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Story - Star Trek: Disavowed Chapter 2

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WelshAvenger, Tue 05 Jun, 2018 8:16 PM
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    #16
    Lieutenant Kennedy Shea finished a few things up in the armory. She headed to her office and sat behind her desk, rifling around for the data PADDs that most urgently needed her attention, and started to read. Shea only made it through a couple of sentences before deciding her concentration was just not up to snuff, and found herself heading towards sickbay. She casually made her way up a few decks, heading down the corridor. Her mind raced, trying to think of a good reason why she would need to be in sickbay in the middle of the day. Perhaps her hand needed another checkup? She nodded, deciding that was her best bet.

    Doctor Molly Patamon sat in her office, trying to get some files situated from the day's events. She chewed on her thumbnail, studying what she had done so far, as a couple of crewmen walked in. One of them was clearly not injured, and although it was possible the other might have been, his swagger suggested otherwise.

    "Anything I can help you gentlemen with today?" She said, raising her eyebrow ever so slightly.

    The first Marine piped up, "Oh yeah, we could think of a few things you can 'help' us with." He leered at her, looking her up and down. She shuddered.

    The second crewman added to his buddy's remarks. "Yeah - why don't you come down to the lower decks with us and let us show you around?" He elbowed his buddy in the ribs, both grinning.

    Patamon looked over the two Marines. "Neither one of you seems to be injured, I don't think there's anything I can do for either one of you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do," she said, starting back behind her desk.

    "Oh, I still think there's a few things you could 'do' for us," the first officer said, grabbing her by the elbow, roughly.

    Kennedy chose just that moment to step inside sickbay. She stopped on a dime, surveying the situation, and then cleared her throat.

    Patamon turned a glare towards him. "Let go of my elbow, please," she said through gritted teeth.

    "Oh, I don't think so," he said, looking up and down her body slowly. His buddy stood in the background with a crooked grin.

    The Marine Lieutenant clenched her jaw at hearing his remark. "Am I interrupting anything, Doctor?"

    Molly jerked back from the man. "Just a couple of gentlemen who need to be shown the corridor, Lieutenant."

    Shea turned a dark brow towards the two Marines. "Is there a problem here, Privates?"

    "Not a problem at all, Lieutenant," the second Marine piped up. "If you'll excuse us..." Both men retreated quickly to the corridor.

    Kennedy watched them leave and made a mental note of their names, so she could have a 'talk' with them later. She looked back to Molly with a concerned frown. "Are you okay?"

    Molly nodded and sighed, seating herself on the edge of her desk. Although she could have easily defended herself had the situation continued, she chose to allow Shea do it for her. "Yeah, fine ... glad you showed up when you did, though."

    Shea nodded, rocking back and forth on her heels. "Uh yeah..." She looked down at her feet. "I thought a check up of my hand was in order." She knew the excuse sounded flimsy, but she didn't care - it got her what she wanted, which was to spend at least a few more minutes in sickbay with Molly.

    Molly nodded, still a little shaken. She motioned Kennedy closer, reaching for a tricorder and scanning her hand. She asked quietly, "We're still on for dinner tonight, right?"

    Kennedy moved closer and smiled. "Oh yeah....I uh..." She sighed. "I guess I just used my hand as an excuse. I just really wanted to see you again." She motioned towards the door. "Good thing I did, what did those two want?"

    Molly muttered as she scanned. "A checkup, of sorts."

    Kennedy ducked down to look her companion in her warm brown eyes. "Tell me Molly...if they need to be disciplined, then I have to take care of that."

    Molly closed the tricorder and set it on her desk. She glanced towards Kennedy's own green eyes. "Same old story - they hear of a new Risan on board, and think they can get whatever they want from said-Risan ... as did those two."

    Quickly, the Marine Lieutenant looked towards the door, then back to Molly. "They...They tried to force you?" She growled lowly.

    "They didn't get very far - nor would they have." She said quietly. "But ... yes."

    Shea clenched her jaw. "I'll take care of them. I'm sorry, not all us grunts are like that."

    Molly answered softly, "I know."

    Kennedy gave her a little smile of her own. "How's my hand?"

    "Fully recovered," the doctor answered, with a small smile of her own.

    Kennedy flexed her hand, making sure it was up to her standards. "Good. I'd hate to be not up to par for our...date."

    "Our ... date?" Molly smiled, not totally disagreeing with that statement.

    Shea shrugged. "Isn't that what tonight is? Or am I really in the totally wrong ballpark?"

    "No, I think we're both on the same page about this, actually." She reached for Kennedy's hand, patting it gently. "And I can't wait till tonight."

    Kennedy took a slow breath at Molly's touch. "Me either," she said with a warm smile. "And thanks for taking good care of me." She wiggled her fingers in Molly's direction.

    Molly chuckled softly, letting go of her. "No problem ... until tonight, then."

    "Until tonight." The lieutenant slipped out of sickbay, whistling as she headed back down the corridor.

    -----------------

    Molly stepped into the lounge, still fairly tired but having had at least some chance to rest. She ran a hand through her fraying braid, loosening the strands in order to re-work them into something more manageable. She moved quietly towards the only remaining free table in the lounge.

    Miguel Chandra had spent several hours filing his report of the away mission. What seemed to be a typical rescue operation turned into a complicated situation, filled with Borg and changelings. After his long and tiresome report, he found himself hungry. He left his office, and moved into the lounge for a good sandwich. It appeared that he was late in getting off, as most of alpha shift were in the lounge. There was only a single table where some peace could be enjoyed, and it was taken by one other. He walked over towards that free table.
    "Excuse me..." He cocked his head to the side as he got her attention. "Everybody else is about a hair from a riot, mind if I join you?"

    Molly looked up at the stranger, remembering all too vividly her unwelcome run in with a few Marines earlier that afternoon. She bit her lip, trying to appraise him in just a few short seconds. "I suppose," she allowed.

    "Thanks." Miguel returned as he took his seat in front of her. After a moment of hesitation he decided to try and engage in a conversation. "I haven't been here that long, but from what I can remember... your new." He smiled. "I'm Miguel Chandra, resident pilot."

    "Yeah, I'm new," she echoed, trying to shake off the effects of the last few days. "I've been on board a couple of weeks now, but my first real duty shift was last night..." she trailed off. Realizing she hadn't yet introduced herself, she turned a slight smile towards him. "I'm Mahala Patamon ... the new MO."

    "Pleased to meet you Mahala Patamon." He returned. "So your the new doctor? Guess visiting sickbay won't be so bad next time after all." He joked.

    "Oh I'm sure Doctor Cushing's bedside manner can't be all that bad..." She motioned a waiter over.

    "I'll have a glass of ice water, and a bowl of vegetable soup. And a dinner roll, please." The waiter nodded, then looked to Miguel for his order.

    "The same..." Miguel said after a moment. Suddenly a sandwich just didn't seem to be as good as it was before. He returned his attention to Mahala. "I suppose... so how long have you been with Starfleet? Exempting any time in prison, asylum, etc."

    She turned towards him, recognizing his form of interest when she saw it, but decided to let it continue for a bit longer. "I joined the Academy right out of high school, when I was seventeen. Except of ten months of ... shall we say, finding myself, I've been part of one ship or another ever since."

    Miguel grinned. "Dare I ask?"

    Fortunately, their glasses of perfectly iced water arrived at just that moment, saving Molly from having to answer his question in too much depth. "No, you don't." She didn't mean to seem abrupt, but with the triage of the night before, she was too emotionally drained to go into her brother's death scene, yet again.

    Miguel nodded his head. "That's fair." He agreed. He took a sip of his drink. "Hmm... somehow even replicated water just doesn't taste the same." He said as he put the water down.

    Molly took a sip of her own, crossing her legs under the table. "It's still water, I think..." She smiled slightly, trying to relax some.

    "We both think..." He joked. He was running out of things to say, and felt a bit awkward for intruding on this woman's rest, and assuming she was in for a conversation.

    Molly took a few more swallows of her water. "So - you said you're a pilot?"

    Miguel nodded his head. "That's right."

    "How long have you been on board?"

    Miguel thought for a moment. "A few weeks also, I'm surprised we haven't seen each other sooner."

    She nodded slightly. "Maybe with all of the hustle and bustle of getting settled in, we've just managed to miss each other." She looked up as their meals arrived, granting the waiter a grateful smile.

    Miguel looked at his food. "I have to thank you, I was about to order a plain sandwich before I heard yours."

    She chuckled softly, taking a small spoonful of broth first to test the taste, then nodding in approval. "I don't eat meat, so usually a quick meal for me means vegetable soup."

    Miguel raised his eyebrows at her while he took his first sip. "No meat? Even when it's not real meat?" He asked.

    Molly took a bite of a perfectly prepared zucchini slice. "No meat at all. I've never really liked it all that much, and it's just so much easier to get fresh vegetables than freshly slaughtered meat," she blanched, making herself slightly ill. "Anyway - it's a small way to honor the animals, in my own version of the way of my ancestors."

    Miguel nodded. "Well, I don't think I could go without a good burger... but needless to say I'm impressed."

    She smiled up at him. "You'd be surprised at how good a veggie burger can taste - and you can hardly tell the difference." She broke her dinner roll into several smaller pieces, taking one and dipping it into the broth before lifting it towards her lips.

    Miguel agreed. He looked at his chronometer, it was time to complete the report about the operation and give it to the captain. "Well you'll have to excuse me, I have a date with paperwork."

    Molly nodded. "Not a problem, I understand. I've got to be going soon myself, I have to get back to work. I have patients to check on and reports to file. But perhaps I'll run into you again sometime?" She neatly dabbed her mouth with her napkin and rose from her seat, leaving her empty dishes on the table.

    After leaving sickbay, Shea went back to her tiny office and finally got most of the padds off her desk. Back when she was a Gunny, it was so much easier then now. Her new rank gave her authority, but it was also a pain in the ass when it came to paperwork and dealing with day to day Marine issues. Sitting back in her seat she tapped her chin, running what Molly said almost happened in sickbay earlier with those two Marines. She knew it was her duty to take care of this in a very professional manner, maybe just write them up with warnings, perhaps she should even defer it to the Major because she was a little too involved, but what she really wanted to do was kick their sorry asses. One thing she picked up from her time living on Earth was the southern charm of Texans. She knew the proper way to treat a woman and really expected it from all of the grunts under her. Maybe if she just scared them a little bit she'd feel much better and they'd get the hint.


    That problem solved she stood and stretched, heading out of her office to solve the problem of her hunger. Taking her time, she made her way to the mess to get some chow. It was late in the afternoon, so most of the rush should be over. Stepping up to the doors of the mess, they swished open. Ducking inside she made her way quickly to the replicator, putting her order in. Turning to look over the room, she noticed it wasn't as crowded as the main rush, but there were still plenty of people hanging around. Picking up her meal she scanned the area to find a free table and then stopped dead in her tracks.

    On the far side of the mess she spotted Molly and the new pilot. Standing very still for a few moments, she watched their body language. It seemed they were having a friendly conversation, but how friendly she couldn't tell. Swallowing hard, she looked down at her meal, now not very much in the mood for it. Heading for the door she set the tray down on an empty table and made her way out of the mess, heading for the holodeck. She could feel the beginnings of a huge headache coming on. The headaches had been more frequent, but she usually tended to ignore them. Today however she was convinced that what she just witness was what was causing this headache.

    She thought that a little workout in the holodeck would help her get out the anger slowly building up inside. Muttering to herself, "What was I thinking? She's Risan and she doesn't have any promises to me." Shaking off those thoughts she stepped up the control panel and tapped in her favorite program and then clenched both hands into fists and stepped inside.
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    #17
     –  Last edited by WelshAvenger; 3 Weeks Ago.
    Steve Hollins reported to the cargo bay, mini phaser rifle in hand. Four Starfleet security guards followed suit, all armed with the same weapon. Steve marched right up to Hawkins. "Commander Summers told us to report to you." he simply said.

    Hawkins looked away from Taylor and stared at Hollins, then his phaser rifle. “That's a weapon?”

    He looked down at his weapon then back up at Hawkins. "Starfleet issue, sir." he shrugged.

    “Starfleet issued, huh?” the Marine CO replied. “What are you going to do with it, shoot squirrels?”

    "Are complaining about the size of my gun?" Steve asked, deadpan. "As long as we know how to use it, I don't see why size should matter. Sir."

    “Because I've seen these things in action against phaser rifles. I swear that if you pop them with that, they'll get mad and take it away from you.”

    "Ouch," Steve said as he looked at the rifle. Even though it was a more compact design that its predecessor, it would still hurt like hell.

    The grunt smiled and held up his own weapon. “This, my fleeter friend, is an M1263 model Z pulse rifle. This carries 60, 5,56-mm armor piercing shells, an attached model 71A grenade launcher, and a taser side attachment. This is truly a remarkable weapon.”

    He raised an eyebrow. "A little bit of overkill, but to each his own..."

    “So are your people prepped?” Hawkins asked.

    "Yes, sir. Prepped and ready to go," Steve nodded.

    “Then I say we get the show on the road.” He replied and turned to his troops. “Alright men, report to your pods! Move it double time!”

    "You heard the man!" Steve said to the fleeters. "Move out!"

    Everyone headed out to the pods and filed in accordingly. It was a tight fit, but somehow they managed to all squeeze in.

    Hawkins, Taylor, and Hollins made their way to the first shuttle pod. Hawkins walked in first and took a seat next to the CEO. “Anticipation getting to you yet, Ms. Thorne?”

    "You wish, Major." Reina shot back. "It takes more than a killer changeling to phase me."

    Taylor listened to the words being exchanged from his CO and the CEO. When the talking had ceased, he decided to start up a quick conversation with Hollins. “What kinds of combat situation are your people trained for?”

    "We're trained for mob, hostage, and other similar types of situations," he replied. "Basically, we want to diffuse any type of violent situation and keep the peace as best as we possibly can."

    “Ok, so basically you guys are trained as police officers.” Taylor said. “Meaning once you decide to leave the fleet, you can get a job in law enforcement?”

    Steve held his jaw stiff. "That's a possibility, yes, but I prefer to stay in Starfleet, thank you."

    =/\= We'll be arriving at the vessel in 45 seconds. =/\= came the sound of the shuttle pilot over the intercom.

    Hawkins took off his weapon and checked his magazine once again, as did Taylor. Hawkins looked at the Engineer. “Are you armed?”

    Reina pointed at her phaser pistol and shrugged, slightly embarrassed at her lack of firepower.

    Hawkins looked back over at Hollins. “How often do you get to fire a real weapon?”

    "I don't really use them very much. Pretty much only in the firing range, but I can use one. Starfleet doesn't make them a standard issue, you know."

    The Marine stood up and pulled another assault rifle from his overhead compartment, then handed it to the SEC officer. “Try that out for size.”

    Steve took it, gripping it to test out the weight. It was a pretty good size; slightly bigger than he was used to dealing with. "It's pretty good."

    Hawkins looked at the man crossly. “Pretty good? That's all you have to say about it?”

    "Well, what do you want me to say? I haven't tested it out yet, so I can't say it's simply fabulous yet, now can I?"

    “Guess you can't, but I'll just mention that the keyword of your last sentence is ‘yet’.”

    He grinned. "'Yet.' I'll let you know how well I like it at the end of the mission."

    Hawkins smiled in reply and gave the security officer a small nod. He could get along with this Hollins fellow. He wasn't a stuck-up, tightly wound prig like the rest of the fleeters.

    Taylor looked at the Security Officer. Unlike his CO, he didn't take to outsiders very well, but the man knew a lot of Kendra. “Have you known Commander Summers long?”

    "Yup, she's the best friend everyone wishes they could have. I'm just glad I finally have another chance to work with her. I wouldn't give that up for the world," he said, then looked up at Taylor. "I wouldn't give her up for the world."

    Taylor nodded and replied, his voice barely audible over the ruckus in the shuttle. “She is a nice woman.” But that sentence didn't quite hold true in his outlook. Just the sight of that Borg and her drove him insane. The only thing keeping the rational part of him together was the mission at hand.

    Hawkins turned to Taylor. “Equip the fleeters with the emergency locking device.”

    Taylor nodded and went over to Reina Thorne. He removed a small device, no larger then a commbadge and placed it on her collar. “This will immediately transport you to sickbay if you are injured.”

    "Injured? You're all armed to the teeth, Gunny, if anything reaches me, it'll be very, very mad and won't want to injure me, it'll kill me." Reina replied.

    Taylor grinned a little. “Yeah. Ain't war hell?”

    =/\= We are now in range of the vessel. Prepare for transport =/\= came the call from the pilot.

    Hawkins arose from his seat. “Alright everybody, this is it. Let's gear up and prepare to move.”

    Steve looked at his people. "You heard the man. Let's go!"

    Everyone gathered up their gear and moved to the transporter pads. Each group shimmered away to the derelict ship, looking for something they hoped not to see even in their nightmares. Must be their lucky day.

    --------------------------

    Aspen awoke a little while later with a start. She and Chris had fallen into a peaceful slumber a couple of hours ago. But now, she was awake. She didn't change her breathing pattern, trying to see if she could see anything in the dim light. Someone was in the room, and it wasn't the other members of the team. She could feel it.

    And that's when she saw it. A shadow, or what she though was a shadow, moved in the corner. She nudged Chris and started to sit up, but suddenly her vision went blurry.

    He had seen her drop back down on to her pillow. Concerned, he sat up a little and placed her hand on her stomach. "Aspen, are you alright?"

    "Huh?" she said, her head pounding in her ears. She felt nauseous. Then, as quickly as it came, the feelings of illness left her.

    He looked her over in the dark. "I asked if you were alright."

    "I saw something. Computer! Lights!" she called out. The lights complied and suddenly the room was flooded with illumination. "Something moved in the corner. I think..."

    That was all that he need to hear. Chris slid out of bed and put on his boxer shorts. After he was partially dressed, he reached for the fully loaded 9mm on his night stand. The SEAL stood up and raised his weapon. "Where?"

    She pointed to the far corner.

    He walked closer to the specified corner and looked around. "I don't see anything."

    "Something was there, Sabien. I don't know where they went, but I know--" she started.

    It was then that a boot on the ground came to life and punched him in the back of the head. The SEAL went down hard.

    "Dammit!" Aspen said and started up out of the bed. Unfortunately, her body had other things in mind. The room began to spin and she had to sit back down in the bed. What was going on?

    Sabien slowly picked himself up off of the ground and watched as the thing disappeared into the air vents. "Somehow I get the feeling that the changeling isn't on the other vessel." He looked at Aspen and noticed that she was still struggling. "Are you ok?"

    Aspen waved him off. "No, I'm alright. Just got a little dizzy, that's all.... But I knew that I saw something over there..."

    "You were right about that. Good eyes." he replied.

    "Alright. Lemme get dressed and I'll inform the Commander so she can contact the Major..." she replied and tired again to stand. This time, she made it. She smiled triumphantly. "See? I'm fine."

    "Aspie, you don't have to tell me something, do you?" he asked. "I need to know if it's a kid or not."

    "No way. Don't even joke about that," she scolded him as she pulled on her clothes. "I'm half Risan, baby. Do you know how effective the contraception is? And I've got access to it."

    He nodded. "Good. You know with the kind of lifestyle we have, we can't raise a kid."

