And saith unto him,
If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down,
For it is written,
He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,
And in their hands, they shall bear thee up.
Battle montage with Requiem for a Dream theme music
“How many ships?”
Limis rose from the command chair as soon as Morrison had reported enemy vessels entering sensor range. Comm chatter from other ships in the fleet indicated the enemy ships were a small reconnaissance wave.
“We’re looking at five Breen light cruisers and six fighter nests,”
Kozar answered from the bridge of the USS Kaneda.
He and other crewmembers from the Lambda Paz, along with survivors of the recent Jem’Hadar ambush had been transferred there to after Kaneda had lost many of its crew during recent skirmishes.
“Confirmed,” added Morrison. “The light cruisers are spreading out towards our port and starboard flanks.”
They’re trying a maneuver similar to what we’re planning,
Limis concluded. “Open a channel to all ships. Akira
-wings, head for the flanking light cruisers, but hold the line. They’re going to try to divide and conquer. No matter how much they try and bait you, do not move too far away from the rest of the fleet. All other ships form up alongside us, the Derna
, and the Calisto
targeting the lead ship and fighter nests.”
The fighter nests broke apart into ten fighters each with organic hulls. The organic hulls allowed the fighters to merge and separate easily. While the fighters were merged, more functional ships could repair damaged ships.
Squads of Defiant
, and Norway
-class Starfleet vessels, along with K’Vort
-class Klingon Birds-of-Prey
and Romulan starbirds fired spreads of torpedoes at two of the fighter nests before they were able to completely separate. Those fighters that did spread out and swarm towards the entire fleet fired pulse cannons that did considerable to the attacking vessels. The Starfleet ships fired phasers and torpedoes, while the Klingon and Romulan vessels fired multi-targeting disruptor charges, damaging or destroying a few of the Breen fighters. They were just a cover for the Breen fighters that moved in closer to ram various Alliance ships.
To counter this kamikaze
maneuver, two Defiant
-class ships swooped in and fired multi-targeting phasers and quantum torpedoes at the fighters’ maneuvering jets and impulse engines. Some of them spiraled out of control while others were still able to take out a few Alliance vessels. Just as two were about to crash into Klingon Birds-of-Prey
, two Norway
-class ships swooped in and fired phasers at the incoming fighters, destroying them.
Wings of Akira
-class vessels led by the Kaneda
protected the fleet’s port and starboard flanks respectively against four of the five Breen light cruisers. They fired alternating rounds of quantum torpedoes and plasma charges, grazing the forward hulls of vessels on both sides. Swarms of fighters provided support for the light cruisers, damaging the various parts of the Akira
-class vessels. The Kaneda
were easily able to fight them off with phaser fire from the secondary emitters in the secondary hull and nacelle pylons.
The light cruisers moved off while continuing to fire pulse cannon charges. As ordered, the Akiras
stayed in formation while firing rounds of quantum torpedoes, but did not follow them. Instead, they continued targeting the fighters that were laying down cover fire as the cruisers swung around for another pass. The Kaneda
and two flanking Sabers
then used alternating salvos of phasers and torpedoes, destroying one light cruiser and heavily damaging another. The Thunderchild
and two other Akiras
used the same tactic in destroying two more light cruisers.
The lead cruiser, supported by surviving fighters, continued targeting the three Luna
-class vessels and supporting Starfleet light ships. The Lambda Paz
, and Calisto
continued firing salvos of phasers at oncoming fighters, effortlessly destroying them, and quantum torpedoes at the light cruiser. It was eventually destroyed, enveloping two fighters. One fighter that survives continues shooting at the Lambda Paz
, damaging a portion of the starboard primary hull.
The sickbay rocked back and forth as battle continued.
Markalis was helping set up equipment alongside one of the main biobeds when the room rocked. Sparks erupted from the floor, loosening the legs of the bed. It tipped over and falls on her. She screamed in pain as the wayward bed pinned her to the floor. A Denobulan nurse kneeled down and attended to her while asking for help to get the fallen biobed off the chief medical officer. Two male technicians grabbed both sides of the bed and lifted it up off her.
After that freak accident, Aurellan laid back on one of the secondary biobeds. She had stripped off both layers of her uniform top and her tank top, leaving only a brazier covering her torso to make her injuries easier to treat. The EMH scanned her with a tricorder while placing a hand sensor near her bruised abdomen.
