April 12, 2151
Liz finished her analysis and handed the results to Malcolm. He scrolled down the screen with a dark scowl. “Her bioreadings are getting worse. I gave her enough sedative to put down a horse, but she's still fighting it,” he muttered.
Kov gripped the edge of the biobed and whispered, “There must be something we can do. We are losing her.”
A strident voice came over the intercom. “Bridge to Mayweather!”
Travis punched the comm button. “Go ahead.”
Ensign Dieter answered, “Sir, that ship just lit up like a Christmas tree and it's re-orienting itself!”
“What?” Trip burst out. “That's not possible! Their engine room was all shot up!”
Phlox frowned and shook his head. “Apparently, this...entity on the ship has ways to get around the damage and take control. It tried to trap us there, and since we escaped, it decided to come to us.”
“Evasive action and ready phasers and torpedoes. I'm on my way up.” Travis nodded at Trip, T'Pol and Phlox, who immediately headed for the doors. “Keep me informed, Doctors.”
Kov narrowed his eyes at the imaging chamber. If you destroy this ship, you will never go home. You are irrational. Look inside the captain's mind. You will know that she will never allow you to harm her crew. There was no answer; he didn't expect one. These Whispers were not thinking logically; they were insane after being trapped for so long.
He took a deep breath and listened intently to that inner voice. No, they didn't want to hurt Enterprise. After all, it was their prize. That was how they reproduced, after all. Their first victim became the Originator, a Queen of some sorts, a vessel for her children. In time, the children needed room to feed, grow and spread...
Kov opened his mind a fraction more and allowed himself to follow the trail of broken thoughts. To his horror, the volume grew louder and louder. They were multiplying in number and ready to spread from person to person. Kov knew the crew wouldn't submit readily; they would fight, and would die at each other's hand, like the exiles. Then the Queen went into a hibernation cocoon, and the cycle would renew again, when new rescuers approached Enterprise...
It was an elegantly logical plan to perpetuate their species. How many others had fallen victim?
There had to be a way to destroy them. A part of him recoiled at the thought, but this was necessary. Wait...what happens if the host dies before the infection is able to spread? Will the Whispers die as well, for lack of a healthy host? It made sense...once they multiplied, they needed sustenance, just like any other being. Soon there would be too many Whispers for one host to handle.
“They are ready to spread,” he whispered aloud. “There are too many in the captain's mind--”
Malcolm nodded at Liz. “10 ccs of proteline.”
He tabbed the imaging scanner controls and the biobed slowly rolled back out. Captain Sato's eyes were still closed, but her face was frozen in an angry snarl. Kov glanced up at Malcolm, who took up position on the other side of the rolling bed. The Englishman nodded at him, then over at a nervous Liz Cutler. Liz immediately emptied a hypospray in the captain's neck and the frantic beeps of the scanner slowed and stabilized.
“Hoshi,” Malcolm murmured softly. “C'mon, love, I know you're in there. Come back to us.”
Kov raised his eyebrows at the unusually gentle tone. For some reason, he was irrationally glad that it was only he and Liz in the room. Very few people saw the man behind the cool facade that was Doctor Reed. His suspicion about the captain her her CMO deepened, but he put it aside. There would be time to ruminated about it later...if there was a later.
A hand shot out and gripped his arm. Startled, he looked down at Captain Sato. Her dark eyes were once again turning into that eerie gray-green shade, but her mouth tried to form words. He heard her whisper of agony.
“Kov, there are many more on that ship...they're planning on overwhelming the crew...you have to destroy that ship before--” Hoshi's back arched in agony as painful spasms overtook her. Kov grabbed her upper arms as he heard the fabric restraints begin to tear.
He felt his mental defenses crack, like a dam under the pressure of too much water. The multitude of voices grew in pitch and they desperately surged towards him. His protections held...but just barely. He knew he couldn't withstand another assault. So he reached down within himself and gathered all his strength. With a roar, he stabbed out into the center of the maelstrom with every ounce of righteous anger he possessed.
