One More Moment
Disclaimer: Star Trek: New Frontier belongs to Peter David, John Ordovar, Paramount, etc. I'm just borrowing. No harm intended.
Mackenzie Calhoun impatiently paced the bridge of the Excaliber. If sheer will could have powered the ship she would have exceeded warp 10 long before then.
"How much longer?" he questioned, not quite able to keep the anxiety from his voice.
"Three hours, ten minutes," answered Mark McHenry.
Calhoun nodded slightly in acknowledgment while suppressing a sigh of frustration. He prayed they would arrive in time.
"Is she ready?" asked the Overlord.
"Yes Overlord," Prime One assured, but then added hesitantly, "She still refused to give us any information about either ship."
"Not surprising. Those Starfleet people are quite irritating. Nevertheless, it is time for her to be prepared to meet Xant."
"Yes Overlord," Prime One agreed, and left the room bowing.
Elizabeth Shelby-Calhoun, depending upon her mood and who she was with, was just starting to regain consciousness when the Redeemers entered her cell. She blinked hazily at them standing above her.
"Stand up," one of them ordered. When she did not respond fast enough the other two dragged her to her feet. "It is time."
"Time for what?" she asked groggily, shaking her head slightly to try to clear her vision.
"Do you know where the festival is being held?" Calhoun asked Si Cwan.
"It is held on Tulaan IV. The Festival of Xant was closed to all outsiders," he told Calhoun apologetically.
"Has Whittaker discovered anything knew?" Calhoun asked Robin Lefler, referring to Commander Nicole Whittaker, the first officer aboard the Trident.
"No. All four of the kidnappers refuse to talk. They say that Xant will protect them whenever they are told the consequences of their actions," Lefler informed him. He nodded slightly, his mind wandering back to the events that had happened three days before.
"I want all of you going over any and all data we have about the festival," he practically spat the word," and the planet. See if you can narrow down our search field. Dismissed." He ordered curtly. Everyone filed from the room, Si Cwan and Lefler talking quietly. He closed his eyes as the memories came rushing back.
Calhoun frowned slightly. Something seemed off but he couldn't quite place what.
"Captain, the Trident is hailing us," Soleta announced.
"Onscreen," Calhoun ordered. The two ships were schedule to rendevous in two days, he figured that they were going to be delayed slightly. His surprise was clear when Commander Whittaker appeared onscreen instead of Elizabeth.
"Captain, there's been an incident," Whittaker began with hesitation and Calhoun felt his heart dropped into his stomach.
"Elizabeth," he whispered.
"Yes," Whittaker confirmed. "Captain Shelby is missing. She was abducted from the Palace of Divera earlier today."
"Are you sure?" asked Robin and then blushed slightly at her forwardness.
"Yes. We found blood in a stairwell and her communicator," Whittaker explained, and then took a deep breath. "And this," she held up a small object that Calhoun instantly recognized as Elizabeth's wedding ring. Dread swept through him at that realization; Elizabeth never took her ring off.
"What's our ETA?" questioned Calhoun.
"Ninety minutes," answered Mark.
"The Trident reports that they are two hours behind us," Soleta reported.
"Captain, Moke is asking for you," Lefler told Calhoun.
"All right," he said. "I'll be with Moke. Let me know of *anything* happens," he instructed.
Prime One threw Elizabeth at the Overlord's feet. She lay there, gasping for breath as pain coursed through her injured body.
"Hello Elizabeth Calhoun," greeted the Overlord, just to let her know that he knew about the marriage. "It is a pleasure to have you here."
She struggled to her knees, determined to look him in the face. She refused to be intimidated by him.
"Not that you'll be here for long," the Overlord continued with a little laugh. Then turned to Prime One. "Prepare he for the ceremony."
"Cwan!" Kally yelled excitedly from where she sat in his living room. "I found it!"
"I found the place. I know where she'll be."
"Explain on the way to the bridge," Si Cwan told his sister, dragging her to her feet.
"Hi Dad," Moke greeted. "Have you found Elizabeth yet?"
"Not yet. But we're getting closer," Mac told his son. He had been a little worried about how Moke and Elizabeth were going to take to each other. Elizabeth had been shocked enough at his survival of the explosion, and he had a sprung a child on her immediately. And Moke, having just lost his mother, Mac really had not been sure how he would react to a brand new mom so soon. As it turned out, he need not have worried because both had accepted the other with open arms.
"I hope she's okay."
"Me too. How was school?" Mac asked, trying to change to subject in order to get his mind off of his missing wife, if only for a second.