“Abdominal bleeding, punctured small intestine, and four broken ribs,” he told her. He set the tricorder down near the edge of the biobed and stepped over a cart with medicine vials. He was loading a hypospray with one of those vials when he paused upon suddenly remembering something. “You’re still cutting back on triataline, aren’t you?”
“Of course,” she answered with a brief hesitation.
“Triptacederine can have unexpected side effects when interacting with triataline,” the hologram explained as he walked back towards Aurellan.
“Is it really necessary?”
“The alternative is to be up all night writhing in pain.”
“Go ahead,” Aurellan said reluctantly. The EMH then injected the drug into her carotid artery. “I feel better already,” she added after a brief silence.
She leaned over and kissed him on the lips without realizing that others might have been watching. She felt a wave of embarrassment while already feeling violated in her current state of undress. As the EMH began instructing two nurses on a treatment plan, Aurellan started to feel woozy, making her less sure whether the side effects were worth getting rid of the pain she was in.
After being treated for her injuries, Aurellan retired to her quarters. While still feeling sharp pains in her abdomen, she slipped off her blue and gray uniform jacket and blue tunic. While sitting at the edge of her bed, she pushed a keypad on the nightstand to suspend the lighting. She laid down on her back and fell asleep while still partially in uniform.
Throughout her life, Ariel had not spoken a single word.
She spent her days reading newspapers, books, and magazines, and writing lists and charts from what she had read. While not reading and writing, Ariel often retreated into a self-induced fantasy world. In this fantasy world, she was a doctor on a spaceship far in the future where she was a more high-functioning individual, but her unique intellectual gifts were recognized and embraced.
Her room had pieces of paper scattered throughout the floor, some containing what most other people considered trivial facts and passages. Some of the papers contained seemingly random sets of numbers, with the most frequently occurring numbers five and thirteen having been circled. They may have been trivial to the others, but deep down, she knew all the “gibberish” she wrote had some meaning. Written on the walls were ominous and cryptic warnings such as “Beware the Illuminati”, “The government is watching you”, “Tyranny looms, but not from who you think”, and “Do not become the enemy you seek to destroy”.
She was very often prone to such psychotic episodes that reinforced the beliefs many of the institution’s doctors that Ariel should not have been made aware the outside world. One newspaper headline that triggered this particular episode mentioned a “House Un-American Activities Committee hearing.” Each time she started writing on the walls, orderlies would put her in a straightjacket and paint over the walls.
Two of the doctors also accompanied the orderlies discussing what to do about this latest incident. “She’s been concocting some more colorful conspiracy theories about our government becoming a police state,” said Doctor Tepren. She closely resembled one of the doctors who worked for Ariel in her fantasy world. “Why do we even bother giving her all this material? It’s only feeding her schizophrenia.”
“It keeps her engaged,” a male doctor explained. Leo Houseman was similar in appearance to another character in Ariel’s fantasy world; only Houseman was more clean-shaven and spoke with a southern English accent. “It gives her something more productive to do than stare off into space dreaming of a better future that might not exist for another hundred years or so.”
“Her paranoia is enough evidence of schizophrenia,” Tepren insisted. She picked up a piece of paper off the floor and read what was written on it. “Such as the FBI putting listening devices in people’s homes”—an orderly handed her a stack of papers and she read what was written on the top sheet—“or the gradual suspension of our Constitutional freedoms.”
Houseman grinned as if he thought the latter claim was not so far-fetched. “There has been a lot of that lately; most recently, the arrest of peaceful protestors on the Columbia University campus.”
Peaceful’?” Tepren skeptically repeated. “Some of them turned violent and took to vandalizing university property.”
A lie the Illuminati was selling to justify their soldiers’ excessive brutality, Ariel knew. She started fidgeting. If she had the strength to remove the straightjacket, she would. All she could do was kick some papers in Tepren’s direction.
“‘And the worst is yet to come in San Francisco’,” Tepren read aloud off one sheet of paper. “It’s the same pattern over and over again, Leo. She compartmentalizes the world around her into wild predictions of doom and gloom. Orderlies put her in a straightjacket and we take away all her reading material until she calms down. Then the whole cycle starts all over again. This time, we’re taking it all away for good this time. In fact, get rid of the radio as well.”
Houseman had been in deep thought after he heard mention of San Francisco. “There’s an important hearing going on in San Francisco today,” he said. “Turn on the radio,” he requested of one of the orderlies. “
Hear It Now is starting any minute.”
