The entire ship was knocked out.
Everyone from Phlox and his Derellian bat, to T'Pol, to Melissa, to Joss, to Porthos, to Malcolm, to Shelby in the Botany Lab, to Yimar, to Jonathan, to Lili and even the baby she was carrying – all were unconscious.
No one saw the boarding party, consisting of two different species. One species was tall, taller than even José Torres, carrying shocking sticks to subdue anyone who might, for whatever reason, not be fully unconscious. The other species was smaller, more human-sized, with strange, plant-like appendages on their heads and kind of vestigial wings. They were in charge of the taller ones, directing them and having them fetch and carry.
No one noticed the physical examinations, the stripping down of the ten candidates or the internal and external appraisals of them, “Good choices,” said one of the smaller members of the boarding party, a female.
No one noticed the ten being taken off the ship. No one noticed the immense, cloaked ship they were taken to. No one noticed that ship depart at Warp Nine, faster than any ship they knew. No one
On the other ship, the ten were separated by gender. They were washed and dried, and inspected again. A vet took charge and looked them over. Any viruses were zapped, and all idiosyncrasies documented for later study.
The women woke first, in one chamber. Everyone had a fresh set of clothes next to them. It was just two pieces – a pair of underpants and a shift dress. With nothing else to do, they put them on.
Lili noticed her clothes were a bit supportive – a good thing, considering how her center of gravity had shifted. The others were clingier, more revealing. She looked around. The pilot, what was her name, Melinda? Jennifer. There was a security officer. And Hoshi.
“What do you think we should do, Hoshi?” asked the security officer, “You're our commanding officer.”
“I guess, I am, Deb,” Hoshi said, “We should, uh, figure out where we are, and try to contact the Enterprise
“There's a panel up in the ceiling,” Jennifer said, looking up.
“Looks like an air vent,” Melissa said.
Then the men awoke, in their own chamber. They, too, had fresh clothes, undershorts that were kind of long, down to the knee, and a shirt that wrapped. It all seemed to be made of a kind of linen. Jonathan stood up first, “Thoughts?” he asked.
“Scan plus EM radiation must equal this,” Tripp said, “Whatever and wherever this is.”
“Walls are solid,” Malcolm said, banging one with the heel of his hand.
“There's an air shaft up there,” Doug pointed, “But it's too high for any of us to reach.”
“We're moving quickly,” Travis said, “We must've been knocked out when we jumped to warp. This feels faster than the Enterprise
“How fast?” Jonathan asked.
“It even feels faster than any Vulcan ship I've ever been on. They can do Warp Seven, right? I dunno, this feels faster,” Travis said.
“Can you estimate at all?” Tripp asked.
“I don't really have a basis for comparison,” Travis admitted, “Nine, maybe? Eight and a half? I'm lost.”
The wall in front of them went from solid to transparent. They could see the women, but there was a hallway in between. And a person was standing there. The same one who'd commented while still on the Enterprise
, but they had no way of knowing that. That one spoke.
“Slime molds! I will talk, and you will listen. This can be very pleasant, or it can be quite nasty. It all depends,” she said.
Jonathan demanded, “Who's in charge here? Are you?”
“Now, now, like I said, I talk. But I will answer two questions that slime molds always have. First off, I am a Witannen. And my name is Quellata. Now for the fun.”
They could hear a hissing gas coming out of the vents above. The wall went dark again, and they were again knocked out.
“Report!” yelled T'Pol when she came to, and then she realized she was nearly completely alone on the Bridge. Night shift. They wouldn't be very awake but they'd have to do. She banged the intercom to get it to work, “I need the following crew members to report to the Bridge on the double! Masterson! Torres! Madden! MacKenzie! And, uh, Hamidi!”
Chip Masterson was dreaming. He was performing in that little comedy club on Risa. He was killing.
He said, to an eager audience mostly filled with extremely hot Orion slave girls, “So this Klingon, an Andorian and a Vulcan walk into a bar. And the Klingon's a male, super-tall. And he's completely buck naked, except for a strategically placed piece of string to which there's attached this note. So the bartender gets curious and he reads the note, which says ...”
The Communications chime was loud, and woke him.
“Damn, I never get to finish the joke,” he said out loud to the empty room, and then realized how urgent the call was.
Everyone except for Madden reported, “Where is Crewman Madden?” T'Pol asked, a little desperate.