"It was fine. Everyone is worried about Elizabeth, but they tried to hide it because I was there," the boy told Mac. "She's going to be okay, right?" he asked anxiously.
"I hope so Moke, I really hope so."
Calhoun arrived on the bridge just after Si Cwan and Kallinda. He could feel the excitement buzzing around the bridge as he stepped out of the turbolift.
"I was just going to page you Captain," Soleta told him, surprise flashing across her face for a split second.
"We know where Captain Shelby will be," Si Cwan told Mac calmly.
"The Excaliber and Trident are on their way here," a Redeemer told the Overlord.
"They will not arrive in time. Let them come," the Overlord issued. Elizabeth and Prime One reentered the room. She was dressed in a thin gray and black dress. "Is everything ready?"
"Yes Overlord," answered Prime One. "The shuttle is ready, we are just waiting for your orders now."
The Overlord and several of his followers glided past Shelby and Prime One. One of them stepped on her already injured right foot and she was unable to stop a cry of pain. She would have fallen had Prime One not started to drag her along at that moment.
They entered a courtyard lined with Redeemers. They cheered when they saw her and she limped painfully to the awaiting shuttle.
Elizabeth found the Overlord sitting on a throne when she entered the shuttle. She was pushed from behind which caused her to lose her balance. She crashed painfully on cracked ribs and lay in front of the Overlord, gasping for air once again. "Why are you doing this?" she asked, but was ignored.
The shuttle landed five minutes after it took off and Elizabeth found herself being lead through snow to a simple pole. "Why are you doing this?" she asked once again, already shivering from the cold. She successfully bit back a cry of pain when they chained her broken hand behind and above her. Pain shot through her left had and arm, causing tears to spring to her eyes. She quickly shook them away.
"Xant demands the sacrifice of three enemies once every nine years. It is an honor to be chose," the Overlord said, finally speaking to her. "My Xant bless your afterlife," was his farewell and the gaggle of Redeemers left her alone on the mountain top to face the elements.
"Where is the mountain top?" Mac asked Soleta.
"It is here, seventy-five kilometers from the city," she informed him, pointing to the spot on the map. "It has already been downloaded into the shuttles computer."
"Keep an eye on all Redeemer activity," he told Zak. He rumbled in acknowledgment.
Elizabeth struggled to keep her eyes open but she knew she was losing the fight. She knew she was shivering but her body was going numb.
"I'm sorry Mac," she whispered, her eyes closing once more. "I tried to keep our promise."
"We're being hailed by the Redeemers," Robin announced.
"Onscreen," ordered Kat.
"Starship Excaliber, you are too late. She is already dead," the Overlord said, appearing onscreen. "However, if you can find her body, you may keep it. Rejoice, she is with Xant," and he closed the connection.
"Hail the shuttle," Kat ordered, truly not wanting to tell Mac what they had just been told.
Mac flew the shuttle over the mountain top in a desperate race against time. He didn't care what the Overlord said, he knew that she was not dead- at least not yet. The second the shuttle landed he was out of his chair and racing for the hatch.
"Elizabeth! Eppy!" Mac shouted, racing the rest of the way up the mountain. Selar followed closely behind him.
Once they reached her Mac severed her bonds and easily caught his wife as she fell. He could feel her pulse faintly and was vaguely aware of Selar reading off her injuries even as they once again ran for the shuttle. He cradled her to him gently, not yet daring to get his hopes up but determined to her get her to the Excaliber as soon as possible.
As soon as the shuttle was within range Selar and Elizabeth beamed over to the Excaliber. Calhoun landed the shuttle and raced for sickbay, ordering McHenry to put them on an intercept course with the Trident.
When he reached sickbay he found Mueller waiting for him outside. Much to his annoyance she refused to let him enter sickbay.
"Get out of my way, Kat," he growled.
"Let them do their job Mac," she requested unintimidated. "They're going to be in there a while. You'll do no one any good- including yourself- if you just stand in there watching."
"I need to see her Kat."
"You saw her in the shuttle," she pointed out reasonably. She had seen and heard the extent of Elizabeth's injuries and there was no one way she was letting him get past her. She alone knew how much it would hurt him to see his wife like that. "Trust me."
He glared at her for a few moments before sighing in defeat. "All right. I'll wait. For now."
Mueller accepted what she could get.
Forty-five minutes later Karen Kurdziel came out to inform the waiting crowd of Elizabeth's condition. Mac stopped his pacing but his questions died in his throat when he saw the look on the doctor's face.
"You're losing her," he whispered painfully.
"I'm sorry Captain," Karen admitted. "We're doing everything we can, but I don't think it's going to be enough."
