Captain Limis did not bother to get medical treatment for herself in sickbay. She just changed into a clean uniform and applied a dermal regenerator to the black eye Darcen gave her in her quarters. On her way to sickbay to check on the rest of the walking wounded, she intercepted Ronnie Kozar in the corridor. Kozar stopped and prepared to turn around thinking she would throw the proverbial book at him for ignoring her insistence that she didn’t want to risk anyone else’s life on a rescue mission. Then he remembered the large padd in his right hand.
“Thought you could avoid me?” Limis teased while flashing a devious grin.
“The thought crossed my mind,” Kozar retorted. Handing her the padd, he added, “The damages.”
“I’ll send you the bill,” Limis said while taking a quick glance.
After several seconds of silence, Kozar was hoping the topic of going against captain’s orders would not come up. Since they had assumed their respective positions, their working relationship seemed like a game of who had the longer list of grievances against the other. “And under more ideal circumstances,” Limis continued sounding both jovial and stern at the same time, “you’d get both a reprimand for disobeying my orders and
a commendation for original thinking.”
“Yes, sir,” Kozar demurely answered.
“But I’ll settle for the commendation for protecting me from myself. You performed the duties of a first officer very admirably.”
Morrison and Neeley were seated next to each other in sickbay’s primary intensive care unit. Morrison was nursing several massive phaser burns on his shoulders and chest. Neeley’s felt pain in between each breath as a result of fractured ribs. She looked around the medical bay hoping that a nurse would notice her pain medication was wearing off. Morrison was simply admiring her sweat soaked forehead and frizzy red hair.
“If you don’t mind my saying,” Mandel teased, “I’ve never seen you any hotter.”
Lisa rolled her eyes and snickered at his feeble attempt at flirtation. “I should thank you for taking that phaser blast for me,” she said with a sigh. “And then kick your ass
for being so foolish!”
Mandel saw a certain appeal in being beat up by a girl as soon as Lisa said that. “I have
been a bad boy lately,” he quipped.
“Shut up,” Lisa huffed. She looked away from Mandel straining to say something that had been on her mind since their spontaneous sexual encounter in a cargo bay two weeks earlier. “We really need to define some parameters.”
“D-define parameters?” Mandel nervously repeated, starting to wonder if Lisa wanted something more.
“We’re not a couple. None of that sickening lovey-dovey stuff.”
Mandel sighed, though quietly to hide his relief. “Definitely not,” he said sheepishly. “But the sex is amazing.”
Limis entered the ICU, looking for the EMH Mark Three. Morrison grinned when he saw her, seeing the captain project an air of confidence that he found attractive, even in a woman of early middle age. Neeley noticed how Morrison looked at the captain, hoping he wouldn’t create an uncomfortable conflict of interest.
Limis saw the holographic doctor as he was placing a sheet over Snežana’s corpse. He handed a Denobulan female nurse a padd while saying, “Snežana Ilochko, time of death 2317 from massive cell and hemoglobin degradation.” He turned his head to Limis standing next to him and began to look apologetic. “No fatalities among the crew,” he added.
“Good,” Limis deadpanned. Then indicating Grimaud on the biobed on her left, she asked, “And him?”
“No sign of the virus they were trying to use. Why he doesn’t talk is tough to figure though.”
“Darcen said he was broken out of the Institute because the doctors were hoping to suppress his telepathic abilities."
Grimaud’s eyes narrowed in annoyance that the two of them were referring to him in the third person. The EMH smirked. “He’s a little frustrated that he can’t sense my presence,” he joked. “No, his file says the doctors were helping master not reading other people’s thought without permission.”
Limis shot a smile at Grimaud to thank him for not reading her thoughts without permission, while noticing over his shoulder that Aurellan Markalis was sorting through the padds that covered the desk in her office.
That expression that doctors made the worst patients was true. What was strange about Aurellan being there was she was still dressed in a turquoise surgical gown, which was adorned with a combadge in its usual location on a uniform. The holographic doctor had repeatedly insisted that Aurellan should be in bed, but Limis guessed she eventually pulled rank on him.
Limis entered the CMO’s office with a wide smile. She found the sight of a patient in a surgical gown working in the office odd, but she was mostly worried for her chief medical officer, who had just gone through the most traumatic assignment in her brief Starfleet career. Markalis looked up to see the captain while still maintaining an ambivalent facial expression. “Captain,” she said quizzically. “Can I help you with something?”
"I was remembering something Darcen said,' Limis continued, "about humans' fear of 'people like us' and that you were one of them. But if you were an augment, you'd be barred from serving in Starfleet or practicing medicine. So you're either a descendant of the Eugenics Wars Augments or... "
"That's classified medical information, Captain," Markalis replied.
"This is off the record," Limis said, removing her combadge and setting it down on the desk.
Markalis did the same. She decided that now was the best time to explain everything—her introverted tendencies, the fact that she rarely ever smiled, and her intense need for consistent daily and weekly routines. And while she repeatedly insisted she was not romantically attracted to other women, Snežana was attracted to her. Snežana’s advances were still a reminder to Aurellan of her history of pushing people away. Vircona was here as a friend, rather than as her commanding officer. "Are you familiar with a condition called Asperger's Syndrome?" she asked.
"I know of it. I'm nowhere near the medical expert you are though."
