UES Enterprise. En route to the Rexus system. Warp 3.8
18th April 2151.
"Try to keep your hands still, Commander. The gel will greatly speed the healing process, but does tend to sting a bit."
That was an understatement. Hernandez had to suppress a grimace of pain as the purple gel was applied to her fingers, and her eyes began to water. If Doctor Locke had any sympathy for her, he didn't show it.
"So, what got you all angry then?" he asked.
"What makes you think I was angry? I was in the gym, practising with a sparring dummy, and...hurt my hands" she trailed off, uncomfortably aware of how weak that sounded.
Locke regarded her silently for a moment. He dug into a pocket and drew out, to Hernandez's suprise, a packet of cigarettes.
He got one for himself, ran the tip along the pack's igniter strip, and inhaled deeply. He held it in for a full five seconds, before blowing a perfect smoke ring. It only lasted a second or so before being dragged into the air conditioning.
"Do you think me a fool, Commander?" he asked, softly.
"Ah, no, Doctor."
A slapped his hand down on the desk with a suddenness that made her jump. "Then why treat me like a fool, then? Hmm?"
Before he could answer he pointed to a computer screen. "Your personnel file. You boxed at the academy, represented your year. Plus numerous matches representing the various ships you've been assigned to. You know how to throw a punch, Commander, without getting hurt. Especially by sparring targets.
"The injuries to your hands. Consistent with multiple impacts. You hit the target hard enough to cause fractures. But you continued punching, what, five, six, times? With both hands, despite what must have been excruciating pain?"
He lifted a pad, showed her the screen. Chemical formula. It meant nothing to her. "The blood test I did moments ago. Elevated levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine.Other hormones I'm not going to bother mentioning as you won't have a clue what they are or what they do. Consistent with exceptionally high levels of anger about ten minutes ago. Not long before you turned up at my sickbay, bleeding on my floor.
"How are the hands, by the way? Still stinging?"
Her shoulders slumped. "A bit, not as bad as before."
"Well, that should be long enough. Onto stage two."
He fetched a wand shaped device, with which he flashed bright orange light onto her hands. After examining them carefully, he nodded and took another drag on his cigarette.
"Yes, coming along nicely. So, while we wait, you were going to tell me what had gotten you so angry."
No I wasn't
, she thought. But there didn't seem any reason not too. She sighed softly.
"It's all my fault. I should have done something sooner." said Maria Hernandez.
Three hours earlier.
"It's all my fault. I should have done something sooner." said Maria Hernandez.
""You're damn right you should." said Archer, his voice low. He barrelled ahead, along the main corridor that lead to the bridge.
Normally Archer would greet his people in passing, perhaps take the time for a few words, asking how they were. Not this time. He seemed almost unstoppable. Something in his body language warned the crew off, or maybe they'd heard about the incident. Either way when they saw him approaching they scurried out of the way, into side corridors, or pressing up against the bulkhead till he'd passed.
Hernandez had to hurry to keep pace with him. It didn't help that she still hadn't gotten used to the layout of the ship. Whilst Archer easily avoided all the exposed conduits, pipes and cables, she had to take more care. It was like one of the platform games on her entertainment console, except if you made a mistake you'd bang your head or bark your shoulder, or fall flat on your face.
Lt. Reed was waiting for them at the section one hatch. He spun the door open and ushered them through, before securing it behind them.
"So what's the situation, lieutenant?" Archer asked, continuing towards the bridge.
Reed stroked his chin. "Well, I don't know what you've heard, sir..."
"Just tell us what you know."
"Aye sir. About ten minutes ago, maybe fifteen, Crewman Jacobs was going along corridor B-11. That's one of the really narrow ones." he added, for Hernandez's benefit.
"Ensign Mayweather was heading in the opposite direction. According to witnesses, he seemed to take offence at Jacobs."
Hernandez asked "Do we know why?"
Reed shrugged. "Far as we can tell, he just didn't like being near a squi...a member of UESPA, sir."
Archer shot Reed a sideways look, but said nothing.