“I, uh, I don't know, Commander,” said Crewman Hamidi, “There are people missing. Dunno how many.”
“Mr. Masterson, you will be in charge of the head count,” T'Pol said, “There are at least the six missing from the Bridge: the Captain, Mr. Tucker, Mr. Reed, Mr. Mayweather and Ensign Sato. And, um, Security Officer Haddon.”
Phlox called in, “I just lost my patient,” he said, “And it was not in the conventional way. Mrs. Beckett has gone missing.”
They awoke in separate chambers, paired off, two by two, in plain rooms furnished with nothing but a bare mattress on the floor with a thin blanket. The lights were dim but they could still make out who was who.
Deb stood up and smacked the wall, “Whoever you are, and whatever you want, I won't let you hurt the Captain!” she yelled.
“Crewman, I don't know if anyone's listening,” Jonathan said.
“Well, just in case they are,” she said, bristling.
The second shift pilot would have to do, as Madden was definitely gone.
“Mr. Harris, report to the Bridge,” T'Pol spoke into the intercom, again outwardly calm but inwardly, in turmoil. There were eight missing so far.
“I don't suppose you've got a sense of what's going on, Travis,” Jennifer said.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” he replied, “I'm thinking it's not good if they call us slime molds.”
“I'm sure you're right.”
Josh Rosen made his way to Engineering. He'd been roused out of a sound sleep by the general alarm. He punched a communications panel on the wall, “Rosen to Torres.”
“Yes?” José answered from the Bridge.
“I don't see Crossman anywhere. She with you?”
Nine missing, T'Pol thought.
Doug looked up at the ceiling, “Think you can reach that panel if you stand on my shoulders?”
“I dunno,” said Melissa, “I'm less than one and two-thirds meters tall.”
“That's okay. Together, we're over three. Here, step here.”
“Don't let me fall.”
“Hayes – I mean, Beckett appears to be gone as well,” Phlox reported in, “Can't say for certain but the timing seems right. He couldn't have gotten far from Sick Bay and he's nowhere near here. Phlox out.”
Ten, thought T'Pol.
“You scared?” Tripp asked Hoshi.
“A little. You?”
“I dunno. So far we're okay.”
Lili paced. Malcolm shouted. No one could hear him outside their chamber. He finally stopped.
“Sorry. I was hoping that would do some good. Now it's just made me a bit hoarse.”
“I just wanna get my mind off things. You think they have Joss?” she asked, worriedly.
Kick Kick Kick Kick
“I don't suppose they do. I think we'd have seen him when we were in the, I dunno what you'd call that. A debriefing. Mixed with insults.”
She smiled wryly, “I should thank you for our wedding present.”
“That'll take your mind off things,” he said, “Did you, uh, was the shade of blue all right?”
“It was great. It was – there was a lot of thought put into it. I'll send you a letter, too. My grandmother did raise me with some manners. But, in person, thank you. It was very nice of you. And, and the rest of the Tactical Department,” she fiddled nervously with her bracelet.
He was about to comment on that when they heard and smelled a gas coming from the vent.
“That's not like the other we had earlier,” he said, “It's kind of a fuchsia color.”
“Do you think it'll kill us?” she asked, panic rising in her voice.
“Maybe,” he said.
Kick kick kick kick kick Kick Kick Kick
As Lili's stress level rose, the kicking got faster and sharper.
The gas wasn't just coming into one chamber. It was hitting all five of them.
Melissa felt it first, as her face was closest to the source. She fell on top of Doug, who didn't do a very good job of catching her.
Silently, Hoshi clutched Tripp's arm, digging her nails in.
Jennifer stared into space. Travis swallowed hard.
Deb continued pounding the wall as Jonathan watched.
And then there were Lili and Malcolm.
She shook with fear and the pain of rapid-fire kicks. Her eyes shone.
He couldn't protect her, not really. He had nothing to give, perhaps, but an extra nanosecond of life. If they were to die, perhaps if he covered her she'd get an extra nanosecond. It was all he had. It would have to do.
He sat next to her, arms on top of her, holding her to his chest as they both panted and shook with fear.
Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick
And then the kicking suddenly stopped, and Lili let out a wail that wasn't human.
It wasn't for the end of her life, or the end of Malcolm's or even Doug's.
It was for a much-anticipated, much-hoped-for and much-loved baby that now would never be born.