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|March 27 2012, 03:41 PM||#1|
March 2012 challenge "What if" – The Black Widow
The Klingon escape pod was picked up by the Enterprise’s grappler and brought into the launch bay.
Malcolm Reed was there to greet it. “Sir,” he said, upon seeing Captain Archer, “are you all right?”
“I am now,” Jonathan Archer said, “anything interesting happen while I was, er, out? What does T’Pol say?”
Malcolm shifted from one foot to another, clearly uncomfortable. “I, sir, I ….”
“What is it you’re not telling me?” The captain was instantly concerned.
“Sir, perhaps you should sit down.”
“What?” The concern shifted to fear, as all he could blurt out was a one syllable question.
Malcolm steered the captain to the mess hall which, fortunately, was unoccupied. “Sir, I don’t know how to tell you this.”
The captain looked him in the eye. “Just, just spit it out.”
“Sir, Travis is dead. And so is Crewman Delacroix. And Crewman Haddon is, well, she’s been permanently injured.”
“My God, what did T’Pol do about this? What happened?”
“Sir, T’Pol is in custody.”
“What?” That same one syllable question. Jonathan Archer was suddenly glad that he was sitting down. “How?”
“We thought we’d have a debriefing, sir, in the, in the Observation Lounge.”
“Yes, now, sir.”
Hoshi and Tripp were there, waiting for them. Hoshi looked stricken. Tripp seemed to be far away. “Who’s on the Bridge?” Jonathan asked.
“MacKenzie is in command,” Tripp said. “Sloane is at Communications, Bernstein is at Tactical, Miller is at the Science station and, and,” he paused for a moment, “and Harris is piloting. Jenny Crossman is in Engineering.”
“Good,” said Captain Archer. The second and night shift mix was of the most competent junior people on the ship. “What about Phlox?”
“I’ll get him on communications,” Hoshi said, almost mechanically. It was something to do, so she set about doing it. The console had slid into sleep mode, and it showed the date – March the twenty-first of 2153.
“He, uh, my understanding is that he cannot leave Crewman Haddon right now,” Malcolm explained.
“Do you know what her injuries are?”
Malcolm nodded, affected. “She was, sir, she was blinded in her, in her left eye.” He shut his own eyes tightly for a second, thinking of what he had seen, and could not get out of his head, could not unsee.
Jonathan found himself revisiting an old nervous habit from his childhood. He tapped his left wrist, first with one finger, then with two, then three and then four. Over and over again.
The doctor’s face appeared on the screen in the Observation Lounge. “Welcome back, Captain. I wish the circumstances were better.”
“As do I,” said the captain, “what can you tell me?”
“I can tell you from the beginning,” said the Denobulan. “A few days ago, when you were abducted by the Tellarites, Lieutenant Reed ordered everyone up from the planet’s surface. T’Pol and I were affected by a microbe. And so we went into decon.”
“Was anyone else in decon with you?” asked Jonathan, trying to figure out how Delacroix and Mayweather had died, and how Haddon had been hurt. So far, the pieces didn’t fit.
“No,” said the doctor. “We were alone. The, the microbe, it affected her systems. She,” he sighed, “she entered, apparently prematurely, into a state of what she referred to as pon farr.”
“What’s that?” asked Jonathan.
“It’s apparently the Vulcan mating cycle,” said Phlox.
“Did you know about this? Did anyone?” asked the captain. Everyone in the room shook their heads, as did the doctor.
“It is apparently, let’s just say, it’s a rather strong drive. And that is putting it mildly. She began to caress me in a sexual manner,” said Phlox. “At first, I refused her advances, but she is a very physically powerful person. I am ashamed to say that I succumbed.” He looked away.
The captain swallowed hard. “Go on,” he squeaked out.
“It was apparently not enough,” Phlox admitted. “She managed to disable the locking mechanism on the decontamination chamber. Security was called.”
“I went with a team,” Malcolm said, picking up the thread of the narrative, “It was myself, Crewman Shapiro, Crewman Delacroix and Crewman Haddon. At first, we attempted to reason with her. Recognize, because of the presence of the microbe, we were wearing pressure suits.”
