Author: Piper (email@example.com)
Summary: Exposure to an alien drug has frightening effects on some of the crew.
Category: Drama, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Hurt/Comfort
Disclaimer: The characters, situations, and anything recognizable from Enterprise don't belong to me. Anything else is the product of my sleep-deprived mind (including the three original characters: Eli, Eric, and Chelsea.) No money is being made, this is for entertainment only. Please don't sue.
Spoilers: references to "Shuttlepod One"
"Almost there, sir."
Lt. Malcolm Reed carefully directed the shuttlepod to the docking port. Beside him, Commander Charles Tucker stared out at the leviathan before them. "She's quite a sight, isn't she?" Trip said with a bit of wonder in his voice.
"Yes, sir," Malcolm had to agree. They were looking out at a beautiful but decidedly alien construction. The outer skin had a luminescent green hue, and the structure itself was huge and looked intricate.
From her position slightly behind the men, T'Pol put her two cents in. "We should be wary, Commander. We have no way of knowing what we may find on board." This was true. Their scans had been unable to penetrate the outer shell, leaving them with little idea of what they were walking into.
Trip rolled his eyes. "I am well aware of the situation. Doesn't mean we can't admire the craftsmanship."
She raised her eyebrows. "Too much admiration and too little caution can have disastrous results."
Trip heaved a long-suffering sigh. "You're sucking the magic right out of this mission, you know that?"
Malcolm resisted the urge to laugh as the two of them continued with T'Pol's commentary on magic. Their interactions were usually entertaining. He was rather impressed with the three ensigns they had brought along, who were wisely staying out of the conversation from their position in the back of the pod.
One was the daughter of a ranking Starfleet officer with a genius IQ and a very scientific, curious mind. The two boys were brothers; also very intelligent but from a much less prominent background that supposedly had not been too pleasant. Whatever had happened to them in the past they were close now, and were the only set of siblings on the Enterprise's maiden voyage.
As Malcolm maneuvered to lock into the alien airlock, he noticed something that made him break into his superiors' dialogue. "It looks as if some of the life pods are missing. Most of them, actually."
Trip came to look over his shoulder. "Maybe that's why they aren't answering our calls. Maybe they all got out."
"Which begs the question," came a feminine voice from behind them, "why did they all get out? I don't see any battle damage." Ensign Chelsea Thomas had moved from her seat to get a better look. She was right.
After a moment of silence, Trip put in, "I guess we're gonna find out."
The Enterprise had intercepted a distress call from this location a few hours earlier, after which no one had responded to their hails. They had dropped out of warp and come to investigate what they assumed to be an alien ship in some sort of trouble. It wasn't until they had arrived that they realized it wasn't a ship at all, but a space station. It was in the outer orbit of a small planet.
They had tried hailing the planet many times, but received no response there either. At that point, against T'Pol's advice, the Captain had decided to go ahead with a boarding party.
As they prepared to disembark the shuttle, the Commander was giving his version of advice to the ensigns. "Okay, kids. Stay alert and stay close. Don't touch anything that's flashing, moving, or looks like it might be alive to take offense. Set the weapons to stun, and try not to point them in my direction." Aside to Malcolm he added in a whisper, "Gives me flashbacks."
Malcolm chuckled, getting the reference and recognizing that he was being teased. Unlikely as it might have seemed, he and Trip had become good friends. The 'incident' aboard the shuttlepod had bonded them and given them common ground. Most of the details of said incident had remained between the two of them, including the little matter of Malcolm threatening to shoot his superior officer.
As they clicked their helmets into place, T'Pol was delivering a slightly more detailed lecture about procedures and cautions. Malcolm and Trip tuned her out, having heard it many times, and double-checked their equipment and the ensigns'. A few minutes later they were climbing from their airlock into the other ship. Malcolm and T'Pol went first while Trip brought up the rear.
The sight that greeted them was not unusual. Beyond the airlock, the station's corridor was actually quite similar to those on Enterprise, and it was empty. Malcolm cautiously led the way as T'Pol checked her instruments. After a moment she announced, "I'm not reading any lifeforms nearby."