“Ponfo mirann!” he shouted. Go back to whatever Hell you came from!
“Sarlah k'etek,” they whispered in Hoshi's voice. Come with us. Suddenly, she gave a high-pitched shriek and screamed, “No! I won't let you!”
“Hoshi!” Malcolm shouted. He threw his weight to pin her down to the biobed before she had a chance to escape again. “Fight them, love! Fight them!”
She twisted her head around to look up at him. Her mouth worked again, but no sound came out. Kov read her lips and his heart froze as he realized Hoshi Sato was still there, desperately trying to get her message across. And he understood.
Ki'fa nash-veh. Kill me. He realized the captain had used the Vulcan word ki'fa, to kill in self-defense, as opposed to stau, to murder. Kov's heart twisted at the prospect, but Captain Sato knew the risks and the consequences. She would sacrifice her own life to protect her crew.
Malcolm nodded as if he understood. “Liz...charge up the resuscitation equipment. Hurry!”
Liz nodded and rolled the table that held the heart resuscitation equipment closer to them. Malcolm straightened as he quickly flipped switches and the instrument lit up. Liz unzipped the front of Hoshi's uniform and attached the end of the leads to the captain's chest.
Malcolm nodded in approval. “Step back, Liz. Let me do this.”
She shook her head. “Malcolm--”
“No time to argue, Liz. We don't know what the Whispers will do when their host dies,” he shot back hoarsely. “You and Kov get clear.”
Kov nodded and pulled Liz with him to the opposite end of the room. “If they spread to you--”
Malcolm gave them a strained smile and shook his head. “I trust that you will dispatch me in good time, Kov. We can't allow them to spread further.”
Kov nodded mutely as his grip tightened on Liz. His right hand searched on the counter and found a surgical scalpel. He removed the clear, sterilized cap and held his makeshift weapon at the ready. Surak help us...I do not want the blood of two friends on my conscience.
“Charged...clear!” Malcolm yelled. He placed the paddles on Hoshi's chest and sent a shot of electricity into her heart.
Hoshi Sato's eyes opened wide in surprise and dismay before they rolled back into her head.
T'Pol dove for the helm, Trip for the Tactical board, and Travis for the center seat. The Ikatui ship loomed large in the viewscreen, the glow of long-dead engines a bright crimson. Travis shouted, “Full power to the shields. T'Pol, get us out of its way!”
She tapped her console, then gripped the steering mechanism with both hands.The Ikatui ship missed Enterprise by several thousand meters,but the Bridge still trembled in the wake of the near-miss. T'Pol quickly reversed course so Enterprise still faced it.
“Phlox to the Bridge. Our power levels have dropped ten percent. Attempting to compensate.”
“Looks like someone was playin' possum over there,” Trip muttered. “Though how they're doin' it with their engine damage--”
Travis gritted his teeth. “Blow 'em to hell, Lieutenant Commander Tucker.”
Trip nodded and punched the torpedo control button. A pair of photon torpedoes jumped out of their tubes and streaked toward the ship. One clipped the starboard engine before detonating; the second slammed into its bridge. It exploded into a fiery inferno, debris tumbling its wake.
“Flatline!” Liz shouted. “Code Blue!”
Malcolm's eyes snapped to the panel and saw that Hoshi was in cardiac arrest. “All right, damn you, let her go!”
Her body shuddered once. Kov saw—something--jump out of the captain's physical body. It was a vague shadow, nothing substantial, but it slammed into Malcolm with enough force to stagger him. Kov immediately shoved aside his fear and acted.
“Bring the captain back,” he ordered Liz. “I'll take care of Doctor Reed.”
Liz nodded and approached the biobed. Kov didn't give Malcolm any time to react; with honed Vulcan reflexes, he launched himself at the smaller man. The two doctors hit the floor in a tangle of limbs and Kov lost the scalpel in the chaos. He wasn't surprised at the strength underlying Malcolm's wiry form; he briefly thanked Surak that Malcolm was in medicine and not in security.
