Chapter 8

U.S.S. Aldrin

Earth, Sol System, Sector 001

19:00 Hours, January 29th, 2380

Stardate 57078.888816


Clark looked around the bridge, again fully lit and operational. The charred and mangled mess that had been the processing bank had been replaced with an entirely new module. Toq’bae and Murphy had taken their stations at the aft of the bridge for the first time, and all the rest were back at their posts. Clark spun his chair around and looked up at R’Mor, “Ensign, open a channel to Admiral Russell.”

R’Mor lightly tapped her console, “Channel open.”

A holographic projection of Admiral Russell’s stooped body appeared in the middle of the bridge. He held a PADD with both hands, “Interesting report here, Captain.”

Clark stood and approached the Russell hologram, “It’s an interesting situation, Sir.”

“Four Dominion POWs escape and try to hijack an experimental Starfleet vessel to exact revenge on their captors? That’s the sort of plotline Herman Braga makes holonovels out of!” Russell exclaimed.

“I’ve seen stranger things happen,” Clark said.

“Indeed,” Russell nodded, “I’ve already called Commander Noton with the Diplomatic Corps to get the investigation started. But I’m sure the DM’s just going to stonewall us.”

Clark took a deep breath, “Admiral, with all due respect to the Diplomatic Corps, I’d like the opportunity for my crew to investigate.”

Russell crimped his face in thought, “I’ll have to get in touch with the Diplo’ Corps, but I’ll see what I can do. Russell, out.” His image wavered and then disappeared. Clark let himself drop into his command chair.

The console next to Clark’s chair suddenly beeped, “Vorik to the Bridge.”

Clark tapped the console, “Bridge here.”

“All systems are operational, Captain,” Vorik said.

“Good. Make sure they’re ready for departure,” Clark ordered.

“Yes, Captain. Vorik, out.” Clark waited, smiling a bit as he to the quiet humming of his ship.

After a few moments, Jensen turned to Clark, “Just what are you planning on doing?”

Clark paused for a moment, “Ward agreed to help guide us to the camp. Once we’re there, we’ll try to get any prisoners still there. I’ll try some gentle diplomacy, and probably have to resort to acting,” he paused, hating the idea, “Militarily.”

Jensen nodded and said with a hint of sarcasm, “Sounds fun.”

R’Mor spoke from behind the pair, “Admiral Russell is calling.”

“Put him on,” Clark ordered.

Russell appeared again in holographic form, “Well David, it seems that they like you in the Diplo’ Corps – and in Starfleet Command. You’ve got permission from Admiral West to go do your thing.”

Clark blinked several times, “That was fast.”

“West doesn’t mess around,” Russell chuckled, “As soon as you pick up the subspace relay, you’re to proceed at maximum warp to Deep Space Nine and then on to the Gamma Quadrant.”

“Understood,” Clark nodded.

“Russell, out.” He smiled as his image winked out.

“The relay’s on the surface; I’ve got a transporter lock,” R’Mor stated, already beginning to anticipate her next orders.

Jensen laughed, “Go ahead.”

R’Mor was silent for a few seconds and then said, “Got it. Cargo Bay One.”

“Lieutenant Kelley,” Clark said, “Set a course for Deep Space 9, maximum warp.”

“Course set.”

Clark paused, “Engage.” The humming of the ship went up in pitch as the Aldrin left Earth orbit. Kelley piloted the vessel up and out of the solar plane, pointing out towards the Bajor system. The Aldrin coasted forward for a few seconds before Kelley tapped a finger on the warp control on the helm and dragged up.

The Aldrin’s advanced warp drive system responded instantly, channeling warp plasma energy from the dual cores to the massive nacelles. The ship shot forward like a rock launched from a slingshot, disappearing in a flash of subspace energy.

Unexpectedly, the crew on the bridge was painfully pressed back in their seats for a split second, excepting R’Mor, who by virtue of having a standing station, was forcefully flung back into the aft screen.

Clark blinked several times with wide eyes, looked over at Jensen, and tapped his combadge, “Clark to Vorik.”

“Vorik here.”

“The initial dampeners on the bridge are lagging just a hair,” Clark said, “We’re lucky we weren’t flattened into a molecular paste up here.”

“I’m dispatching a repair team. Vorik, out.”