“Understood,” said the captain.
“She came onto me as well,” Malcolm said, “attempting to touch me through the suit, even. Delacroix approached her and she became enraged. She, uh, she referred to him as an inferior specimen. That’s when she attacked.”
“She snapped his neck,” Malcolm said. Hoshi cringed. He continued. “She also put her hands together and hit the side of Crewman Haddon’s helmet. This caused it to shatter, and there were some fragments that apparently lodged into Haddon’s eye.”
“And then what happened?”
“I shot at T’Pol. But I missed. Sir, I missed. If I had not, God, Travis would be alive.”
“Lieutenant, don’t, don’t do this to yourself.”
“Sir, I just took the one shot, for I could see that Haddon was in distress. Between the two of them, I made the judgment call, and I contacted Sick Bay so that she could be treated. Shapiro had already taken off after T’Pol. And then once Crewman Miller arrived, I called for reinforcements and ran after Shapiro and T’Pol. We had no idea she was going to C deck.”
Hoshi just started to cry. Tripp put an arm around her.
“Travis was apparently in his quarters,” Malcolm said, “And, he, well, Doctor, I think you can explain this part better than I.”
“Right,” Phlox said, “Ensign Mayweather was evidently also approached by T’Pol. She entered and locked the door to his quarters, and was successful in persuading him to attempt to, to fulfill her needs. The process, combined with the microbe, killed him.”
“Where is his body?” Captain Archer asked.
“In Sick Bay.”
“Who’s guarding T’Pol?”
“Crewman Shapiro,” said Malcolm. “We were able, uh, afterwards, to stun her. Shapiro and I got her into the Brig and I left him there. He has been instructed to ignore her pleas. I think, after what he saw, he can do this without any trouble.”
“The microbe mutated after the Subcommander and Ensign Mayweather engaged in coitus,” said Phlox. “It does not pose any further threat to the crew.”
“And the Subcommander?” asked Jonathan.
“She remains affected. This pon farr has not ended,” said Phlox. “I have been monitoring her vital signs, and they are erratic.”
“In what way?”
“Her hormonal and endocrine levels are dangerously high. I suspect that coitus helps with that, but apparently with a non-Vulcan, it’s just not enough.”
“I’m going to the Brig,” Archer said, “Malcolm, you’re with me. Tripp, well, you get the big chair.”
“Yes, sir.” Tucker replied.
“At ease, Crewman,” Malcolm said to Ethan Shapiro as they approached.
“How is she?” asked the captain.
“She’s pounded away at the walls for quite a while now, sir, and I can hear her yelling, but it’s muffled. She complained of being hot so the environmental controls are turned down all the way in there.”
“Understood.” Jonathan hit the wall panel. “Subcommander.”
“I … you …” she said, panting and gasping, “Get in here, Jonathan.” T’Pol was naked and sweating, despite the cold.
The captain was nonplussed. She never called him that. “Subcommander, how can we help you?”
“By getting in here!”
“Subcommander,” said Malcolm, “that’s not going to happen.”
“Both of you,” she moaned, “at the same time. You humans, it’s not enough. But maybe two of you, maybe that’ll work. Get in here! Now!”
“T’Pol,” Jonathan said, “it is not going to happen. Travis is dead. Do you remember?”
“You don’t understand! If I don’t mate, I’ll die!”
“What?” asked the captain, again falling back on the one syllable question.
“It’s the plak tow! The blood fever!”
“The what?” asked Malcolm.
“The … the blood fever, it comes from, from a bond. Without satisfying that, that bond, a Vulcan will die at pon farr.”
“And you had this bond with Travis?” Jonathan asked.
“I don’t know!” she yelled, weepy, her raw emotions turning on a dime.
“Subcommander,” said Malcolm, “did you have this bond with the doctor?”
“I … don’t … know!” she yelled again.
“Do you know what happened?” asked Jonathan.
“It was decon,” she said, beginning to speak more and more rapidly, “and I begged the doctor and finally he, he gave in! But it was too quick! It didn’t work! I had to get out! I, I left and you, you rejected me, Malcolm,” she began to cry again.
