Damned by Narin Luviox Damned if she wasn?t still a commander on board this ship. Damned if everyone wasn?t still obliged to follow her orders. Damned if this ship wasn?t still the USS Coldstream. ?Damned if the condemning words of Captain Barsuk, the ones stripping all crew of rank, were worth following? There was a line flowing into sickbay, all the minor injuries that could temporarily be soothed by a hypospray and an assurance that it wouldn?t be too long. Narin looked at these people, seeing troubled and ailed faces that were once peaceful and jaded, and with each set of bloodshot eyes that met hers as she passed, more blame was falling onto Hayes McQuarrie. Damn him, she thought, and thought right. By himself he brought a plague upon hundreds of people, people who used to trust him, and?this scared her most?still did. Where this ship was going to go, she shuddered to think. If she didn?t do something about it now. Rounding the corner into sickbay itself, Narin was struck with even more sadness, and even more finger-pointing anger at Hayes. Here were the more serious injuries like impalements and relentless lacerations and incapacitating panic attacks. In the swarm of nurses, Narin tried to find Dr. Aylyn Cta, and at first failed. On a bed near the beginning of the extended care hall, she spotted an antsy-looking Markstrom Benson, pining for the dismissing attention of a nurse. ?Lieutenant Benson,? she greeted, dodging more nurses who were tending to an ensign with a failing heart. ?I thought you were out of here yesterday with only cuts and bruises.? ?I was, but I fell of a balcony in Engineering when we became targets of our own people.? Markstrom rolled his eyes. ?You know, when that sort of thing happens?? ?Where?s Dr. Cta?? ?Dr. Cta?? ?Yes.? ?Since when have you called Aylyn ?Dr. Cta??? ?Have you seen her, Lieutenant Benson, or haven?t you?? ?Narin, you?re freakin me out.? Markstrom flinched when she crossed her arms at this, and he flagged. ?She was going to one of the rooms last I saw. I think to check on Chi.? Narin left him there, and began to check the private rooms, until she found her. Aylyn was standing over Chi Mungoti, half in this world, half in the next. A PADD was in her hand, and a tray of used hyposprays was on the end table, on the corner of which was a quick spot of blood. Two and two came together when Narin saw a place on Chi?s forehead where tissue had just been reformed. ?Do we know what?s wrong with her?? Narin asked, startling the doctor. ?Sorry, Narin, I was in Tuesday.? Aylyn said, cryptically. ?And, ah, no, I don?t. I know vaguely but I don?t know why, or any of the specifics. At this point, there don?t seem to be any specifics, except, perhaps, psychologically. She?s somewhere between a deep sleep and a coma. Normally, if I?m reading her brainwaves correctly, I?d be able to wake her, but something in her mind?not her brain?wants to keep her out. All signs of her previous sickness are gone, however.? ?Do you think it?s PTSD?? ?You?d think,? Aylyn replied. ?But those folks don?t stay out this long, this easily. And her, ah?her odd behavior started before the trauma.? ?Before or after she was sick?? ?After. Right before the attack,? and Aylyn recounted the happenings that befell the lieutenant commander, including that word. ?Do you remember what it was?? ?Started with a D, sounded something between Klingon and German, but neither. She said it only once, and when I asked her what it meant, she said she didn?t know.? Aylyn stopped and looked down at Chi concernedly, like a blessing for a matron. ?None of us have really gotten to know her too well; she?s been a little on the outside since we all got posted on the ship together. There?s something about her fright, the way she handled herself as this sort of paralysis took her over: it was like the cause of her fright would end the world, but would not affect her.? ?There?ll be a time,? Narin said. ?We?ll get her some help.? It was a stock condolence, but it had to suffice to slide the subject under the pile. ?I?d revel in the thought of how, if you?d be so kind.? Narin aimed her head forward to speak a slap-of-the-wrist in body language. ?We?re going back into Federation Space, and we?re turning Captain McQuarrie in. The rest of us can get back on track when that?s over.? Aylyn went to speak, but Narin cut her off. ?Save it, Dr. Cta; we?ll be having a department head meeting?a discreet department head meeting, without McQuarrie?at 1300 hours in my quarters. Get Lieutenant Benson released from sickbay, and I?ll get Lieutenant Trekar and Lieutenant Eyensworth. How?s Varia doing?? ?He?s still out on meds,? Aylyn informed, sort of robotically. ?If you?re wondering if he can attend this discreet meeting, the answer?s no, sweetycakes.? Narin blinked exasperatedly at the epithet. ?What? My terms of endearment aren?t welcome anymore?? ?If Lieutenant Commander Mungoti manages to become cognizant before the meeting, bring her. I know it?s unlikely, but?? ?I?ve been calling people little nicknames for years?? ?If she can understand what we?re saying and can