CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER FIVE

As the turbo lift fell through the shaft, Kirk noticed how quite it was. No loud groaning, no metal scraping against metal. Had both metal braces that held the lift car in its track broken off? Worst, had the creature melted them off? Already in his mind Kirk was more certain than ever it was the gray slime from the planet.

A deafening bang sounded and the car rattled fiercely. The sound reminded Kirk of the old fashioned guns that fired projectiles. More vibrations shook the car but it kept falling. Finally the car started to slow and Kirk's body collapsed to the floor of the turbo lift. Breathing hard and fast, Kirk rolled over and stood on trembling legs. He waited eagerly for a complete stop and the doors opened to reveal a brightly lit corridor. Kirk sprung out into the safety of the hall and headed for the nearest intercom.

Lt. Dave Johnson and his security partner Lt. Robert Peterson walked into sickbay. They had come to visit Peterson's roommate, Ensign Scaefer. As they approached his bed, they noticed he was busy reading a big pile of library disks. The black disks covered his bed. Every so often he scribbled something down on a memo pad.

"I just knew it. He already moved in here." Peterson whispered to his friend, Johnson.

Johnson just stared in confusion at all the library disks. He had thought Scaefer was sick.

Peterson walked up to the bed and smiled down at Scaefer. "Hey, how you doing? I heard you took a nasty fall. Doc going to keep you here for a couple of days?"

Scaefer stopped scribbling and glanced up at his roommate happily. "Hi! I didn't here you ooze in here. Did you come to visit me? I'm just fine although the doctor wants me to stay here for a few days, maybe a week. He wants to make sure my bones are melding the right way and I think he's concerned about the concussion I had. Are you trying to find out what happened to the floor? I hope so! I mean, that is so weird, don't you think? I was thinking maybe it was caused by a new space phenomenon, you know? Did you find Sam yet? I talked to the Captain and he said he didn't know if Sam survived or not. Just think! The Captain talked to me!"

"Who's Sam? Was there someone else in the lab? Why wasn't I told?" Said Lt. Johnson as his eyes grew wide in surprise. "I'm supposed to be working on this case! I need to be told *all* of the facts!"

"Calm down!" Peterson told his friend as he waved both hands at him. "Sam's not a person. He's one of my roommate's protoplasms. Isn't that right, Andrew?"

"Of course Sam is a ptotoplasm." Scaefer replied. "He's a big gray one. The landing party brought him up from the planet below us. He was one of the biggest protoplasms I ever saw! Do you think he could have survived? Just think, he may be lost and all alone somewhere on this big ship! Poor Sam! How will he ever survive? Do you want a photo of him? I have one here in the computer. Let me find it along with all the data I have on him. Maybe you could hang up posters or something? Would the Captain allow that? I'm not too sure on the regulations on that one...." Scaefer started to wheeze loudly as he thought of his lost protoplasm. He pressed a button and data was transferred to Johnson's tricorder.

"You have to find Sam!" Scaefer insisted.

"Don't worry, Andrew, We'll look for him." Peterson promised as they left sickbay. Once out in the hallway, he waited until they were a few feet away. Then he turned to look at Lt. Johnson. "Boy, am I ever glad he'll be in Sickbay for a few days! You don't know what it's like rooming with him!"

Peterson pulled on his face and his eyes grew wide. "He's driving me crazy! All he ever talks about is those stupid protoplasms! It seems like he never sleeps but talks day and night around the clock. He has all of this junk, too. Statues, photos, paintings, books, even a toy one! I mean, who in the heck makes toy protoplasms? And if it isn't protoplasms, then he yaks about something else!"

He grabbed his partner around his wrist and pulled him into the empty conference room. Peterson started to pace up and back across the floor. He started to talk again and as he did he swung his arms around to emphasize his words. "Did you hear what he said in there? He said we *oozed* in! People do not ooze. He's giving people the characteristics of those disgusting things! I can't stand it anymore. Sometimes I feel like choking him!"

Johnson watched his friend with growing concern. He would have to report this to Dr. McCoy. He didn't want to, but on a spaceship you had to be careful.

"Oh, what am I going to do?" Peterson asked. He stopped pacing and started to tug on his hair with both hands. He released his hair and pulled a chair out. Then he slumped down on it, laying his head on his folded arms. "He's driving me right up the wall and he doesn't even know it. Do you know what he told me last week? That he ordered a Migarian Blob from a catalog."

"What's that?" asked Lt. Johnson.

"Believe me, last week I didn't know either." Peterson shook his head. "But he told me every detail about them. It's a large bright blue protoplasm. He was so happy when he discovered it in that catalog. The people on Migaria keep them as pets and that's what he's going to do. He said they're very affectionate and love humans. The thing is nothing but slime! I'm not staying there with him. No way! I don't care if I have to sleep in the lunch room, but I'm not staying in a room with a blue slime!"

"Calm down. It'll be OK." Lt. Johnson told him. "We'll find you a new roommate, OK? Someone not in the science department."

Peterson jumped up from the chair and clutched his head. "It's just that I can't get it out of my head. He talks about it so much....I can almost see it. Our room covered in blue mucous as that thing moves around. Long, stringy strands dripping off the walls and furniture. It's so disgusting!"

He turned around, his face red with embarrassment. "I'm really sorry for dumping all of this on you. I know it must sound stupid, but you don't know what it's like. Do you really think you can get me a new roommate? That..." Peterson stopped in mid-sentence and his mouth dropped open. His mouth opened and closed but nothing came out. His eyes bulged out as he clutched his throat with one hand. A gurgle escaped from between his lips.

"What's wrong? Are you choking?" Johnson asked as he darted towards his friend. "Are you having a heart attack?"

Peterson dashed to the other side of the room and frantically clawed at the wall. After a few moments, Johnson saw bloody streaks on the wall from Peterson's fingertips.

"I'll call the medics!" Johnson turned around and gasped at what he saw. A huge gray thing was right in front of him. It reached out for him with a sticky pusdopod. Johnson reached for his phaser but before he could pull it out he was enveloped in the gooey mass. A loud sizzling filled the air and Lt. Johnson was gone. The protoplasm oozed across the floor and headed towards Lt. Peterson.