    Aspen pulled on her shirt and walked over to Chris. She put her arms around him and gave him a quick kiss. "I tell you what. I'll go get Monk to check me out or maybe even go have that 'fleet doc check me out."

    "Alright." he replied. "Look, just in case you are...I'm here for you. I'll be with you throughout all of it. I promise."

    She gave him a small smile. "Thanks, baby, but it's nothing. Nothing to worry about."

    Sabien shrugged. "I know it's nothing, but I just wanted to let you know that."

    Aspen ran her fingers over his jaw line and gave him a small kiss. "You're a good man, Sabien."

    Sabien pulled on his pants and shirt, then made his way out the door, but not without saying 'I love you' to her.

    "I love you, too, Angel," she replied in turn and watched him go. She set about to get her own clothes on to go inform the Commander what was going on. She wasn't pregnant; no way she could be. Right? But, if she wasn't, then what exactly was wrong with her?
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    #18
    Christopher silently wandered the corridors with a Padd in his hands. Crewmen merely nodded their greetings instead of voicing their hello's. Evidently his mood was blindingly obvious to others. He entered a turbolift and decided to try and get rid of his melancholy. 'You're not a miracle worker, Christopher, you're a doctor.' He told himself.

    As the doors opened onto the bridge, he thought of the patients that the medical team had lost. He had already run through the what if scenarios. What if they'd been treated quicker? What if he'd spent a little more time analyzing injuries? But questioning one's actions led to self doubt, a quality no doctor could afford to have. With a sigh, he stepped onto the bridge. He smiled weakly at Tawnia, who looked at him with a concerned expression. "Tell you later." He said. She nodded silently and concentrated on her tactical panel.

    He rang the door chime to the captain's ready room, steeling himself to deliver the bad news.

    "Come!" issued a voice from the door speaker.

    The doors hissed open and Christopher walked in.

    "Sorry to disturb you Commander, but I have the casualty statistics and post mortem reports on the wounded that were brought over." Sounding a hell of a lot less weary than he felt.

    "Not disturbing me, Doc," Kendra said as she took the PADD from him. "Wish it was a bit of a lighter visit, but still..."

    "I know what you mean. Please Kendra, before you say anything else, look at the figures."

    She looked over the PADD. "Wow. This is pretty depressing. Over half their crew is dead..."

    "I know, I had to do the post mortems. I still feel as though we could have done more."

    "Doc, it wasn't your fault. You did all you could to save as many of them as you could."

    "Thank you Kendra." He said, feeling slightly better. "I guess that I needed to hear that from someone else. Take a look at the autopsy reports, the vast majority of people that died sustained crush injuries which are much harder to heal. Evidently our changeling friend over there has been doing his research. If you cut someone, we have dermal regenerators to seal it, but if you burst their internal organs, there's not much we can do after the first hour. To put it really bluntly, it knew exactly how to incapacitate quickly and kill slowly."

    "Oh, wonderful. So he's a smart changeling on top of that? Dammit. I knew they were dangerous in the first place, but I need to contact Hawkins and let him know what to expect. His people could be in serious trouble before they get a hold of it," Kendra groaned. The last thing they needed was to have a homicidal changeling take out the marines.

    "Is there any way we can tell Hawkins without alerting the changeling? Considering it can be anything anywhere, is there a way we can send it so that it doesn't create an audio signal for it to hear." Christopher asked.

    "Not a problem Doc, we can send it coded to his earpiece." Kendra assured him.

    "I guess anything is worth a try." Christopher reasoned.

    Kendra was about to respond when the door chime filled the room. "Come!" she called out.

    Aspen Sato walked in the room and came to stand in front of Kendra's desk. "Pardon me for interrupting, ma'am."

    "It's cool. Can I help you with something?"

    The SEAL nodded. "Actually, I think I'm about to help us all out. We've spotted the Changeling on board the Apocalypse."

    Kendra's eyes grew wide. "What?"

    "Just when I thought that my day couldn't get worse. You sure about this one Sarge?" asked Christopher.

    "I'm sure," Aspen replied. "Lieutenant Sabien and I were in the barracks when we saw it. It attacked him and then escaped through the air ducts. It could be anywhere."

    With a sigh, Christopher tapped a key on Kendra's desk. "Computer activate EMH program and inform all medical personnel to report to Sick bay immediately." As the computer chimed an acknowledgment Christopher turned to Kendra and Sato, "If you'll excuse me ladies, I'll go and arrange for blood tests for all crew members."

    Aspen nodded. "And I'll go see what my people are planning. Good day Commander, Doctor," she said as she spun on her heel and left the room.

    Christopher nodded and tapped his comm badge, "Cushing to Natalya, people are going to start to arrive in sick bay soon, give each of them a blood test to confirm their identity. If they refuse, call security. I'll be there in a minute."

    "Well, it seems that this mission is turning out to be a bit more complicated than we originally thought. Why am I not surprised?" Kendra said with a smirk.

    Christopher just smiled and walked to sick bay.
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    #19
    Steve stepped onto the vessel, his eyes trying to take in everything around him. It was dark, very dark. How did SEAL Team 2 see when they were over here a little while ago?

    "Hollins, have your people investigate sectors 3 and 4. Relay any information you find." Hawkins said.
    He nodded. "Yes, sir."

    Hawkins turned to Delta squad's squad leader. "Sgt. Walker, take Delta to sector 2 and secure the area. I want this thing found and destroyed."

    Sgt. Lance Walker nodded in reply. "You don't want it alive?"

    "Why?" Hawkins asked. "You've seen one you've seen them all."

    "Good point." Walker replied and led his men from the area.

    "Who's going with the Engineer?" Steve asked.

    "Well I don't really much care, as long as they have hands to hold something and can follow simple instructions. Failing that someone who can make sure I don't get torn limb from limb by this supposed shape shifter, because frankly, If I go, so does your life support." Reina shrugged and fixed them both with a grin. "I can't fix the power AND shoot a phaser at the same time"

    Hawkins stared at the engineer and the security officer. "She's with you guys. We'll find the thing before it reaches engineering."

    "Sounds like a plan," Steve replied. "Ready to head out, Lieutenant?"

    "I'm ready whenever you are" Reina says re settling her packs over her shoulder.

    Hawkins raised his arm and signaled his troops. "Alight saddle up, lock and load!"

    Steve turned to the Chief Engineer. "Shall we go?" he asked with a grin.

    "Lessee." Reina said. "I'm saddled up. I'm locked and loaded. We might as well get this show on the road."

    ** Later on Deck 1**

    "Sir, we haven't found a damned thing." Walker said through his comm link. "You guys have better luck?"

    "Negative." Hawkins replied. "Deck 1 is clear and according to Halloway, he and the secondary SEC unit haven't found anything on 4. I say we regroup and head to engineering to she what's up."

    "Roger that, Major. We'll meet you there in about 10 minutes." Walker replied.

    "Roger that, Hawkins out." Hawkins turned to Taylor. "Regroup the boys and let's move out to engineering."

    "Yes Major." The senior NCO replied. "Alight Beta squad. Gear up and prepare to move to sector 3! Let's move it now!"

    **Engineering**

    Steve looked around the engineering area. It looked like a war zone in there. Phaser blasts all over the wall, consoles had been trashed, even a dent in one of the bulkheads. Steve let out a low whistle. "What in the hell did the changeling turn himself into to do that?"

    Reina looked on the destruction with something akin to horror. "Oh..My..God." She whispered before shaking her head and settling down. "How it did it isn't a concern of mine at the moment." she said taking the top of one of the panels off. "Getting it fixed is." She whistled and positioned the computer buffer to connect . "I hadn't expected this much damage..." She got up and moved over to check the status of the backups.

    He shrugged. "How's it coming over there? Any progress?"

    Reina stood up shaking her head however a huge grin was plastered across her face. "Well If we were on a creek at the moment, I'd say the water was brown and I'd be desperately seeking a paddle, if you get my drift." She moves back. "Guess I'm going to have to do this the hard way." She pulled out her box of tools and settled down to work literally burying herself halfway into the wall. After a couple of moments a
    muffled voice singing a rollicking tune:

    Everyone knows someone we'd be better off without,
    But best not mention names, for we know not who's about.
    But why commit a murder, and risk the fires of hell,
    When black widows in the privy can do it just as well.

    Now, poison's good, and daggers, and arrows in the back,
    And if you're really desperate, you can try a front attack.
    But are they really worth the risk of being caught
    When black widows in the privy need not be bribed or bought?

    So if there's one of whom you wish most simply to be rid,
    Just wait 'til dark, then point the way to way the widows hid,
    And say to them, "I think you'll find that this one is the best,"
    And black widows in the privy will gladly do the rest.

    Lieutenant Reina Thorne, despite being on a dangerous ship and faced with difficult situations was having the time of her life.

    Steve stood there for a moment, looking at her. Not only was she singing to herself but she was singing about black widow spiders. Spiders were bad.... "Uhm, I don't mean to be rude, but can you change your song a little? Had a bad experience with spiders. They kinda creep me out now..."

    "Oh, Sorry" came the muffled voice from behind a panel, considering where her legs were sticking out of the wall, the CEO must be a contortionist according to where the voice emanated. "Didn't know they gave you the willies. In my job, you get them all the time, mind you we spend our lives probing into deep dark places where they like to hide. What happened to put you off them, or have you always had that phobia?"

    "One tried to eat me," he said simply.

    Thoughtful silence emanated from behind the panel. Finally Reina's voice said mildly "Must have been a big spider. Sorry about that."

    Steve shrugged. "No, I don't mind. Several members of the Apoc crew were on the same mission. When we were all stationed on the Illustrious, we were on a mission to investigate the reasons as to why a mining facility suddenly ceased communication. Well, an away team was sent to investigate, and we discovered that the indigenous life had decided that they liked humanoids as food. The indigenous life was a bunch of big giant spiders. Bigger than you and me put together. They wrapped their victims up in big cocoons and then came back to chow down later. Or just ate them immediately if they were hungry. Apparently they were hungry when we encountered them."

    "I've heard of planets that don't like tourists, but that takes the cake." came the voice. "Hey! WORK GOD DAMN YOU!!!" there was a series of loud clangs and thumps from behind the panel in the wall and fitfully the Ships Status display monitor flickered into life "Did that do anything Hollins?" she asked.

    He looked around for a moment. Nothing seemed to be happening and he was about to tell her so when the console next to him suddenly sputtered to life. Steve jumped and pulled his phaser on the sparkling, crackling machinery before he realized what he was doing. "Uh, yeah. It seems to be alive..."

    "That's more like it!" came the voice "Good ship! I know there was a spark of life left in your broken body. The panel died again, one more thump and it powered up again and stayed that way. Reina extricated herself and stood before the display. Little red lights gleamed through the smashed display that was almost unreadable. However it didn't seem to phase Reina. "Oh crap" was all she said. "Backup 2 has been smashed, but backup 3 has only taken a little damage.... I might be able to get it to work if I reroute the power..... Now about the power... Ummmmmhuh...Well we have auxiliary. but that's going to need a good overhaul to bring it up to anything about 'piss poor.'"

    Hawkins and his men walked into engineering, their weapons still drawn until they seen the fleeters. Hawkins walked up to the console that Hollins was standing next to. "Any luck Lieutenant?"

    "Well, I'm not up on my technobabble but I think she said she can get power back...." Steve replied with a wrinkled brow.

    Hawkins nodded and looked at the engineer. "Ok, what's the word, chief?"

    "I can fix her up a treat" Reina said wiping her hands, although smuts still decorated her face and her hair clung damply to her cheeks. "If I had a shipyard and a full platoon of engineers, but I'm sensing that there's no chance of you finding those items aboard is there....so. I'll still say I can fix her...but time has doubled....and I'm going to have to send to the makers for a couple of spare parts. Very expensive....She'll be ready next Tuesday."

    Hawkins sighed and unstrapped his helmet. "You see? This is the part of the job I hate. We scoured every inch of this hunk of junk and haven't found any trace of the enemy. We fired shots from our rifles throughout every duct and every jefferies tube and still nothing."

    "Yeah, we haven't seen a damn thing either. Though I didn't try shooting down the Jefferies tubes..." Steve replied.

    Reina piped up. "Well that's probably the reason I was having trouble. You DO realize that there is all sorts of systems behind the panels of those tubes that don't react well to weapons fire? That's why we have them...They aren't just like an alternative highway for engineers to use when there's too many people in the corridors?"

    "Major, we just received an incoming call for you from topside. Seems like a SEAL found something on the Apoc and the Commander and CMO are taking safety precautions." came the call of Sgt. Walker. Hawkins looked over at Taylor and Hollins before he walked over to Walker and Halloway.

    "Patch me through." Halloway handed the Major an earpiece.

    =/\= Hawkins to Summers, what's the word? =/\=

    =/\= The word is 'damn.' You guys are on the wrong ship. Our little stowaway is over here. =/\=

    =/\= Are you kidding me? =/\=

    =/\= Do I sound like I'm kidding? A couple of members of SEAL Team 2 saw it. Attacked one of them, even. We need you guys back here. =/\=

    =/\= Alright, we'll be back there within 10 minutes. Sit tight, bravo six out. =/\= Hawkins turned to everybody. "All right people, seems out changeling has made an escape to the Apocalypse. I want everyone to drop what they're doing and EVAC back to the pods. Let's move it out."

    "Oh, lovely," steve groaned. "Well, Chief, looks like you won't get to tackle anymore spiders today. Not here anyway..."

    "Okay Boss" Reina said packing up her tool kit. "She's your call, but this means she won't be ready until at least Saturday......"
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    #20
    Christopher stepped through the doors of an empty sick bay to be greeted with a hypo to his arm, "OUCH!" he cried.

    Natalya shook her head, "That didn't hurt you." She said in her thick Russian accent, running the blood sample through an analyser.

    "Natalya, when I asked you to take blood samples form people as they came in, I didn't mean for you to assault them the moment they stepped through the doors." Christopher explained, rubbing his arm.

    "Congratulations," Natalya said, "You are human, in good health and who you say you are."

    "I'm so pleased." Christopher grumbled, beginning to regret building the EMH this way.

    "One question. Why is it necessary to take the blood samples?" asked Natalya.

    "Just a moment," said Christopher, "Computer, initiate program Cushing Pi Delta 1."

    The EMH faded from view, dropping the hypo she had been holding.

    Satisfied, Christopher reactivated the EMH to be told harshly, "That was not a nice thing to do."

    "I'm sorry Natalya, I had to check that you weren't a changeling. We have one loose on the Apocalypse." He explained.

    Natalya appeared deep in thought for a moment, "Then I do not mind so much, will there be anything else?"

    "Yes, can you add some rank pips to your uniform? If the changeling does come in here, it won't know you're a hologram straight away."

    "Da." She said and with that, an admiral's pips appeared on her collar.

    Christopher laughed, "That's a bit ambitious isn't it? An ensign will do for now Natalya."

    A wicked smile played across her lips and the admiral's rank disappeared to be replaced by a single ensign's pip. The doors swished open and Amanda came through, breathing heavily and red in the face.

    "Did I interrupt you in something Amanda?" Christopher asked, smiling broadly.

    Amanda straightened up and without missing a beat, replied, "Just some inter-service over familiarity, sir."

    "Ah, well, good for you. Natalya will take a blood sample and confirm you identity. I'll brief you once Lt. Patamon arrives." Explained Christopher, heading into his office and removing the phaser from the desk drawer. 'Can't be too careful.' He thought.



    Molly lay on the bed with Kennedy, curled up comfortably around her body. Her eyes were closed, but neither woman was asleep. Shea lay on her back, chuckling lowly. Molly glanced up towards her, a faint smile playing over her lips.
    "Mmm..." She finally got up the energy, leaning up to kiss Shea's lips gently.
    Shea smiled into the kiss. "I'm too exhausted, don't start that again."
    Molly laughed tiredly. "Me too. I just wanted to express my affection, sweetheart."
    Kennedy nuzzled into her. "I'm teasing - Prophets that was wonderful. I don't think I've ever lost all feeling in my body like that ever before," she laughed.
    Molly giggled softly. "Well then I will definitely wait until the feeling returns," she teased back. "I want you to fully enjoy yourself every single time we make love." She smiled warmly.
    Kennedy ran her fingers gently through Molly's hair. "Mm, that's nice. Not what I'd call my previous experiences."
    Molly answered softly, "We *did* make love. I really care about you, Kennedy..." She closed her eyes with a smile, for just a moment, then opened them again. "Would it be too soon...." she hesitated. "To ask you to move in with me?"
    Kennedy blinked a few times. "M...move in with you?"
    "Well - yes. I don't ever want to go to sleep and not have you next to me - the logical thing would just be to move your stuff here too," she finished with a slight smile.
    Kennedy leaned down towards her, kissing her softly. "My quarters are larger."
    Molly beamed. "Your quarters it is, then. I'm glad I still have all my boxes."
    Kennedy grinned. "I can't believe this," she shook her head. "Man, the other grunts are going to give me a hard time."
    Molly started to respond, but the comm sounded in her quarters. "All medical personnel, report to sickbay immediately," the monotone voice of the computer stated. She sighed.
    "I have to go, sweetheart ... but you're welcome to stay here as long as you want," she said wearily, getting up and reaching for her clothes.
    Kennedy lay back on the bed, stretching out. "Give me a second and I'll walk you to sickbay."
    Molly yawned, stretching tiredly also. "Alright." She got into her uniform, not exactly int he mood to go to work but not really having a choice at the moment.
    Shea pushed up off the bed, walking nude to the bathroom, to get a quick shower. Molly grumbled and tossed a pillow in her general direction.
    "I'll have you know, that's not helping my present situation any!" She kept an eye on her newfound lover until she entered the shower stall. Molly flopped back on the bed, only half-dressed.
    Kennedy stepped into the shower and washed up quickly. A trait she had formed in boot camp, she had always learned to shower quick, eat quick and run quick, 'And you'll be just fine.' She stepped out and wrapped a towel around her body, grinning as she walked back into the bedroom and spotted Molly curled up around a pillow.
    "You sleeping again?" She grinned.
    Molly had her eyes closed, but her body was too tense to be asleep. "Yes, I am..." Her boots still on the floor, where she had tossed them the night before, she would have been able to sleep easily had it not been for the uniform she was wearing and the fact that she had been called to sickbay. "And it isn't very nice to wake someone who's asleep."
    Kennedy quirked a brow and grinned at her. "Sorry..." She looked around and sighed. "I hate wearing a dirty uniform." She began to gather up the various pieces of her uniform off the floor, slipping them on one by one.
    Molly answered her in a muffled voice, "So go back to your quarters and change into a clean one." She yawned, stretched and finally sat up.
    Kennedy shrugged and pulled on the last bits of her uniform. "I will, after I walk you to sickbay."
    "Alright..." Molly pulled her boots on, adjusted her uniform, and finally stood. "Though I'll have you know, I'd rather just stay in bed all day." She glanced down to make sure she was presentable. Finally, she ran her fingers through her hair, pulling it into a suitable braid.
    Kennedy smoothed her uniform down, running a hand through her own dark hair. "I agree with you darlin', but we have our duties too."
    Molly smiled slightly at her. "But soon enough - after this is all completed, we're going to have to spend a little more time on us ... promise?"
    Kennedy walked closer to her, reaching out to cup her cheek. "You can bank on it darlin' , I promise."
    "Good..." Molly kissed her lips softly, then stepped back a tiny bit. "I guess we should be going, then - the doctor didn't seem like he was all that eager to wait."
    Kennedy nodded. "I know - I want to see what's going on."
    "Me too." Molly slipped her hand into Kennedy's. "Ready?"
    Kennedy looked down at their joined hands. "You're ready to let everyone know?"
    Molly squeezed her hand, suddenly a bit unsure. "Are you?"
    Kennedy bit her lip, thinking about that. "Well, it's not like I have a great reputation here anyway, you could only improve it."
    Molly chuckled, squeezing her hand again. "Let's do this a different way," she suggested. "Since we're both going on duty, we'll try to be professional. But on our off hours, it doesn't matter who sees us. Is that fair enough?" She bit her lip for a second. "I mean, I certainly don't want to hide our relationship, but it doesn't seem right to flaunt it on duty, either."
    Kennedy nodded. "Okay, that sounds good." She grinned. "That way, I can keep my hard ass attitude," she winked.
    Molly laughed. "Yeah - otherwise all those grunts might not respect you anymore," she teased, exiting her quarters.
    Kennedy laughed also. It felt so good to laugh again, especially with Molly by her side. "Yeah right," she said, following close behind. "They don't respect me now." She walked beside Molly towards sickbay.
    They remained in a comfortable silence for the short walk to sickbay. Finally, upon approaching the door to sickvay, Molly looked towards her. "So ... I'll see you later?" She hesitated, not really wanting Kennedy to go anywhere.
    Kennedy stopped and looked over her shoulder. "Don't want me to come in?"
    Molly stepped in at her words, definitely wanting her to come inside. She quickly took stock of the situation in the other room. She spotted a half dozen crew members, most of them not medical personnel but so far, all of them Starfleet. She noticed the EMH setting ... something, up, she wasn't quite sure. Nurse Ogawa nodded towards her, and Molly nodded back with a slight smile. She spotted the CMO in a harried, somewhat exhausted looking state, and decided it would be best to report to him ASAP and start doing her job.
    "Of course I want you to come in," Molly finally said quietly.
    Kennedy walked in behind her, wanting to hear the latest scoop. Since her CO was on the other ship, sickbay would be one of the easiest places to listen in for the time being.