Mac slipped past her without obstruction and headed for his wife.
Once Mac arrived Selar and Maxwell finished up and left to give the two privacy. He took her still too cold hands in his and sat next to her.
"Eppy? Can you hear me?" he asked softly, brushing a lock of hair off of her face. He winced slightly at the bruises that were still there.
"Everyone is worried about you Eppy. The Trident is here now and Nicole is ordering you not to go anywhere. First Officer's orders," he laughed slightly. "Burgy and Robin are trying to answer the questions from this crew, but they're having a hard time keeping up. You're still missed around here. They're all rooting for you. Both crews.
"Moke's down here. Kat is keeping an eye on him, but his really worried about you." He paused, his voice catching in his throat. "You're going to win this fight Eppy. I know you. You promised and I'm going to hold you to that promise." He pulled her ring from his pocket. Whittaker had given it to him as soon as she had arrived from the Trident.
A moment later everything went to blazes when she stopped breathing. Alarms started screeching and he allowed Selar to push him out of their way when the doctors came running. He fell back, his heart breaking.
Elizabeth Paula Shelby-Calhoun found herself standing barefoot in a large garden, dressed all in white.
"Hello?" she called, looking around. She received no answer and began wandering around the garden, looking at all of the flowers. She stopped at a bed of roses. There were roses of every color there, but the purple ones seemed to stand out to her. She picked on, wondering why the color seemed familiar somehow.
"Hello Elizabeth," spoke a voice behind her. She spun around to see a red-haired woman standing behind her. "It's very peaceful here, isn't it?"
"Yes. Lovely too," she looked up and saw that the sun was setting. She reveled in the sunset for a few minutes before turning her attention back to her companion. She wondered if she should know her. She seemed familiar somehow. In addition to her red hair she had a few freckles speckling her nose.
"No, you don't know me Elizabeth," the woman answered the unasked question.
"How do you know my name?" Elizabeth asked suspiciously.
"I know a lot of things," was the cryptic response.
"I don't belong here, do I?" asked Elizabeth, her gaze drawn to the stars that now shone above her. She felt like she could reach out and touch them; or walk among them.
"No. You don't belong here," confirmed the woman.
"The color of this rose seems almost familiar, why is that?" asked Elizabeth.
"Think about it, and it might come to you," was the offered advice.
"Why am I here?"
"You have a choice to make. You were right when you said you don't belong here. Where you're from, you were hurt very badly. You can go back there if you like, or you can stay here. If you go back, there will be some hard moments for you to face in your future. Here, everything will be peaceful. Think hard before you make your decision. Do you have any reason to go back."
Elizabeth contemplated the question. Something was nagging the back of her mind. "I think I do," she said. She looked once more at the purple flower in her hands. "So familiar," she whispered, trying to remember why.
"This place isn't so bad, you now. You would be very happy here if you decide to stay. Choose carefully and follow your heart."
Elizabeth looked up towards the stars once more and then back down at her hands. She saw a simple gold band on her hand. "Mac," she said, it all returning.
"Fight Eppy," Mac pleaded. "I know you're strong enough."
"I have to go back," Elizabeth told her companion. "I made a promise."
"I know," the woman smiled. "You made the correct choice."
"She's stabilizing," Maxwell called out triumphantly.
Mac felt himself breathe again as relief now coursed through him. He hurried to Elizabeth's side and looked to Selar in inquiry.
"She's stable. Her vital signs are much stronger than before," the doctor told him, relief tinging even the Vulcan's voice slightly.
"Thank you," Mac told them. Those in attendance left Mac to keep vigil over his wife in peace. Moke slipped in next to his dad for a moment.
"I knew she'd be okay," he whispered to Mac and then departed to join waiting Kat. Mac smiled the retreating youngster and then looked back at his wife, grateful for the reprieve they had just been given. All he wanted was one more moment with her, one more hour, one more day, one more lifetime. But, for the time, he would be content with having her for the moment.
Elizabeth slowly regained consciousness. Her entire body hurt. And she was cold. When she finally opened her eyes she found herself staring into a pair of purple ones. "Mac?" she whispered.
"Hi honey," he greeted, a broad grin on his face. "Welcome back."
"I wouldn't have left. I promised," she told him quietly. She moved her hand and winced at the pain that the movement caused.
"They broke your hand in six places," Mac told her.
"They wanted my ring," she explained. "When I wouldn't give it to them...." she trailed off, exhaustion creeping over her.
"I love you," he told her.
"Love you too," she murmured before falling back asleep.