Aurellan sighed, then got up and walked across the room bracing to share something she had not shared with very many others. "I was found to be severely autistic when I was three years old,” she explained. “I would yell and scream for no apparent reason. My language development was far behind. I didn't even respond to my own name. When the doctors learned what was wrong with me, I began undergoing a series of genetic treatments. I became as close to 'normal' as was possible.
“However, I continue to struggle with basic social interaction. I have an intense need for predictability in my daily routines. Everyday, I take tranquilizers so I don't become mentally overwhelmed. I would still give up my superior mental abilities and my need for structure and order to appreciate the beauty of a sunrise. To love and to be loved."
Limis grinned, considering how chaotic the last sixteen months had been. “Who doesn’t want predictability?” Limis asked rhetorically. “Yet you chose a chaotic way of life.”
to become a doctor,” Markalis replied. “I later saw an opportunity make a difference in my profession. I bring order to the chaos this war has wrought on all of us.”
“Longing for simpler times,” Limis mumbled, remembering how quickly she had adulthood thrust upon her. One day, she was a child without a care in the world. The next, she was an orphan fending for herself.
“Ma’am?” Markalis asked in confusion.
“I see you as the little girl I once was,” Limis explained, “in what seems like another lifetime.”
Markalis smiled, feeling a measure of contentment that her commanding officer understood her. She spent the last few days certain Limis would have her discharged from the service after such a betrayal. That telepathic manipulation influenced Aurellan’s actions was still of little consolation. Getting over some of her other less than reputable actions, however, would take weeks of counseling and months, if not years, of soul searching. The outcome was still positive, but she still helped create a virus to be used as a weapon and deliberately infect four sentient beings with that virus. Those wounds would not heal in a day or a week.
Limis returned the smile. She picked up her comm badge and headed for the door. “Try to get some rest, Doctor,” she suggested.
“Vircona,” Markalis called the second the doors parted. She surprised herself, having never before addressed a superior by given name. “Thank you for coming back for me.”
Markalis ran towards Limis and wrapped her arms around the older woman. This caught Limis by surprise, as Markalis was not known for such spontaneous expressions of affection. After a second of hesitation, Limis returned the warm embrace.
Aurellan later took the captain’s advice and retired to her quarters for a quick shower. While in the process of disrobing, she felt a chill in the room. Maybe it was momentary draft, but her Russell terrier woke up from a light nap on the sofa in the living area and began barking. “Milady,” Aurellan called to the dog. “Why are you fussy? Calm down.”
She unhooked the back of her brazier, but kept it on when she saw someone in the corner of her eye. Cole was sitting in the same chair he occupied the first time he appeared in her quarters.
“Let me congratulate for a job well done,” he said with something of a triumphant grin.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Markalis gasped, holding both her arms to her chest. She quickly stomped over to her bed to put on a pink silk robe while her back was to turned to him.
“You don’t have to stay dressed on my account,” Cole retorted.
Markalis tied her robe shut and hurled a pillow at the intruder. “’Job well done’?” she scoffed. “I could’ve died during this undercover mission you sent me on.”
Cole gently flung the pillow off his lap. “But you stayed the course,” he said. “You stood by your principles, and you showed great courage that even you didn’t think you were capable of.”
Aurellan sat down at the foot of her bed gritting her teeth. She was not sure whether to be flattered by that positive evaluation or her disturbed that she had taken actions she did over the past two weeks. “But why me?” she asked, still trying to calm herself with slow deep breaths. “Surely, you have more qualified agents for that kind of field work.”
“But none of them have your gift for intellectualizing all the things most of us take for granted,” Cole answered plainly. “You spoke their language.”
Aurellan shook her head deeply troubled someone was comparing her to humans who could so easily trivialize life. “I am nothing
like them,” she insisted.
Cole slowly stood up walked towards the bed. “Of course not. But you possess a willingness to take up a cause of greater worth; greater than that of loyalty to the Federation, your ship, your crew. As much as your captain vilifies Section 31, we did a good deed today.”
Aurellan just sat and stared coldly at her uninvited guest. The only thing stopping her from having a complete nervous breakdown was knowing that her anger was not just at Cole. “Get out of here now,” she said in a suppressed rage, jabbing her right index at him.
“For once I’m happy to oblige,” Cole retorted. He strode towards the main entrance and left.
Aurellan walked across the cabin to make sure no one else was in her quarters. She looked thoroughly under the sofa, the desk, and the bed. Once satisfied no other intruders were in her quarters, Aurellan walked into the head and activated forcefields to seal off the main entrance and the head. She finished undressing and set the shower chamber to dispense water.
Cold water poured down on her body. Aurellan suddenly found herself overcome with emotion and slid down the wall into a sitting position holding her legs up to her chest. She wept as many traumatic memories began funneling to the surface of her consciousness. First, of a Jem’Hadar stabbing her in the shoulder, then of firing a lethal phaser blast at a Jem’Hadar who very nearly killed her several months earlier, and finally of slugging Darcen after he threatened to kill her.
It was the opportunity of a lifetime, the recruiter who first encouraged her to join Starfleet told her. She had done a lot of good things for an organization devoted to keeping the peace. Then the Dominion War began, and she found herself facing danger almost everyday.
These were the moments, Aurellan Markalis realized, that robbed her of her innocence.