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After rescuing a lone survivor of a planet wide attack, Voyager discovers they have a killer on board, lurking in the shadows.
While I'm pretty sure this episode needs only half rebooted, technically, to make sure the older half is still workable it'll need some adjustments done to it as well. You may see what I mean if you've seen the original.
22nd, 26th, 27th, 30th, 31st July 2018
1st - 3rd August 2018
Written & Edited
12th August 2001
27th February 2005
Tom panicked and slapped the offending hand away from his precious Flyer controls. He knew he'd be made to regret it, it was worth it though.
Morgan glared into the back of his head. "Did you just...?"
"Yes, don't touch the helm," Tom said, "they're not for kids' hands."
"The controls are oversized and pointless like someone I know," Morgan grumbled as she walked back to the only empty station.
Tuvok sat parallel to her, carefully choosing his words to soothe the teen. "Miss Morgan." He still got a glare for it. "The Captain asked you to come to observe, so you learn awaymission protocols. If you wish to be contribute in future, you..."
"Yeah yeah," Morgan groaned and sat back in her seat. "I just thought we were supposed to help people in need."
Tuvok frowned, "there are no lifesigns left on the surface. We are too late to answer the distress call. There is no one to help."
"But," Morgan protested, "you dunno, sensors could be faulty. Shouldn't we check it out, just in case?"
"I'm detecting a vast amount of weapon signatures, desolate buildings. The surface has been obliterated from orbit," Tuvok said.
Tom whistled, "harsh."
Tuvok's eyebrow shot up, "yes. We will report back to Voyager. Until then..." His console interrupted him. "We are being hailed. Curious."
"Told you," Morgan smiled.
Tom swivelled his chair around to face her. "Ok, lesson number two; no one likes a smug told you so-er."
"No one likes a doesn't shut up-er either," Morgan said, armed with a scowl.
"I am unable to establish a two way communication. The interference in the atmosphere is interfering with the signal. I'll open it their way so we can hear it," Tuvok said as he worked.
"Hello?" a man's voice said barely over the crackling. "Is there someone up there? Please. Something horrible happened here. I can't find any other survivors."
Tuvok tapped on his station to close the comm. "The signal is coming from the city outskirts. We should be able to land a mile away."
Tom grinned broadly, "now's my time to shine."
"Can't we beam down?" Morgan asked, knocking Tom's pride down a touch.
"I would not recommend it. The same interference that's affecting our communications could cause problems with the transporters," Tuvok replied. "Besides, there are only three of us."
"You're the boss," Tom said giddily.
Tuvok lead the way with his tricorder through what used to be a road. Broken bricks, concrete, metals scattered everywhere. What Tom thought were small shuttlecrafts dotted around, he discovered were the aliens' version of cars. Many of which had been crushed by falling debris. What caught his eye were the five in a line, each one had hit the one in front with some speed. The first looked to have been crushed by a lamppost falling on top of it.
Dust hung in their air, choking the team, forcing them to cover their faces with the neck of their uniform or in Morgan's case her t-shirt.
"Tuvok," Tom said as he peered into one of the vehicles.
Tuvok walked over to join him. "Interesting. This mode of transportation looks to be from a pre-warp civilisation."
Morgan's foot caught on something, tripping her over. She looked back instinctively.
"No, that's not it. This," Tom replied, pointing at the cars that had crashed into it, then the crushed one in front of it, "happened quick. And yet, where are the bodies?"
Morgan's screaming got their attention quickly. They ran over to find her stumbling away from the spot she tripped over, trembling fiercely.
"What?" Tom stuttered.
Tuvok glanced in the direction she was staring. A body lying in amongst the rubble, heavily decomposed.
"Okay never mind," Tom said with a lump in his throat.
"Curious," Tuvok said. He walked over to it and crouched down.
Morgan's eyes flashed with rage, "curious? I just kicked a dead guy. It's gross, and ick."
"Woman," Tuvok corrected her as he scanned. "Mr Paris is correct. An attack of this scale and nature, there should be more remains than this."
"More?" Morgan said in a higher pitch. She made a little whimpering noise as she walked off, eyeing her feet carefully. "I don't want anymore."
"Maybe some were vaporised. This one might have already been dead, or escaped the initial blast only to die when the building collapsed," Tom suggested.
Tuvok nodded. "Perhaps."
The team heard footsteps approach and what sounded like a pebble bouncing onto lower ground. They looked around to see a figure approach them.
"You're getting close," a pale grey man said in a friendly voice. What they could see of him was covered in scars, but what brought them on edge was the very Borg like implants on his face and hands.
Morgan pulled a face as she hurried in front of Tuvok and Tom. Tuvok hinted for her to step aside by touching her shoulder. She didn't, but he walked around her anyway while grasping the phaser on his belt. "Are you the one who sent the distress call?"
"Yes," the man said, laughing nervously as he noticed the phaser. "I also tried to call your ship but I got no answer."
"We didn't detect your lifesigns. Any in fact. How...?" Tom wondered.
Morgan stepped forward with her shoulders tense. "Because he's dead, right?" Her two teammates stared at her, flummoxed.
