Warning: Little to nothing to do with Boston.
Disclaimer: I don't own it, I make no money from it. Not written for profit, simply for pleasure.
Malcolm followed the small group up the path, enjoying the night as they strolled through a garden on the way to the evening's reception. It had been a while since he'd been planet-side, and, although the air here on Adva felt different from that of Earth, some of the scents were similar. He took a deep breath in, enjoying the sweet, slightly spicy odours of the flowers they were passing. He reached out a hand and touched one of the blossoms, surprised to find it soft, almost velvety. Raising his fingers to his nose, he inhaled the sweet scent the bloom had left there, and smiled. Then he sneezed.
Trip, walking beside him, said, "Bless you."
One of the Advarian guides assigned to their group frowned in his direction. "Are you all right, Lieutenant?"
"Sorry, yes," he replied, smiling slightly. "Allergies."
The guide nodded solemnly and turned to Trip. "And what is the meaning of, 'Bless' in this instance?"
As Trip launched into an explanation of sneezing and its customary responses, Malcolm rubbed the back of his neck, allowing himself to fall slightly behind the rest of the group. He'd had a headache since this morning, and it seemed that the flowers down here might be beginning to aggravate his allergies, making it worse.
Actually, he realised, he'd had a headache for the past few days, even prior to their arrival on Adva. It had simply been at such a low level that he hadn't really paid it attention. Until now. He rubbed the bridge of his nose. The pain was only just building to the point of annoyance; and he with neither an analgesic nor an antihistamine. Well done, he thought sarcastically.
He thought he saw a flicker of movement in his peripheral vision - ahead, near a structure that they were approaching. When he looked straight at it, though, there was nothing, the front of the building well illuminated by the garden lights.
Brilliant, he thought. Visual disturbances. Perhaps he was working up to a migraine. He sighed aloud, and Trip glanced back in his direction. Malcolm smiled to show that all was well, then looked ahead of Trip to the rest of the party. Captain Archer was just ahead, speaking with the planetary leaders; followed by the mess of the planetary counsel, their security, and some of the members of Enterprise's security team.
Malcolm took a moment to observe the Advarians. So far, they'd been an interesting enough people, humanoid, roughly similar in size and shape to humans, albeit slightly taller and stouter. Oh, and of course, with one large, swirling horn that pierced through their hair, standing tall on the tops of their heads.
Malcolm stopped a moment to roll an errant sleeve up another twist. All of the Enterprise crewmembers here on Adva had been given ceremonial clothes for this reception. His, a dark grey tunic and black pants, were surprisingly comfortable, if a bit big, obviously having been made to fit Advarians, not Humans. He looked ahead to where Trip was walking, still speaking with the guide. Trip was wearing the same, although since he was taller, the clothing appeared to fit him a bit better. Malcolm sneezed again and, lacking another option, rubbed his nose, surreptitiously, against his sleeve. Then he took several quick steps to catch Trip and the others ahead of him.
As he approached, Trip pointed an old structure out to the guide, one of several that they'd passed on their walk. Malcolm looked in its direction. The building was lovely, small, with a series of sensuous curves along the front, although it was obvious that it hadn't been used in decades: the arched windows were boarded up, and there was only a blank, crumbling opening where the door may once have been. He caught up to the pair, catching the guide in mid-explanation.
"...ghost tunnels connecting from this building," the guide said, laughing slightly. "I've heard rumours of phantom stations underground, the remnants of our old transport system that no longer exist, but can sometimes be seen. Some people even say that there are still people down there, spectres that can only occasionally be glimpsed, and then only if you know how to look." He smiled apologetically when his mobile communication device chirped, and they continued up the path as he stopped to answer it.
"I'd really like to see the inside of that building," Trip said, nodding in its direction as they began to walk past it.
"Perhaps later," Malcolm replied, rubbing the bridge of his nose again, his headache now a constant, dull pain.
"You okay?" Trip asked, his concern clear in his eyes.
"Yes," said Malcolm. When he saw Trip's disbelieving expression, he smiled a bit. "I have a headache." He shrugged. "I'm sorry, I thought I was covering well."
Malcolm saw movement near the building again, so he turned fully in that direction, watching the scene carefully, his eyes panning from one side of the structure to the other. Nothing. Then, as he looked again at the door, he saw a woman there, Advarian, dressed in old clothing, torn and filthy. Their gazes locked. Her eyes widening in shock, she quickly stepped back through the doorway into the dark building.
Malcolm took several quick, cautious steps in her direction. As he approached the door, she stepped out again.
"You shouldn't be here," she said, her eyes moving past him to take in the group on the path. "You need to go back to your group." She reached out and gave him a gentle push on the chest.
Malcolm felt a strong hand on his arm, and opened his eyes to see Trip's worried face. Malcolm looked around him in a panic - he was back on the path. He looked over towards the building - there was no one there. He heard Trip say something, but he didn't catch it in his confusion.
Trip shook his arm. "Are you okay?" he asked, now looking alarmed.
"I was just over there," Malcolm said, pointing towards the building. "There was a woman."
Trip looked back over his shoulder towards the building, then to Malcolm. "You've been here the whole time." He looked carefully at Malcolm. "You just kind of zoned out there for a minute."
Malcolm nodded, rubbing the bridge of his nose.
"You should go back to the ship."
Malcolm gave Trip a fake smile. "No, I'll be fine."
"No," Trip replied in a firm voice. "Something's definitely wrong. You're going back."
As Malcolm opened his mouth to reply, Trip interrupted. "No. You have a headache, and," he dropped his voice to a near whisper, "I think you might be seeing things. Whatever this is, it's not good."
"Trip," Malcolm got out. "I'm not..."
"If I have to make it an order, I will," Trip said uncomfortably.
Malcolm stared at his friend, then nodded.
Trip said, "Let's go tell the captain."
"Fine," Malcolm said with a sigh, following Trip as they entered the building where the reception was to be held. Before they could reach the captain, they passed through the swirl and fuss of security just inside the door.
At least they ran a tight ship, the Advarians, he thought as he stepped past the final guard, Trip directly in front of him. As they entered the large, well-appointed foyer, he tapped Trip on the shoulder. "I'm just going to find the gents," he said. Trip looked at him vaguely, then nodded.
Malcolm stepped up to the guide they'd been speaking with earlier. "Can you tell me where the toilet is?" he asked. The guide simply stood there, staring straight ahead of him. Malcolm touched his arm and the man turned to him, surprised.
"Sorry, sir. Can I help you?"
Malcolm spied the room in question over the guide's shoulder and, making his apologies, stepped away and entered. After making use of the facilities, he stood in front of the mirror, staring at his reflection. He did look tired, he thought. He rubbed the back of his neck. The headache was still there, but he wasn't seeing things now. Although the woman had been there... He grimaced. At least, he didn't think that he'd been hallucinating. Not that he'd know, of course. He splashed some of the cool water on his face, trying to get hold of himself.
Leaving the room, he peered through the small crowd, then, seeing Trip talking to the captain, stepped to his side. When his friend didn't acknowledge him, he touched his arm. "Trip."
Trip turned to him. He blinked, as if he was trying to focus. Then a polite smile came across his face. "I'm sorry, have we met?"
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