    Aspen ventured into the sickbay and took a look around. There were still some of the more critical personnel from the Pegasus in there, but other than that, it seemed relatively deserted. "Hello?" she called out, hoping that there was some sort of Doctor on duty.

    Doctor Molly Patamon glanced behind her, sensing someone behind her. She gave the woman a quick once over, checking to see if she had any visible injuries that might require a trip to sickbay. "Hello there ...is there something I can do for you?"

    "Hi, I'm Aspen Sato, part of SEAL Team 2. I think I'm coming down with something..."

    "I'm Doctor Patamon. Not to sound presumptuous, but don't the Marines have their own medics that could have assisted you?" Seeing as how sickbay was still very busy, dealing with the final write-ups from all of the autopsies, and all of the patients who still required tremendous amounts of care, it seemed only fair that the Marine should have seen a medic who was a bit closer.

    She nodded. "Normally, I would, but our medic is kinda busy right now. And I'd like to know now, please."

    Molly nodded slightly. "Well of course then - I didn't mean to imply anything, of course. Have a seat..." Molly gestured to a stool, the only free space left in sickbay. "I'll be right back, I'm just going to grab a tricorder." She moved to the storage locker, picking out her tricorder while she shook her head. She truly hoped this was something important enough to take her away from tending to her patients. While she certainly didn't mind tending to tummy pains and headaches on any normal day, this certainly was fair from normal. She was just too busy to pat every patient on the head and 'hope you feel better' and all that. She sighed, having had a very long forty-eight hours. With plans beginning to form for her to move into Kennedy's quarters, and having not slept enough (well, at all really, if she was honest with herself,) she was very exhausted. The Risan doctor turned back to her patient.

    "So, Ms. Sato, what seems to be the problem?" She opened the tricorder, beginning to scan.

    "Woke up cause I heard something. Turned out it was the changeling in the barracks," she started to explain, then looked to the Doctor. "Which, by the way, I haven't had a blood sample taken yet. Did you want to do that while I'm here?"

    "Sure - might as well get it over with while you're here..." Molly grinned slightly. She retrieved an instrument from a nearby table, and held it against the Marine's arm.

    Aspen held still while the woman took a sample of her blood. "I'm human. Well, humanoid..." she announced.

    "Seems that way," Molly responded tiredly. "So what happened that brought you to sickbay in the first place?" She questioned, going back to her scanning.

    "Oh, yeah. Woke up, saw changeling, tried to get up and got really dizzy and nauseous. Had a very hard time getting out of bed...." Aspen explained.

    Wasn't expecting *this*, Molly thought to herself. She casually ran the scan again, then went to the nearest console to input her data.

    "Ms. Sato, I'm going to have to let the computer analyze your results, see what we can come up with. But as soon as I find out anything, I'll contact you immediately." She made a mental note to talk to Dr. Cushing about the results in front of her, but saw no need to disturb her patient with that possibility. She gave her a reassuring smile.

    Aspen nodded. There was something in her tone that Aspen didn't like, but what was she gonna say? 'No, you tell me now!' Well, she could, but it probably wouldn't get her very far... "Okay, Doctor. Keep me informed. Thanks." Aspen slid off the biobed and headed out the door. Maybe she should have waited for Monk after all....

    Christopher watched Aspen sigh and walk out of the room. Grabbing a spare phaser, he walked out of the office.
    "Here you go Molly," he said, handing over the weapon, "it's set for heavy stun. Anyone gives you trouble, stun them and we'll take their blood sample while they're unconscious. Of course, if the heavy stun setting doesn't work, it's a big clue as to where the changeling is."

    Molly blinked at the offering. It wasn't that she didn't know how to fire one - in fact, she was fairly good at it. But she'd always relied on her physical skills, most of which were unassumed about the tall Risan woman. The element of surprise had chased away many a would-be 'suitor,' as the case may be. She took the phaser from Cushing, carefully placing it in a side pocket. "Heavy stun - alright. I'll keep that in mind." Molly glanced towards Kennedy, who still stood in the doorway to her office. She gave her an apologetic 'I'll see you later?' look, sighing softly. Shea nodded back at her and winked, mouthing "See you soon. Take care." With that, she turned and exited sickbay.

    "Was there a problem with Aspen? She seemed a bit, well... distracted." Christopher asked, bringing her focus back to the task at hand.

    "No - yes. I'm not sure, honestly. I'm having a hard time interpreting her scan results. I thought I should consult you on it," the Lieutenant admitted. She'd never seen scans quite like that before, and while it appeared to be some sort of viral infection, she couldn't put her finger on exactly *what* it was. "I remembered seeing similar results from several members of the Pegasus crew - do you think they could have brought some sort of viral infection over when we beamed them here?"

    "Let's take a look then." He said taking the tricorder and glancing at the results, "I'm not questioning your methods here but are you sure you took the reading right? I mean, surely not this ... on this vessel!"

    Patamon nodded, a bit relieved that Cushing was having a difficult time accepting it as well. "It appears so. It could mean we're all at risk, of whatever this virus is that the Pegasus crew brought over. But why didn't we detect it sooner?" She murmured, not wanting to upset anyone in the outer part of sickbay.

    Christopher stared at the results as if willing them to change would alter anything. "Let's go into my office." He said. He motioned for the Lt to take a seat and sat down opposite, steepling his fingers in thought. "Molly, did you tell her the results?" he enquired.

    "No - I simply told her I needed to consult you, but not to worry until we could determine exactly what was going on," Molly said uneasily. "We'll need to inform the commanders, won't we?" Molly felt a tad bit guilty for breaking doctor-patient confidentiality, but quickly reminded herself of the severity of the situation.

    "I've got a nasty suspicion that the commanders are going to want to be informed on this one. We might be able to keep it from the brass at HQ but we can't keep it from Cmdr Summers and Major Hawkins. God Almighty, we'll probably have to inform Lt Sabien too. He's her SEAL team commander, so he should know." He sighed deeply.

    "We're going to have to start scanning every crewmember for it, you know," she said soberly. Forty-eight hours of nearly no sleep had left her more than a bit exhausted. "Starting with the two of us, and Amanda. We interacted with the most of the Pegasus' crewmembers, aside from the SEAL team that rescued them in the first place." She looked down at the PADD which contained the scan results, muttering quietly, "And except for a handful, they're all dead. What if the same thing starts to happen here?"

    "Don't worry, it won't. After all," he reasoned, "this is what we're here for. Oh my god, that sounded too corny. If I say anything like that again you have my permission to shoot me. Start a molecular analysis on the infection, see what the computer brings up. In the meantime, I'm going to have to do something I really don't want to do."

    Molly chuckled quietly at his 'permission,' but nodded at him. "And what might that be?" She was almost afraid to ask, but her natural curiosity won out.

    "I'm going to have to place the ship under quarantine until we come up with an antivirus or we find that damn changeling. Hawkins is really going to freak when he finds out he's not allowed back on his own ship."

    "Probably ... anyway, I've got things I need to tend to. If you'll excuse me..." She nodded to the doctor, sighing tiredly, and then headed back to her office. What she really needed was some sleep, but that wasn't going to be coming anytime soon. She dragged herself back to her desk, getting back to work and waiting for the next set of off-duty crewmen to come in for their blood samples.

    Christopher just sighed and hit the comm panel.
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    #21
    Kendra was on her way to the shuttle bay to meet Hawkins when her commbadge beeped.

    =/\= Cushing to Summers. =/\=

    Kendra hit her communicator and opened the channel on her end. "Go ahead Doctor."

    =/\= Commander, we've just detected an unknown virus aboard the ship. We're working on finding out just what the hell it is, but I'm going to have to place the ship under quarantine until we find out more. =/\=

    Kendra stopped in the middle of the hallway. "What?"

    =/\= We've detected an unknown virus aboard the.. =/\=

    "No, no, I heard that," Kendra replied. "I've got the marines already starting to file back, so we'll..."

    =/\= No! We need them to stay off the ship! I don't know if the other ship is contaminated or if it's just an isolated incident here but, either way, they need to stay where they are. =/\=

    "Doc..."

    =/\= Kendra, as the ship's Chief Medical Officer, I am telling you that they can't come aboard. =/\=

    Kendra growled on her end. "Dammit, Doc. You can be difficult, you know that?"

    =/\= Yup. =/\=

    "Fine, I'll inform them now. Summers out," Kendra groaned and cut the comm. Some of the marines were already onboard, she knew that much. Now, she needed to call Hawkins and let him know... Oh, the joy.

    ***On the Pegasus***

    Hawkins was waiting for his turn to beam back over to the shuttle, when he received a call from Summers.

    =/\= Hawkins here. What's the word? =/\=

    =/\= Got some bad news, Curt. We've been put under quarantine. You have to stop transporting your people over here. =/\=

    =/\= Dammit Summers, tell me this is a joke. Because if it is, I'm not laughing. =/\=

    =/\= Do I sound like I'm joking, man? Doc just told me that one of the members of SEAL Team 2 has been infected with some sort of virus and he's not sure what it is. Bringing you guys over could do one of two things: put you all at risk or, if it was already on that ship, then you could contaminate the Apoc crew further. You can't come over here. =/\=

    =/\= This is great. What am I supposed to do in the meantime, sit on my backside? =/\=

    Kendra sighed audibly over the comm. =/\= I know it sucks. But, yeah, you get to sit on your backside. And wait. =/\=

    =/\= Tell me one thing. Are we in any medical danger? =/\=

    =/\= Do you think Doc would just sit around and say, 'Hey, I'm the CMO. I feel like a quarantine today.' Of course there's danger! =/\=

    =/\= Ok, Ok, Ok. Just keep me up to speed on any progress. =/\=

    =/\= I will. Summers out. =/\= She cut the channel and entered the shuttle bay. "Ensign, this will be the last group landing. We're under quarantine. The rest of the marines will remain over there."

    "Hey!" Taylor yelled as he walked up to Summers. "We're not leaving the Major and the troops over there. So tell your shuttle bay door operator to disregard that order."

    Kendra nodded. "I'm sorry, Gunny. Doctor's orders. His word outweighs mine and Hawkins in this case."

    "Bull. We have a changeling on board and we need every man we can get to battle the damn thing."

    She walked out of the shuttle bay, still talking to Taylor. "I know that the changeling is onboard. And now we may have a shipwide contamination. When it rains, it pours, doesn't it?"

    Taylor followed her out. "You know that you're putting me in a very bad position, don't you Commander?"

    "What do you want me to do? Bring them over and risk all of us getting sick or keeping it all in one place until we figure out what it is? My hands are tied." she replied harshly. They came to a turbolift door and she pressed the button for the lift.

    "This is the type of thing that caused the mutiny on the Illustrious. HQ gets word of this and they'll go completely crazy."

    Kendra stepped onto the lift and called for the bridge. She studied him for a moment. "Alright, I may not be a telepath... Oh, wait, I am. I know something is bothering you but I'm too polite to go in there and get it myself. What's wrong?"

    He shook his head. "Nothing wrong. I just want my comrades safe."

    "They're probably safer than we are, Taylor. We're the ones over here with the changeling, remember?" Kendra replied. "But that wasn't what I was referring to when I asked you what was wrong. Are you mad at me or something? You've been a little stand-offish...."

    "You are so self-absorbed. Just because I'm angry, doesn't mean that you are the cause of it." he said. "So do us both a favor and get off your high horse."

    She looked at him for a moment. "That's not what I'm reading right now. You are upset about something involving me." she commented quietly.

    "Stay out of my mind, Summers!" he yelled angrily. "You'll just wind up getting shot for invasion of privacy."

    "Well, damn man! You're broadcasting loud enough that anyone even remotely empathic knows that you're upset. I can only block so much...." she replied somewhat sarcastically.

    "Well..." he muttered trying to come up with a good comeback, but couldn't think of one. "Just stay out of my head."

    Now her face darkened. "Look, I was trying to help you out. Isn't that what we're supposed to do?"

    "What the hell are you talking about?"

    "My, God! What is wrong with you? You've been harping on how you want there to actually be an 'us' and now you want to push me away. What the hell?" Kendra yelled angrily.

    "Just forget it, Summers. I don't want to talk about it." he said just as fiercely.

    "No, I can't just forget it. Why are you being such a tool?" she asked him just as the turbolift doors opened.

    He sighed. "Look, let's just talk about it later. Ok? I got some stuff to do in the meantime."

    Kendra stood there and crossed her arms over her chest. "Fine," she said. "Be that way."

    He turned in the other direction and walked away.

    She was so very tired. It had been one hell of a day. "God, what did I get myself into?" Kendra muttered to herself as the doors closed one more time.


    Kendra walked into her quarters, exhausted. It had been a hell of a day, what with surprises from the past and rogue changelings. She knew it was onboard, but there was really nothing she could do until it was found. So she might as well get some rest while she could.

    The doors slid open for her and she stepped into the doorway. Then she stopped. There was someone in the room, she could sense them. The problem was, since she kept her abilities under control, she didn't know who it was. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness, what with the light from the hallway filtering into her quarters, and saw a figure sitting in a chair across the room, facing the door. "Taylor?" she ventured, assuming it was him but trying to figure out why he would be there.

    Terrence O'Conner rose his eyes to the opened door, finding the woman he once knew standing in between it. "So is that his name?"

    Confusion crossed Kendra's features. "Terry? How'd you get in here?" she asked and stepped fully into the room. The door came to a close, bringing complete darkness for a moment.

    "Well... being captain certainly has it's advantages Kendra, but going from assignment to assignment... you should really change your locks in between."

    "Uh, Terry, I can't really take the locks with me... New ship, new locks..." she explained. This was weird.

    "Perhaps..." He continued.

    "You didn't have to break into my quarters, you know. You could have just asked to come by..." Kendra explained. Something wasn't right. "Computer, lights!" There was no response and the room stayed bathed in darkness. "What the hell?"

    Terrence shot up from his seat. "I'm sure there was once a time you would have been... pleasantly surprised." He maintained a firm glare. "But I guess the Illustrious wasn't all you got over with."

    "Okay, Terry, what the hell is wrong with you? What was that supposed to mean? It was two years ago," Kendra said calmly. What was going on here?

    "So you just forget about everything we had..."

    "Oh my God, Terry," she started. "What was I supposed to do? Wait for you? I didn't hear from you in two years! It wasn't like I was hard to find. Well, up until about 6 months ago. Incarceration kinda keeps you in one place, ya know..."

    Terrence reached in his pouch, almost like he had a weapon in there. But instead, he pulled out a data chip. "Maybe... but communications off ship were forbidden. When I finally had the opportunity to sends these to you, you had already disappeared." He held the chip in front of her. "This is every letter that I wrote to you for the past two years... even after I heard that you disappeared." He said quietly.

    Kendra simply stared at it, unsure of what to say. She had thought he'd forgotten about her. Their relationship hadn't exactly been smooth anyway. They met at Starfleet Medical, on Earth, when she was at the height of her insanity and he was fresh from the Borg. Both of them were considered outsiders, so naturally they became friends. Eventually, she overcame her mental problems and left Starfleet Medical to return to duty. He eventually did the same over his Borg programming and they were stationed aboard the same ship. Eventually, their friendship became something more but he began to have some difficulties with the Borg technology that couldn't be removed from his body and he had to return to Starfleet Medical on Earth, leaving her alone. Kendra was very upset by this as he left without so much as a goodbye. Months later, he returned to duty and, after some anger was released in the middle of a corridor, they resumed their relationship. But, alas, it was ill fated once more as Terry was pulled from the Illustrious to serve on a type deep space covert operation. She hadn't heard a damn thing about or from him since that time, two years ago.

    "Surprising thing you know... I thought you were dead." He paused, he could feel his throat begin to crack. "I searched for months, trying to find you..." A faint laugh escaped his lips. "I thought you were dead..."

    She opened her mouth to say something, to tell her how sorry she was, but stopped herself. Why in hell should she be sorry? "Well, I thought you were dead. So I guess we both were in for a shock, huh? Our own version of 'Night of the Living Dead' so to speak."

    "Yeah..." Terry muttered. "And I suppose the woman sleeps with the *other* guy too."

    "My God! Terry, you make me sound like a whore!" Kendra shot back. "Do you think I just jumped in someone else's bed right after you left? What the hell is wrong with you? You know me better than that! Or at least I thought you did... It hurt me when you left. Like you were choosing your career over me. I can respect that, I don't have to be happy about it, but I can respect it. But I didn't hear a damn word from you in two years, Terry. Two years. That's a lot of time to hurt, a lot of time to wonder. So don't be accusing me of forgetting about you. You don't know what's been going through my head. Don't judge me."

    Terry looked up at her. "Kendra..." He stopped, this was the woman he loved, and still loves. Simply looking at her was enough for him, simply staring into her eyes... was enough to make him feel that waiting for her... was simply worth it. He had hoped that the day he found her, would be the day they were together again... and this time forever.

    He remember firmly the night on the Illustrious, the two had spent a passionate night together. That was the day he was going to ask her for commitment. But somehow, for some reason... he couldn't have found the courage to ask. And now he was, granted yet another miracle... but his timing had been off. Apparently by only a few short days.

    He finally took a seat in a nearby chair, and stared down into the depths of the floor. "Kendra... *I'm* sorry." He began. "I guess... I was just hoping that by some miracle, we could have found each other again and..." His voice dimmed into near silence. "... be together again."