"That's right," the man answered sadly. "My name is Nij. Two months ago our planet was attacked by a strange looking ship. Pyramid shaped. It fired indiscriminantly at every city, town, village. I remember seeing a bright light, then a sensation of flying. I couldn't move. When I awoke, there was more than one voice in my head. I wasn't me anymore."
"The Borg?" Tom stuttered.
"They called themselves the Tolg. They left no survivors, they took any body that was still in one piece," Nij said, grimacing. "I myself looted the city for other people like me who were dead or dying, recruiting for their sick army."
Tom tried not to gag but he did anyway. "Oh god. That is worse than the Borg."
"They usually don't leave such a mess behind, it limits their assimilation pool," Morgan said.
Tuvok glanced at her, "indeed. An orbital bombardment would be wasteful, not efficient if assimilation was their primary objective. Perhaps they had another agenda."
"Wait," Tom stammered and stepped forward cautiously. "If you're Tolg, how come you're still here?"
Nij sighed, his gaze drifted to the corpse Morgan found. "I think it would be best to show you. Follow me." He turned to go back the way he came.
The team followed carefully, keeping far back so they could keep an eye on him. It didn't take long for them to see how he managed to sneak up on them. Only a few yards away from where they met him was a small crater, shallow yet deep enough for them to walk down into and not be seen by anyone on the road.
Morgan hesitated near the top as she spotted figures lying at the bottom of it, some looked as bad as the body she tripped over. A couple seemed to be fresh, covered in torn and small sheets or what looked like paper.
"What is this?" Tuvok questioned halfway down. He stopped there with Tom waiting behind him.
"These were left behind," Nij answered sullenly, "like me." He knelt down beside the freshest of the bodies; a woman lying on her back with all but her head covered in a blanket.
Morgan took a few further steps down and to the right so she was beside Tuvok, but a step closer to Nij. She looked at the body he was beside, then across to the other fresh corpse nearby, noting the technology across his face and forearm. "She wasn't assimilated."
"No. I found her after they left," Nij replied. "Everyone else I have found were ex drones too though."
"So let me get this straight. The Tolg batter an entire planet so badly they have very little new recruits, and yet they still left them behind?" Tom questioned while frowning. "Is that what you're saying? It doesn't make sense."
"I don't know what it means. All of the people I ran into were turned into drones, disconnected, dumped aside and left to rot," Nij answered. "Without the Tolg's help, we're nothing more than reanimated corpses. The more recently assimilated died instantly, while ones like me, we endured. I believe I'm the last one, and I don't feel like I have long."
Tuvok thought about it carefully. "A full assault on a pre-warp civilisation. Perhaps they chose this planet by mistake, it had nothing of interest to them. In that case why assimilate only to discard the drones? There must be a reason for it. Is this usual behaviour for the Tolg?"
"No. Nothing about this is usual for the Tolg," Morgan replied.
"Hang on. You said these guys were like a myth, you'd never seen them until that one time. You don't know anything definite about them, other than they're like a zombie Borg who likes pyramids," Tom said.
Morgan glanced at him and lightly shrugged. "From what I heard they pretty much do what the Borg do. Their only differences haven't been witnessed, so everyone assumes it's them. That's why for a while we weren't sure they even existed."
"We should proceed with caution," Tuvok warned them both. "We'll take Mr Nij back to the Flyer and do a full scan. If he is indeed telling the truth about being disconnected from the Tolg, or the Borg, then we'll return to Voyager but keep him confined. Perhaps the Doctor might be able to help him."
"Tuvok," Tom said uneasily.
Nij smiled, "no, it's quite alright. I understand. I'd be cautious too, especially from what I've seen and learned of them."
"Very well," Tuvok nodded, "let's return. There is nothing more we can do here, after all. If it is truly pre-warp, there is also nothing we should do." He turned to go back up the crater.
Morgan pulled a face, "that's stupid. Wouldn't lesser advanced people need our help more?"
Tom smiled at her as he walked by her, following Tuvok. "I don't like it either, but them's the rules. We can only help Nij as he'll already know about aliens and spaceships thanks to the Tolg."
Morgan watched him walk off, still grimacing. Nij passed by her, then stopped. His hand gestured in front of him. She shook her head stubbornly. "Oh, of course. Apologies," he said and walked away.
She waited a bit before following him. A light gust of wind tried to push at her back. It felt warm and yet it left a cool feeling across her skin, giving her goosebumps and a shudder.
The Senior Staff gathered around the Conference Table, eager to secure the few seats. Annika huffed as the one she was aiming for was took by James, so she stepped back and scowled at his back instead.
"So, you made sure to keep scanning for any visitors, right Harry?" Kathryn questioned.
Harry nodded, "absolutely. There's been no transwarp activity, or any other vessels in the area for a long time. I've rigged Opps to inform me if that changes though."
"You think the Tolg are going to return for their drones?" Chakotay wondered, glancing at Kathryn.
She tensed, "in the olden days I'd say no, but with our luck they'll have forgotten a pen or something."
Chakotay quietly laughed at that, then turned to Tuvok. "Do we know anything new about our guest?"