A booming voice filled the room once an orderly switched on a radio perched on the nightstand next to Ariel’s bed. “Today is Friday, May 13 and you’re listening to Hear It Now
. The House Un-American Activities Committees began hearings at San Francisco City Hall today. Hundreds of college students from Bay Area universities gathered outside of city hall in protest. Thirty-one arrests were made, while others were seriously injured in the police crackdown as hundreds were blasted with firehouses and forcibly dragged down the stairs...”
Tepren and Houseman both stared at each other in disbelief. Houseman sat down on the bed and stared into Ariel’s blue eyes. She looked back at him intently, her way of letting him know that she had, in fact, made a prediction that had come to fruition. She could not tell, though, from his neutral expression whether he truly believed she had an uncanny ability to find correlations between seemingly unrelated occurrences or was still just as skeptical as the other doctors.
It is written again,
Thou shalt not tempt
The Lord Thy God.
The man’s face blurred as she blinked her eyes open and shut. When she woke up and sat up on her bed, the man sitting at the foot of her bed had visible stubble on his chin and was dressed in a Starfleet uniform.
Aurellan Markalis had returned to her reality, back in her quarters, but still convinced this dream or hallucination she had where she was a mute autistic savant in a twentieth century mental institution was every bit as real as her current surroundings. She felt her forehead, still experiencing light-headedness even after most of the drugs were out of her system. “What happened?” she wondered.
“I called you on the comm several times,” the EMH explained. “I had the sense you’d still be experiencing unexpected side effects despite your claim that you had significantly cut down on your doses of triataline.”
He gave Aurellan a chastising stare indicating that she was being less than honest about that claim. She simply sighed and looked away from him for a moment.
“I monitored your vital signs from sickbay while keeping a closer eye on the more seriously injured,” the hologram continued. “When you started exhibiting unusual brain-wave patterns, I asked Doctor T’Pren to take over, as Vulcans can go several days without sleep and came here. I wanted to see firsthand that you could ride this thing out.”
Aurellan smirked at hearing how rational her significant other was being. But then she didn’t know whether to be worried for him or appreciative of his actions. While some of her crewmates had been placed on supervised duty because their personal lives were conflicting too much with their professional lives, Aurellan and the EMH prided themselves on preventing their personal and professional relationships from conflicting with each other. Until now, neither had crossed the line between being lovers and colleagues.
“You didn’t have to do that yourself,” she told him while clasping his right hand with hers. “You could have had a nurse observe me.”
The hologram put his free hand on top of her hand. “I wanted to see you through the night. I felt partially responsible for your condition.”
Aurellan placed the palm of her left hand on the side of his face and pursed her lips on his. “You are such a gentleman,” she said, resting her forehead on his.
“Just part of my programming. I would never take advantage of a patient who was not of sound mind.”
Aurellan moved her head away and touched both of the EMH’s shoulders while flashing a wide smile. “But that you stayed by my side shows how much you care about me.”
“Of course I do,” the EMH said with a sheepish grin. “You’re very important to me.”
“Absolutely,” Aurellan assured him. “I am, just as you are to me. You may not experience romantic love in the same way us biological organisms do, but it’s demonstrated through your behavior. Focused attention on the preferred individual, rearrangement of priorities, obsessively thinking of me, certain affiliative gestures… I’m one of your biggest priorities.”
“When you put it that way,” the hologram replied with a nervous chuckle, “you’re absolutely right. You are
my biggest priority.”
As they kissed again, Aurellan suddenly realized something. “Has anyone thought to give you a name?” she asked. “Something to call you besides ‘doctor’ or ‘EMH-Mark III’?”
“No,” he answered with no hesitation. “I researched famous doctors, but none of the names really stood out.”
“How about Leo Houseman?” Aurellan suggested, in reference to his doppelganger from her hallucination.
“Why Leo Houseman?”
Aurellan needed a few seconds to consider her answer. “He was a character in an old novel who reminded me of you,” she said with a slight sense of embarrassment, “someone who used humor as a defense mechanism, who often rubbed others the wrong way, but deep down was a caring and compassionate and sometimes naďve man, who encouraged others to embrace their unique gifts.”
“Then I’ll try that for a while,” the hologram replied with slight reluctance.
They both smiled while staring into each other’s eyes. As she kept her gaze on him, she didn’t see a computer program and projection of light and energy. She simply saw a man with a soul, even if such a belief could not be proven scientifically. All that truly mattered to her was his role in her reality, whether she was Aurellan or Ariel. Leo Houseman was every bit the center of her universe as she was.