Again, he acted instead of reacted. Malcolm grabbed him by the collar of his Healer robes, so Kov balled his left hand into a fist and punched Malcolm in the jaw. At that moment, the Sickbay walls shuddered. The abrupt movement made Kov stumble to his knees, and he threw out an arm to prevent himself from landing on his face. He landed on his right side, the air knocked out of his lungs.
Liz had successfully shocked the captain's heart into a steady, regular beat. She saw Malcolm trying to get back onto his feet and raised the electric paddles up in a defensive pose. “Don't come any closer!” she warned him. “I don't want to hurt you, but I will, if I have to!”
And to her and Kov's utter surprise, Malcolm made no move to attack them. Instead, he leaned against the wall, held his jaw with his right hand and muttered thickly, “I believe that won't be necessary.”
Kov gaped at him, still out of breath and struggling to stay conscious. “Doctor Reed?”
Malcolm eyes drifted closed, then opened again. “I don't know what happened, Kov, but they're gone. Completely gone.”
“Nothing left,” Trip reported as he scanned the debris cloud. “It's completely destroyed.”
“Confirmed,” T'Pol added.
Travis blew out a breath of utter relief and slumped back into the command seat. “Check ship's status. Give me a full run-down.”
“Yes, sir,” Trip replied.
Travis glanced at T'Pol, who still stared ahead at the now-empty viewscreen. He asked in a low tone, “Anything?”
She closed her eyes, then shook her head. “I believe they are gone, Commander. We destroyed their hive, so to speak.”
Travis sighed and glanced around the Bridge. His sense of relief came to a screeching halt as he saw Jon's expression. “Lieutenant Commander Archer?”
“There was a frequency burst just as we destroyed the ship,” Jon answered grimly as he pressed the transtator deeper into his ear.“It cut off only seconds later, but I think a message got through.”
“A distress signal?”
“I think so. It's probably a standard feature of the Ikatui ships.”
Travis cursed silently, then asked him. “How long until that reaches the Ikatui homeworld?”
Jon shook his head as he glanced at T'Pol. Her eyes reflected the turmoil. “Considering how primitive their comm array was, and how far away the Ikatui's home planet is...it might be years until they receive it. By that time, it'll be more years before they send someone out to investigate.”
“So we've got some time before they figure out one of their ships ran into trouble.”
“I think so, but there's no telling just how long that'll be.”
“Damn.” Travis shook his head and ordered, “Get me Starfleet Command. We need to tell them what's happened--”
The intercom crackled. “Sickbay to the Bridge.”
T'Pol's head snapped up in the direction of the speaker. Travis frowned at her reaction. The captain, he thought, and his chest tightened in reaction. His face was impassive as he replied, “Mayweather.”
The voice was feminine. “Commander...you are needed in Sickbay immediately.”
“Liz?” There was no answer as Cutler had already closed the channel. Travis nodded at Trip and T'Pol. “You're with me. Lieutenant Commander Archer, you've got the Bridge.”
Kov opened his eyes to find himself staring at the ceiling. He tried to remember just how he ended up on the floor when he was on the other side of the room from Captain Sato...
Ah, I remember. He must have passed out briefly after hitting the floor. I should remember that Malcolm is stronger than he appears.
“Kov, you get yourself into the worst trouble sometimes, you know that?” Trip Tucker knelt by his side and helped him sit upright. “You okay?”
“I am...” he tried to find a suitable word, then settled for, “...confused.”
“Don't blame you there. Remind me not to underestimate you in hand-to-hand combat drills.” The Southerner's smile was both reassuring and sympathetic. “I don't want to get in the way of that left hook of yours.”
“Doctor Reed? Is he all right?”
Malcolm chuckled from where he was sitting on the floor. He waved off Travis Mayweather's attempt to help him up. “You didn't injure anything but my pride, Kov.” He looked up at the panel above Hoshi Sato's head, which showed a strong heartbeat and respiration.
“What the hell happened?” Travis demanded. “Kov hit you?”