"The Doctor examined him on our return. His story appears to be correct so far. Parts of his body show signs of decay over two months. The implants are artificially forcing his heart to beat, and keeping his brain active. However this technology is brand new to us, and it appears to be failing. We don't have the time to fully examine it before he perishes," Tuvok replied.
"If he's already dead, what can we do for him? It seems cruel to bring him here for nothing," Tom said.
The screen on the wall changed to show the Doctor sitting at his desk in Sickbay. "Don't write me off just yet, Mr Paris. The Tolg appear to use a nanovirus similar to the Borg's to kill the drone but it slows the decomposition process considerably. The implants maintain the organs it needs to keep the drone active. I believe it'd be possible to revive him, hopefully before the implants lose their functionality."
"Even after two months of slowed decay, that's still a long shot," Harry pointed out.
"Normally I'd agree if he were human, but this man has remarkable adaptability. I think with a few donations; blood and a few organs, I should be able to revitalise him," the Doctor said proudly, cueing a few eye rolls from the table.
Annika stepped forward, eyes brightening. "Perhaps I can be of assistance. There are still nanoprobes in my blood stream. You should be able to use that to assist the regeneration process."
The Doctor beamed in her direction, "I'm glad you said that, as I was about to ask but it felt rude to." A few more eye rolls and a groan from Kathryn. "I've made a list of what donations he'll require, including nanoprobes. I'm optimistic we should be able to help this man."
"What kind of organs are we talking about?" Craig asked.
The Doctor looked at him curiously. "Oh, are you volunteering?"
"Uh," Craig said hesitantly as most of the table eyed him, "depends what it is. That's why I asked."
"Well the most damage is to his lungs and kidneys. Right now he is breathing through an implant in his throat and jaw, quite uncomfortable. The kidneys are of no use to a dead Tolg, but he'll be needing one to live," the Doctor said. Craig looked wary and was about to object, but the Doctor brightly smiled again. "Oh don't worry, I've checked compatibility. Human donors only."
Craig smiled nervously. Some of the people watching him shook their heads, and or smirked as they had a good idea why he was. "What er, blood type is he? Maybe I can help there?" he asked.
"Craig, it isn't something that everyone must do. You can opt out if you don't want to," Chakotay said.
"I know," Craig quickly protested.
Tom snorted, getting everyone's attention. "Oh I see. He's trying to impress the ladies. If I were single, I'd be thinking the same thing."
"No," Craig groaned, "I'm not trying to impress ladies."
"Oh I'm sorry," Tom said sincerely, but then smirked, "lady then."
Morgan rolled her eyes, "yeah, that's a little sad Tom. I'd only be impressed if they were doing it because they wanted to help someone."
Tom laughed in Craig's direction, "oh too bad Craigy. Better luck next time."
"What?" Morgan looked confused. "Doing it to get a girlfriend is pretty creepy, isn't it?"
"I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking that," James commented. Morgan looked relieved and nodded.
"Oh," the Doctor said to something off screen, "we have a volunteer for the kidney. So that leaves a lung, and maybe a few nanoprobes."
Tom meanwhile pretended to think about it. Anyone who saw him do it knew he was overexaggerating. "Hmm, says a lot that the only one who agrees with you is the guy that likes to stab people in his free time for fun."
Morgan looked confused, then disgusted. "Why do I never understand what this prat is saying?"
Kathryn shook her head tiredly, "we all have that problem."
James though looked across the table at him almost as if he were bored. Tom was more amused by Annika nodding enthusiastically behind him.
"If you really believed that, you wouldn't say anything to me," James said.
Tom faked an offended gasp, "ho oh, is that a threat?"
James rolled his eyes and looked away. "No, but it's obvious that's what you're after. Which is... weird."
"Mr Stuart, enough of that," Tuvok warned.
Tom raised a quizzical eyebrow, "who?"
Jessie let out a tired groan as she leaned her chin against her hand. "Oh god, you don't listen to anyone but yourself, do you?"
"Nuh uh, if I did I wouldn't know that we have a killer at our table, in our senior staff. I can't be the only one that has a problem with that," Tom said sharply.
His remark silenced the room and left behind an awkward chill.
Kathryn cleared her throat, cutting into it. "Tom, what I have told you about bringing your rumour rubbish to my meetings? Don't or lose an ear."
"Rumour? Everyone knows, Harry told me," Tom said exasperated. Kathryn fixed her death glare on him but he was too upset at the rumour accusation for it to fully affect him. He still stammered, "what, even with that he can still do no wrong? Well I'm sorry but I'm not okay with it, I don't trust him. If anyone should be volunteering for lung surgery, it should be our criminals, not a poor kid who just wants a girlfriend."
Craig looked around sheepishly, taking care to avoid looking at Morgan. Thankfully she wasn't listening and was busy tapping on a PADD in front of her. "Hang on, I'm not..."
"You're right. Fine," James interrupted him.
Jessie turned her head towards him so fast it give her a brief twinge. She ignored it to scowl at him, "what do you mean, fine? Don't let him guilt trip you into doing something stupid."
