“Hey, you almost hit me when you dropped that!”
“Oh, sorry, Travis. Really, I'm sorry. Can you lift me a little higher? I can hold the lip here and hoist myself, but a little help would be, uh, helpful,” Jennifer said.
He hoisted. She grabbed and pulled herself up. Suddenly, she was in the vent.
Similar conversations went on in three other cells. More – actually.
“Unh!” Melissa managed to get herself into the vent. She sneezed.
“Bless you!” yelled Doug, looking up, “You all in?”
“Yeah. It's dusty in here. And it's not very high. I have to crawl like a snake.”
“Well, think positively,” he said, “I'll be here if you need to turn around.”
. Ha. If he only knew the context when she'd last been told to do that
They crawled. And were joined by some others, for the other species in their unit knew about the attempt, knew they were leaving the galaxy, and wanted in.
They wanted to see their families again, and return to their old lives, if they could. Or maybe they were tired of endless couplings with mates who could sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Or perhaps they just wanted a change of pace. Three male Xindi, including Emmiz, joined them. A female Andorian – Leveqa. One Klingon female, the slightest of them. None of the others could fit into the vent. Two female Vulcans and one male also joined the ranks.
Hoshi was farthest along and so she ended up leading the way. There really wasn't much of an indication as to where to go. It's not like there was just some big arrow painted inside the vent, so she followed sounds of hydraulics.
Behind her, the others struggled with getting past the openings. Every vent opening was wide enough to go all the way from side to side, so there was nowhere to get purchase. You had to crawl over it, and when you were more than halfway beyond it, your feet would flop down and you'd end up kicking them to move along. Deb almost lost it when she felt a hand on her foot while she was doing that. She looked down through the opened vent. It was a Klingon, greybearded, “Steady,” he said, “I won't let you fall, human.”
“Uh, thanks,” she muttered, her heart finding its way back into her chest.
They crawled on.
Kick Kick Kick Kick
“I'm so afraid. For them – for us. I know this is the right thing to do but it's still scary,” Lili said, shuddering a little.
“I'm here,” Malcolm said, arm around her shoulders, “I wish I could wish the fear away. Or, better, the danger itself. I do feel a bit left out, like I should be doing something.”
“You're doing plenty right now,” she kissed him, “And I think there'll be an opportunity for you to, to be a hero. Just, I hope, not too much of one. Not like Jay Hayes.”
He smiled a little, “Without Jay's outcome, most definitely. I am finally with you. I don't wish for this to be the first and last day of that, my love.”
That word. It charged the air. Even the baby seemed to know, for the kicking changed tempo just a little.
Lili put Malcolm's hand on her belly, “Feel this.”
He smiled broadly at her, “It's life itself. I don't think we're about to die. Despite my worries – and I have plenty of those – I think we are going to live.”
“I hope you're right.”
There was a hissing sound, “Okay, we were expecting this,” Hoshi called to everyone behind her, “Lie as flat as you can and if you're near an opening, breathe that air for a while.”
Emmiz was right over a cell where there was just a Vulcan woman, “My apologies!” he called down, “The gas is coming and I hope I will be civil to you.”
“Join me in meditation,” she replied.
“Does that really work?”
But it was all they had.
The hissing stopped. Hoshi felt lightheaded but not bad.
And not really that stimulated, either. Huh?
“I don’t seem to be affected. I guess it affects you if you have a partner,” she called back, “Is anyone else feeling the same?”
“It might need to be a partner of the same species,” Melissa said, “Let's just say I'm stuck between a male and a female Vulcan. You do the math.”
“Let's keep moving,” said the Klingon woman, “Time is short.”
“Try to keep it together,” Jennifer said to the Vulcan woman in front of her.
“I am maintaining control,” she said, but her voice was a bit shaky.
“It's not too far,” Jennifer said, although she really had no idea.
They continued on. There was a bend in the duct work. Hoshi followed it. Suddenly, it dropped, but it also widened considerably. She saw a light, and there was a mesh grating.
She got closer, and could see out. It was some sort of supply room. Tubes, tube caps and clothing were stacked up. Big bags of white paste were shoved into cubby holes. No one seemed to be on guard.
She managed to turn herself around and get her bare feet to face the grate. She tried to kick it open, but didn't have enough strength. The Klingon woman got there next. Together, they were able to get it open.
Everyone followed them in and looked around. There was a door, of course, but it would help to know where they were in the holding center.
Emmiz finally looked at the side of the door, “Look, it's, if you move your head the right way and get the light to hit it at the right angle, you can see a picture.”
Leveqa looked, too, “Yes. It might be a word, maybe.”
Hoshi checked, “Looks like a pictogram. Not really a language – maybe the Imvari aren't literate in the Witannen language. I don't know. This seems to mean, hmm, I'm guessing here. Main hall?”
“There are similar graphics over the cubby holes,” same one of the Vulcans, “See? Here, and here. And where the clothing is, as well.”
“That might mean sizes,” Melissa said, “Or maybe maternity versus non.”
“Yes,” Deb said, “I think these are maternity. They look like Lili's dress, and the graphic is, it's a circle with a smaller circle in it.”
“Yes,” Leveqa said, “It must mean mother and baby.”