    The images of when he left found itself firmly implanted into his mind. The operation was leaving right away, and the previous test subject had backed out. Terry knew starfleet's desperation was intense, and knew what he was volunteering for. And that's why he never said goodbye to Kendra... because he knew she would have protested him. Hell, damn near phaser him to keep him from doing such a stupid thing.

    Since the Second Borg Incursion, Terrence O'Conner had felt obligated to help as much as possible, never giving any thought to his own desires. He felt like he had to pay the debt of the borg, making things right. But maybe it was his hopes of helping everyone else, that had ended his relationship with Kendra.

    He had put his all into the federation, and the cost of that was his love.

    "I know this must be an inconvenience..." He muttered quietly. "Hopefully... starfleet will pull us out and you won't have to..." He paused again, he knew he was still trying to make her feel bad, and didn't want to do that. She didn't deserve it. "I just want you to be happy..."

    ~Even if it isn't with me~ A thought scarred his mind. It seemed that every past experience, every fond memory he had ever had with her was running in his mind. It was hard, to see those gone.

    "Terry...." Kendra started, her voice and expression softening. Dammit, he could be so infuriating one moment and then so vulnerable the next. He had always been that way. "I wish life could be that simple, I really do. But it's not. It was two years ago. Neither of us knew if the other was dead or not, we didn't owe each other anything. You don't owe me anything, okay?"

    Terrence couldn't bring an answer to voice. The woman whom he had been in love with had slipped through his fingers, simply because he was too obligated to making humanity a safer place. He didn't want things to just end, he didn't want them to feel that they didn't owe each other anything. Dammit, they owed each other their love. But Kendra had found a new one, and Terrence... would have to understand that she couldn't be in love with him again. There were a great many points where Terrence felt it necessary to kill himself, once at the academy, then when he was assimilated, and now this. But instead, he tended to drink himself instead.

    He couldn't answer, he couldn't respond. He knew they were done, but he couldn't bring himself to believe that. It hurt to even see her, to know that her lips would never touch his, to know that intimacy would never be shared between them again. He could only bring himself to stand up, and move past her out the door. The hiss of the doors opening stopped him. He looked next to her, knowing that she was staring into him. "I'll never stop loving you Kendra..." He whispered, before leaving his love in the room, in the dark, alone.

    The doors slid shut, leaving Kendra bathed in the darkness of the room. She cradled her head in her hands and let out a deep sigh. Why was it that every time she made an important life decision, it always came back and slapped her in the face? Murphy must really have it out for her.... Kendra was so lost in thought that she didn't even know that there was anything else in the room until she felt a sudden pain on the base of her skull....
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    #22
    Christopher stared at the computer screen, trying to make his overtired brain make sense of the virus which had infected the ship. It was no good, he needed a stimulant or several weeks sleep. Sighing, he walked over to the replicator, "Computer, a large pot of strong coffee." He placed the pot next to his phaser on his desk and poured a mug of the midnight black liquid. He winced as the coffee burned its way down his throat. If only he could figure out the key to this virus, he could go back to bed. 'NO' he thought, 'mustn't think about that.'

    "Sir?" a voice, faraway and faint.

    "G'way." He told it.

    "Commander Cushing, ATTENTION!" the voice yelled.

    He sat bolt upright in his chair to see Amanda stood next to him, "What?" he asked, confused.

    "Sir, you were asleep." She stated, matter of factly.

    "God, I'm sorry Amanda." He looked at his desk, no pot of coffee, only a phaser. He'd been dreaming.

    She shrugged, "That's okay, the computer has finished its analysis, I thought that you'd want to see the results."

    He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and rose to go to the main console.

    "Let's have it then." He ordered.

    Natalya appeared in the middle of the room, "You look like hell." She said simply.

    "Thank you very much, remind me to alter your bedside manner program, report." Christopher said, managing to keep a straight face.

    "Da, the virus has three main elements to it, the first is a rare bacteriological agent, Alzus 113. This causes the victim to become short of breath and dizzy due to the agent's effect on the respiratory system. Second, is a nerve agent, Oren 73. This causes the victim's central nervous system to break down allowing further infection to occur. The third element is unknown." She stated.

    "How long before the virus starts to take effect?" asked Christopher.

    "Computer models predict eight hours before element one takes effect." Amanda said.

    He looked at his hands, they were shaking from exhaustion. Clapping them behind his back, he asked, "How long since we assume the changeling came aboard?"

    Amanda checked the ship’s chronometer, "If we assume that it came aboard with the wounded, seven hours fifty two minutes."

    Christopher paled, "Amanda, get onto engineering, I want the antidotes to stages one and two pumped through the ship as soon as possible. Natalya, I assume you're connected to ship's functions?"

    If it was possible for a hologram to look guilty, she did now. "Only certain functions, nothing vital."

    "This is the last thing I wanted to do but contact Admiral Selleck at S31 Medical, inform him of the results of our analysis and request that he has some scientists look over it." Christopher ordered.

    Tapping his commbadge, he said, "Cushing to Patamon."

    =/ Go ahead. \=

    "Better get in here Molly, things have become much more complicated. I'll brief you when you get here."

    =/ On my way. \=


    She had been tending to the poor souls from the damaged Pegasus, making sure they were comfortable and able to sleep, and that their wounds and injuries were tended to. Yes, a nurse or the EMH could most likely have done it just as well, but she just felt like she needed to stay, to reassure these people that they were indeed going to be alright. Having been asleep less than two hours after all that did not help to improve her mood, and she shook her head, trying to clear the sleep that still fogged her mind. Reaching over to the sleeping form next to her, she gently stroked Kennedy's cheek with a soft sigh.

    "I have to go, sweetheart," she murmured.

    Kennedy, always a light sleeper, reached out and tugged Molly closer and murmered into her ear, "Come back soon." After that she planted a kiss right under Molly's earlobe, not really letting her go, but falling back to sleep right away. She had also had an extremely long shift, plagued with headaches. The headaches were getting more and more frequent, something she hadn't told Molly.

    Molly finally managed to extricate herself from Kennedy's firm grip, getting to her feet with a yawn and pulling on a clean uniform. Which of the universe's gods had it out for her this time? She shook her head again, still rubbing tiredly at her eyes. The artificial gravity must have been out, she decided, because it felt like the room was swaying slightly back and forth ... like an old seafaring ship. That's it. The gravity's out. The doctor put on her boots, frowned and then took them off again. She finally figured out the problem and put them on the correct feet, and shuffled her way out into the corridor and towards sickbay.
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    #23
    Miguel Chandra pitied the poor soul, and could easily understand why the captain snapped at the pilot earlier. Terrence O'Conner, half borg, had fallen in love with Kendra Summers. But he could not refrain from helping humanity, to overcome the horrible deeds accomplished by the Borg. So he left her, to fulfill that desire, returning only to find her with another man.

    They had taken many drinks to ease his pain, and the lieutenant was beginning to get out of control. Miguel understood the desire to drink, as he had once drunk himself under the table as well after bad endings.

    "Well..." Continued the drunken lieutenant. "I guess it serves me right eh? Do not ask what you can do for yourself, ask what you can do for humanity... too bad that tends to bite you in the ass, so take my advice carefully Chandra, keep yourself and your personal matters number one."

    Miguel nodded in the simple intention to make the borg feel like he was saving someone from his own pain. It was then that several marines entered. One of them was identifiably Taylor. Terrence apparently identified him as well.

    "Ah, Daniel Taylor... come join us for a drink?" He yelled. "A toast for your success!"

    Sgt. Taylor looked out of the corner of his eyes and seen that O'Connor was calling to him. The man was obviously drunk and Taylor felt that he didn't need to go into a showdown with the Lieutenant. So he continued forward with Echo squad and they filed into a couple of booths.

    Terrence gave Miguel a feigned hurt look. "I don't think he heard me, let's go sit with them..."

    "O'Conner..." Miguel started, but Terrence was already on his way.

    "Sergeant..." Terrence continued as he stepped up to the booth. "Wha, too good to talk with us fleeters? That's how you guys were always on board the Illustrious... but I suppose Kendra actually hated you guys back then too."

    Dan impatiently tapped his foot on the ground. He was already racking his brain over what Kendra did with the enemy and the last thing he needed was the borg trying to start a fight with him.

    "Are you getting this, Sarge?" asked Private Jacobs

    Taylor looked at him. "Just bear with it, Jacobs. This is one time that the Marines aren't going to look like the bad guys." He took a drink of water soon after the waiter had set it down in front of him. "Hell, maybe the barkeep will kick his metal ass out for being disruptive."

    Terrence tossed back an astonished smile. "Metal... I like that... that's kinda funny." He haphazardly came close to the sergeant. "So... Sergeant, she has a nice rack doesn't she? I mean god, when I first saw..."

    Staff Sgt. Halloway couldn't take it anymore. He stood up at the booth, pointed his finger, and yelled. "Why don't you leave, you robotic prick. Go drink your sorrows away in private."

    Terrence turned his attention to Halloway. "Excuse me sergeant?"

    "Sit down, Sergeant." Taylor calmly spoke.

    "No, Taylor." Halloway replied. "He's being disrespectful. He doesn't care about the deep conversation we were having."

    Sgt. Halloway smiled. "You know, current events that don't concern you. Like things going on in the Marine life, how the mission is going." he trailed off and eyed the former borg. "And how our NCO is banging the hell out of the love of your life."

    Miguel stepped up to the group cautiously not to be identified as a threat to the team, but if necessary he was going to stop a fight before it ensued. He didn't make most of the last words, but it was enough to make O'Conner give Taylor a smile, then throw a hard fist towards Halloway's face.

    Thankfully Miguel was just a bit faster than that, and pulled O'Conner back before contact was made. "Woah O'Conner, you’re kicking the hornet’s nest here!"

    O'Conner didn't respond by standard dialect in any manner, as most of the utterances coming out of his mouth included vile statements. "What's wrong sergeant?" He yelled towards Taylor. "You just going to sit there and let your dogs do your work?"

    Miguel was barely holding the lieutenant back, and couldn't stand to see the marines get involved. He made a silent prayer, hoping that this wouldn't end in his going to sickbay.

    ========================

    Molly shuffled into sickbay, walking rather slow - but she justified that in her mind because she was so exhausted. Five hours of sleep was just not enough for the body to regenerate itself fully, and she felt as though hers had been put through cadet training hours all over again - with twenty-four hours on, twelve off, and twenty four more on again. Meant to scare off cadets who weren't cut out for medical, she stuck it out and managed to get through it - but this time, she wasn't so sure. Entering sickbay, she nodded tiredly to Doctor Cushing, who looked much as she felt.

    "Molly, thank god you're here, come and take a seat." He said.

    "If you don't mind my saying so, you look like hell..." Molly quipped, sinking into the offered seat by his desk.

    He laughed wearily, "Then that makes two of us."

    Molly barely took the energy to grin back. "So - you called me here for a reason, Doctor?" Patamon rubbed at a tired eye, leaning back in her chair.

    Christopher sighed, "The analysis of the virus came back. It has three elements to it, Alzus 113, Oren 73 and we don't know what the third one is. This is a nasty virus Molly, Amanda is asking engineering to pump the antidotes to the first two through the ship's environmental systems but the third element is the critical one. My guess would be that it isn't going to be pleasant. I remember being an Ensign on board the Chekov. We came across a colony that had contracted Ebola 16 from contaminated water. Ever seen an advanced case of Ebola? It's horrible. People were bleeding out of every orifice and their organs were slowly being liquefied by the virus. Our situation could get like that."

    Molly's eyes widened, listening to the Doctor's description of the severity of the situation. "Now I see why the quarantine is necessary," she murmured.
    After a contemplative moment, she stood. "A round of coffee for all of us, then, it seems..." Molly moved to the replicator, tapping at the panel and ordering up a pot and several mugs. While she waited the several-second cycle for the replicator to complete, she briefly turned to Doctor Cushing.

    "Before I went to rest," she started, not wanting to say 'sleep' because she really hadn't done much of that, "I started working on a few possibilities to help relieve the suffering of those who've contracted the virus. Perhaps ... I should go back to work on that?"

    "Anything you do would be helpful right now."

    Christopher was interrupted by the computer. =/ Incoming subspace transmission \=

    "On screen." Christopher said.

    Admiral Selleck's face appeared, and for once, he didn't look angry. Christopher breathed a sigh of relief; he was too tired to argue with the Admiral.

    "We got your request Commander and I have a team of top scientists working on it right now, is there anything else you need?" Selleck asked, his voice filled with genuine concern.

    "How about a three week leave of absence for Lt Patamon and I?"

    Selleck laughed heartily, "That's the spirit Christopher. I have the Hermes and the Olympus standing by in case you need help. We'll sort this out Commander, I'm heading down to the science station myself. Good luck, Selleck out." The screen went blank, leaving Christopher stone cold.

    "Well Molly, the admiral has just told me that he signed our death warrants if they don't come up with a cure." Christopher said flatly.

    "I'm not sure I understand, sir - didn't he just say he was sending us help?" Her expression was one of exhausted confusion - an interesting combination to be sure, but one she was becoming all too familiar with as the bizarre virus wore on.

    "As you know, the Olympus is a hospital ship, best in the fleet but the Hermes is an Akira class Battlecruiser. I would think that the admiral plans to destroy the Apocalypse if no cure can be found. It's a bit melodramatic but it's Starfleet regulations." Said Christopher, sipping the hot coffee and relishing its taste.

    Molly growled. She had just been assigned this new post, been pulled out of the depths of her depression so to speak. Her brother was dead, despite her best efforts to find and save him. And then there was Kennedy - gods. That woman - if it hadn't been for her ... Molly's early days and weeks on board the Apocalypse would have been quite a different story. This was her chance to start over, and she had barely begun. She was not about to be destroyed just because some Admiral thought it was the best thing. She voiced her 'concern'. "Pardon me, Doc, but I'll be damned if I'm going to be blown to hell just because of some virus," she growled. "There's got to be something we can do to encourage them to leave us alone." *At least for a while longer,* she thought to herself.

    "You know Molly, you're absolutely right. I'm just going to the bridge, I need to talk to our Tactical officer. I have a plan in case the admiral decides to grow a spine and order the Hermes to attack."

    "I'm going back to the lab - maybe I can find something we hadn't considered to nip this thing in the ass," she growled softly, pushing off the desk and stalking back to the lab, leaving the coffee carafe untouched. She had a job to do, and there was nothing in the known universe that was going to stop her THIS time.

    Christopher wasted no time and went straight to the bridge. Tawnia's face was full of concern as she looked at him. "You look.." she began.

    "Like hell, I know. I need your help, we have a situation brewing and I want to head it off."

    "I'm intrigued, go on." Tawnia prompted.

    Christopher explained the Hermes situation and asked, "Does Starfleet still issue prefix codes for starships?"

    "Yes, why?" she asked cautiously.

    "Well, if the Hermes shows up and raises her shields and powers her weapons, I'd like you to use the prefix code, lower their shields and beam a large volume of contaminated air onto their bridge." He explained.

    "Chris, as much as I think it's a good idea, I'm going to need the captain or the major's authorisation on this one."

    "Then I'll go ask the captain, but keep those codes handy. Just in case, you understand." He winked and kissed her on the cheek before leaving the tactical station.
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    #24
    Shea had a pounding headache and she was wound pretty tight, but she had a duty to do and she knew said duty wasn't going to make her feel any better, more then likely just worse. After getting a little information about what was going on from Molly she made her way to the bridge to see if she could get a quick meeting with the Commander. Thankfully, Hawkins had spared her the painful pleasure of dealing with the Commander by handling things on his own. But with him on another ship, it was up to her to coordinate Marine issues with the Starfleet Commander. This wasn't something she was particularly used to. She had spent most of her life as a Marine or as a Marine's kid, so that branch of the service was the only one she really could relate to. Well until recently. She was relating to a certain Starfleet doctor very well. The only thing that could make her smile on a day like today was Molly.

    She stepped onto the bridge and glanced around, seeing what could be considered as a skeleton crew. Taking a deep breath and girding her mental loins, she made her way to the Commander's ready room. Ringing the chime she waited until she could hear the acknowledgment to enter.

    "Come!" Kendra called out. She watched the door slide open to reveal a young woman with black hair enter her ready room. She was wearing a marine uniform, so Kendra made a guess as to who she was talking to. "Lieutenant Shea, I presume?"

    "Aye Commander." Kennedy responded, glancing around the ready room, trying to get a picture of who this woman was.

    "What can I do for you Lieutenant?" she asked, leaning back in her chair.

    Standing at respective attention, a product of her training, she cleared her throat, "With the Major off ship, that puts me in command of the Marines and I just wanted to coordinate things with you."

    Kendra nodded. "Okay. Coordination.... would require you to work with me?"

    Shea lifted a dark brow, still at attention, "That would be the general idea Commander." she was getting the idea that Kendra didn't usually get much in the form of cooperation from the Marines on board.

    "Weeeelllll," Kendra said, searching for the right words. "We have this changeling onboard. You could coordinate a search of the whole vessel with the marines you have onboard. Uh, post guards at various critical areas on the ship. That kind of stuff."

    Nodding, "Aye Commander, I can and will do that. My concern is this virus going around." Having a doctor girlfriend often came in handy when important information wasn't exactly passed along. "I only know of a few of the Marines that are effected at all right now, but if it starts getting worse, that's going to make the search a little harder."

    "Yes, things are going to get harder before they get better, I think. If you need to use any of the security people, they are at your disposal. Just get this thing off the ship." Kendra said, seemingly distracted.

    "We'll do our best for the ship. I know the two groups don't always get along, but I have some very important things invested here and I'm not going to let anything happen to that. I just thought you should know." Shea said, hoping to somehow make peace with the StarFleet Commander.

    "Thank you, Lieutenant," the woman said. "Now is there anything else?"

    Again, Shea lifted a curious dark brow, reaching up to rub her jaw, "Uh, no Commander, I think that's all."

    There was a commotion suddenly on the bridge. Something was going outside the ready room doors, and then it stopped just as suddenly. The door chime rang for entry and Kendra simply sat there and stared at the door.

    Turning to look over at the Commander's door then back at the Commander, "Aren't you going to answer that?"

    The chime rang again. This time Kendra looked at Shea. She simply smiled. "I think things are about to get quite interesting..."

    Shea slid a hand to the pulse pistol at her side, eyeing the door warily, "What do you mean?"

    Kendra's smile widened to almost maniacal proportions. Without warning, she morphed into a giant silver blob and lunged at Shea.

    Taken a little by surprise at the speed of the shapeshifter, Shea wasn't able to pull her weapon. She was thrown back against the bulkhead, hidding her head, dazing her a bit as she slide down to the floor.

    The doors to the ready room opened and a small security force rushed in just in time to see the changeling disappear up one of the air vents. Tawnia Gordon stepped over to Shea. "Are you alright?"

    Shaking her head trying to clear it. "I think so." Shea turned to look up at Tawnia, "How did you know?" she asked still a little fuzzy around the edges.

    "Well, we didn't at first..." Tawnia started.

    "The only reason they knew that it wasn't me in here was because I stumbled on the bridge with a nasty bump on my head," Kendra finished as she stepped into her ready room and plopped down on the couch.

    Doctor Cushing came in right behind her. "Kendra, if you don't sit still, I'm gonna have security drag you to sick bay."