"Wonderful," the Doctor grinned, "I'll see you in an hour Mr Tay... oh sorry Stuart. Annika please stop by at 2000 hours and we'll get started on the nanoprobes." Annika smiled and nodded. He disappeared from the screen afterwards.
Jessie's eyes were wide in shock and anger. "No, that's not what he meant. He was just agreeing with him to shut him up, right?"
James looked down at the table, then up at again, not daring to make eye contact with her. "No, I'll do it. If it helps."
"What?" Jessie stuttered.
Tom chuckled, "give it up Jess, he's probably pretending to be all mopey and stuff so you won't think he's doing it to impress you after that creepy Craig comment."
"Oh yeah, do I look impressed?" Jessie shouted at him while pointing at her face.
Kathryn growled impatiently, "oh for god's sake. I feel like I'm in a bloody kindergarten." She got up and walked out, mumbling about coffee.
"Uh, dismissed?" Chakotay said as soon as the door closed behind her.
Most of the room filed out. Jessie hinted at James to stop by grasping the hand he had leaning on the table. "Don't you dare. You don't need to prove anything."
"I'm not," James said.
"Then why?" Jessie asked shakily. "This isn't some routine blood transfusion. You're talking about giving some stranger, a guy who's been dead two months already, one of your lungs. It's not something you can hand over like that, it's going to effect your health. You're not exactly spending your days slouching around on a chair, doing nothing. You won't be able to do anything active until you get used to it..." Her face paled, "and what if your remaining one gets damaged. What then?"
James finally turned his head to look at her apologetically. "I'm sorry. I feel like I have to do this, it's..."
Realisation struck Jessie, it left her looking haunted. "No. Helping that man live won't undo the one you killed." James flinched, he turned away with a shaken expression. "It certainly won't help you feel better. I know you. You could save a hundred people but you'll still hate yourself for that one. And you know it, so why?"
James shook his head. "I don't care about that. He almost killed you and the baby."
"Yeah and still," Jessie said as she climbed out of her chair. "I still can't believe after all these years, you'd think I'd fall for that."
"What?" James said, glancing up at her.
Jessie sighed, smiling sadly. "You can fool everyone else, but I know who you are. Yet here I am, still trying to talk you out of it when I know it will never work."
"Jess, I'll be fine," James said.
"You better be," Jessie sighed before walking out as well.
The Doctor fussed around his latest patient, with help from a blue shirt crewmember. A couple more stood nearby at the station looking over patient files.
Craig anxiously paced right next to the door, mumbling to himself. The door opened, which he didn't notice. James almost walked into him as he passed by. He jumped a mile and stood aside to let him in.
"Craig, what are you..." James started to ask.
Craig's face turned bright red. "I'm not doing this just to get Morgan to like me. That's not it. What are you doing here, trying to one up me?"
James struggled not to laugh. "That's not what I was going to ask, but thanks for that. I needed cheering up."
"Oh," Craig continued to blush. "I just wanted to help. I can't imagine being a walking corpse. I feel sorry for him."
"I dunno why you're so defensive if that's your reason. Tom's not worth getting worked up over. Relax, okay?" James said, shaking his head.
Craig nervously nodded and glanced over at the busy biobed. "Yeah, mine's not too bad. I wanted to help but I have to admit, I wouldn't be doing what you're doing." He glanced back at him, "what gives?"
The humour in James' face faded away. "To be honest, I don't know either."
One of the blue shirts walked over holding a hypospray. "Which one of you is here for the blood donation?"
Craig meekly raised his hand, then anxiously rolled his sleeve up. The crewmember smiled and stepped closer to press the hypo into that arm.
"Maybe you should take your own advice," he said once that was done.
James frowned, "what do you mean?"
"Tom's afraid, and you know he's not the only one," Craig replied, tensing his right shoulder. "You don't have to prove anything to them. I would've wanted to do the same thing."
James wasn't sure what to say to that, that was until Craig walked around him to leave. "Wait. What do you mean by that? Would've done the same thing."
Craig flinched and stopped at the door, opening it. "Morgan said that you and Jess..." James groaned a little impatiently, making Craig stutter and turn around. "No no, she didn't mean to. She said something similar like; of course James killed the prick, who wouldn't want to defend their fam... and then said she was famished as a cover. I asked, she tried, so it's not her fault. Blame me."
"Right," James sighed. "You know what I'm going to say, don't you?"
"Hey, who do you think I am?" Craig smiled. "Don't think this lung removal is going to get you out of dad duty, if that's your plan."
James chuckled, "yeah it's not."
"Your secret's safe with me," Craig said, once more turning to leave. He stalled again, "the baby part, not the suicide by organ donation."
"Why does everyone think I'm going to die?" James said, a touch impatiently.
"I dunno, personally I believe that jinxing works both ways," Craig sniggered. He walked out.
"Thanks. I think," James said hesitantly.
A few minutes of waiting around, the Doctor hurried over to him. "Ah there you are. If you're ready, can you lie down on the closest biobed?"
James nodded, "sure." He walked over to the biobed he was directed to. As he did he heard the door opening again. The assumption was that it was another blood donator so didn't bother looking to check.
"Let's do this thing," Tom's voice echoed around the room.