A loud moan of pain emanated from the back of the bridge. Toq’bae called out, “She’s hurt!” Clark leapt from his seat and came around to find R’Mor’s thin body splayed out at the back of the bridge with Toq’bae and Murphy kneeling on either side. R’Mor’s chest rose in shaky gasps as she breathed heavily. Toq’bae looked up at Clark, fear piercing his dark blue eyes, “She’s not responding.”

Clark crouched over R’Mor’s face, contorted in pain. She opened her eyes and looked up, breathing laboriously. Clark called to her in earnest, “Nevala!” She just absently looked up, and then labored to breath again. She began to quickly whisper in Romulan, the language coming across to Clark as incomprehensible, yet elegant. She dug her nails into the carpeted deck and the veins and tendons in her neck bulged out, her pain almost too much for Clark to bear.

“Kelley!” Clark yelled, “Get back here!”

She was already on her way, med-kit in hand. Her field medical training took over as she fell to her knees and opened the kit, promptly removing a hypospray and a canister filled with a clear liquid. Kelley jammed the canister into the hypospray’s bottom and pressed it to R’Mor’s neck. With a hiss of the hypospray, R’Mor quieted down and relaxed a bit. Kelley asked her, “Where does it hurt?”

R’Mor didn’t respond, so Kelley immediately began to gently push her fingers into various points along her rib cage, probing for a response. Kelley moved her fingers to R’Mor’s back, pushed, and heard the sickening grating of bone against bone. R’Mor screamed something that Clark assumed was a Romulan curse.

Clark watched as Kelley looked up in horror. He smacked his combadge “Clark to Sickbay!”

“Cochrane here.”

“Doctor, we’ve got a medical emergency up here!” Clark said. Kelley received a tricorder from Toq’bae and scanned R’Mor, “It’s R’Mor.”

“I’m on my wa-” Cochrane’s voice cut out as he rushed to the bridge.

A shimmer of transporter energy appeared next to R’Mor. It coalesced into a med-kit-toting Cochrane, who immediately knelt next to R’Mor. He pulled a tricorder off his belt and scanned her.

Cochrane reported, “She’s fractured a few ribs and it looks like she’s bruised her spine. What on Earth happened?” Cochrane opened his med-kit and removed a few tools.

“Inertial dampener misalignment,” Clark said.

Cochrane looked up at him with bewilderment, “And you’re still alive?”

“It was probably only a microsecond off,” Clark explained as Cochrane ran a small scanner over R’Mor’s chest. “The rest of us should just be sore for a few hours.”

“She’s lucky to still be alive,” Cochrane said, “Her spinal column suffered a major blow. I’m going to need to get her down to sickbay now.”

“Do it,” Clark stood and stepped back.

Cochrane tapped the combadge on his chest, “Cochrane to Transporter Room One. Two to beam directly to sickbay.”

“Stand by,” came a voice from his combadge. Cochrane and R’Mor dissolved in a shimmer of energy.


Bajor System

15:51 Hours, February 2nd, 2380

Stardate 57089.399202


The face of Colonel Kira Nerys filled the viewscreen on the Aldrin’s bridge, “Hello, Captain. A bit late, aren’t we?”

Clark glanced at the antique silver linked watch on his wrist, looked up, and smiled, “Only by a few hours. They’re new engines.”

“Yeah, right,” Kira sarcastically retorted, “Okay David, you’re cleared to dock at Upper Pylon Two. Kira, out.” The viewscreen switched to a view of the former Cardassian mining station, now joint Starfleet/Bajoran base Deep Space 9. When the Cardassians had abandoned their annexation of Bajor, they had left the massive circular station in orbit. Soon after, when the Federation had stepped in to help the ailing Bajorans, a stable wormhole to the Gamma Quadrant was discovered nearby, and the rest had become history.

Clark smiled. “You heard her, Kelley. Upper Pylon Two.”

“David?” Murphy questioned.

Clark swiveled in his chair, “Yes?”

Murphy leaned forward, propping himself up on the edge of the tactical station, “David?”

“What?” Clark sat there for a moment, and then realized the tactical officer was questioning his being called ‘David’ by a station commander, “Oh, ‘David’. Right, Nerys and I were friends while I was stationed here.”