    Kendra looked at him in amusement. "Threatening me now, Doc? I feel so loved. I was just bringing you in here so that you could deal with both patients at once. Honest."

    Struggling a bit to stand up, not too happy that she had her bell rung. But being a Marine through and through, she finally managed to stablize herself and waved them off, "I'm fine, don't worry about me."

    "Nevermind," she said with a shrug. "She's not hurt. I just wanted to come in here where my comfy couch was. Is that better?"

    Walking over to said comfy couch and plopping down next to the Commander, "I don't think being alone on this ship is very wise at this point."

    Kendra nodded. "I concur wholeheartedly. No one is to move about this ship without another person with them. The buddy system is about to become our new best friend until we can get a hold of this damn thing."

    She nodded, "I'll make sure the Marines know to buddy up and to be on the lookout." After taking a breath, she pushed off the couch and stood, "I think I have a certain buddy I want to look in on myself." Giving the Commander a slight nod, as well at the Doctor, Shea exited the ready room, picking up a Marine guard to escort her on her way to sickbay.

    ========================

    An hour later, Molly found herself in a lab, studying the virus. She'd taken sample after sample of those who were 'confirmed' as having the virus, as well as samples from the Pegasus crew members. She had also taken the liberty of downloading their previous medical records from what had been retrieved of the Pegasus database, to compare their more recent scans with in an attempt of finding more specifics about the virus. The Risan doctor sighed, trying to keep her hands from shaking while she adjusted the scanning equipment she was working with. She decided to switch tactics, moving to try and find some sort of respite for the symptoms of this vicious virus. Cushing, meanwhile, had received an urgent call from the bridge, and after grabbing a medkit, had sprinted out the door and towards the nearest turbolift. It mattered very little to Molly, but she did take note of the scowl on his face and the harried manner in which he had exited sickbay.

    After her conversation with the Commander, Kennedy Shea made her way down to sickbay to check on the Marine's health status. Within the last hour, two Marines had reported flu-like symptoms, and because of the current health scare, they had been immediately sent to sickbay for examination. They were being cared for in a separate ward, where they and the remaining Pegasus crew members had been moved during their illness and hopefully, their recovery. Kennedy stepped inside sickbay, trying to focus her attention on the issues at hand and away from her pounding headache. Amanda spotted Kennedy and turned towards her.

    "Can I help you, Lieutenant?"

    Shea nodded towards the shorter woman. "I'd like to check on the Marine's health status," she informed her.

    "They're in that ward, down the hall." Amanda motioned towards the aforementioned ward. "Should I tell the Doctor you're here?"

    Kennedy nodded, a fleeting grin passing over her lips. "Mm yes, Dr. Patamon please."

    Amanda grinned slightly, and moved towards the lab where the assistant chief was working. Shea leaned against a biobed, rubbing her temples and hoping to will her headache away. Amanda rapped softly on the door frame of the lab, seeing the look of intense concentration on the assistant CMO's face and not wanting to startle her.

    "Doctor? Lieutenant Shea is here to check on the Marines."

    Molly nodded slightly. "I'll be right out - I need to let these samples rest for a few minutes anyway."

    Amanda smiled slightly and turned as she headed back to her duties, with Molly following close behind to see Kennedy. She headed out slowly, trying to steady her steps since the damn gravity was still out. She smiled tiredly as she spotted the Marine Lieutenant, then frowned as she noticed her slouch. "Hey - something wrong?"

    Kennedy looked up quickly, blinking bleary eyes. "No, nothing. I just wanted to check on my grunts here in sickbay."

    Molly nodded, leading the way with an odd shuffle to her steps. "They're down this way."

    Kennedy watched her walk and raised a dark brow. "Are *you* okay?"

    "Yeah fine - why?" Molly yawned, holding onto the wall for a second. She was stopped just outside the room where the Marines were being treated.

    Kennedy shook her head. "No reason, I guess." She peeked in through the door. "How are they?"

    "As well as can be expected, really. They're both going through the gauntlet of symptoms that we've been able to record thus far - and aside from trying to keep them comfortable, there isn't a lot we can do for them ... yet." She sighed, leaning against Kennedy, for as much physical as emotional support.

    The Marine glanced around to see who might be watching, and then wrapped her arms around the doctor, needing the connection to focus. "Mm, I'm sure you all are doing your best."

    Molly's voice was slightly muffled from her position of being happily buried against Kennedy's chest. "Yeah - I was in the lab when you arrived, studying this blasted thing." She shook her head, and realized her hands were shaking a bit also. She rubbed them together, trying to make it stop.

    Kennedy kissed her forehead and looked down, taking her hands. "Hey - what's wrong?"

    "Nothing - just fidgety, I guess," Molly said and chuckled quietly. She hadn't really stopped to consider that there might be something wrong with her. She was still under the assumption that something was wrong with the ship. Kennedy narrowed dark brows at her and pulled her in closer once again.

    "You need to take a break. Don't run yourself ragged," Kennedy said in a concerned voice.

    "I'll try. I've just got to get back to work soon, so we can get this all figured out - maybe come up with a cure..." She sighed, closing her eyes. The Risan woman snuggled against Kennedy, feeling so much better being in her arms.

    Kennedy nuzzled her ear gently and whispered, "I understand, but promise me you'll take a couple breaks - sit down for a bit or something."

    Molly smiled gently at her concern, and responded in a quiet voice, "I promise. Why don't you go in and see your Marines. I'll be down the hall, in the lab."

    Kennedy reached up and rubbed her eyes. "Nah, I'm sure they are well taken care of."

    "Alright. Is your head bothering you again?" Now it was Molly's turn to be concerned.

    Kennedy looked down at her, touching the back of her head and wincing a bit. "Sort of..." she admitted sheepishly.

    Molly's own concerns were briefly set aside, and she focused solely on her partner. She gently reached up to caress Kennedy's cheek, her fingers gently making their way behind her head to examine the injury. "What's the matter, darling?"

    Kennedy allowed herself a brief smile at the endearment, and sighed. "I had a bit of a close encounter in the Commander's ready room."

    Molly frowned softly. "You have a knot forming here. Why don't I get you a hypo to take care of the pain?" She led the other woman back into the front area, motioning to a chair. Kennedy sighed.

    "Molly, I can't keep getting hypos. I'm going to turn into a junkie with the amount of headaches I get..." Shea quickly stopped, not really wanting to reveal that but unable to take it back. Molly stopped and turned, looking at her.

    "With the amount...?"

    Kennedy made a face, trying to blow it off. "You know - just the random headache every once in a while."

    "I don't believe you. When my shift is over, I'm going to find out what's going on inside your thick stubborn head..." With an exhausted look, she sank to the floor, promising herself to rest there for 'just a minute.'

    Kennedy blinked and watched her, rushing to her side and kneeling down beside her. "I don't think you're going to be finishing this shift, darlin'."

    Molly leaned against her and managed to mumble, "It's just the damn gravity - tell engineering to hurry up and fix the stabilizers..."

    A confused look crossed the engineer's face. "What the hell are you taking about? There isn't anything wrong with the gravity." She sighed and reached over to scoop Molly up, cradling her close. "I think we need to get your boss in here to look you over, sweetheart."

    Molly found herself slightly nauseous now that she was not moving under her own power. "I'm fine, I promise," she mumbled.

    Kennedy walked her over to a biobed, setting her down gently. "I don't think so. I think this virus has crept up on you as well." She leaned over and gently kissed her forehead, rather afraid at the moment of what might happen to her partner. "You just close your eyes and rest a bit."

    Amanda, who had been working nearby, spotted the pair and hurried out to call Cushing back to sickbay. Kennedy turned her full attention to the ailing Molly.

    "But I still have work to do - it's important," Molly weakly protested.

    "I know darlin', but it'll have to wait."

    Molly just sighed, leaning against Kennedy and drifting into an uneasy slumber.

    Amanda moved to the CMO's office to let the other two be alone. She tapped her comm and spoke into it quietly. "Sickbay to Doc Cushing..."

    =/Cushing here, I'm with the commander, can it wait?\=

    "I know you're busy on the bridge, Doc, but you're needed in sickbay ...it's Dr. Patamon." The urgency in Amanda's voice indicated that her concern was not merely professional. One of their own may have fallen victim to the virus rapidly making its way around the space borne vessel, and though she herself hadn't begun to feel the effects, she was certain that it wouldn't be long before the rest of the staff became infected as well. Time was not on their side.

    =/ On my way \= Cushing's voice was full of concern.

    Christopher raced from the bridge into the nearest turbolift. "Deck 6, Medical emergency override." He said and grasped the lift's rail as it plummeted six decks in less than a second. The brakes squealed and Christopher could have sworn that he saw smoke as the turbolift doors opened. Seeing a corridor full of crewmen, Christopher bellowed, "Medical emergency, clear the damn corridor NOW!" and started to sprint, gaining speed with each step.

    Molly was moved to a private ward to rest until Cushing's arrival, and Amanda slipped in quietly to give her something to help her rest. The ward Molly was currently residing in was empty, but the five other beds, the virus that was spreading and Molly's thus far futile research all attested to the fact that it probably wouldn't be empty for long. Kennedy unzipped the top of her uniform and tied it around her waist, wearing just her undershirt. The ward was damn hot, for some odd reason. The Marine lieutenant stood at Molly's bedside, wishing the doctor would hurry his Starfleet ass up.

    Molly managed to roll over onto her side, murmuring Kennedy's name over and over. The Marine softened, bending down next to the biobed as she gently ran her fingers through Molly's hair. "I'm right here, darling," she reassured the ailing doctor. That motion seemed to calm her down, and Molly's restlessness was momentarily stilled. She let out a soft sigh. "Come to bed ... I don't want to be alone..."

    Kenendy leaned forward, kissing her lips gently. "You're never going to be alone Molly, I promise." Molly managed a weak kiss back, then returned to resting with her eyes closed. The Marine glanced up as the door whooshed opened, and stood.

    "It's about damn time," she muttered, loud enough where Cushing could hear her.

    "Manners, Lieutenant. It might interest you to know that I almost broke a turbolift to get here." Said Cushing, grabbing a tricorder, "Emergency overide, one of the benefits of being CMO."

    Molly shifted around a bit as Kennedy moved from her side, and let out a quiet whimper. It was not one of pain, just of sudden loneliness, and she wanted Kennedy as close as possible. Kennedy eyed Cushing, then moved around to the other side of the biobed to give him space to examine Molly. She leaned down again, setting her hand on Molly's head and whispered to her. "It's going to be okay - I'm right here."

    Christopher pressed a hypo against Mollys neck and injected a broad spectrum antibiotic. "Amanda, get me a resonance cell scanner in here stat." Tapping his commbadge, he said, "Cushing to Engineering."

    =/ DuBois here \=

    "Ronny, I need those antidotes pumped through the ship now." He said urgently.

    =/Aye sir, just starting the injector system now.\=

    Looking into Kennedy's eyes and seeing the concern in them and something else. "Lieutenant, I'm not going to let her give in to this. I'm going to set up in here and work on the antivirus until I find it."

    Clenching her jaw, she looked back down at Molly on the bio-bed. "I've got to start searching for the Changling, but I don't want to leave her alone." With that she ran a few fingertips over Molly's very warm cheek.

    "She won't be alone, I'll be here with her at all times. I'm going to contact Admiral Selleck right now and find out if they have made any progress." Said Christopher soothingly.

    Kennedy still did not look up at the doctor, needing the contact with Molly. But the pounding in her head and the fact that the room was too damn hot was getting to her. Unexpectantly, Kennedy set both hands on the biobed so as not to fall forward on her face.

    "Lieutenant, are you feeling all right?" Christopher asked, looking at her with some concern.

    Blinking a few times, she reached up to wipe her sweaty forehead. "I'm fine Doctor, it's just been one hell of a day."

    Molly looked from her new partner with a weary gaze, then back to Cushing. "She's got a lump ... on her head. Take care of it?" she murmured softly, before finally giving into the blanket of unconsciousness.
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    #25
    Kendra sat at her desk, reading the report about the virus that was slowly making its way around the ship. She glanced up and noticed Steve staring at her from the couch. She looked down and began perusing the report again. A few minutes later, she looked up and found that he was still staring at her. Kendra shifted in her chair, but went back to what she was doing. She looked up a third time and then tossed her PADD on the desk. "Stop it," she said.

    Steve registered a look of surprise on his face. "Stop doing what?"

    "Stop staring at me. It's extremely unnerving," she told him.

    "Well, what else am I supposed to do? I'm in here as your buddy and I don't have a damn thing to do," he complained.

    Kendra eyed him. "You know, I could have you removed for talking to me like that. I am the CO now, you know."

    "Yes, I know," Steve grinned. "But I also know you well enough to know that you're just pissy and just want me to leave. But I can't do that because the CO of this ship has passed an edict saying that everyone must travel in pairs."

    Kendra leveled her gaze at him. "So you think you know me pretty well, do ya?"

    "Yup. I think I would go as far as to say that I know you better than anyone else onboard," he reported triumphantly, then wrinkled his brow. "No, wait. I don't. I can think of two people on board right now that know you better. They've actually..."

    "Okay!" Kendra suddenly jumped in, cutting him off. "We really don't need to go there right now. My personal life is less than personal right now, I know, but I'd like to pretend for at least a few minutes that it was. That and it's not going to well right now."

    Steve leaned forward and propped his elbows on his knees. "What do you mean?"

    "Well, Dan's kinda pissy right now, and I don't exactly know why. He just seems really cold towards me. And Terry... Oh. My. God. He seems to think that I owe him something, that we should just pick up right where we left off like nothing happened. Can you believe that?"

    Steve shrugged. "Well, he loved you. And you did get kinda worked up over him once upon a time, as I do recall. What do you expect?"

    "He left, Steve. He didn't say goodbye, he didn't contact me for over two years..."

    "Kendra, he couldn't. He was on a top secret intel mission. You know that. And you should also know all about not being able to contact people for a while. I haven't been in touch with you since you left the asylum, remember? You just kinda disappeared."

    "I know that. That's not my point."

    "Then what is your point?"

    Kendra let out a deep breath, trying to search for the right words. Everytime she tried to explain her side of it, she came off sounding like a selfish bitch. "Okay, say someone you really cared about suddenly left without any warning. You just woke up one morning and they were gone. And you didn't hear anything from them, or about them, for years. Now, what would you do? Would you sit around, waiting that maybe on some off chance that they might come back? Or would you move on with your life?"

    Steve sat there, squirming in his chair. He understood why Terry was so upset, but he understood Kendra's point of view. "But he was doing something noble for the good of the Federation."

    "That's not what I asked. It doesn't matter how noble or selfless his act was. I had no clue what he was doing. Hell, for two years I didn't know if he was dead or alive. The only choice I had was to move on. And now, just because he suddenly pops back up, I'm supposed to drop everything and pick up right where we left off? I don't think so."

    "Kendra, you're being unfair..."

    "I'm being unfair? I've finally been able to move on and am in the beginning of a relationship with someone that I actually find myself caring for a great deal. So now I'm supposed to just throw that away to be with a man who broke my heart not once, but twice, and is very likely about to do it again? I'm sorry, but that seems unfair to me."

    "The whole thing is unfair."

    "Amen to that," Kendra breathed. "Any which way I go I'm just screwed. Yippee for me."

    Steve smiled. "At least your command is going much better."

    "HA!" Kendra laughed sarcastically. "Was that a joke? If it was, it was very funny. I've got a bunch of sick people from another ship laying in my sickbay, my people are getting sick, we still have no antidote for it yet, and about half the Marines are stuck on the aforementioned other ship because we're under quarantine, and that's including my Co-CO. Oh yeah, and then I also have a Changeling running amok onboard that likes to beat people upside the head and then impersonate them. Yeah, I'd say that was soooo much easier, don't you think?"

    "Well, at least you have your health..." Steve offered sheepishly.

    Kendra banged her head down on her desk and let out an anguished groan. "Why couldn't life be simple? Like it was back on the Illustrious?"

    Steve smiled. "Life wasn't simple back there, either, Kendra. You just weren't in charge there. Well, not of the whole ship anyway."

    Kendra raised her head up but still kept her chin rested on her folded hands. "When did you get so smart?"

    "I've always been smart. You just never noticed." Steve grinned and then changed the subject. "So what were you reading earlier? On the PADD?"

    "Just a med report, keeping me up to date on the virus situation. Lots of sick people, more getting sick, no cure. Fun, huh?"

    "Sounds like it," Steve intoned. "What about the Changeling? Any news on that front?"

    She shook her head. "Nope. Looking for it, no luck. Just a whole bunch of good news, ain't it? I feel so damn helpless."

    "Why should you feel helpless? You're doing the best you can. It's not like you're a doctor, so you can't really work on a cure for whatever the hell this virus is. And the Marines and Security forces are doing all they can to find the Changeling. I mean, it's not as if we've really got a way to smoke it out, you now."

    "I know, I kn--" and that's when Kendra stopped. Her eyes grew wide and she stared at Steve. "Steve. Oh my God. You're a genius."

    Steve looked at her in complete puzzlement. "I am?"

    "Yes, you are. Come on," she said as she sprang from her seat behind her desk and headed for the door.

    He got up form his seat and followed her out the door. "Where are we going?"

    Kendra jumped into the turbolift and turned around to face Steve as he fell in behind her. "We're going to Engineering to pay Lieutenant Thorne a little visit."


    ============================


    Admiral Selleck's face appeared on the screen, "What's the matter doctor?" he asked.

    Christopher sighed and proceeded to give his report, "I now have a sick bay full of virus cases, a cargo bay full of the original victims and my ACMO is one of them. I really need some good news Admiral."

    "We don't have much." Selleck said apologetically, "There does seem to be a similarity between stage three and the Cardassian Gaulouur nerve agent."

    Christopher's blood ran cold, "What? I mean, how? Have those sneaky bastards been working with the dominion again?"

    "I don't know and it's not my place to find out either," Selleck reasoned, took one look at Cushing's face and added, "I know how you feel about Cardassians doctor and I have passed it to fleet ops to investigate. Look, I'm Chief of S31 medicine, not Director of Intelligence."

    Christopher's eyes narrowed, "Give me everything you have found so far. I haven't let a damn Cardassian beat me yet and I am sure as hell not going to let something one millionth my size beat me."

    "Downloading now. Good luck doctor.” He paused momentarily. “Chris, the Hermes and Olympus will be in system within four hours."

    "Understood. Cushing out." Christopher switched off the screen and spoke to his ACMO, "Well Molly it looks like we have four hours to find you a cure, they're sending in the Hermes."

    Molly appeared to keep her thoughts to herself and didn't comment.

    "Don't worry Molly, if the cardassians are behind the virus then I won't stop until Cardassia prime is a ball of molten rock." He vowed. "Computer display Unknown Viral Agent 1 and Gaulouur Nerve Agent."

    The monitor came on again showing both strains of virus. "Computer, simlulate the addition of the Gaulouur antivirus to UVA1." The UVA shifted its form away from the antivirus. Christopher sat bolt upright, suddenly excited, "Amanda! Come in here a moment."

    Amanda appeared in the doorway, "What's up?"

    "My hopes. Get on to Julian Bashir at DS9 tell him it's an emergency and we need to know everything about the virus that was killing the changelings during the war. Tell him that you are your sister, anything, just don't tell him who we work for."

    Amanda frowned, "If Alyssa finds out about this..."

