“Mr. MacKenzie!” T'Pol called out.
“Yes, I see it,” Aidan replied, “Hull plating is polarized.”
“Helm about,” she said to Chris Harris.
Jonathan could've sworn there were only maybe twenty-five or thirty people with him, but suddenly there were more. All of the doors had opened, and there were species coming in from other units on the floor. He could see Xyrillians, Takret, Tellarites, Tandarins, Calafans, Gorn, and a lot of others that he didn't recognize, both male and female – and some pregnant. There was no time to get acquainted.
They were passing the exercise area, and there were sounds. It would make sense to subdue the guards somehow.
“We'll split up!” he called out, “Take out the guards and get armed. Other half will follow where the women went. There – uh, Hayes, take half to follow the women. Malcolm, take out the guards.”
“Aye, Captain,” Doug said, even though he was no longer working for Starfleet and no longer called himself Hayes. A small quibble in the heat of it all, “Quick march!”
They disappeared down the corridor, following a light. Jonathan went with that group.
Lili and the other pregnant women rushed to the sound of the crying. There was a room with an opened door – all of the doors were opened – and an image of a rectangle with a lot of small circles in it.
The crying was loud, in all manner of octaves and rhythms.
They rushed in. The room was not guarded. There was just one Witannen woman, frantic, “You woke them all up from stasis!” she yelled. She was at her wit's end.
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Dayah blanched, “There must be over a hundred in there.”
“I think we all have an idea of what to do,” said one of the Vulcan women, “The logical act is to quiet them.”
There were rows and rows of what could have charitably been described as bassinets but were really more like tiny versions of their own meager beds, but with rails. And most of them contained a wailing infant of one species or another. Lili didn't know most of the species, but that wasn't exactly her area of expertise. One child nearby had what looked like a spoon on his forehead. Another was a lot like a human but had a horizontally ridged nose. Another had spots on her neck. She grabbed the first one she saw, which she figured was probably Xyrillian. She had never seen a Xyrillian infant before. It was so tiny, barely bigger than the palm of her hand. She could pick up two at a time, and did so, “Shh,” she said, “Uh, Auntie Lili is here. Shh.”
And she saw them – Andorian holding Gorn, Vulcan holding Tellarite, Xindi holding Nausicaan, Tandarin holding Calafan. She counted, when she got a chance, and saw that there were nineteen separate species of infant. Just about one-quarter of the eighty species the Witannen were collecting, so there had to be a total of four floors of prisoners. The only species missing, of course, was human. Not all of the infants could be comforted. They were swaddled, in a way, but there were no fresh diapers. Wet children, unfortunately, had to stay wet. And there was nothing to feed them with. Clearly, no one was expecting them to be awakened anywhere near that day. But they were awake all right.
All of the women rocked and cooed and shushed and sang and smiled at faces that did not match to their own. They were mothers. They knew just what to do.
Malcolm's team got in quickly. The ranks swelled – they were little more than an angry mob. They stormed into the exercise area. The Imvari were ready for them, but there were just too many of them.
Pale hands smacked dark faces, long feet kicked midsections. The shocking sticks, with some effort, began to change hands.
A green-skinned Orion handed him a stick, “I don't need it!” the Orion said, “I'd rather beat them with my bare hands.”
The riot continued and Malcolm wondered how he'd get them to settle down. But he had to admit, getting the Imvari back was something he had to let everyone do.
Doug's team made it to the light. There was an alcove with a turbo lift. The sign on their wall was just a single pip, like the one-spot on a dice.
They crowded into the lift – about eighteen or so of them could get in at once, “Where to?” It was Travis's voice.
“What are the options?” yelled Doug.
“Uh, we're on one. And it goes up to four,” The markings were just pips – one, two, three or four, “Plus the one below one is just a semi-circle.”
“Try that one!”
He pressed. They went down.
Quellata was not pleased. She threw the vet out of her bed.
“I thought you said the mix was going to keep them subdued!”
“It normally would,” he replied, “We must have another telepathic species.”
“Root them out! We'll have to trash that stock. Humans!” she seethed, banging a panel on the wall, but no one was answering communications hails.
Hoshi kept looking at button after button. Finally, one looked like it might be useful. It was almost like an asterisk – a crude starburst, “Is this Communications?” she yelled to the Witannen.
They did not answer.
“Okay, I'll do it myself,” she pressed. There was a crackling noise and a small panel slid out from underneath the console.
“Thanks so much for your help,” she sneered back at the Witannen. She yelled into what may or may not have been a transmitter, “Calling the Enterprise
! Or, or any vessels in the Kuiper Belt! This is the Witannen ship! We cannot slow down! Repeat. We cannot slow down
“Commander, listen,” Chip said. The crackling voice was unmistakably Hoshi's, although she was breaking up quite a bit.
“Ensign, go ahead,” T'Pol replied.
“Hoshi, we got you,” Chip said.
“Chandler, anyone ever tell you you're beautiful?” Hoshi replied, crackling, through the static.
“Not recently,” he said, “Now, tell us the trouble again.”
They quick-marched it out of the lift and down a corridor. Imvari were coming, and they were a lot more evenly matched than the mob in the exercise area, but they didn't know that. They weren't armed, but the Imvari were.