James groaned just as he sat down. "Oh, you're kidding me?"
The Doctor approached him first, pulling the medicine tray along with him. "There's a lot to do. I need all the help I can get."
Tom wandered over looking too chirpy for his own good, even when he was met with a cold stare from both James and the Doctor. "What? Smiles gentlemen, and James," he said with a flourished wink, "we're performing miracles, playing god here. What's not to like?"
James stared blankly at him long enough to unnerve the helmsman, he wavered and stepped back while looking away. Then James turned his attention to the Doctor. "He's not touching me. If you're going to involve him, I'm leaving."
Tom pouted slightly, "oh come on. What do you think I'm going to do while you're out? Draw a moustache on you, or give you a wedgie?"
The Doctor groaned, "perhaps if you didn't come in so, so eager, he wouldn't have objected..."
"No I would," James cut in.
"As much," the Doctor finished anyway. "I am the main physician, he'll merely be assisting me. You have no reason to worry."
"Yeah," Tom nodded, once again cheerfully. "I don't want to touch you anymore than you want me to."
The Doctor's brow was getting a little busy with frustrated lines. He sighed very impatiently. "Perhaps you could take Williams place with our guest. Tell him to come over here and assist."
Tom's face and shoulders fell. "You guys have no sense of humour," he huffed and walked off to the main biobed.
"Please," the Doctor said, gesturing to the bed.
James took the hint and lay down. Another man walked over, a young man in his twenties with a friendly smile, black hair and stubble, tall with a hint of a gut. If he were shorter it'd be more noticeable.
"Ah Lee, this is James. He'll be giving us a lung for Mr Nij. Prep him will you, while I get my tools ready," the Doctor said.
"Oh we've met, it's been a few years huh?" the man said as the Doctor walked over to the tool tray. "You remember, the time travel incident."
James laughed awkwardly, "yeah, how could I forget?"
"So, you been keeping busy these three or so years? I've found a sweet little..." Lee said a little excitedly.
"Lee, that's not even close to what I meant by prep him," the Doctor groaned from afar, though he did look amused.
Lee smiled nervously and picked up a PADD sitting on the small panel at the side of the bed. "Fine less me, more you, I'll catch you up later." James looked the other way briefly while frowning. Lee missed it as he was engrossed in reading. "Okay, blood type's a match. You have a little Borg tick in your box, so I'm gonna have to have a wee look to see if we can use it." The overbed scanner turned on. "Do you have any allergies?"
"Only to awkward small talk when I'm about to be dissected," James replied.
"Oh you," Lee laughed a little too much. His face turned immediately straight as he peered at the scanner, but it wasn't because of that, the whole room heard his stomach gurgle for two whole minutes.
The Doctor shook his head from afar.
Neelix hummed tunelessly while scooping some muddy slop from a wok into a bowl on the counter in front of him. The steam emanating looked almost yellow despite the contents being mostly pink.
A young women in her twenties waited on the other side of the counter, looking like she was waiting to be executed.
"Oh, there's some extra dumplings in there. Lucky you," Neelix smiled.
The girl peered in, immediately spotted something furry floating to the top. Her stomach churned and she felt lightheaded. "Actually, I'm not that hungry," she mumbled quickly.
Neelix stared at her a little concerned. "You don't look well, my dear. Why don't you take this and fill your belly, it'll help."
"Nope," the girl tried to say but gagged. She ran off before the dumpling crawled out of the bowl.
Neelix looked confused in her direction, missing it plop onto the counter beside it. He spotted Craig walking through the doors, calling out to him he didn't hear the dumpling make a weak purring sound. "Ah, Mr Anderson. My favourite security..."
"Work in Engineering now," Craig quickly said as he dashed by to get to the replicator. Neelix pouted and resumed stirring the wok.
Morgan noticed him as well and eagerly waved at him. His face lit up when he eventually saw her, he then made his food order.
"Why did I do that?" Morgan said while grimacing.
The woman at her table bit her lip and tried not to laugh. Morgan narrowed her eyes in her direction but that only made it harder for her to hold it back, she burst into sniggers. "Oh god, you keep working on that death-glare, Janeway Junior."
The women who escaped from Neelix earlier wandered around the busy Mess Hall, holding a glass of water. Morgan's neighbour saw and shook her head. With a devilish glint in her eye she stood up and frantically waved, "Faye, yoohoo, over here!"
With a new red face, the girl hurried over to sit down. "Claire! Why did you do that? I already saw you."
"Oh don't let glarey here scare you off," the cheerful woman said. Morgan rolled her eyes and concentrated on her drink. "Don't tell me you're out of rations again. This isn't like you."
"I know. I think someone's stealing my rations," the girl, Faye said.
Claire groaned, "oh don't with that someone. We both know who'd steal your food."
Faye sighed, her attention drifted to the window and the planet. Claire pushed her bowl of chips forward to share. "This place, gives me the creeps."
"Yeah, a lot of people died. It should," Claire said. Faye continued staring, so Claire nudged the bowl into her hand so she'd get the hint. "You worry too much."