"If it's deserted," Chelsea spoke up, "should we even be here?"
"She has a good point. If there is no one to help, we have no valid reason to be here. We could be intruding where we are not welcome," T'Pol said.
"Someone called for help, didn't they?" Tucker insisted. "We have to check it out."
T'Pol raised her eyebrows once more but said nothing else. They continued down the hallway. When they came to a door they attempted to open it, to no avail.
They repeated this action many times with each door they came to, until even Tucker was getting a bit fed up with this particular exploration. T'Pol continued to read no life signs.
They eventually came to a fork in their path. The main hallway continued on, but a major branch headed off to the left and down a flight of stairs. After a moment of debate on the direction they should take, T'Pol said, "Perhaps it would be best if we split up and cover both paths. Commander Tucker and I will take the lower level, and Lieutenant Reed can continue on this corridor."
Trip, slightly perturbed at being told what to do, took over by dividing up the ensigns. "West, you come with us."
Two blond heads turned towards him. "Which one sir?"
Eric West smirked as his younger brother slightly cringed at the word 'little.' The two were just over a year apart in age and they were very similar in looks. Eric was about an inch taller and had brown eyes, while little brother Eli had blue. Other than that it was hard to tell them apart until one got to know them.
"Alright, I'll take Thomas and the other West," Malcolm said as the two groups divided and his two assignments came to stand beside him. "We'll stay in contact."
Eric gripped Eli's arm as he started to turn away. Malcolm watched as unspoken communication went between the two. He didn't really know the brothers, but Travis had told him they were close and that Eric was very protective. Neither spoke a word now, but it was obvious that big brother was warning Eli to be careful, and that Eli thought he worried too much. The younger brother gave the older a cocky smile, and Eric rolled his eyes.
"Hey," Trip's voice brought Malcolm's attention back to him. "Watch your backs, okay?"
"Of course," Malcolm replied. "You too." Then he addressed Chelsea and Eric. "Let's go."
The two groups parted ways.
Meanwhile, aboard the Enterprise, Captain Jonathan Archer was in his quarters recording a log entry and awaiting word from his away team. Porthos bounced around at his feet, growling playfully and pushing his nose against his master's ankle, wanting attention. The Captain finally gave in and reached for the dog, pulling him up into his lap and promptly receiving a tongue on his face. He smiled, welcoming the show of affection.
Still, he was preoccupied with the away team. He wished he had been part of it; he never liked sending his crew into a dangerous situation without him. But Dr. Phlox had put down that idea this time. The Captain was still recovering from a recent mild case of flu, and the doctor thought it best to keep him aboard the Enterprise. T'Pol and Trip had agreed with him and reassured Jon that they could handle it.
He fully trusted his officers and their abilities. Still, something about this entire situation seemed off, and he had a bad feeling about it.
A few minutes later he put Porthos down to answer a call from the bridge. "Captain, we're receiving a message," Hoshi's voice came through.
"From the boarding party?" he asked.
"No, sir…from the planet."
A bit surprised, he hurried from his quarters towards the bridge. When they had received no response earlier, they had assumed that there was no one on the planet with the capability to answer them. After all, the station could have been made by a different race. The people on the planet might not even know they were there. It now appeared that that wasn't the case.
As soon as he reached the bridge he nodded to Hoshi. "Put it through."
His screen soon filled with a large, greenish, and rather irate alien. "Hello," Archer said tentatively.
The alien wasted no time on pleasantries. He spoke in an odd dialect, but after a few moments Hoshi was able to translate from the universal translator. "He says that his sensors have detected us near their space station and he wants to know what we're doing. He's not too happy, sir. But if he knows we already have people over there, he's not giving any indication."
Archer took a deep breath, silently praying he would be able to placate this guy without putting his team at risk. "Tell him we received a call for help from his space station, and that we are simply trying to provide any assistance that may be needed. We apologize if we are intruding."