Murphy leaned back in his chair and stroked at his goatee, “Right. ‘Friends’.” He made mock quotation marks in the air with his fingers as he said ‘friends’. Jensen looked over at Clark with a questioning expression.

Clark laughed for a moment and raised his hands defensively, “I swear, we were only friends, nothing more!”

Kelley interrupted them from the front of the bridge, “Commencing docking at Airlock Two.” Clark spun his chair to a forward facing position and saw the tip of Upper Pylon One on the left side. A quiet thud reverberated through the Aldrin. “Docking complete,” reported Kelley.

“Good,” Clark said. He smacked his open palms against his chair.

The turbolift door suddenly opened, and four fresh duty officers walked onto the bridge. “Shift change! Looks like we’re off duty now,” Toq’bae said.

Clark stood from the command chair, “We certainly are.” He stood and handed a PADD of the day’s rosters and reports to the ranking Lieutenant, and then headed towards the turbolift. Jensen, Kelley, Toq’bae, and Murphy, with his phaser rifle slung across his back, were already inside. Once Clark stepped in, Jensen ordered, “Airlock Two.”

The door slid shut and the lift began to descend. Toq’bae critically studied Murphy for a second and then asked, “Do you carry that thing around with you wherever you go?”

“You mean my rifle?” Murphy reached back and patted its black stock. Toq’bae nodded. “I don’t always carry it around when I’m off duty. Is that good?”

Toq’bae rolled his eyes, “I suppose it will have to do.”

“I only carry my knife when off duty.” Murphy stared flatly at Toq’bae for a few seconds before slowly grinning.

The lift doors snapped open to reveal a corridor crowded with crewmen waiting to disembark. “Apparently three days is enough to cause cabin fever,” Jensen quipped as she stepped off.

She turned to her right, finding empting space where she expected Clark to be standing. Jensen looked over her shoulder, finding Clark still in the lift. He ordered, “Sickbay,” and the door slid shut.


16:02 Hours, February 2nd, 2380

Stardate 57089.504444


“Hey, Doc, when do I get to leave this place?” R’Mor huffed as she sat on one of the beds in sickbay. Her fitted two-piece white post-surgery outfit was growing more and more itchy by the minute, “I’d rather like to get back to duty.”

Cochrane walked out of his office, “As soon as your blood pressure is back down to normal.”

R’Mor sat up on the bed and vigorously scratched at her chest, “Are these things supposed to be this itchy?” She suddenly took in a deep breath and sneezed violently, whipping her black hair.

“No,” Cochrane said, stopping as R’Mor inhaled deeply. She let out another powerful sneeze, spraying saliva into the air. “Would you stop that?” Cochrane joked, “You’re getting bio-matter all over my sickbay!”

R’Mor began scratching at her legs, “Everything in here is pre-sanitized and-,” she sneezed again, “-and bio-matter resistant.” She sniffled lightly and rubbed her finger under her nose.

“Then why are you sneezing like that?” Cochrane asked.

“I don’t know!” R’Mor yelled. She slammed her hands against the bed, “You’re the doctor; you tell me!”

Cochrane shrugged, “I’ll have to run some tests.” He walked away and grabbed a medical tricorder off a small, freestanding lab station. He came back, flipped it open, and began scanning R’Mor. Cochrane read the readouts and then said, “Your histamine levels are way above normal.”

R’Mor rubbed her eyes, “And that means what?”

“It would appear that you’re having an allergic reaction,” Cochrane stated.

“With what? I thought this place was pre-sanitized; doesn’t that mean no allergens?”

Cochrane raised his eyebrows, “I think it’s your post-op garb.”

R’Mor looked down at her white outfit and tugged at the bottom of her tunic, “This?” She stifled another sneeze. “What’s it made of?” R’Mor sniffled lightly.

Cochrane thought for a moment, “I believe it’s synthetic cotton.”

“ ‘Cotton’?” she questioned.

“It’s a fabric made from the fibers of an Earth plant, or at least a synthetic facsimile of. I’ll get you a different outfit.” R’Mor began to disrobe as he walked over to a replicator, “One caminar post-op outfit.” As the folded silk-like outfit was materializing in the replicator, the door to the corridor slid open and Clark walked into the sickbay.