The fighting began. Jonathan, Doug and Travis punched and kicked alongside Klingons and Gorn and Orions and Vulcans. Blood of several colors ran. The Imvari didn't hold back with the sticks.
The lift door opened again, and this time it was a part of Malcolm's mob. They rushed to the fighting and moved along the Imvari flank. The Imvari were far from immune to the shocking, and writhed as much as anyone else.
More sticks changed hands, and differently-shaped faces grimaced in pain and anger and many-colored hands grabbed and poked and hit and did whatever they could to subdue the Imvari.
Doug got himself a stick, and used it to back two Imvari up against a wall. He had to admit to himself, he had almost missed doing this kind of thing. A split second's loss of concentration gave one of the Imvari a chance to try to make a break for it, but he was able to get that one back in line.
“I can hear fighting out there,” said the Klingon woman.
“I can't slow us down at all,” Melissa said, “I can barely keep us from hitting all the junk that's out here. This isn't exactly smooth sailing, and we're going like a bat outta hell.”
“Look,” Deb said, “we're gonna die here if this ship can't be slowed down. We'll just ram into Pluto or something. Cooperating might turn out to be a good idea,” she brandished the stick again at the Witannen.
“Just tell me what to turn or press,” Jennifer said.
“Who's to say the fighting out there isn't going our way?” one of the Witannen said.
As if in answer, Jonathan burst in. He had a bruised cheek but was otherwise okay, “Ladies,” he said, “we might wanna slow down. I can see Charon out there. Oh, and you folks,” he indicated the Witannen, “might want to get new lackeys, 'cause your old ones are cowering out in the hallway.”
“Over there,” one of the Witannen said, “The button that looks like three wavy lines.”
Jennifer found it, and pressed. Another panel opened up, with a series of bars and a stick with a handle, “These are warp factors, right?” she pointed to the bars, which graduated in size.
“Yes,” said the cooperative Witannen.
Jennifer pulled the stick down to the shortest bar. The ship jolted from Warp Nine to Warp One, but they kept their footing.
“I think we might be in control,” Dayah said, shushing a small Xindi Reptilian.
“I hope so,” Lili said, “I thought one was enough work.”
“Someone needs to get Mrs. Beckett,” Jonathan said, as the ship settled down and he realized that they could do that.
“I'll –” Malcolm volunteered. Doug glared at him.
“Uh, I'll go, sir,” Travis said.
“And me,” Emmiz said.
“I as well,” Leveqa said.
They took a stick and departed.
“Captain, is everyone all right?” T'Pol asked.
“All but one is accounted for,” he replied, “Stand by.”
Emmiz, Leveqa and Travis found them, still rocking, still cooing.
“My God, it's like Day Care Hell in here,” Travis said.
“Mayweather, pick up a kid if the noise bothers you,” Lili said.
Emmiz found Dayah. She was looking over two small beds with identical twin boy Xindi in them, “These are mine, with Jannar. I think. They should be a good year old, but it looks as if all of the infants were kept perpetually small. Perhaps we can consider today to be their birthdays.”
“Will we marry?” Emmiz asked her.
“What will your schoolmates think, you marrying an old granny like me?”
“I don't care what they say.”
“Oh, you are a prize,” she said, kissing him, “If there is any such thing as a good part of this, it is you.”
Leveqa looked down at Andorian infants. Serin had left the mob and was there as well, “That one. I am pretty sure,” he said, “Our first one, before Erell. We never named her. Should we, you think, name her Erell?”
“No,” Leveqa said, “That was a different person. This is the child with a chance. I don't know what we shall name her, but it must be anything but Erell.”
“As you desire,” he said.
There were two shuttles for the humans. Who knows how many for the Xindi, the Klingons, the Takret, and more? But the Enterprise
was there, and sent the two shuttles.
T'Pol gathered up her passengers. Melissa got in and Doug followed her. He had a bit of a shiner going but it wasn't bad. Then Lili. Malcolm got in to sit next to her. Doug, again, glared.
Jennifer was looking around nervously.
“Jennifer,” Malcolm said, “Come sit here,” he placed her between him and Lili. That seemed to work for Doug.
The shuttle left and they kept quiet. After a while, Melissa asked to pilot, “I just want to do something normal for once,” she explained.
In the other shuttle, it was cozy and cramped. Chris Harris sat at the controls and Travis got in next to him, “I gotta work a bit,” he explained, “Extended vacation – kinda.”
Jonathan and Deb sat together, and he quietly and surreptitiously held her hand. He had no idea what he was going to do once they were actually back. The cramped conditions more or less forced Hoshi onto Tripp's lap. He did not object.
As they piloted the second shuttle out, Travis paid attention to what he was doing, but a little bit of him thought of the frightened doe of a woman that he'd just spent almost a month with.
“My little duck!” she hugged him and kissed him, “Go see Daddy,” she straightened up.
Doug lifted Joss up in his arms, “How's my brave boy?”
“Tell them what you told me,” Yimar said.
“Oh?” Lili asked.
“Aunt Jenny,” Joss said.
“We can say J's now,” Yimar explained.
“How wonderful. My big boy!” Lili exclaimed.
“Unka Mackum,” Joss said, reaching out.
Malcolm hung back. The sleeve of his shirt moved slightly, and the cuff glinted a little in the light of the shuttle bay.
Doug just glared.
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