He waited as Hoshi translated and the message was relayed. The alien's demeanor changed slightly, but not enough to put Archer at ease. He spoke again, and the Captain looked to Hoshi. "He says that they were aware of that call for help and that they evacuated the station before we arrived. They appreciate our concern, but they have everything under control." She looked to the Captain. "He asks that we please be on our way."
Archer studied the face before him. He didn't like this; something still didn't feel right. But to the alien, he smiled and said, "Tell him of course, we'll be on our way as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we seem to have damaged an engine. Nothing we can't handle, but we will need a few hours for repairs."
Hoshi raised her eyebrows, but did as he asked. The alien still didn't look happy, but he grudgingly accepted and cut the communication without another word.
Crisis averted, at least for the time being, Archer turned back to his current bridge crew. "Keep an eye on that planet, I want to know if there's any movement." To Hoshi he said, "Contact the away team. Find out what's going on, and let them know there's a time crunch."
Back on board the station, Malcolm's team had found nothing on the main corridor. When another branch had gone right and appeared to lead to an upper level, Malcolm had decided to take it. Now they found themselves in an area that appeared to be laboratories of some sort, all with glass walls and partitioned off from a central area.
Malcolm made for the lab on his immediate right and was surprised when he found the door open. He motioned to Thomas and West to follow before entering cautiously.
It was definitely a laboratory where chemicals were in use. The central table was strewn with glass containers and beakers, many filled with different colored liquids. But something had clearly gone wrong in this room. There was broken glass on the floor and puddles of spilled chemicals. A lockable cabinet near the door had been broken into, with some beakers lying haphazardly on the floor. Malcolm focused on the cabinet, seeing a red substance on the shards that he didn't think was some unidentifiable chemical. He was pretty sure it was blood.
Malcolm looked towards Thomas, who was turning a bit pale as she stared at some spot on the floor. He quickly moved to follow her line of sight. What he found made his heart skip a beat.
There was a body on the floor—female, humanoid, and covered with bruising and small patches of blood. Her red blood contrasted sharply with her pale greenish skin. Malcolm quickly knelt beside her, performing a bio-scan.
Eric came up beside Chelsea, who seemed frozen to the spot. He had to look away for a moment before he gathered himself and asked, "Is she dead?"
Malcolm studied the instrument, then the body before him. "Yes," he responded, "though she hasn't been for too long. Rigor mortis has barely set in."
Chelsea seemed to snap back to reality. She looked nervously at the chemicals and samples surrounding them. "Do you think we're exposing ourselves to something, sir?"
"I don't think she died from anything internal," Malcolm said quietly, carefully tilting her chin up. The deep ligature marks on her neck said it all.
Suddenly, there was a movement in the corner of the room. They all spun to face it, pistols coming up and flashlight beams centering on the source.
In the sudden beams of light, a terrified little creature froze in its tracks and stared up at them with wide eyes. It was furry and a good bit larger than a rat, but it seemed similar. Its tail curled behind it as it shivered in fear.
Malcolm forced himself to take a few calming breaths as he glanced back at his two ensigns.
"What is it?" Eric asked.
"Probably some sort of lab subject," he responded. He cast one more glance at the dead female before he stood to his feet. "We should get T'Pol and Commander Tucker up here. Keep an eye on the creature." It didn't look like it would pose a threat, but one never knew. He reached to switch his Comm link to speak with the others.
At that moment Eric took a step towards the creature and slipped on a stray test tube. He managed to stay on his feet, but only with Chelsea's help. Both of their lights swung crazily and the terrified creature bolted—straight into the table leg. Already unsteady, the table and its wealth of test tubes and glass containers toppled. Glass broke, chemicals spilled and mixed.
A strange fog-like fume filled the air and swept over the three of them. Malcolm wasn't too worried since they had on their suits, but he was definitely concerned that he couldn't see West and Thomas through the haze. Then he suddenly had another problem. It started with a strange tingle on his arm. Then it spread to cover most of his body.
The fume, whatever it was, was eating through the environmental suit.
His helmet actually cracked in front of his face. Somewhere to his left, Chelsea screamed.
Then everything went black.
To Be Continued
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