[USS Vanguard] RPG: I Am Four O'Clock

  • From: "Andy W. Ho" <andywoho@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: USS-Vanguard <ncv80221@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 12 Apr 2003 06:09:32 -0700 (PDT)

Santos nodded at Cmdr. Soman.

"Thank you, Commander," he said. "That concludes our briefing. Let's
move like we have a purpose, people. The Tomonaga will be in sight in
four hours."

The assembled officers rose and left the Briefing Chambers.

Capt. Santos left the briefing with the executive officer.

"Drath, I'd like you to review the team assignments after I've compiled

"Of course, sir," Soman replied.

"Well, he can't review them before you've compiled them, now can he?"
Santos chided himself. He hated how he functioned when he had slept
less than he wanted. Santos realized that the party in Event Horizon
had occurred the night before and the briefing with Lopez-Fitzgerald
had occurred just that morning.

As they rounded the corner toward the turbolift, Santos snapped his
head toward the sound of...hissing in the deckplate.

It reminded the captain of a rattlesnake shaking its tail, but he knew
that couldn't have been possible. Zoology was two decks away.

"What was that?" Santos said.

Soman looked confused. "What was what?"

Santos stopped and paused.

"Nothing. I thought I heard something."

Any other officer would have been less responsive and simply shrugged.
Soman, on the other hand, asked: "What did it sound like?"

"I thought I heard...I'm sure it was nothing. When you get the chance,
ask someone in Engineering to check out the comm system in this area."

"Aye, sir," Soman said.

The commander and the executive officer stepped into the turbolift.
Santos called out the deck for engineering.

Together, they entered Engineering, where Santos asked Soman to make
the changes suggested by the other officers.

"Commander Stark had a project she called 'The Gemini Shield.' Do you
think it can be modified, Commander, to repel any radiation or
chronometric particles that may adversely affect the Vanguard or its
crew in the Barrens?"

"That's an intriguing hypothesis, Captain. The Gemini Shield was never
fully completed to Kristen's satisfaction. But since Vanguard has a
lower overall power demand than Astoria, perhaps it could work."

"Commander, make the necessary changes."

"Aye, sir."

Santos left and reappeared in sickbay.

"Doctor," Santos greeted Droin.

"Nick," she replied. "And, again, you will probably keep me busy, eh?"

"I certainly hope not," Santos smiled.

"Hey, let me take a look at you," the Chief Medical Officer said.

Santos almost resisted but didn't muster much of a fight.

"Your eyes look a little swollen." She touched the glands on his neck
and held up a medical tricorder toward his head. "You seem to be fine,
but you're running a very slight fever."

Droin turned toward her surgical tray, produced a hypo, and with one
hand, deftly ejected the capsule and popped in a new one. Santos smiled
to see her do it, like an illusionist with a particularly good
sleight-of-hand trick.

When she moved toward him, he held up his hand.

"What is it?" he asked with some trepidation.

"It's just a vitamin shot," she said. "Something to give you a little

Santos stood and calmly accepted it.

"Thank you," he said.

"Hey, it's what I'm here for," she smiled, making a note of her
diagnosis in the medical logs under "Santos, Dominic C."

"I came here to ask you about this mission, actually. I'd like you on
Alpha Team..."

"Have you cleared it with Drath or Zena yet?"

"No, but I will."

"Well, I'm not trying to fight you, Nick, but why do you need me on a
security detail?"

"Because we don't know what we're going to run into out there. And
there's always the outside possibility of finding survivors while we
sweep the ship. If that's the case, then I need the Vanguard's Chief
Medical Officer at my side."

"And here, I just thought you liked my company," she grinned.

"But that's not all. Do you think you can synthesize something to
counter the effects of vertigo, mass hallucinations, even temporal
distortion/sickness that the crew seem to think we'll encounter?"

Droin sighed. "I could probably give them a cocktail of the substances
known to counter the effects of those agents, but the temporal sickness
will be the trickiest of all. You're dealing with a lot of non-Terran
physiology here. Including mine!"

Santos chuckled.

"You know," he said, picking up a hypo and looking at it, "sometimes, I
think hallucinations stem from fear, and if a fear response is what
we're dealing with here, maybe that's all that's leading to the
expectation of psychological and physiological disorder."

Droin made a face. "No, I don't think so. But, I agree with you on your
point about negative reactions stemming from a fear response. 'We
attract what we fear,' unfortunately."