Malcolm looked at the captain and shook his head a little.
“And then what?” Jonathan asked.
“I had to, to find a, an acceptable physical specimen. Travis was in his quarters. He was easy to, to make aroused. He had on few articles of, of clothing.”
“And?” pressed the captain.
“And he was, his, his, it was not enough. And he, he stopped moving. Then you came back,” she said, suddenly seemingly calmer, “Malcolm, you came back and I know you wanted me, and you brought Ethan with you, but you shot me! And then I woke up in here!”
“Do you know that Travis is dead?” asked the captain.
In response, T’Pol just began to wail incoherently.
Captain Archer hit the wall panel again in order to break the communications link. T’Pol could still be heard, but her cries were somewhat muffled. The captain turned to Malcolm and said, “I don’t know if she understands what we’ll be charging her with. Do you think she’ll understand her rights at all?”
“I can’t tell, sir,” Malcolm said, “it seems almost like temporary insanity. She is – you know this; she is a compelling woman. It was; I have to say, it was tempting for about a split second. But I hesitated. And sir, if I had not hesitated, it would be me in a makeshift morgue, and not Travis. And if I had not missed, he would not be in there.”
“Lieutenant, listen to me,” the captain said, “I realize this was an extraordinary situation. I, I need to go to Sick Bay, see Crewman Haddon, and see Travis’s, well, his corpse. I need to, I think, do those things, as right now this still feels unreal. Keep a guard on her, day and night, no matter what she says or does. We’ll go to Vulcan. Maybe we can get some answers, and they can, they can handle this. And then I guess we’ll go to Earth, and there will be a trial or, or something. I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
“Right, sir.” As the captain began to depart, Malcolm said, “Crewman Shapiro, you will keep this watch. The next one will go to Crewman Hamidi for the night watch. Then in the morning it will be Crewman Reilly. No one is to let her out. No one is to speak to or to otherwise engage her save for providing her meals, and only then through the slot. Let me know if there are any problems with this schedule.”
In Sick Bay, Phlox was grim as the captain entered. “Crewman Haddon is awake.”
“Got it.” Jonathan parted a curtain to look at the young crewman. She had a huge bandage over the left side of her face. “How are you feeling, Deborah?”
“Pretty awful,” she said, “and not just about, well, this.” She vaguely gestured in the direction of her face. “I just, you know, I went into space because I figured, even being in Security, that we would make friends with most species. I mean, we’re friends with Vulcans, right? I never thought I would be hurt by, by a Vulcan.”
“I can’t say I thought this would happen, either.”
“It’s funny, a little,” Deborah said, “but I have – had – the biggest crush on you. I was afraid to talk to you. But I was hopeful, yanno? And now, that there is no hope, I have no problem talking to you.”
He looked down. “I don’t really know what to say to that.”
“It’s probably just the painkillers talking, sir,” she said, voice a little roughened with fatigue.
“Get some rest,” he said, “and don’t make me make that an order, okay?”
“Okay, sir. Sir? Will I have any sort of a career after, after this?”
“One step at a time, Crewman.”
He parted the curtain and walked back into the middle of Sick Bay. “I need to see Mayweather.”
“Here,” said Phlox, parting a different curtain.
The body was under a sheet. “Captain, I must warn you, this is not a pleasant sight.”
Jonathan peeked anyway. Travis’s bottom lip was rent in two. His upper body was covered in bruises. “I take it this isn’t the worst of it.”
Phlox nodded. “I would not recommend an inspection of the lower half of the Ensign’s body.”
“I know I’ll have to look at some point in time. But for now, I’ll read your report,” Captain Archer said, turning away. “I’ll, uh, I’ll go contact Starfleet.”
“Very well, Captain.”
In his Ready Room, the captain hesitated for a moment, and then opened the door so as to look at the Bridge. “Crewman Sloane, where’s Ensign Sato?”
“Sir, Commander Tucker suggested that she take the rest of the day off,” said Sandra Sloane, “she’s pretty affected.”