"Anyway..." Reed continued, after an uncomfortable pause. "The two argued, push came to shove, quite literally. Jacobs ended up on the deck. Claims Mayweather assaulted him."
Archer spat out a word in a language Hernandez didn't understand. It sounded like an expletive though.
Reed went on. "I sent Jacobs down to sickbay just to be on the safe side, though it doesn't look like he's hurt. And then I called you."
Archer and Hernandez had been in Main Engineering at the time. The Presidential party had been touring the ship. When the call came through the Captain had taken it on a handset, so she couldn't hear what he was told, but she could tell from his demeanour something was up. Leaving Tucker to show the visitors around he had politely excused both himself and Hernandez, saying they were needed on the bridge.
As they left Engineering she'd asked what was up. He'd replied simply "Mayweather."
The trouble was over the last two days his behaviour had been perfectly acceptable. He'd performed his duties professionally and to everyone's satisfaction. Off duty he didn't mix with the UESPA people, but to be fair, few of the UEMA crew did. Hernandez had been hoping his behaviour had been a blip, and that he'd gotten back to his old self. Sure, she remembered him being cocky, loud mouthed, even a touch arrogant. But not overly aggressive.
So what had changed that?
They arrived at the bridge. Next to the entry hatch Mayweather leaned nonchalantly against the wall, arms folded. Corporal James, the petite Marine who had requested Partridge's autograph the other day, was standing guard. She saluted as they approached.
"Attention!" Reed hollered, loud enough to startle several passing crew members, Hernandez felt herself straightening up instinctively.
It got a reaction from Mayweather. He stood straight and saluted.
"Thank you Mr Reed, Corporal." Archer spun the door open. "That will be all."
The Marines exchanged glances. "Very good, sir." Reed responded, after a moments thought.
There was a definite tension on the bridge as they entered. The crew all paused in what they were doing, taking a swift glance at Mayweather, murmuring amongst themselves.
"You have the bridge, Commander." said Archer. "Mr Mayweather, in my office."
Hernandez was surprised and a little confused. "Captain? I think this is my responsibility, so I should..."
"So noted, Commander." Archer interrupted. "But I'd prefer to deal with this myself."
She opened her mouth to disagree, closed it again. Questioning orders in front of the bridge crew would be bad for morale, which was shaky enough at the moment.
Besides, she hated to admit it but she was feeling very unsure of herself at the moment. Apart from Mayweather, whose support she could not rely on, she was the only UEMA currently on the bridge. She suddenly understood why so many of her service fellows congregated together off duty.
Archer lead Mayweather through the port side hatch, where a short corridor connected to the captain's office.
Hernandez smoothed her uniform, and very carefully lowered herself into the captains seat. "Status reports, please."
The various stations all reported in. All was as it should be. Even that iritating little problem with number three impulse engine seemed to have sorted itself out.
After about five minutes she stood and began inspecting the various control stations. She told the crew she was just trying to familiarise herself with the bridge. And that was partly true. But she was also trying to keep herself occupied. The captains chair was very comfortable. Too comfortable. Along with the distant drone of the engines she was at risk of falling asleep.
She was leaning over Lt. Moshiri's shoulder, discussing the differences in navigational layout between combat and explorer ships, when Lt. Sato suddenly straightened upwards.
"What was that?"
"Lieutenant?" Hernandez asked. She hadn't heard anything.
Sato looked perplexed. "It sounded like a..."
The port hatch opened. Archer entered. "Hoshi, get a medic up here, now."
Mayweather staggered through the hatch. He was clutching his right temple. What can be seen of his face was a mask of pain.
"What the hell happened?" Hernandez demanded.
Archer held her gaze. "I'm not sure. He'd just left my office, and I heard him cry out. He must have hit his head on one of the low pipes out there."
"Yeah." Mayweather said through clenched teeth. "That's how it happened. I left the captain's office and banged my head. Silly me." he added, with a hint of sarcasm.
The Sick Bay.
"Well, you know the rest." Hernandez finished. Crewman Millington had been the first to respond to Sato's summons. He'd performed some basic first aid before escorting Mayweather to sick bay, where Locke had checked him out. He was currently in the observation ward.
