth is moving, but I can hear nothing save my own now-shallow breathing and the pounding of my heart. And then I float away and she moves for the door.

The exertion and emotion of the moment has drained me. I close my eyes and drop my forehead to the faceplate. Is this how I will go? Visiting crewmembers one by one, silently floating, waving, crying out with no voice? For the first time since the Defiant winked out, I feel despair, deep and black, and the weight of it nearly crushes me.

But then I remember two people: Spock and Bones. Spock will understand the science. Bones will have the passion to push Spock beyond the scientific parameters. But Spock is not without passion, and Bones is no slouch as a scientist.

With them in mind, I decide that I will be saved, and I float.

I wink into existence in the Engine Room, hanging high above them all, and I wave and call, feeling giddy. It’s the oxygen deprivation, I know. But it’s also hope.

And then through a few more bulkheads, a few more decks, I float and float and then I’m home.

The bridge.

Spock and Bones.

They gaze up at me, and I can see that McCoy’s face is both excited and haunted. He must know that my oxygen is almost gone. And Spock ... looks like Spock. Unruffled, sure, calm. But there is deep concern in his dark eyes, and he moves swiftly to the conn.

I call to him. "Hurry, Spock!" And I know I will be saved.

I float. I weep. There are tears on my face, and with a last rush of energy, I reach both hands up to wipe them away. Can’t have the crew of my ship seeing me cry. And my fat gloved hands clumsily hit the faceplate and the unwiped tears drip off my chin, and I smile.

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