Morgan's back felt as if a cool breeze brushed against it, making her bolt upright. To ignore it, she tried to concentrate on the people she was sitting with, first at Claire, then Faye. In the barely a second she was turning her head towards Faye, someone stood in between them. She wanted to believe it was only Craig but the colour of the clothes and their shape was all wrong. Then she noticed she could still see behind them. One blink and they vanished.
"Yup, still creepy," Faye shuddered.
Morgan looked at her expectantly. Doing so she could see the planet in her peripheral. It felt to her like something there was watching her.
"Oh hey, we can't all fit on this one chair," a male voice said a little too loudly.
Faye jumped nearly off her seat, "oh god, Lee. Why?"
Claire sniggered and glanced up at the new arrival, then she noticed it was arrivals. One of the men standing there looked a little awkward. "Oh right, sorry Lee. First invited, first to sit." She gestured to Craig.
"That's okay, I er..." he hesitated.
Lee grinned at him, "don't worry about it man. I'll stand. I'm used to it."
"Aren't you supposed to be in surgery?" Claire asked.
"In between jobs. Lung out, waiting on the kidney girl," Lee said with a shrug. "So glad too, starving. Couldn't stop thinking about burgers."
Craig was about to take a bite out of his own burger, until an image of Lee with a burger in one hand and a bloody organ in the other popped into his head. He put it right back down on the plate.
"Oh you read my mind," Lee said, reaching over to grab it. Craig had little time to object before it was stuffed into the other man's mouth.
Morgan stared at him in disgust, "trust me, no one's going to want to do that." She got up to leave, brushing past Craig's chair. He watched after her with a confused frown on his face.
"Sickbay to Williams," the Doctor's voice called.
Lee quickly chewed what was in his mouth before answering. "What's up?" he asked, still spraying crumbs everywhere. Craig had to back his chair up a bit to avoid getting covered.
"Medical emergency. Hurry back."
Lee made a little whine. Still he hurried out carrying his plate.
"Mr Paris, the cortical stimulator, on my mark!" the Doctor bellowed while pointing at the station opposite the biobed.
Tom was already running over to man it. The Doctor meanwhile placed a little curved device on Nij's chest. A firm now told Tom to activate the stimulator. Apart from the chest forcefully rising, nothing happened.
Lee ran inside on the sixth attempt.
"I don't get it. He was compatible, how..." Tom stammered. The Doctor gestured for him to try a seventh time.
"What's happening?" Lee asked, carefully approaching.
The Doctor focused on him urgently. "Crewman, retrieve the Tolg breathing apparatus, it needs re-attaching. Until we can discover the problem, it'll have to do."
"Okay," Lee quietly mumbled to himself. He didn't have to go too far, only to another trolley sitting in between the in use biobeds. On it were the many little implants they had taken from Nij. He tried to remember which one it was, the stress wasn't helping.
"Hurry. The donated lung is failing," the Doctor said.
The other biobed started to bleep erratically when Lee was about to grab the right one. He hurried over to check on the patient there. His face paled. "Uh Doc."
"What?" the Doctor snapped from the other biobed.
"James's breathing has slowed, heart rate is increasing," Lee stuttered his answer.
Tom and the Doctor shared the same horrified expression. They dropped everything to run over to Lee's side.
"This doesn't make sense. He was fine before," Tom said.
The Doctor shook his head, "bring me the cortical stimulator. Quickly!"
Tom glanced helplessly at the other patient they had left. Lee ran over to him to grab the device from his chest. "Are we really... what about Nij?"
"I'm afraid a still living patient takes priority here, Ensign," the Doctor said as he gently placed what looked like a breathing mask over James' mouth and nose. Lee ran over with the device and handed it to him.
"Yeah, right. Sorry," Tom stuttered guiltily.
Lee walked over to the foot end of the biobed to use the console there, looking at the Doctor expectantly. He gave him a nod. "Clear!" Lee barked.
Tom meanwhile collected himself of his shock to pick up a tricorder and a regenerator, then hurry over to the opposite side to the Doctor. In between cortical stimulation, he attempted to scan.
"There's nothing. No damage. He shouldn't be dying," Tom said.
"Check for any nanoprobe activity. Anything, even slight," the Doctor said quickly, then nodded at Lee for another burst. Once that was done and with no effect he continued, "heck even check for blood type incapability."
"But wouldn't both problems only be on Nij's end?" Tom asked. The Doctor merely grunted as he signalled for another jolt. Tom did as he was told anyway. "Nanoprobe level count is low, primarily around the chest where the lung was removed."
"They're trying to heal the damage we've caused, but it's not enough. Another!" the Doctor shouted to Lee.
Lee was shaking by that point. He counted eight so far. "Doc, there's no response. His heart's stopped, breathing..."
"Is there still any brain activity?" the Doctor asked. Lee's hesitant stare gave him his answer, so he signalled another go. "Mr Paris, anything?"
Tom grimly shook his head. "Nada Doc. He should've been recovering. He was fine, healthy when we left him and I don't see any change now."
The Doctor sighed, frustrated and sullenly. "Make a note in the ship's log. Time of death 2103 hours."