Disturbed by these events, Hernandez had insisted that she speak to Archer privately. In his office he'd stated that he had discussed Mayweather's disciplinary problems with him. The helmsman had been temporarily relieved of duty pending a full investigation. After dismissing Mayweather, Archer had been about to begin the necessary paper work when he'd heard a cry of pain from the corridor.
"Tell me, Doc, those wounds..."
"Doctor. Not Doc, Doctor." Locke corrected.
"Those wounds, Doctor. What do you think caused them?"
Locke steepled his fingers. "They were clearly caused by Captain Archer punching Mayweather in the face."
Hernandez was stunned. "Seriously?"
"No." he smirked.
He lit another cigarette. "The Ensign's injuries indicate blunt force trauma. Best guess? He banged his head on one of the conduits. Hard."
Hernandez sighed, her shoulders slumped. "There's a piece of piping in the corridor outside the Captain's office. Above head height. But there's another pipe on the floor. If Mayweather had stepped onto that, instead of going over, it would have lifted him just high enough to catch his head."
"You sound disappointed. Tell me, do you desire command so much that you want Archer arrested for assault?"
She shook her head. "It's not that. At the moment, we have a question. What happened to Mayweather? I'd like an answer, a definitive answer. This all sounds very vague to me."
"Ah. Hence your frustration, hence your anger."
"Yeah. So, soon as I got off duty, I headed for the gym. Hitting those sparring dummies is a great way to work off some tension. Except, I guess I didn't realise just how tense I was. Not until I felt the blood in the gloves."
"Speaking of which...". Locke scanned her hands. "Yes....yes. That's done the trick. You can wash the gel off now."
"Good as new, eh?"
"Hmm, not quite. No boxing or similar activity for a couple of days. After that, they'll be fine."
He grunted. "So why didn't you do anything sooner? About Mayweather?"
She turned to the sink to wash the gel off. It also kept her face hidden. "I'm really not sure."
"Really?" he drawled.
"Yes. Can I go now?"
"Do you want to know what I think?"
she thought. "Yes please." she said.
"You said it yourself. On the bridge. Surrounded by UESPA people. Unsure of yourself."
She kept her back to him, stayed silent.
"What do you call them? Squids? You don't know them. You don't trust
them. You certainly don't feel you can rely on them. So you make allowances. Let thing's slide even when you knew you shouldn't.
"I see from your file you've worked with Mayweather before. Closest thing you have to a friend on this ship. An ally. It's all 'us against them' isn't it? You must have been so desperate, praying he wouldn't screw up, that he'd get his act together.
"And know it's gone down the pan. No wonder you lost it."
With intense effort Hernandez forced her face into a neutral expression, and turned. "Is that what you think?"
"Yeah. And may I remind you that in addition to my exceptional medical skills, I'm also qualified in Psychology and Space Psychology?"
"Space Psychology?" she smirked. It sounded daft.
"There are a number of emotional and cognitive issues unique to space travel. I specialise in those. Rather appropriate, considering where we are." He waved at the room around them.
"Oh." The trouble was, she could see the sense in what he was saying. "You've given me a lot to think about Doctor."
"Don't say I'm not generous. Now shove off, I've got work to do. Oh, one last thing. Who were you hitting?"
"Yeah, when you were punching that dummy. Whose face did you imagine?"
"Ah, I'm not sure I should be telling you this, but I did picture the Captain a couple of times. Mayweather a lot. And...myself"
"Yes, that fits the patten." he nodded.
She added "General Kaplasky, once or twice too. And once, I pictured that dummy with a big goofy grin and a mass of blonde hair. Didn't punch it, but I gave it an almighty slap across the mouth. Very satisfying."
Locke gave a single laugh, a cross between a bark and a snort. Then he looked at her gravely. "Remember this Commander. We are near the edges of human explored space. Yes we are approaching Vulcan territory, but ultimately we can rely on no one but ourselves.
"If we cannot find a way to work together, then Enterprise's mission of exploration will fail."