    "I'll take responsibility, that's why they gave me the extra pip." He quipped.

    "Aye sir." She said and ran to the office.

    Christopher tapped his comm badge, "Cushing to Summers."

    =/ Please tell me it's not bad news, Doc \=

    "I'm afraid it is, commander. If everything goes as planned, we could have Major Hawkins back on board within six hours." Christopher deadpanned.
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    #26
    “Stay right there Doc, we're on our way. Summers out.” Kendra strode into Engineering with Steve right in step behind her. He was still confused as to what she had gotten in that crazy mind of hers, but if she wanted to attribute a stroke of genius to him, he sure as hell wasn't going to argue.

    She stopped, looking around the room, until she spied the CEO. "Lieutenant Thorne! May I have a moment of your time?" Reina straightened up and turned to see the Captain and Hollins walk in.

    "Captain!" she said, leaning over the rail of the observation deck where she'd been Checking up on the Antimatter Injector assembly. "This is an unexpected pleasure. Hang on, I'll be right down." Reina moved over to the small metal ladder and descended the first few steps, then slid the rest of the way down and approached the newcomers with a twisted sort of a smile, her scarred cheek crinkling a little, wiping her hands on a towel. "To what do I owe the surprise of your coming to the grease pits?"

    "Well, I think we may have an idea on how to make the search for the Changeling much easier. How familiar are you with events that took place on Deep Space 9? Or, at least, events that involved the DS9 crew, particularly that of Constable Odo?"

    Reina pondered that question for a moment. "Not much I'm afraid, not off the top of my head I'd have to access the reference files. Step into my office and refresh a techno-monkeys memory."

    "After you," Kendra said with a smile as she made a sweeping motion with her hand.

    Reina leads them both into her office and closes the door behind them. and sitting on the desk. "Right" she says, getting comfortable "Shoot!"

    Kendra waited until the doors had slid shut before turning back to the CEO. "A few years ago, before the Dominion war, Constable Odo made a trip the stations tailor, Garak. Garak was a Cardassian that had been exiled from Cardassia. Now, on this mission, they were 'captured' by the Obsidian Order. Garak, who had long been suspected of past involvement, was offered a chance to return to his native planet and a place back in the organization. Obviously, the Federation's suspicions were confirmed about him. Is any of this ringing any bells with you?"

    "A few" Reina said nodding slowly. "its sort of coming to me although specifics are vague"

    "Well, here comes the fun part. Now, in order to reclaim his life in the Obsidian Order, Garak need to...extract... information from the good constable. Now, it would be quite hard to get information from a Changeling, since they could just turn into some sort of animal that doesn't talk or, worse yet, turn into some creature that could kill everyone on the entire ship. So, the Cardassians had come up with a rather nasty little device that emitted a quantum stasis field. It would not allow a Changeling to alter it's bimolecular structure. It had some rather nasty results..."

    Reina's eyes light up. "Oh yes!" she said "Especially when a changeling has to revert back to its true form from time to time..." Reina had already grabbed a PADD and was looking through things. "I think I can see where you going.....although did you want to do it deck by deck, or the whole ship in one go?"

    Kendra simply looked at her. "No, it would take too long to search the ship, deck by deck. I want you to find a way to emit a quantum stasis field throughout the entire ship. That way, we'll be able to smoke out the thing."

    Reina's brow furrows. "Leave it with me Captain.....I've got a couple of good ideas, but they need a bit of refining. I'll come to the bridge personally when I have a workable solution......"

    "Excellent! I'll be waiting," Kendra said as she stood up. "Come on Steve."

    Steve nodded and exited right behind Kendra. They walked down the hall to the turbolift. "That's what you came up with?" he asked once inside.

    Kendra turned and grinned at him. "Nope. You came up with it," she told him. "Sickbay." she said to the computer.

    "I did?"

    "Yup. Remind me to give you a commendation for it, too." she winked.

    Steve looked at her to see if she was serious. "Well, okay. Yeah, it was a pretty good idea, wasn't it?" he said as the doors closed on them.


    =============


    As he was thrown against the wall and hitting his head on the bulkhead, a loud ring arose in Taylor's cranium. He shook out the cobwebs and got a grip on reality. He saw the former borg walking towards him with an angered expression on his face, Dan got to his feet and slammed a fist into Terry's groin just as he was in range.

    Terry went down with a thud and groaned in pain. He didn't expect the marine to be so resilient, and even with his remaining borg enchancments, he found himself growing tired from the fight.

    Dan wiped the tickle of blood from his mouth, then began his assault with a series of solid kicks to O'Connor's sternum. The only thing that was driving him was the images of the borg and Summers togetherand that was enough to fuel his rage.

    The mess hall was deafening with the sounds of cheering. The marines were shouting Taylor on and the fleeters sided with their man. Taylor bent over and grabbed a handful of Terry's hair and with a burst of strength, he pulled him head first into the wall. As Terry laid sprawled against the bulkhead, Dan began to rabbit punch him in the kidneys.

    Terry's fury began to build and he surprised the whole room and throwing his head back and catching the marine in the nose with a reverse headbutt.

    Taylor stumbled backwards and held his bleeding nose. He was totally caught off guard as Terry speared him to the ground with a running tackle. As Terry began to assault Taylor with a series of right jabs, Miguel Chandra made his way over to pry the demented Terry off.

    "She was meant to be with me." Terry said between puches. "She begged for more when she was with me."

    "Ease down, O'Connor!!" Miguel shouted as he tried to pull him off.

    Dan blocked a punch and retaliated, but he accidently caught Chandra in the mouth. As Miguel went back, he took Terry with him and that was all that Taylor needed. He jumped to his feet and wrapped his hands around the borg's throat. He wanted to kill him...he was going to kill him.

    Everyone stopped shouting and watch in disbelief as the marine strangled the borg. Terry's face began to turn blue and Taylor's men began to get a little worried.

    "Hey Sarge..." PFC Metzenbuam said. "Sarge, ease up."

    Taylor stared maniacally into Terry's eyes and squeezed harder. Deep down he wanted to see his head pop like a balloon.

    "Sergeant!" Jacobs said and moved forward to pull him off of O'Connor. "Taylor, get off!! You're gonna kill him!!"

    Sgt. Halloway grabbed ahold of Taylor as well. "Take it easy, Dan. It ain't worth it man. 10 years man. 10 years you've served the Corp. 10 years you climbed the walls. This ain't worth Auckland again. Don't do it."

    Dan started to come to his senses and he released O'Connor. He got up and started to walk away, but suddenly he relapsed, picked up a chair and started beating him with it. That was when his men ran forward and tackled their NCO after he hit Terry for the fourth time.

    Taylor went down and struggled like a madman underneath four of his marines. The doors of the messhall zipped open and 5 armed security guards came in. The unoccupied marines removed their weapons and took aim.

    "Drop 'em!" yelled a security officer.

    "You drop them!" yelled Corporal Erikson.

    The guards held steadfast. "Can't do that."

    "You're breaking protocol." Taylor said as he began to calm down. "You have to contact the MP's for us. But by all means; take this idiot before I kill him."

    The guards lowered their weapons and picked up O'Connor.

    "We need to get him to sickbay." a guard said. "Robson, call the Mp's. Get these animals out of our messhall."

    Dan considered the situation and held up a hand to stop the Starfleet security crew, "No need, we're leaving."

    "You could've killed him, Sarge." Jacobs said as he handed Taylor an icepack ans walked into the barracks.

    "That was the point, Private." Taylor replied. "Here me now, all of you. The next person who tried to stop me from doing something will be severely reprimanded. Am I clear?"

    Echo squad shifted uneasily.

    Taylor chucked the icepack across the room and left the barracks. He needed some alone time before he really started flipping out.

    "That woman has got his head messed up." Halloway said.

    Jacobs shook his head. "Well how would you feel if your woman screwed a borg?"

    "She wasn't his woman then. Taylor needs to realize that." said Halloway. "If he doesn't, he's gonna lose her."

    "Some things are for the best."
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    #27
    Amanda walked into Molly's room and sat down with a sigh, "He didn't buy it."

    Christopher looked confused for a moment, "Sorry?"

    "Bashir," explained Amanda, "He didn't go for the cover story and wouldn't let me have access to the files."

    "I see. Would you sit with Molly for a moment, I have to make a call. One I didn't want to make." Christopher said.

    Amanda nodded as he moved into the office, "Computer, open a subspace channel to Deep Space Nine, Doctor Julian Bashir."

    =/ Standby \= chirruped the computer.

    Bashir face appeared on the screen. For a moment he appeared annoyed, then recognition dawned upon him, "YOU!" he yelled.

    "The very same, it's been a long time Julian."

    "I thought you were still in a maximum security prison. What are you doing wearing a uniform?" Bashir bristled with indignation.

    "Ah, well. You see, my new employer thought that my skills were being wasted in a prison and decided to hire me. I'm wearing the uniform because I've been unofficially reinstated into starfleet."

    "Your new employer?" asked Bashir, not missing anything.

    "We're part of the Starfleet Intelligence fleet," lied Christopher, "but we have a problem."

    "You want my help?" laughed Bashir.

    "A changeling is killing my crew with a virus that I haven't seen before." Stated Christopher.

    Bashir's laughter stopped suddenly and he stared into Christopher's eyes for a long time, "Do you play poker Christopher?"

    "I don't play games Julian, you must remember that from our academy days." Cushing said.

    Bashir sighed, apparently satisfied, "What do you need, Chris?"

    Christopher explained about the virus shifting away from the antidotes and sent the data files to Bashir for reference. Bashir in turn sent details of the original Changeling virus.

    "Elizabeth came through here two months ago." Bashir said, "She still can't understand why you did what you did, she still misses you, you know."

    "I'll get in touch with her one day Julian, maybe try to explain what happened to make me poison a planet. Thank you Julian."

    "Glad to help, doctor." Bashir replied, "DS9 out."

    The doors to sick bay hissed open and Kendra and Steve Hollins rushed into sickbay.

    "Something the matter Commander?" asked Christopher innocently, smiling like a cheshire cat.

    "Have you found something? Please say that you have," Kendra said hopefully.

    "It's only a lead at the moment, but a promising one."

    Her face fell a little, but she still looked at him with anticipation. "Well, you may get the opportunity to have a personal conversation with that Changeling." She cut him off before he could say anything else. "No, we haven't caught it, yet. But, thanks to Steve-o here, we should get a hold of it in a matter of hours." Kendra slapped Steve on the back. He almost fell over.

    "Yeah," he replied. "That's me. The genius. Apparently."

    "Hmm, you're a genius now?" Christopher asked, looking at Kendra with a wide smile, "Sudden change in behavior, you sure he's not the changeling?"

    "So what have you found?" Kendra asked.

    "The unknown viral agent shares properties with a cardassian virus. When I injected the cure, the unknown agent appeared to shift away. That made me believe that the unknown agent is, in some small way, of founder origin. I contacted DS9 for the records of the virus that was killing the changelings. Dr. Bashir was kind enough to supply all the details. I thought that I might test it now if you'd care to stick around."

    Kendra nodded. "Sounds like a plan to me. I like to watch," she said, letting that dangle in the air.

    "As you wish, computer, introduce sample Bashir 1 into blood sample Patamon 5." Christopher ordered.

    The computer beeped and Christopher activated the large monitor over the experiment, "You can see what's going on better now. You can see that Bashir's virus is effecting our little friend's ability to shift, leaving it vulnerable to conventional medicine. Computer introduce Gaulouur anti virus."

    As soon as the cardassian anti virus was introduced, a green glow suffused the screen.

    Kendra watched the monitor in confusion. "Green means good, right?" The sample started to bubble and fizz. "And that's good too?"

    "Err, Kendra, Steve, you might want to step away from the experiment. No, no, quicker than that. Computer erect a level four forcefield around the experiment." Christopher said nervously.

    Kendra and Steve wasted no time in moving back behind the Doctor. "Green must've meant bad." She watched the screen and then noticed something odd. From the bubbles emerged tiny little things that looked like bugs. They seemed to sparkle as they caught the light....

    The experiment exploded, throwing fragments against the forcefield.

    "Wow, that'll cure 'em, permanently." Laughed Steve.

    Christopher however, didn't laugh, "Did you see it Kendra?" He asked.

    She looked at him straight in the eye. "Were those nanites? Where the hell did that come from?"

    "That was borg. The founder virus must contain borg nanites and hold them in check. If the founder virus is killed, the borg nanites are released. Who the hell is insane enough to splice a founder virus and borg nanites?" Christopher asked.

    Kendra seemed to be racking her brain and then suddenly she went pale. "Terry..." she whispered.

    "Terry? Name doesn't ring a bell. Is he one of ours?" Christopher asked.

    "Terrence O'Conner, from the Pegasus. When he came onboard he mentioned something about being a carrier for a virus specifically tailored for the Borg. He said that it wouldn't infect organic beings, but what if he was wrong?" she explained urgently. "What if something went wrong..."

    "Or," interjected Steve, "what if it was altered? You said that it looked like the Changeling virus..."

    "I doubt anyone could just change the virus without him knowing about it. However, he's been wandering the ship infecting everyone he came into contact with. It wasn't the changeling after all." Reasoned Christopher.

    "Oh my God," Kendra said. "We've got to get Terry in here. Now. Computer, locate Lieutenant Terrence O'Con--" Before she could finish getting his name out of her mouth, the doors to sickbay slid open and revealed Lieutenant Miguel Chandra dragging an unconscious Terry into the room. Two security guards were right behind them. "Well, that's what I call service," Kendra deadpanned.

    She watched as the former Borg was unceremoniously dumped onto a nearby biobed. "What the hell happened?" she demanded of the three men remaining.

    "There was a brawl in the mess hall, Commander," one of the guards told her. "O'Conner had been drinking heavily..."

    "Drinking? Oh God. The man never could handle his liquor..." Kendra scolded. The guard looked at her curiously and she waved him off. "Sorry. Continue."

    He nodded. "He'd been drinking and apparently picked a fight with a Bunch of Marines. Holloway, Jacobs, Taylor..."

    Kendra's eyes grew wide, and then the shook her head. "Taylor, huh?" She asked, suspecting she knew what the fight was about. "Hey, Doc, you got anything in here for a headache?"

    "I have some Asandine 12, you have a headache?" asked Christopher, concerned that Kendra was coming down with the virus.

    "No, not right now. But I feel one coming on later..."

    Christopher nodded sagely, "Ah, one of those headaches, I'm afraid the only cure for that is beyond mere medicine." He looked at Terry's scan results, "His bloodstream is riddled with the virus and yet he hasn't been affected, he's a carrier alright. Something in his system is preventing the virus attacking him. We've just got to find out what it is."

    Kendra nodded and looked at him sadly. Why wasn't anything ever simple In life? "Can you wake him up?"

    "I'll bring him round now, but what I want to know is who was serving alcohol in the mess hall? I don't remember authorizing the use of real alcohol for anything." Christopher asked the guards. When no reply was forthcoming, he pressed a hypo to Terry's neck. "Terry, this is Doctor Cushing, don't speak for a moment, if you need to be sick just nod your head. . . Okay, good, I'm going to treat your injuries, you've taken quite a beating."

    Christopher moved to the equipment rack and said to the guards, "Show's over gentlemen, I suggest you let us find out what's going on with him."

    The guards nodded and moved out of sickbay taking Lt. Chandra with them.

    "Terry?" Kendra asked gently. "Can you hear me?"

    Terry heard someone talking to him and rolled his head towards the source of the voice. It took him a couple of times to focus, be he finally managed to. A small smile formed on his lips, but it lasted only a moment before it disappeared. His features became hard, cold. "Of course I can hear you. I got the crap kicked out of me but I'm not deaf."

    Christopher sensed a slight tension in air, "Steve, could you help me with these results in my office?" he asked.

    "I'm no medic, doctor." Steve said, looking back at Terry.

    Christopher sighed and whispered in the man's ear, "Steve, we're going to leave the room so that the commander and the lieutenant can have a private conversation."

    "Oh, right, yeah, I'd love to help with whatever results you have." Steve said loudly.

    "We may have to rethink that genius status of yours." Christopher teased as they made their way into the next room. "We'll be in here if you need anything Kendra."

    She nodded and looked back and Terry. "What happened down there Terry?"

    Terry turned away from her. "I don't want to talk about it."

    "Oh, no, you don't," Kendra told him. "You're not going to get away from me that easy. Tell me what happened in the mess hall. Why did you and Taylor get into a fight? Was it over me?"

    "Ha!" Terry laughed bitterly. "You think pretty damn highly of yourself, don't you? Think everything is always about you...."

    "Terry..."

    "You know," he continued, interrupting her, "there was a time when you weren't like that. Of course, there was a time when you weren't like a lot of things. Looks like those days are gone..."

    "Oh my God," Kendra said in frustration. "Will you get your head out of the past? Look, what's done is done; we can't go back and change it. Time travel is forbidden," she said, trying to lighten the mood slightly before she starting pulling hair out.

    "Don't you ever take anything seriously?" he said angrily.

    "What's that supposed to mean?"

    Now he looked at her, tears actually forming in his eyes, threatening to spill over. "You didn't take us seriously."

    "Now that's not fair! You're the one that left me, remember?"

    "We've been over this! I left to do my duty for the good of the Federation! It was the least I could do for the people who saved me from the collective so long ago! If I can do anything to prevent people from going through what I went through, then I was all for it. But then, when I come back.... You're gone..."

    Kendra rolled her eyes. "I'm not disputing that, or chastising you for it, dammit! You did what you thought was right. You chose your path. And I went on with mine. Now deal with it."

    Terry stared at her hard for a moment. "When did you become such a bitch?"

    Kendra's face darkened as she felt something inside her die. Yes, she felt betrayed when he left her, but she once cared for him very much. Whatever feeling she might have remotely even still had for him, died with that single sentence. "I've always been a bitch, Terrence, you've just never had the pleasure of seeing it." Kendra leaned in close to him. "Now, are you gonna tell me what happened down there, or do I have to come in there and get it myself?"

    His eyes widened. "You wouldn't..."

    "Try me." Terry stared at her, and set his jaw; he wasn't going to say a word. "Fine," she said. It was only a moment, but it seemed like an eternity.

    Terry put up mental walls the size of Fort Knox to keep the Betazoid out of his mind, but it was nothing to Kendra. He just hadn't had that much practice with such matters. Finally, she stood up straight and nodded.

    Terry was furious beyond belief. He was hurt, angry, and now he felt violated. And it was the last straw. He sat up, and attempted to grab her arm, but she saw it coming. She easily deflected the injured man's attack and pushed him back down on the bed, using her arm to pin his throat. "Now, you listen to me," Kendra said quietly. "You will stay here and let the Doctor heal your wounds. And then I'm going to have your ass hauled down to the brig. Is that clear?"

    He managed to nod, and she released him. Terry grabbed her and pulled her to him into a passionate kiss. Kendra froze, completely caught off guard, and then pushed him away. "Computer, erect security forcefield over biobed 3!"

    It responded immediately, keeping him away from her. She wiped her mouth, and glared at him. "What the hell are you doing?"

    "Tell me that it's over! Tell me that that just meant nothing to you!" he yelled at her.

    Kendra turned and started to walk to the Doc's office, not even going to Justify it with an answer. "Did you ever even feel anything for me, dammit?" he called out once more.

    She stopped, but did not turn. "Once," she replied softly. "But not anymore." and she stepped into Chris' office, leaving the Borg to ponder what was next.