Santos nodded. "Just so. And if that's the case, then maybe a placebo
would pacify the crew."

Droin was momentarily thunderstruck. "Captain Santos, I am not running
an experiment, and the Vanguard crew are certainly not my subjects.
What you're asking of me is unconscionable."

Santos' blood was up, and he almost barked something back. Instead, he
sighed. "Of course, you're right, Doctor. I must be more fatigued than
I imagined."

Droin said: "Nick, why don't you go back and get a few hours' sleep. We
need you at your best, and you're obviously not operating at that

Santos smiled. "For once, I'm not going to fight you."

Droin spread her arms. "I've no patients staying here at the moment. If
you want, you can sleep here."

Santos touched her shoulder. "Thank you, Xristha, but I prefer my
quarters. Wouldn't do to have another officer come in for a sprained
shoulder and see her captain sleeping while we're preparing for a major

Droin shrugged. "Whatever you want to do, so long as you get some

"Aye, sir!" Santos answered. "I'll see you later."

Droin nodded, turning back to sickbay.

Santos made his way to his quarters, feeling embarrassed about sleeping
during the shift, but knowing that Droin was right and he simply needed

He was on a ship that looked like the Vanguard, his ship, but he knew
it was not. He was running through its empty corridors. He could see
himself do it. But he was running much, much too slowly and the thing
chasing him was gaining on him.

He knew if he looked back, he was finished.

So he kept running. The turbolift was just ahead. He knew if he could
reach it, he would be safe.

He was 20 feet away. Then ten. And now five. He ran toward the doors,
expecting them to part. They didn't. "In Use," the panel read. He
cursed, and called the lift.

And that was when he made his mistake.

He looked behind him down the corridor with its flashing lights.

The sound of the lift arriving and its doors parting made him turn.

And he stifled a scream.

Inside the lift was the thing that had been chasing him. There was no
word, no description for what it was. He had never believed that a look
at the Medusans could drive a human mad, but now that he saw this
thing, he understood how that was possible.

Just looking at this thing made him want to close his eyes and never
open them again.

And then it spoke.

"I am your fears, Dominic," it whispered hoarsely. "I am your anger. I
am all those secrets you keep from others, the ones they must never
discover. I am the death of everything and everyone you hold dear. I am
superstition and fear and all the hopeless dreams that never come to
fruition. I am four o'clock."

Santos woke with a start. He forced himself to remember it was only a
dream. He shook his head, entered the refresher, and splashed cold
water on his face. He looked at his wrinkled uniform, and changed into
a new one.

"All hands," came the voice over the comm. "Now approaching the

Santos emerged on the bridge.

Soman turned and studied Santos.

"Captain, he said, the modifications have been made to the ship. We're
approaching the Tomonaga on impulse speed. It should be in range within

"Excellent, Commander," Santos said, the last vestige of his dream
fading away.

"In range," Highwaij said.

"On screen, narrow view and 100 real."

The Tomonaga appeared on the screen, focused in the center with no

"Circle the ship, Mister Mandrake."

"Aye, sir," Mandrake replied.

The ship was slightly larger than the Vanguard, and except for the
different color of the hull-plating, seemed the Vanguard's twin in
every other respect.

"Ship looks intact," Santos remarked to Soman.

"I concur. Mister d'Angelo, scan the ship, please."

D'Angelo turned to his board. "No life signs, atmosphere seems to be a
normal oxygen mix--here's something: power and weapons status normal."

Santos and Soman looked at one another. She had no one aboard
(apparently), but she was capable of sustaining life, and her most
important systems seemed to be functioning normally. Odd.

Santos tilted his head.

"All senior officers report to Transporter Room One. Prepare your
hazard suits and have your emergency kits ready."

Soman watched as Mandrake, D'Angelo, Quetan and Highwaij left the
bridge, to be replaced by their substitutes.

"Mr Darkwater to the bridge."

When he appeared, Santos looked him over.

"Mister Darkwater, I'd like you on the Vanguard to intake the data that
Zena will be sending back. And I'm placing you in temporary command of
the Vanguard."

Darkwater nodded.

"The Vanguard seems to be safe. We don't know what's going on over
there. It makes me feel more confident to know that a steady,
trustworthy presence is in command of the Vanguard, our only haven
should anything go wrong on Tomonaga."

"Aye, sir," Darkwater replied.

Santos nodded and left to join the senior officers in Transporter Room

[To be continued]

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