Malcolm sighed and shook his head. He gripped the edge of the biobed and hauled himself up to his feet. “It was in self-defense, Commander. I don't bear him any ill will. The captain managed to tell us that if she temporarily 'died', the Whispers in her body would leave her in search of a living host.”
“Which happened to be you, Doctor,” Kov said.
Travis glared at Malcolm. “They overtook you, Doctor?”
He winced in embarrassment and said, “Luckily, we were prepared for the eventuality. Kov was kind enough to...remind me of my obligations.” He coughed a little. “Suddenly, the voices screamed in concert...and were gone from my mind. It happened very quickly.”
T'Pol nodded at him. “Their ship tried to attack Enterprise, but we destroyed it before it could do so. Apparently, the majority of the Whispers were still aboard.”
Trip glanced at Kov and said, “Remember that thing we saw in their Hydroponics Bay? It was their...well, queen bee, so to speak. Once she went, they all did.”
“A hive mind,” Kov whispered. It all made sense now. “Destroy the Queen, and the others quickly follow.”
Malcolm leaned against the edge of Hoshi's biobed. “She has a lot of lactic acid in her system; it's as if she ran a marathon, climbed a mountain, then stayed awake for a week. It's imperative that she gets rest.”
Trip put a hand on his arm. “You too, Doc. You've had those things in your mind, too, even if briefly. Plus you've still got that damn cold.”
“Trip's right,” Travis cut in. “You've been through the wringer too. As of right now, you're off duty and on medical leave.”
“Someone has to monitor Hoshi's—the captain's—condition and--”
Kov exchanged a humorous look with Liz. “We can do that until you are well enough to do so yourself. Please, Doctor Reed. We all need you.” He paused, then added softly, “She needs you.”
He sighed and sagged back. “Very well, then.”
Kov caught Trip's glance at T'Pol and confirmed what he'd suspected for some time now. Doctor Reed was in love with Captain Sato, even if the doctor wouldn't admit it.
Personal Log: April 22, 2151
We are enroute to Risa after a short detour to Cold Station Twelve. It was a rather strange stopover...we completed the equipment transfer in less than a day and no one was permitted to board the station at all. Unfortunately, Doctor Lucas was at a conference. I relayed a message from Doctor Reed, who is still indisposed. I hope Doctor Lucas receives it and contacts us when he returns.
The captain is also recovering from her ordeal with the Whispers. She has regained her color and most of her usual vigor, but she still refuses to divulge any details of her brief possession. I believe it will be a matter of time before she feels comfortable in 'chatting about it', as Trip Tucker calls it, at least to someone who has not had a similar experience. Though I suspect she might have discussed it with Doctor Reed to some degree.
I will be interested in the outcome of this tension between the captain and the doctor. I have the greatest respect for both and if both were Vulcan, I would say they are a suitable match for each other.
Kov sighed and leaned back in his chair as the lights came up in the Mess Hall. The audience broke out into muted conversation as Movie Night came to its conclusion. He spotted a few members of Jon Archer's communications department heading towards him. Of course, they would have cultural questions about Zhal-tor.
“I don't think I've seen this version before, Kov. Thank you.”
He bowed his head and replied, “You are welcome, Captain, but it was actually Lieutenant Commander Archer's idea.” He gazed at her and added in a low tone, “Are you well?”
She chuckled and shook her head. “I will be. I never thanked you for what you did on board the Ikatui ship. I owe you my life.”
“I live to serve, Captain. If you require a...'sympathetic ear'--”
“I know whom to ask. Thank you, Kov. I'll keep the offer in mind.”
He nodded and watched as she circulated around the crew. Hoshi reassured the younger officers about her condition, and Kov saw the tension literally dissipate from the room. Her gentle but firm demeanor was what the crew needed right now. They had Risa to look forward to, and were eager to get to their destination.
She joined Jon at the door, and were joined by Malcolm. The three senior officers chatted for a moment before Jon excused himself, and the other two left together. Kov smiled faintly, even as he explained yet another Vulcan concept to his tight circle.
Yes, they are a suitable match for each other. I will be watching this with great interest.