    Christopher looked up from his screen where Terry's results were being displayed, "What was all that about?"

    She shook her head. "Nothing. It's over now. After you've healed him, have him transferred to the brig for starting a brawl in the messhall and attacking a superior officer."

    "Okay then. I have some news about Terry's condition." He took a deep breath, hating this part of his job, "Terry's nanites are fighting the changeling virus, but they're not doing a very good job of it. They're repairing his system as fast as they can but they're slowly burning out. It's only a matter of time before his nanites won't be effective anymore and the virus takes over. I still have a few ideas to try before I give up on a cure. My main concern is the Hermes. A cure won't be much good if we've all been blown to hell and back."

    That caught Kendra's attention. "Damn, I forgot all about that. I hope security's more on the ball than I am..."

    "Tawnia has the tactical data for the plan against the Hermes." Christopher stopped and thought for a moment, "Computer, activate EMH program."

    Natalya appeared in the office, "Da?"

    "Natalya, start running anti-virus samples into the cultures we have and don't stop until you've found it." He ordered.

    "Yes doctor." She replied, compliant for a change.

    Kendra eyed the EMH and raised an eyebrow in an amused manner. "I see someone's been tweaking the computer programs.... She seems nice."

    "Really? She's normally very surly and moody. In the academy, Natalya, Elizabeth, Julian and I made the best medical team. We all had different personalities, which complimented one another. When we attended Starfleet medical, Natalya went to command school and things were never the same. It was rou. . . "

    =/ Triage room to sickbay \=

    "Excuse me Kendra." He said, tapping his comm badge. "Cushing here, go ahead."

    =/ Sir, one of the Pegasus crew just went into VF and we're having trouble with the others \=

    "I'm on my way, you coming Kendra?" he asked.

    "I guess so," she replied, falling in step behind him. "Oh hell, what about Hawkins? He's still on the Pegasus. They're liable to blow that ship before they blow us up."

    "I'm thinking of lifting the quarantine for Hawkins' group. He'll have four hours before they start to show any symptoms. The good thing about it is that the Hermes will probably decide to blow us to hell before he gets to take command of the entire ship. When they arrive back on board, I intend to ask him nicely for his medics to help with the Pegasus crew." Christopher smiled as he walked out of the office, "Congratulations Crewman Ellis, you get to be my buddy, grab a phaser and let's haul ass to the cargo bay."

    Kendra started after him, as well as Steve, but Christopher stopped him.

    "Could you do me a really big favor?" he asked, "Could you sit with Molly for a while, I made a promise that she wouldn't be alone. Natalya and Amanda will be here in case anything goes wrong."

    Steve glanced at Kendra. "It's okay Steve. I'm with the Doc and you'll be here with Molly. It's still the buddy system. Just new buddies."

    "Okay, I'll stay here," he agreed.

    "Are you up for a run Kendra?" Christopher asked.

    Kendra merely smiled as the doors to sickbay opened to reveal a busy corridor with pairs of crewmen all over the place.

    "MEDICAL EMERGENCY, clear a path people!" Christopher yelled as he started to run for the cargo bay. He tapped his comm badge as he flew down the corridor, "Cushing to Transporter room."

    =/ Watson here \=

    "Polly, I'm lifting the quarantine, can you inform Major Hawkins and his team that they can come back anytime they like. Tell them that we haven't found an anti-virus yet so it's their choice."

    =/ Will do Doc. \=

    "Thanks Polly," he panted, looking at Kendra who was hardly out of breath, "You realise that it’s really going to hit the fan when he gets back, don't you?"

    Kendra laughed as they entered the turbolift.

    "Promise me you won't upset him too much, Kendra, you won't. . .will you?. . . Stop smiling like that."

    The turbolift doors hissed closed.
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    #28
    Kendra, Christopher, and Ellis ran into the cargo bay and nearly collided with the nurses and aids running about near the doors. It was just a step away from chaos in that room.

    "Report!" yelled Christopher.

    One of the duty medics ran over, "Sir, two of the patients arrested and we couldn't save them. Three others have tachycardic arrhythmia. They're falling apart sir."

    Christopher nodded, "Stabilize any that you can, call me if you can't."

    Kendra, meanwhile tapped her commbadge. =/ Summers to transporter room. \=

    =/ Transporter room here. \=

    =/ What's the word from Hawkins? \=

    =/ They are ready to beam over. Just waiting for your word. \=

    Kendra nodded, then stopped herself. Why was she nodding when the woman couldn't see her? Anyway... =/ Have them beamed directly into the cargo bay. That way, we can bring them up to speed quicker. \=

    =/ Acknowledged. Transporter room out. \=

    Polly turned to her apprentice and shook her head. "I'm glad I'm not down there. Major Hawkins is going to be so mad when he gets back onboard."

    **Cargo bay**

    The bright blue transporter beam illuminated the cargobay and brought forth Hawkins and five of his men. The Marine CO's brow was furrowed with anger as he spotted Summers and Doc Cushing. A few members of the fleeter medical staff rushed forward with their tricorders and began scanning the marines. Hawkins marched forward with the marines and doctors following closely besides him. "You have a lot of damn nerve abandoning us the way you did! I don't give a rat's ass if we were infected! You both could've easily transported us to a secure location and kept a force field over us, but no! You had to keep us on an unstable ship with God knows what over there!"

    "Oh, look. He's in a good mood! Who would've guessed?" Kendra said sarcastically to Doc.

    Christopher frowned, "Where the hell do you think we could have put you? In the brig? That's the only isolated space I can think of. Problem is that the brig shares it's life support with the rest of the ship so you'd have been infected as well as us and no good to anyone. As CMO I made the call to protect YOUR people."

    "Oh here we go with this fleeter bullcrap again." He said. "I should've just transported my people over, repaired the ship's weapon systems, and blown you all to hell!"

    "Major, could you please open your mouth and say 'ahh'?" asked the doctor who was running scans over him.

    Hawkin's head jerked over and faced the man, then pushed him to the ground. "AHHH!!!" he screamed and walked past Summers and Cushing. "Should've expected this from the get go. 'It's a co-op ship' they said. 'You have authority this time' they said." Hawkins kicked an equipment barrel across the room. "More fleeter crap!"

    "What the hell are you talking about? We were trying to save your life, you idiot!" Kendra shot back. "Are you listening to me, Major? Hawkins?"

    Hawkins was continuing his rant and remained totally oblivious of the Commander and Doctor. "I'll tell you what though, I'll be contacting good 'ol Gantz and telling his sorry ass that I want a transfer. Curtis Hawkins won't have to be nobody's puppet anymore!"

    Christopher bristled with fury, "You're in a petulant mood because you didn't get transported back here? That's it? Jesus, major, it's more than likely that my decision saved the lives of your away team. My assistant Molly is on a biobed right now fighting this damn virus and she has only had five hours exposure. Ask one of your own medics if you don't believe me. Now either stop bitching or get the hell out of my triage bay."

    "A nice little Akira class ship is all I need. A small but powerful RECON ship!" Hawkins continued.

    "HAWKINS!"

    "WHAT!?"

    "My God, when you get going you just don't shut the hell up, do you? We've got a problem. The virus is spreading over here. The Changeling is still running loose, though we might have that contained soon. And now Starfleet has sent a couple of ships to 'clean up', if you get my drift. Now, if you would just let us get two words in, you'd see that we were saving your sorry ass by keeping you over there! So get off it!" Kendra snarled at him.

    Christopher grinned like a cheshire cat, "That's right, if we don't come up the antigen real quick, one of your 'nice little Akira class recon ships' is going to transfer us all into free floating atoms, with the aid of some quantum torpedoes. But you see, don't worry about it, Major, us fleeters came up with a way to stop them all on our own."

    "Oh yeah? Enlighten me."

    "That was the easy part. We'll use the prefix code to lower their shields and transport infected air straight onto their bridge. They'll have to listen to us then." Christopher explained.

    Kendra nodded. "Now, do you want to help us find the Changeling or do you want to sit there and act like a big baby?"

    Hawkins looked at Summers. He couldn't believe the disrespect on this ship. "You watch your tongue, missy. You're not too big to bend over my knee you know."

    She was about to say something else when one of the medics came up to the group. "Doctor," he said gravely. "One of the Pegasus crew members just died."

    The group went silent as the news washed over them. "From the virus?" Kendra asked, not really sure that she wanted the answer. The man nodded.

    Christopher hung his head, "What about the other Pegasus crew members?" he asked softly.

    The medic shook his head. "The others aren't looking too good right now either. And, I hate to say it, but if things keep going the way they are now, our crew is gonna soon follow. From what I can tell, the Pegasus crew is in more advanced stages than we are, obviously, but it won't be long..."

    Christopher slammed his fist into a spare cargo barrel, "Dammit, why do people insist on using viruses to kill? What's wrong with a gun or a poison? I can't even stop these people from dying. All I can do is watch!." He slammed his hand onto his comm badge, "Cushing to Natalya," he roared, "I want good news and I want it yesterday."

    =/ Two hours. \= was all the reply he got.

    That brought Christopher up short, "Excuse me?" he asked in a more civil tone.

    =/ I have found an antigen that works and it will take two hours to replicate enough for the affected patients. Lt. Patamon has already regained consciousness but will be in sick bay for another two days. \= Natalya reported in her 'trying to be patient' tone of voice.

    "Understood. Cushing out." He looked at Kendra and Hawkins, "Guess we have to watch these people die for another two hours."

    Hawkins took in the thought and shrugged. "You guys can watch. I have better things to do." He knew that was a harsh thing to say, especially in front of a doctor, but that was the mentality of a marine. If they died, they died. He made his way out of the cargo bay, but not before muttering; "Ain't war hell?"

    ===================


    "Ok this is how it's going to work. And Summers? I don't want to hear a peep out of you." Hawkins said as he stood in the marine war room with Summers, his men, and her security team. "Echo will search through Jeffries tubes 1-6, Beta will take 7-12, and so on.

    "Sir?" Sgt. Halloway said. "With Charlie and Delta taking up the rest of the tubes, how will Alpha proceed?"

    "I'm sorry to say, but Alpha will be teaming with the security team." Hawkins replied and was surprised that there were so many groans. "Sorry men, but we need every man in the field. Fleet security ain't big enough to scout all the corridors by themselves."

    Kendra rolled her eyes and then turned to face her security people. "Yes, I want you all to play nice with the Marines. Their mothers didn't teach them how to share when they were little so they have issues with playing nice today. Show them what responsible children are supposed to do and lead by example..." she explained. The security team snickered.

    As Summers was talking, Taylor moved beside Hawkins and whispered in his ear. Everyone could read the Major's lips when he whispered "Yes, you too. Sorry Gunny, can't afford to let you go on this one." to Taylor.

    "So what about the SEAL Teams? Are they going to come out and play too?" Kendra asked.

    "SEAL Teams 1 and 2 will be scouting certain vital area of the ship. I have placed Sgt. Bednash in charge of Team 1, while I remain in command here. You are not to interfere with their work what so ever." he said and pointed to Summers, Shea, and Taylor. "They are not under our authority, with the exception of Team 1 that is. I will be keeping in contact with them. Anything to add, Commander?"

    "Nope, not really. Just find this damn thing as fast as you can," she told everyone.

    "Alright, saddle up. Lock and load." Hawkins replied and headed towards the door.

    The people filed out of the room and headed towards their respective posts. "So, how are you feeling, Hawkins?"

    Hawkins cocked his weapon and continued walking. "Why the hell do you care all of a sudden?"

    She shrugged. "Hey, don't get defensive. Just wanted to know if the virus was starting to hit you and your men, yet. That's all."

    "Some of us are a little run down, myself included. Other then that, we're just dandy." he replied. "How's the Borg?"

    "Terry?" she repeated. "He's not doing too well."

    He looked at her and felt sincerely sorry. "Look Summers, if you want, I could arrange for him to be put down nicely. He wouldn't feel a thing."

    "What the hell is that matter with you?? He's not a dog! He's a person!" Kendra said incredulously.

    "Easy cowgirl. Just trying to make a valid offer." He said. "If I was just trying to be a tool, I would've let Taylor go and blow his damn computerized brains out right now. God knows the man wants to."

    "Why is that, anyway?" She was genuinely curious.

    Hawkins stopped and stared at her. "Are you seriously trying to tell me that you don't know what's up Taylor's crack?"

    She stopped and stared right back at him. "I know that he and Terry got in a fight over me, but I don't exactly know why. I told Terry that I was gonna go in his head and get the info that I wanted, but I only really got the fact that it was about me. You know I hate going and messing around in people's heads."

    "Jesus Christ. And you call me slow."

    "Are you just gonna stand there and insult me or are you gonna tell me, dammit?" she demanded impatiently. "You've been back onboard for less than an hour and you seem to know more about me than I do."

    "He was upset about the fact that you and O'Connor used to be together." Hawkins said. "He didn't like that one bit."

    She looked at him in utter confusion. "Why would he be pissy of me and Terry? That was back on the Illustrious, a lifetime ago. He knew I was involved with him back then, what's the big deal?"

    "He didn't know you were 'with' him."

    "He didn't know I was with Terry? Really?"

    Hawkins shook his head and kept his eyes peeled as they walked down the corridor. "No he didn't. Found out not long after Terry came on board."

    Kendra shook her head. "But still.... I still don't see what the problem is. That relationship is over. Him and I are together now, as odd as that sounds..."

    Hawkins looked over at her. "From the way things are going with him...I kind of doubt that right now."

    "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

    "Summers, the reason he is so screwed up right now is because you slept with a Borg. A marine hates the Borg with a passion, they're our number one enemy. And it didn't really help him when O'Connor got drunk and started rubbing in the fact that he was with you, just to get a rise out of Taylor. So if I were you, I'd forget about the somewhat relationship you guys have and move on with your lives."

    Kendra couldn't believe what she was hearing. "You're out of your mind. Can't just forget about it! Especially him! Dear God, he practically chased me down. He's not going anywhere."

    He grinned and looked ahead of them. "Funny you should say that. Looks like he forgot about you already."

    Thirty yards in front of them and in plain view, a young marine woman was groping Taylor's bicep and staring starry-eyed at him. Taylor in return gave her a smile and ran the tip of his finger down her nose.

    "So you see, Summers? Forget about everything." Curt said and started walking ahead of her. "You should've known better then to get involved with a ground pounder."

    Kendra was still stuck in the middle of the hallway, staring at the abomination that was Taylor and some marine tart. Finally finding her feet, she marched right passed Hawkins and up to Taylor. "So you chase me around like a puppy dog for weeks and then, when you get what you want, you leave? Is that it?"

    As much as it hurt him to do it, Taylor gave her a smug smile and shrugged his shoulders. "Why don't you go back to your machine and leave me alone."

    Hot tears began to sting her eyes and she slapped him. "You son of a bitch." And with that, she grabbed Hawkins by the arm and hauled him down the corridor. Buddy system wouldn't let her be alone.

    The marine woman, Private Samantha Donnelly, went to go after the Commander but was stopped by Taylor. "Don't. Just let her go."

    Hawkins yanked his arm away from Summers and stopped her once they round the corridor. "Want to tell me what the hell that was all about?"

    Kendra stopped and stared at him. "Hel-lo? What do you think that was about? I thought it was fairly self-explanatory."

    "You didn't have to hit the guy in front of the men. He could bring you up on charges for that." Hawkins said. "Jesus, Kendra get a grip on yourself."

    "Do I look like I give a damn about that right now? What are they gonna do? Send me back to the asylum? Ooooooh, scary."

    "Will you stop trying to be so tough all the time. Why should you really care what Taylor thinks anyway?" he asked. "You hate marines, remember dummy?"

    She fought like hell to keep the tears in her eyes. "I just... it's just... Oh God. You don't understand. Nevermind."

    He looked at her and undid his breast pocket. "Oh I understand. I not that stupid, Summers. Remember a certain German doctor?

    "Shut up and leave me alone, Hawkins. Let's find this stupid changeling and then maybe we can get you that Akira class starship of yours. Get all you Marines off of here so I don't have to see him every damn day...."

    He produced a hanky from his pocket, turned his head, and handed it to her. "Wipe your eyes, it looks like you were just crying. Don't give anybody the privilege of seeing you like that."

    Looking at him suspiciously, she finally took the hanky form him and dried her eyes. "Here," she said a she sullenly held it out back to him.

    "Hang on to it. You'll need it for a while." he said, "Believe me, I know."

    She nodded and then looked at him oddly. "How the hell do you know? She didn't rip you apart like th--"

    "Shhh." he said and stopped. "Did you hear that?"

    "No," she hissed.

    All of a sudden they spotted the changeling sneaking into an air duct. Hawkins opened a channel to his personnel. " We spotted the bogey. All Marines report to decks 4-8. Secure the area and make sure nothing gets out of the ducts!"

    "Hot damn! She got them working! Hawkins, I got the CEO to rig us up a cute little device that won't let him change shape. If you can see him, you can catch him," she explained quickly.

    Hawkins lowered his weapon and looked at her. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me about this little gizmo of yours?”

    "Well, I'm telling you now, aren't I?" she told him. "I couldn't tell you when you immediately got back on board because I didn't know where the changeling was. Now we know, so now you know."

    “God you’re a smartass.” He replied and opened a channel with Shea. “Lt. Shea, I want you to bring Beta squad to my location. You and I have to go over a few things before we start an offensive on the changeling.”
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    #29
    Keith Bednash led the men of SEAL Team 1 on to the bridge. They drew a few stares from the bridge crew, but only for a moment. Seems things were so out of the ordinary as of late, that the SEALs making their presence known didn't really surprise them. Bednash coughed loudly, then pointed to each of his men and directed them to where they should search.

    Chief Petty Officer Ki had noticed their entrance and stared at them as they approached her station.

    "And just what do you think you are doing?" she addressed the man coldly; her mandibles clicking.

    "Just scouting the area, ma'am. Making sure the changeling isn't here." Keith said with a hoarse voice. "Doc Peterson here will be taking blood samples from each of you as a safety precaution."

    "Very well, take your sample and be quick about it. I have work to do..." she said as she held out a wrist, one of six that the insectoid had.

    Peterson walked up to the blue woman and smiled the best he could. Sweat of pouring down his head and he looked very pale and clamey. Seems the sickness was effecting them very quickly. "Please roll up your sleeve, ma'am."

    "You look ill, you should report to medical after this is done." she suggested. Looking around she noticed that most of everyone looked ill...

    "Already been there, ma'am." Peterson said . "If you hadn't noticed, everyone has the bug. It's just a matter of time before...well you know. So we're trying to keep ourselves busy."

    "I do not have the virus, my physiology makes that impossible, hense why I am here." Ki said as she watched him take the blood and prepare the exam that would clear her of being a suspected changeling.

    Matt took a blood sample and nodded. "Well congrats, you're a Brynn."

    "Of course I am silly human." she said with a slight smile seeing no reason to make the young man's life any further miserable.

    "Can't be too sure with a changeling running loose." He said. "New here I take it?"

    "Yes, I transferred in via shuttle three days ago. And you are?" she asked?

    "Oh sorry, where are my manners?" Matt said and put the blood sample in his breast pocket. "I'm Lance Corporal Matt Peterson. Medic of SEAL Team 1. And you are?"

    "I am Ki, Senior operations chief of this ship."

