Piece 2 – Heat

"What just happened?" asked the Klingon, "I had her, and then you had her, and now ...?"

"Now no one seems to have the baby," said Yekaterina, "Is that possible?"

"Analysis," said T'Bek to the Vulcan male.

"I, I see from this room that it is different from the last one, it cannot possibly be the same room and perhaps is not even the same floor. As for the child, I cannot say, I am not a scientist, just an architecture student."

T'Bek raised an eyebrow, "Does anyone have any theories? Right now, any idea is plausible, as this place does not appear to follow normal physical laws."

"I think we were beamed." offered Travis, "That doesn't explain the baby, I don't think, but the change of the room could be explained that way. When the panel was hit by the, uh, by you," he indicated the Orion, "maybe it triggered a transporter. And we were brought here. But where is here?"

"The room is .06% smaller in diameter than the previous room," said the Vulcan male, "My conclusion is that it is just above the room we were in previously."

"The baby, though, what about the baby? Why did it disappear?" asked Yekaterina.

"If it were beamed, you and I would have been beamed away with her," said the Klingon, "We were both in physical contact with the infant."

"But – "Yekaterina began, but was cut off.

"Where is Chabbo?!" the little Xindi girl screamed, "Mommy! I want my Mommy! And Stereg, where is Stereg? I want my Chabbo!" Her protests began to dissolve into incoherent sobs and gasps. The room became stuffier.

"What are Chabbo and Stereg?" T'Bek asked the elder Xindi.

"Names." he shrugged.

The Andorian woman went over to the Xindi girl and knelt down so that they were on the same level, "Shh, now, who is Chabbo?" The Xindi girl continued crying. The Andorian woman continued, "Is Chabbo the baby's name? Is Chabbo the little baby that was here?"

That seemed to stop the Xindi girl's crying, at least for the moment, "N-no. Chabbo is, Chabbo is, Chabbo is my favorite doll. I can't find him. I think I left him in the other room." she started to cry again.

"Well, I don't think we can go back to get Chabbo right now, but maybe we can try later," said the Andorian woman, "You know, I have a little boy - well, he's not so little now - and you remind me a bit of how he was when he was your age. He had a favorite toy, too. Now, what about Stereg? Can you tell me about Stereg?"

"Stereg is, is, my brother. He is sick. He has been sick for all his life I think. And Daddy says the doctor on the Iskais our last hope."

"Iska?" The Andorian woman straightened up. The kneeling must have been too much for her knees, "What is Iska?" she asked the Xindi male.

"It is, or at least was, a waterfall on Xindus Prime. Our ships are all named for natural wonders on our planet, so that we don't forget them. Medical ships are named for rivers and waterfalls, I believe."

"Were you on the Iskabefore you were, uh, brought here?" the Andorian woman asked the Xindi girl. The girl nodded vigorously and looked ready to cry again, "All right." the Andorian woman knelt down again. "Can I ask you to do something? Good. My name is Solana and it would be very comforting to me, it would make me a lot less afraid, if you could be my friend. What is your name?"

The little girl mumbled something, "What is it, child?" asked the Klingon, a little impatient.

"Aranda Chara," said the girl.

"Chara. Chara," said the male Xindi, thinking out loud. He practically walked into the Orion.

"Old man, I see you have an eye for the finer things." the Orion said, smiling an oily smile, "The merchandise has a price, of course, but I can sell the accessories. Here, have my card. Nistik Limited, for all slave accessories." He fished into a hidden pocket inside his clothing and produced an array of cards.

"Slave accessories? Man, I don't have two pieces of ore to rub together." protested the Xindi, handing back the card, which was a small lit panel with a green dancing girl moving on it.

"What are slave accessories?" asked the Vulcan male. He and the other men stood together.

"Oh, collars, prod sticks, rations, that sort of thing. A prod stick would be good for this one. They are supposed to be irresistible, you know, but clearly that's not the case today so I have to conclude that performance would be improved with a prod stick."

"I thought you didn't own her," said the Andorian boy.

"Oh, I do not own this one, but I can get a fine commission. And, of course, like I said, you need accessories. You all need them. See? I see a need, and I fill it." He tried to press his card into each of the men's hands, but they all stood firm.

"There is no honor in being with a frightened woman." stated the Klingon, "The weak and the helpless hold no sexual appeal to me or my kind."

"No," said Travis firmly, returning the card to the Orion.

"Vulcans do not participate in such things."

The Andorian boy looked at the card, at 42753 and at Solana, and then handed the card back to Nistik the Orion, "I'm in enough trouble with my parents as it is."

"Trouble?" asked Travis, falling into step beside him as they moved away from Nistik.

"Yes, I was foolish; I skipped school, and was caught, so they are having me stay in my room for the next few days. I am not supposed to go anywhere but to school."

"You're grounded? I thought only my mother still did that."

"Yes, if grounded means to stay in one place, mainly, as a means of punishment. And now I am out of my room. We have been here for what feels like hours. I imagine they have discovered my disappearance by now, and are probably very angry with me."

"Yeah, I guess our disappearances have been discovered by now," said Travis, "That means someone will start looking. That's a good thing."

"I suppose my classmates will be looking for me," said the Vulcan male, "And my professors, if they have gotten to Sedek on the attendance sheet."

"It's so hot," said Solana, and they heard a thud as she collapsed to the floor. Everyone rushed over. Travis became acutely aware of how sweaty he had suddenly become.

"Give her air." commanded T'Bek. There was another thud, and 42753 collapsed.

Everyone looked around in a panic. Sedek spoke up, "Everyone drop to the floor!"

"You are joking," said Nistik skeptically.

"Vulcans do not joke," said Sedek, "We learned this in class. It is cooler below than it is above."

Everyone dropped. Travis reached 42753 and started to lightly fan her face to try to revive her. It wasn't working. He could feel he was getting woozy, and it didn't seem to have anything to do with Orion pheromones. He barely saw Sedek crawl over to a newly-appeared door, straighten himself up and press the panel.

The room instantly cooled and the new ceiling was incredibly high. It was as if the ceiling were shrouded in cloud cover. There was a large column or tree trunk in the center of the room, far from everyone. That was the sole feature of the room. Travis began to take it all in.

And that's when Sedek disappeared.