“Understood. I need to contact Admiral Forrest.”
“Right away,” she said, “I’ll contact you when I’ve got him.”
“Thank you.” He walked back into his Ready Room. Porthos got up and came over. He petted the dog for a second. “This changes everything,” he whispered.
There was a chime. “I’ve got the Admiral,” said Sandra.
“Go ahead,” replied the captain.
“Jonathan, what’s the trouble?” asked Admiral Forrest.
Jonathan sighed. “Do you know anything about a Vulcan, uh, situation called pon farr?”
“It’s apparently got to do with their mating,” said the captain, “It’s, God, it’s violent.”
“Yes,” the captain said, “I have two dead crew members, and one with permanent disfiguring injuries. And T’Pol is in the Brig and claims she’ll die in a week if she doesn’t, God, if she’s doesn’t, well, take care of business.”
“I’ll contact Soval.”
“And tell him what? That T’Pol snapped the neck of one crew member and killed the other with, with, oh, you don’t wanna know.”
“Jonathan, we had no idea. If we had known, we never would have agreed to send a Vulcan into space with you,” said Admiral Forrest.
“And then we never could’ve gone,” said Captain Archer. “It was a Catch-22, you know. They had us,” he laughed bitterly for a second, “by the short hairs. We’re coming back to Earth, but first we’re going to Vulcan. T’Pol, well, she needs, I guess I know what she needs, but there’s no one here who’s really qualified to give it to her, I’m thinking. And once, once the deed is done, we need to get her to Earth in order to face charges.”
“I can have a Vulcan ship rendezvous with you in, uh, six days,” Forrest said, “maybe seven.”
“That may be too late,” said Jonathan. “It certainly is for Travis. Contact the Horizon, please, just, try to find them. His family needs to know. Archer out.”
The familiar dusky orb of Vulcan was visible just outside the Ready Room window. The display on Jonathan’s desktop scrolled past the time to the date – March thirtieth, 2153. “Computer, dictation mode,” he said, sighing. The cursor changed from blue to fuchsia, indicating that the system was ready.
“Captain’s star log, March thirtieth, 2153. It is with a heavy heart that I am resigning my commission as Captain of the NX-01. It’s just too difficult to go on. My First Officer has died in custody. We were unable to get her to her people in time. And I can’t risk another Vulcan crew member going through the same thing.”
He sipped some water before continuing. “Before departing, I have some business to attend to. I recommend that Charles Tucker III be promoted to Captain, and that Malcolm Reed be promoted to First Officer. Mister Reed will undoubtedly protest, and claim unreadiness. There is, I understand, a Military Assault Command Operations unit in Atlanta. General Casey informs me that a Major Jay Hayes is a sharpshooter and could give Reed a refresher course in marksmanship. I recommend that Reed take that course once the ship returns to Earth. Ensign Aidan MacKenzie is hereby promoted to Lieutenant and will be the Armory Officer. Christian Harris is promoted to Ensign and will make a fine full-time pilot.”
He swallowed once before going on. “I do hereby posthumously promote Travis Mayweather to Lieutenant, and Brian Delacroix to Ensign. Crewman Deborah Haddon should be placed on indefinite leave, but with full pay. I will recommend her, without reservation, to any position she so chooses, in or outside of Starfleet. She and Delacroix are also hereby given the Distinguished Service Medal. I further recommend that Ensign Hoshi Sato receive a thorough psychiatric evaluation as these events appear to have severely traumatized her.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose before finishing. “If we ever go into space with Vulcans again, we’d better pair them up. Because you don’t want to know what the exact condition of Mayweather’s body was, and what truly happened. We probably won’t really know, but we can conjecture. And I think that’s worse. We are, perhaps, fortunate in some small way that the damage was not more extensive. My Armory Officer is already wracked with guilt, as am I. We should have known. We should have known. I blame the Vulcan High Command for its squeamishness and its prudishness about sex, for not telling us that this sort of thing could happen. I am done here, and I hope that Erika Hernandez will have an easier time out in space than I did.”
He took a deep breath. “Computer, end dictation.”
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