say either yes or no?? ?Narin, you?? ?That?s ?Commander,? Doctor!? Narin demanded, almost shrilly. It made Aylyn stumble back a step or two. The actions of providence clamoring down upon the crew of this ship should have been welcomed, the fellowships broken for order, the establishment of rank mended for stability. Aylyn was still stunned and studying Narin for just one detection, one falsity to pivot. So Narin continued. ?If either of them are able to comprehend, confirm or deny, you will bring them. Is that understood, Dr. Cta?? ?Yes sir,? Aylyn whispered, delicately. ?See you, at least, at 1300.? ?Yes sir.? The blankness in Aylyn?s bewildered mannerisms tried to break Narin?s heart, but she had impervious arms crossed, and her face was stone. She left the doctor and her patient, and took a low path, to the decks beneath, where prisoners ?(hostages)? were kept. The lights were dimmed, and kept that way to no repair. Steps were taken with caution, and even more so were breaths. Inside the cell at the end of the row was a pathetic sight. A shield kept him like a zoo?s prisoner, and it was to remain intact until the captain?s sole discretion was relieved. No medical officers, and certainly no other commanding officers were authorized to disable the shield, for medical attention, or political liberation. The souls of no security officers were prepared to stand guard for him, and so, when the singularly eerie footsteps Narin?s boots tapped into the darkened area, it was the only sound that was audible. Other than the breathing. The breathing?her own and the admiral?s?put Narin?s gut in a hot air balloon. Hers was immediate to her, soft and clean and clear. Ramirez breathed a bloody gurgle, an aged wheeze, an angry growl, all just as soft as clouds in a dream. It almost felt as if she was before the cage of a great beat, one to be set upon gladiators for a sport. ?Commander,? he said, she thought. ?My assumption is that you also lack the ability to free me.? He was turned profile to her, and didn?t rotate his head to face her directly. ?Captain McQuarrie as left no stone unturned,? she concurred, questioning her quick allegory?s validity. ?Captain McQuarrie,? Ramirez sneered, as if he?d taken a knife from her and was holding it to her neck, ?is going to find himself in more deep water than a court martial when this is over. Tell me, Commander, do you side with him?? ?No,? Narin responded without a pause. ?His actions have been reprehensible, unlawful?? ?Treacherous.? Narin breathed in through her nose and nodded deliberately. ?What must be done,? the admiral said, ?is this: we must return to Federation space, and we must turn Hayes McQuarrie in to the authorities. As I hear, the Lexington attacked us outright. That was their mistake. There are no orders to destroy this ship; only to apprehend the traitor, or traitors, and let everyone be on their way.? ?Admiral, what if there are other ships as impulsive as the Lexington?? ?By then, I hope to be out of here so I can gain leverage and save the ship.? ?How should we get you out?? ?Time,? said the admiral, the miserable admiral. ?It will either be a short time or a long time, depending on which way the rest of the crew will sway: McQuarrie?s way or the right way. Should the crew decide against following him wherever he?s planning to go, it will be short. Everyone will turn on him and the ship will be in the right hands. What to do when that time comes, you should have an idea.? Narin would have audibly gulped, had she not lost her breath first. ?But should everyone decide to go with him, my liberation rests solely in your hands. You must feign concession, make everyone believe you are backing McQuarrie. Then you will gain his trust, and use it to free me.? ?And how do you expect me to gain trust?? Finally he turned to face her fully, so she could get a good, long look at his right eye, which was blood red: a hue visible only through the fifteen percent his eye wasn?t swollen shut. A nasty gash was also on that side of his forehead, and there were finger-width wipe marks of crimson where he tried to remove his blood from his skin. It was like war paint, or a ritualistic swathing of life-force for strength. ?You have been fornicating with McQuarrie, have you not? Use your advantage over him, your feminine wiles, as it were, to gain his heart back. He hasn?t been remotely in agreement with you for twenty-four hours. That?s a good amount of time before you can ?patch things up.? Have your meeting, as you would. You?d better hope everyone decides against McQuarrie. Should they go with him?? ?Then the ship and the crew will be compromised.? Narin went to leave but was stopped. ?Then the ship and the crew will be damned.? Admiral Ramirez turned his head away and stood, heading to the sink to wash himself clean. He said no more, and offered no farewell when Narin left him alone, in his shadowy cell, with his shadowy breathing, and nothing underneath but fire and black ice == --------------------------------- Don't be flakey. Get Yahoo! Mail for Mobile and always stay connected to friends.