    He smiled. "Well it's a pleasure to meet you, Ki. Could you do me a favor?"

    "A favor? what sort of favor are you asking?" she asked her voice it's normal flat tone.

    "If I'm not mistaken, Brynn do enjoy eating meat. Am I correct?"

    "You are correct, we Brynn prefer meat to all other foods." she replied.

    He sighed. "I was never one for burial or cremation, so how about you cook me up and eat me when I'm dead."

    "I'm sorry we cannot eat cooked meat; I would have to strip the flesh from yer bones as you rotted." she replied without any hint of humour.

    "It was a joke." he laughed. "You just look so angry that I thought I'd make you laugh. Guess it didn't work."

    "I'm sorry... Matt? I'm just not the type of person who appreciates humor. Nothing personal." she replied.

    Peterson smiled. "Well a guy can try, can't he?"

    "I suppose one can always try..." she replied in kind.

    Just then a call came through on the SEAL's com link. The message was from Hawkins. They had found the changeling. Matt turned around a looked at the other members of the Team. "You guys here that?"

    Destaphono and Dorn nodded and made their way to the turbo lift, followed by Frost and Bednash. Matt turned to Ki. "Gotta go. Looks like we found that changling after all."

    "Good. Go kill it and finish this nasty business for once and for all." she suggested.

    "Hey, you wouldn't mind accompanying us, would you?" Might need some technical assistance down there."

    Ki looked around the bridge, it wasn't as if she was really needed here and perhaps she might be better used with these people.

    "I concur, it would be a better use of my abilities and time to accompany you on this endeavor." she said as she rose from her seat to follow Matt.

    Peterson nodded his head and lead the way to the turbolift. He drew a few stares from his fellow Team members, but after a second they appeared that they didn't care. Once he and the Brynn walked in, Peterson turned to Bednash and spoke quietly. "Thought we could use a hand."

    Keith looked at Ki, then back to Peterson. "This would usually be against protocol, but seeing as we'll be
    dead in about two hours, I don't give a rat's ass."

    "I didn't know rat's asses were commonly used as currency out here..." Ki commented under her breath.

    Bednash smiled in her direction. "Guess this makes you one of us for the time being. Welcome to SEAL Team 1."

    "Thank you. Shall we get on with this?" she inquired.

    The Team cocked their weapons as the doors to the lift closed. Moments later on deck four, the six people emerged and proceeded down the corridor. Miguel Destaphono looked at the fleeter OPS Officer. "So where were stationed before this death trap?"

    Ki looked at the men and studied them before answering for she knew where questioning would lead...

    "I was in the New Zealand prison for the last two years; before that I was stationed on the USS Iconia..."

    "Oh yeah?" he asked. "What happened there?"

    Ki was right.

    "During a particular violent love making act I devoured him after impregnating myself with his seed. It was very messy and he didn't taste very nice." She explained calmly.

    The five men stopped and stared at the woman for a moment, then continued forward like nothing was said. A few beats of silence passed and Roger Dorn spoke up. "Did you say you ate him?"

    "Correct Mr Dorn." Ki replied straight faced as if it was common knowledge.

    John Frost laughed. "Well now, that's what I call a healthy appetite."

    "The captain of the ship couldn't complain..." Ki muttered.

    =========================

    Hawkins scanned his head around as he waited for Shea to arrive. To kill time he looked back at Summers, who was currently trying to keep herself busy.

    Kendra had been busy counting the holes in the ceiling. That is, until she realized that Hawkins was staring at her. "What are you looking at?"

    "Nothing." he replied. "Just seeing how you're holding up."

    "I'm holding up just fine, thank you," she told him flatly and turned to continue pacing the hallway.

    Hawkins scanned her over, he had never seen her this vulnerable before. "If you want I could have him come talk to you, or I could talk to him."

    Kendra jerked back around to face him. "No, absolutely not."

    He shrugged. "Just thought I'd mention it."

    "Well, I don't need you to just mention it. I'd rather just forget about the whole thing."

    He was quiet for a moment and really considered his next thought. "If it's any consolation, I think he's just trying to get back at you."

    She glared at him. "And what makes you say that?"

    "Taylor just never really shown an interest for grunt women. Always had his mind on his work." Hawkins said carefully. "He always noticed fleeters and civvies."

    "Well, that's just peachy keen now ain't it? You mind telling me what he's getting back at me for? Huh? I didn't cheat on him, I didn't treat him badly. Well, once we got together, that is. I didn't do anything. So how can you be getting back at someone when they haven't even done anything in the first place? Tell me that!" she spat angrily.

    "Just the thought of it is enough to drive a man nuts." he replied. "But of course women tend to look past that kind of thing."

    "It was over! It has been over! Taylor is not 'getting back' at me, he's hurting me!" she said. Silence followed her outburst and she had to turn around to keep from getting even more pissed off. "If he wants to get his panties in a wad over something that didn't even involve him, that's fine. I don't need him anyway."

    Hawkins raised an eyebrow and shook his head. Who was this woman kidding anyway? "You keep telling yourself that, Summers. I'm sure you'll be moving on by tomorrow."

    She turned back around to face Hawkins again, a small, faux smile on her lips. "I said that I don't need him. I didn't say that I was quite over it yet. There is a difference, ya know."

    "Don't give up hope, Commander. I'm sure all you both need is some cooling down time." Hawkins said. "You guys worked too hard for each other to let something stupid break you up."

    Now she grinned genuinely. "You know, I don't know how, but you're actually making me feel better. Thanks."

    Hawkins shrugged. "I have my moments. Just don't tell Taylor that I said anything, you hear me?"

    "You're secret is safe with me."

    He nodded and spotted Shea walking down the corridor, and his SEAL Team not too far behind. "Glad you all could make it. Ready to fry us a changeling?"

    Shea smirked at the Marine Major, "Born ready, sir."

    "Hell yeah, boss." Keith said. "Let's get the show on the road."

    Kendra plastered on a professional face and turned to face the group. No one would ever know that there was anything wrong with her only moments before. But she did frown after a moment. "Last time I checked, the lovely Brynn was my Ops chief, not a SEAL...."

    "I brought Ki along for the show." Peterson said. "Could always use a hand."

    She nodded, recalling the profile she had received on Ki’s race. "Okay. Could come in pretty handy."

    "I agree." Hawkins said. "More help the merrier."

    Ki observed though around her and the comments. She really hadn't spent any time with the captain nor did she know her.

    "Then we are agreed my presence here will be useful." she said more in a statement then a question.

    Hawkins turned to his XO. "Shea, you're with Commander Summers and myself. We're going to fall into the tubes and smoke this sucker out."

    Kennedy nodded, "Aye sir, sounds like a solid plan." Shea then narrowed her eyes sizing up the Commander, wondering to herself if the woman could handle herself if it came down to it.

    Kendra caught the little 'look over' from Shea. "Don't worry, Lieutenant. I won't get in your way too much." she told her with a dry smile. "I'll just be more than happy to get in the way at the most inopportune moment allowing not only for you and Hawkins to get shot but to also allow for the Changeling to escape. How does that sound?"

    With a low chuckle, Shea responded, "Sounds rather typical for a Fleeter." She then turned back to the Major wait for his orders.

    "Team 1, you proceed 2 kilometers down the corridor and get into the tubes that way. We'll have the engineer set a containment field around the thing once we come across it. Then the rest is easy 'clean up' business."

    "Roger that, sir." Bednash said and led the Team away.

    "Lt. Shea, unlatch the tube cover and fall in."

    The dark haired woman nodded then shifted the pulse rifle to her right hand so that she could open the tube cover. Once that was accomplished, Shea held up a light and shown it into the tube. She took a deep breath and scanned the area ahead of her, and above her. She was really not anxious to have any more surprises like she had in the Commander ready room.

    "Kendra." Hawkins said. "It would also be a wise move to contact Doc Cushing and get his ass on the bridge. From what you all were telling me about those interceptors, it appears we won't have much time for dilly-dallying."

    Kendra looked at Hawkins for a moment, then hit her commbadge. “Summers to Cushing. Hey, Doc, I need you to get to the bridge. I'm with Hawkins and we're on the trail of the Changeling. Need ya to hold down the fort. Or, ship. Whatever. You know what the hell I mean.”

    =/ On my way there now. You'd better come down to sick bay when you've got a moment. Terry's nanites have burnt out, it's acting on his system really quickly. He doesn't have more than an hour. I'm sorry Kendra. Natalya is looking after him as we speak. \=

    Kendra took a deep breath and slowly let it out. Lovely. “Okay. Thanks, Doc. Just keep working on that vaccine for the rest of us. Summers out.” Kendra turned back to Hawkins. "Did you really just say 'dilly-dallying'?"
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    #30
    Christopher and Crewman Ellis stepped out onto the bridge. Christopher noticed that there were only two positions manned, tactical and helm. He looked across to Tawnia, "Is everyone having time off for good behavior?"

    "Not on this ship." She laughed.

    Christopher relaxed slightly, "Anything going on at the minute?" he asked.

    "Long range sensors picked up two ships closing on our position, but they are still a little bit away. They're coming in at warp 9." She reported.

    Christopher sat in the big chair, "Warp 9 eh? Have they tried to hail us yet?"

    Tawnia shook her head slowly, "The only reason we know who they are is because of their transponder codes, other than that, they're being very rude."

    Christopher smiled cruelly, "Hail the Hermes and standby with their prefix code."

    == Back on Decks 4-8 ==

    "I hate Jefferies Tubes..." Kendra grumbled.

    "You and me both." he said. "I'm too damn big to be crawling through this death trap."

    "There's a junction up ahead," Kendra told them.

    Hawkins' didn't expect that. "Dammit, might have to tell Thorne to increase the field. You holding up alright, Shea?"

    Shea just nodded slightly, her head still aching somewhat. She responded quietly, "Aye sir." Shea seemed to flourish in these conditions however. It had been a long time since the woman had the opportunity to take the point. It was something she always enjoyed, she always wanted to be the first one to confront danger.

    **Elsewhere**

    Keith Bednash slowly made his way through the jefferies tubes. It seemed that ever since he was stationed on starships, he had been in the tubes more times than anyone else.

    "I hate this crap." Frost muttered quietly.

    Dorn smiled at the comment. "We all do, bro. I think the only one who is having an easy time is Ki. Little females never have a problem."

    "Is that right, Ki?" asked Destaphono.

    Ki was just at home in the tight environment as she was in the normal halls. The low level of light did nothing for her as her UV vision was more than enough to compensate.

    "That is correct Mr. Destaphono; I rarely have problems." she replied calmly with no emotion as normal for her.

    Peterson chuckled lightly as he thought of something to make the mood better. "Hey Ki, you like men, huh?" he asked.

    "I find that most males taste well when served with a light red wine." she replied with a smile.


    **Meanwhile**

    Kennedy came up to the junction and crouched down low. She scanned the area to either side and spotted movement to the right. Looking back over her shoulder she made a hand signal that indicated that everyone behind her should stop. Then she gave the Major another hand signal that said she had seen their target.

    "You spotted it?" Hawkins asked. "Where?"

    Speaking quietly, the Lt. stated, "To the right about a hundred feet. Not real sure what the damned thing is up to however." She looked back down the tube and keep a close eye on the creature. She was going to be damn sure they didn't lose it again.

    Kendra hit her commbadge and spoke as quietly as possible, “Summers to Thorne. I need you to erect a forcefield about a hundred feet to the right of Shea's signal.”

    =/ Commander, DuBois here, we can’t find the Chief but we’ll activate the field now.”

    Shea growled, "It's on the move Major." Moving down the tube to follow after it.

    =/ Dammit! Delay that order! It's moving! \= Kendra yelled over the comm. From out of nowhere, the Changeling produced a hand phaser and shot at them. They barely had time to get out of the way.

    Hawkins grabbed Shea's belt and Kendra’s head and pulled them to their stomachs. He knew that they could handle themselves just fine, but it was a male instinct trait. Probably wouldn't sit well with his XO in particular. "You two ok?"

    Shea shrugged him off, "Fine sir." She got back to her feet quickly and moved down the tube a bit tracking the Changeling. Turning she looked back at the Major and Commander.

    =/ Standby! \= Kendra told her people. =/ The Changeling is on the move and heading toward SEAL Team 1! Repeat, the Changeling is heading towards SEAL Team 1! \= she called. Kendra felt a headache coming on, only this time she knew it wasn't from the hectic events of the day. What a wonderful time for the lovely virus to decide to screw with her.... Some of her hair fell in her face and she reached up to push it out of the way. And then froze. "Son of a bitch."

    "What?!" Hawkins asked and looked Summers over for phaser burns.

    "That dumbass thing shot my hair. Oh, it will die now," Kendra spat out and pushed her way in front of Hawkins.

    The Major's eyes went over and locked with Shea's, then back to Kendra. "You big girl."

    Shea tried extremely hard not to laugh outright, she raised a brow and rolled her eyes.

    **Other end of the corridor**

    The SEALs knelt quietly and had a fixed aim on the adjacent corridor with their weapons. The changeling didn't have a prayer.

    "Steady boys and girl." Bednash said softly. "Don't shoot until-"

    Just then the changeling shot out from the corridor and hauled gel down the opposing one. The SEALs opened fire and managed to sear it. Bednash called out to Summers. "Force field now!!"

    Kendra had just crawled out of the jefferies tube when she heard Bednash. =/ DuBois, force field fifty feet in front of me! Now! \=

    As Engineering applied the force field, everyone smiled as the thing bashed into it and didn't move any further.

    Hawkins finally made it to the corridor and looked at the changeling. "Any ideas what you want to do with it?"

    "Well, I know what I would *like* to do to it," Kendra muttered as she looked at the Changeling through the forcefield. "But I don't think Starfleet would let me do it." The Changeling stared right back at her. It appeared angry.

    "Shea?" he asked.

    Kennedy stepped right up to the forcefield and looked the Changeling right into the eyes. "Well I'd certainly like to return the favor it gave me earlier." She meant the nasty bump on the head.

    "If you want my opinion on how to completely kill it without a chance of it surviving beam it into the warp coils. The plasma will instantly vaporize it." Ki suggested like she might have done this before...

    Hawkins shrugged. All were valid ideas. "I say we beam it out into space and let it die a slow painful death."

    "No you don't want to do that. Changelings can survive indefinitely in a vacuum. Didn't any of you ever read the intelligence documentation on them?" Ki asked.

    "That wouldn't do, now would it?" Kendra said. Now she addressed the Changeling. "Why did you sabotage the Pegasus?"

    He smiled at her. "I had my reasons."

    "To sabotage a potential weapon against the Borg? That could have been in your best interest as well," she told him. Suddenly, Kendra became a little dizzy and had to take a step to steady herself. "Damn," she muttered.

    Now the Changeling's smile widened. "Looks you're having problem, Commander. You know, I think there's a nasty virus going around. You might want to go get that checked out...."

    Kendra fumed. "I think we should toss him to the brig for the time being. Any objections?"

    Hawkins shook his head. "Nope. Sounds like a plan to me."

    Upon Kendra's command, one side of the forcefield lowered and a couple of the Marines escorted him away. "Well, now that that part of the fun is over, let's go play with other things. Like viruses that are slowly killing or ships that want to blow us up. Any bets on what gets us first?"

    "I'm not a betting man." Hawkins said.

    ====== On the Bridge ======

    "Ellis, man the ops station. Red Alert! Ivy, bring us about, heading 217 mark 6." Christopher ordered.

    "Captain Soto aboard the Hermes is hailing us." Ellis reported.

    "Let's see him then."

    Soto appeared on the viewscreen. He was an older man, greying at the temples and wore a frown as deep as the grand canyon. "Where's your captain?"

    "I'm sorry, the captains can't come to the bridge right now. If you'd care to leave a message, I'll be sure they call you back." Christopher quipped.

    "Oh really?" asked Soto, "Just who the hell are you?"

    "Lt. Cmdr Christopher Cushing, Ship's Chief Medical Officer. Would you mind explaining your presence in this system, sir?"

    "Insolent whelp! I don't need to explain a damn thing to you!" Soto roared, his face turning a remarkable shade of purple.

    "Actually, you do. Starfleet regulations state that any vessel arriving in an occupied system must identify their destination and purpose to other Starfleet vessels." Christopher smiled.

    Now it was Soto's turn to smile, "Think you're clever do you? It just so happens that I know exactly what kind of vessel you are, and it isn't officially starfleet, is it? Technically, we're here to provide support for the hospital ship."

    "Technically?" asked Christopher.

    "Yes. If you haven't found a cure yet, we're to destroy the ship to prevent contamination, as per starfleet regs." Smirked Soto.

    The screen went blank, Tawnia said, "They've raised their shields and have armed their weapons. They're also six minutes early."

    "Get him back." Ordered Christopher, "Captain, my chronometer says that you are six minutes early, in which case, if you fire on me in the next six minutes I'll gladly activate the warp drives and fly straight through your ship."

    "You wouldn't, that's murder!" gasped Soto.

    "Check my service record, it wouldn't be the first time. End transmission." Christopher tried not to let his hands shake, "Ellis, I want a three minute countdown, starting now. Tawnia, target their torpedo launchers and prepare to fire every phaser we have. Ivy, on my mark full impulse heading 179 mark 8, then attack pattern . . . ooh let's see, um alpha 14. Ah, hell, just try and stay directly behind them."

    The bridge crew acknowledged their orders. Ellis's countdown reached zero. Christopher took a deep breath and hoped he was up to the challenge, "Battle stations!" he yelled. "Ivy. . .Mark!"

    Christopher could feel the power of the ship as it surged forwards, closing the distance to the Hermes. Tawnia reported from her station, "Firing phasers. . . Target's shields are down fifteen percent, minor damage to the aft torpedo launcher."

    He stared at the viewscreen as the Hermes reacted to their attack, turning slowly to present fresh shields to the Apocalypse and firing her phasers. Ivy's voice sang out, "Coming about for an attack run!"

    Ellis yelled from the Ops station, "Incoming! Quantum torpedoes bearing 219 mark 2."

    Christopher clutched the seat rests instinctively, "All hands brace for impact!" he shouted.

    The torpedoes slammed against the Apocalypse's shields. Sparks flew as a panel near Ellis exploded, steam from a ruptured conduit poured onto the bridge. The impact threw Christopher out of his chair and onto the floor, "Return fire, Tawnia, warm up the quantum torpedoes!" he yelled as he clutched his arm. 'Broken' he thought.

    He watched as Ivy's hands blurred on the control panels, sending the ship spinning out of the way of two more torpedoes. The Apocalypse's return fire raked the Hermes mercilessly. Phaser arrays skittered over the hull, shorting out systems. Pulse phasers hammered at the shields, causing them to glow with the energy discharge.

    "Damage report!" yelled Christopher.

    Ellis wiped the blood from his eyes and concentrated on the panel in front of him. "I'm getting reports from all over the ship. Nothing serious, minor casualties only."

    Tawnia's voice sounded clearly over the mayhem of the bridge, "Torpedoes ready to fire at your command."

    'Finally' thought Christopher, "Target their port nacelle strut and fire at will."

    The quantum torpedoes sprang from the front of the Apocalypse and struck the Hermes, snapping off the warp nacelle. Plasma poured out leaving a trail behind the crippled ship. It's lights flickered on and off.

    Christopher punched the air with his good arm, "YEAH!" he cried, "Hail them, I want to talk to anybody on that ship, ANYBODY."
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