He said it to Tom but he didn't even move. The Doctor glanced towards Lee to hint that he should do it instead, he nodded and walked away.
"Mr Paris?" the Doctor said with some empathy in his tone.
It took Tom a few minutes to respond. "I guilt him into it. I didn't think he'd do it, but still."
"It's not your fault," the Doctor said softly. He pat his shoulder in comfort as he returned to the previous patient, if only to hide his own guilty expression.
Despite telling Lee to do it, the Doctor found that he still had to write up the report and then later the death certificates. He struggled between being annoyed about it and obsessing over what went wrong, which he couldn't figure out. He missed somebody walk into his office.
"Hellooo?" Morgan called him impatiently.
The Doctor looked up in surprise, "yes?"
"I've er, I dunno how to describe it but ever since I returned from that planet, I've felt a bit weird," Morgan said.
"Weird?" the Doctor sighed, eyebrow raising.
Morgan frowned, a little put off with his lack of concern. "Yeah weird. I can't describe it. Like there's someone following me, watching me. I keep getting cold and stuff."
Finally the Doctor looked a little concerned. Still he remained in his seat. "I see. Is it possible that you're feeling that way because someone is watching you? It's perfectly normal to feel anxiety over that."
"What?" Morgan snapped, "no. Nobody's there. Can you scan me, it's probably some telepathic thingie."
The Doctor sighed as he climbed onto his feet. "For the last time, you don't need telepathy to know that your mother wanted a coffee. You are Human, it's not possible for you to possess that ability."
He got an annoyed exhale as a response, as well as the teen turning her back on him. He was relieved she seemed to be leaving but she stopped at the door. "Oh really. Then how come I can hear somebody when there's no one here?"
"It's your imagination. I only have deceased patients here, waiting for our coroner to collect them," the Doctor said with a lot of regret.
"Yeah right, that's definitely not it," Morgan said with a shudder. A grimace took over her face, "wait, dead? No way. He's definitely not, I can hear him." She ran out of the office but not out of Sickbay.
The Doctor gave chase. Once out of his office he spotted her standing near James' biobed. He understood and tried to sound sympathetic. "I'm sorry, but it's true. I haven't officially announced it yet..."
"Don't," Morgan scoffed and pointed at one of James' hands. The Doctor looked, he noticed the fingers twitching. A quick glance up and he also noticed the chest rising and lowering rhythmically. "See."
"What?" the Doctor stammered as he hurried over, "pass me the hypo tray."
Morgan shrugged, she picked up a tray from one of the trolleys to hand it over. The Doctor took a hypo and used it.
Moments later James' eyes started to open gradually, weakly. "Did it work?" he asked groggily.
The Doctor still couldn't believe it. He tried not to show it. "No, I'm afraid not. I'm looking into what happened."
"No you weren't," Morgan scoffed.
James tried to sit up. The Doctor quickly put a hand on his shoulder to push him back. All it did was stop him. "No, I need to run some scans. Many scans. Stay, please." He hurried away to gather more equipment. James looked in Morgan's direction, confused as he sat up.
"I dunno. He thought you were dead, so maybe you don't want to stick around. But if you were," Morgan said, then pulled a gritted teeth wince, "maybe you do."
"Dead?" James mumbled and looked down. Morgan assumed he didn't believe it.
The Doctor hurried back, sighed impatiently at his patient sitting up and gestured for him to lie down again. "You were. For ten minutes. I have no explanation as to why."
"Why he's not?" Morgan wondered.
"No, I'm more concerned with why he was. I have a cause of death theory for Nij, an underestimation of the role of the Tolg technology we removed," the Doctor started to mutter. Morgan looked bored and stopped listening. James went from dazed to confused as long as the Doctor rambled on, until he had to tune him out too. "Thus far, there's no way that any of those factors should've contributed to Mr Stuart's passing. It makes no sense."
"When can I get out of here?" James asked once he was sure he was finished talking.
The Doctor frowned as if he had insulted him. "When I tell you, you can. You've just come back from the dead, and you have only one lung now. Neither are something you walk off."
"Hmph, what a waste huh?" Morgan said and smiled in James' direction.
"Hardly," the Doctor gasped, clearly offended. "Giving an organ to a stranger, that's..."
"Done. Can we hurry this up?" James cut in, sounding more bored than annoyed.
The Doctor sighed overdramatically. "Very well." He started to scan with a tricorder, making hmm's all the while. "Oh, that reminds me. I thought I should warn you that while you were out before you died, Lee was talking about throwing a shower soon. He already has a buffet menu planned."
"Eew, that guy eats in the shower too?" Morgan grimaced.
James and the Doctor glanced at her briefly and back again. "Why would I care about that?" James asked.
The Doctor lowered the tricorder and once more hinted for him to lie down, with a judgmental look on his face. "Mr Williams assisted with Miss Torres and Rex's operation the other week." James' face turned a shade paler, which turned the Doctor's into a worried frown. "I assumed you knew already."
"If you thought that, why did you warn me?" James stuttered.
Morgan tried not to laugh. She walked off towards the door. The Doctor looked on helplessly. "Mr Williams is not discreet, at all. I've tried to tell him this is a delicate matter he should keep to himself, but he's excitable. I thought..."