Clark stopped, looked over at R’Mor, and found that she was topless, the sound of the opening door apparently muffled when she was pulling her shirt off over her head. She deposited her removed tunic as a rumpled pile of white fabric on the low bed between herself and Clark, and placed her thumbs in the sides of her white pants, pulling them away from her hips. As much as he was enjoying the display, Clark knew that he was stepping out of line as a commanding officer and gentlemen, so he quickly looked away and cleared his throat to alert her of his presence.

His action came too late: R’Mor’s pants dropped, leaving her slim body completely naked. At Clark’s throat clearing, R’Mor gasped, bent down, and pulled her pants back up to cover her lower torso. She quickly grabbed the white tunic off the bed and held it against her chest. She managed a forced, embarrassed smile, and her face and chest blushed green with her Romulan blood.

Clark laughed, “No need to be embarrassed, you have a, uh, amazing,” R’Mor leveled a scathing glare on Clark, forcing him to quickly change his choice of words, “An attractive body.” He instantly regretted the selection, but R’Mor simply brought her elbows closer into her body, covering the center of her stomach in favor of the sides of her slender waist. Clark decided to steer the awkward one-way conversation in a more neutral direction, “How are you feeling?”

“Fine, Captain, just having a, uh, allergic reaction.” The warm blushing slowly drain from her cheeks.

Clark resisted laughing, “To what?”

R’Mor shifted uneasily, then moved her arms to hold the shirt against her chest with one hand, while gently tugging at her white pants with the other, “Synthetic ‘cotton’.”

Clark looked to Cochrane and demanded, “Why didn’t we know about this?”

Cochrane pulled the folded stack of lustrous gray fabric from the replicator, “The Romulan immune system is very unique. Her last physical only found an allergy to pollen.”

“I’m allergic to pollen?” R’Mor walked towards Clark and Cochrane.

“Mildly, but yes.” Cochrane handed the folded caminar to R’Mor, who held it to her chest. She turned her head and sneezed loudly.

R’Mor sarcastically rolled her eyes, “Thanks for telling me.” She turned and placed the outfit on an empty steel cart near the entrance to Cochrane’s office. Facing away from Clark and Cochrane, she dropped the tunic on the deck and looked over her shoulder to see if either was watching her.

“Does she have any other allergies?” Clark looked directly at Cochrane.

Cochrane shook his head, “Not that I know of. I don’t think even a full body scan could reveal much more.” Convinced that neither man was paying attention to her, R’Mor grabbed the upper layer of gray fabric, and snapped it in the air, unfolding it.

“Do it anyway,” Clark said, “You might find something, you never know.”

R’Mor turned, holding a pair of meter-square gray sheets of caminar in front of her, “You might want to have a talk with the replicator.”

Cochrane snatched the fabric out of R’Mor’s raised hands, forcing her to resort to covering herself with only her hands. He held it up to Clark, “I asked it for a post-op outfit and it gave me a sheet of fabric?” He tossed the sheets back to R’Mor.

Clark looked at the replicator and then ordered, “Computer, one glass of water.” A clear glass shimmered into being in the replicator. It held its shape for a moment, and then collapsed into a puddle of water that spilled out of the replicator and onto the carpeted deck.

“A ‘glass of water,’ apparently our replicator has a sense of literal humor,” Cochrane commented.

“I’ll get an engineer to come down here and take a look at it,” Clark said. He glanced at R’Mor and found that she had taken the caminar sheets and used them as a non-allergenic covering, with one tucked one around her hips like a towel and the other across her chest.

Cochrane was silent for a moment and then asked, “Captain, when will we be arriving at Deep Space 9?”

“Oh, about fifteen minutes ago,” Clark said, “Oh, and before I forget, you’re both off duty now, so you can go ahead and pay a visit to the station. And I highly suggest you do so before we head to the Gamma Quadrant.” He turned and walked out of the sickbay.

“You heard the man,” R’Mor said, “We’re off duty. Where’s my uniform?”

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that just yet,” Cochrane said.

“And why not?” R’Mor demanded.

“Full body scan, missy,” Cochrane stated. “Captain’s orders. Off duty or not.” He walked over to the main surgery bed and gestured for R’Mor to get on it. She sauntered over, sat on the edge, and then laid face up while rolling her eyes. Cochrane pressed a button on the bed’s console and a thin, curved computer screen came from the bedside and arched over R’Mor’s stomach.