“The symbols over the food stores could mean anything from which goes with which species to expiration dates or something,” a Vulcan said.
“Let's get out of this room,” Jennifer said, “It can't help us that much,” she pushed on the panel that might have said main hall. The door slid open, almost completely silently.
They departed, and crept down a hall. It was different from the hall on their floor. There didn't seem to be any cells or exercise areas. The rooms were dark, and all had panels on the side.
“Look,” Hoshi said, “Let's try this one,” The panel's pictogram was of a triangle and a circle.
It ended up being a place with more stacked tubes and tube caps, and bags of paste, “So that one means food storage.”
“The other one, the one we came out of?” Emmiz said, “I looked at its symbol when we were out of it and in the hallway, and it had the circle and the triangle, but also a rectangle. So maybe that one was food and clothing storage.”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Hoshi said.
They came to a room with a door panel that depicted a semi-circle that was divided in several places.
“Table? Cafeteria?” asked Leveqa.
“Bed?” asked the Klingon woman.
“No,” Melissa said, “Window. Or maybe screen. I bet this is Navigation.”
“Only one way to find out,” Deb said, “I'll go first.”
“You and I,” said the Klingon woman, “It is better as a team.”
“How are you feeling?” Lili asked.
“Wonderful. I do believe I have completely recovered from the shocking,” he said. They lay next to each other and he kissed her hand.
“Good. I was worried, you know.”
“I know. Seems a bit unfair, them doing all the work while you and I are here and loving each other.”
“Well,” she smiled, “blame me. I just wanted you. And I do that a lot.”
It was, indeed, Navigation. Or, rather, more like a generalized control room.
It being the middle of the night, the room was sparsely populated. And there were no Imvari – just unarmed, yawning Witannen on the night shift.
They were as surprised to see the prisoners as the prisoners were to see them.
The Vulcans and the Klingon woman were best at getting them subdued. Deb rummaged around and found one of the shocking sticks, “I am guessing you didn't think you'd be needing this,” she said, pointing it at them.
“I don't suppose you'll tell us how to decloak this ship,” Jennifer said, looking around at the odd controls on a semi-circular console that matched the crude pictograph on the door.
The Witannen were silent.
“Look,” Melissa said, pointing at the view screen, “I could swear that was the Kuiper Belt.”
“Maybe it is,” Emmiz said, “That is close to your home world, yes?”
“Very. Too close,” Hoshi said, “Okay, hmm. The red controls might be alarms.”
“Are they?!” yelled Deb, brandishing the stick.
“Try one and see,” said one of the Witannen.
“We can figure this out,” Hoshi said, “Wide rectangle. Panel? Room?”
“Door,” said Leveqa, “Because a thinner rectangle meant clothing.”
“So, one door. Probably the door to this room. Okay. Four triangles.”
“Navigation,” said Emmiz, “Right?”
“Maybe,” Melissa allowed, “Or it could be torpedoes.”
“Wide rectangle, with a lot of little circles in it,” one of the Vulcans said, “Logic would dictate – if a wide rectangle is a door, and the circles are people, then it's the doors to the cells.”
“Or to the room with the children,” Jennifer said.
“Stacked wide rectangles,” said the Vulcan man, “If one is a door, then this may control all of the doors.”
“Parallelogram,” said the Klingon woman, “With one edge folded over.”
“I know what that is!” Melissa said, “It's the cloak.”
“Only one way to find out,” Leveqa said, “Start pressing.”
“Parallelogram,” Jennifer said, and pressed.
“Stacked wide rectangles,” said Emmiz, and pressed.
“Four arrows,” Melissa said, and pressed.
There was a sound of hydraulics.
Six human heads whipped around as one.
The doors were opening.
“Wide rectangle with circles,” said the Vulcan man. He pressed.
Even the door to the control room opened. The Witannen tried to leave, but Deb managed to keep them there.
The ship shuddered and the image of the Kuiper belt shimmered just a tiny bit.
“I think we're decloaking,” Melissa said. She rummaged around underneath the console, “Found it,” It was a joystick. Somehow, pressing one of the buttons – perhaps the one with the four arrows, had opened up the bottom of the console. She started to move it over to the right. The ship moved as she steered, “Holy cannoli. We have helm control.”
The next several minutes were chaotic.
The Imvari weren't around – they had been in the exercise area, refilling tubes. Before they could run out into the hallways, the remaining prisoners were out.
“We'll go that way,” Jonathan pointed, “Past exercise. There's a light past there. It matches the direction Deb went in.”
“I love you!” Malcolm called out, following.
“Be careful!” Lili called back.
Kick kick kick kick kick kick kick kick
Doug looked back for a second, “Miss you!” was all he yelled, and then he followed.
The nine pregnant women were left, plus there was an Andorian woman holding a small infant.
“Let's stay together, sisters,” Dayah said.
There were three Xindi, including her. There were three Vulcans, and two Andorians, not including the new mother with her daughter. And Lili.
“I don't think they will harm us,” said one of the Vulcans, “We are in production. It would not be logical to damage the stock.”
“What's that buzzing sound?” asked one of the Andorians, antennae waving.
“That's not buzzing,” Lili said, “It's coming from far away,” she pointed, away from where the men had gone off to, “It sounds like babies crying. Lots of them.”