James groaned and pulled himself off the biobed. The Doctor hurried around to stop him, mumbling no's over and over. Without his emitter on he couldn't follow him for long.
Lee shook his head side to side while happily singing along to his blaring music, occasionally stopping to munch on a slice of pizza. Because of the noise he didn't hear the door chime.
After a few attempts, the person at the door started to knock loudly. That got his attention. He turned the music down and got up to answer it. As soon as the door opened his face brightened up.
"Oh Jim, you're alive. That's wonderful," he grinned.
James tensed, "no, not Jim. Or Jimmy."
"Ok you'd be the first. Fair enough James," Lee cheerfully said, stepping to one side to let him in.
James stepped inside just enough for the door to shut. Lee walked back to his chair, expecting him to follow. Since he didn't he stopped halfway into sitting down. "What can I do for you?" he asked after taking another bite of his pizza.
"Look, the Doctor told me that you knew about the pregnancy and..." James started to explain very reluctantly.
"Ah, don't you worry, the Doc's a pro," Lee said.
"No, not that," James shook his head. "Not many people know, and the situation's very... complex. You haven't blabbed it to anyone have you?"
Lee seemed puzzled, his eyes averted. "Hmm, don't think so." He walked back over to him as if he were struggling not to laugh. "While you're here, I do have a question."
"No. Just keep it to yourself," James muttered.
Lee couldn't hold it back anymore. He grinned gleefully and lunged forward to give James a hug. "Can I be the godfather?"
James was too shocked at first to push him away immediately. When he did the grin on his face made him snap, "no you bloody can't. What's wrong with you?"
"Aaw, why not? I've always wanted to be a god father to a friend's kid," Lee pouted.
"What, since when are we friends?" James stuttered impatiently. "We went on one awaymission, that's all."
"Why are you so grumpy, it's great news. I nearly told Claire earlier today. I might tell everyone tomorrow, it'll pick everyone up, you know. So will you and Jess take the kid back after it's born or something?" Lee quickly said excitedly.
James stared at him in utter disbelief, he was starting to shake a little from repressing his anger. "What? Why are you... It's none of your business. What gives you the right to tell everyone?" Lee didn't notice, he shrugged and continued to smile, making James visibly twitch. "Am I not speaking English here? Tell anyone and I'll rip your head off."
"Oh, somebody's in a bad mood. It must be that come back from the dead thing. I suppose that was quite a funny joke," Lee laughed.
"I'm not joking, I'm serious," James said, his face tensing.
"It's not very easy to pull off somebody's head you know. Anyway, when's the big day?" Lee asked.
"What big day?" James groaned.
"Well, I thought that since you're due a kid in a few months, you two would be getting married or something," Lee replied.
James' fists and jaws clenched. Still Lee seemed oblivious to it and continued to smile.
"Don't fret, my man, the baby is gonna be a cutey. You should be proud, not hiding it away from us. I'll do all the telling and you go do some yoga or something, chill out," Lee snickered, then pat him on the forearm.
The stench of coffee greeted everyone who entered. They expected a fun, useless morning meeting because of it. Instead Kathryn was pre-armed with a death-glare, reducing the weaker members of the staff to mulch before they even sat down.
Harry was one of the last to sit down, in the middle of yawning so he was a lucky few to not notice it.
"Late night, Lieutenant?" Chakotay smirked.
"No sir, I'm fine," Harry said, glancing toward him. That was a huge mistake as he caught a side view of the Janeway glare and nearly wet himself in the panic.
"Ohno, who else died?" Tom asked. He looked around the table, spotted James and did a double take. "Um, I see dead people. Can anyone else?"
Kathryn rolled her eyes, "well I'm looking at a dead man, does that count?" Tom squeaked. "I'll get right to the point. Last night a member of the crew was murdered."
Most of the staff glanced around in shock. Annika was a little peeved as some looked at her expectantly, then grew confused.
Tom started to stutter very nervously, "murder's such a strong word. He volunteered and he's not even dead anymore."
"No," Kathryn groaned, eyeing him dangerously.
Tuvok stepped up, literally as well, "the victim is a Crewman Lee Williams."
James looked up with his eyes widening slightly as a few senior staff members talked between themselves. Nobody heard his, "what?"
"Somebody, most likely the killer, has tampered with the internal sensor logs," Tuvok continued. "I have a team on it now, however all they have found so far is who were on the same deck at the time of the murder. I wish to speak to them immediately."
Harry shuddered, "I don't suppose you're telling us all this to keep us up to date, right?"
"Correct," Tuvok nodded. He managed to look nervous, which surprised a lot of people. He turned slightly to address Chakotay, "Commander, with your permission I'd like to question Morgan."
Chakotay nodded, briefly eyeing Kathryn nervously. "Sure, I see no problem with that." He heard a growl come from Kathryn's chair.
"I'd also like to speak to Mr Stuart," Tuvok said.
Harry and Tom both didn't look surprised, but were a little nervous. Tom tried to shake it off by pulling a straight face and innocently saying, "who?" The brief lip curl gave him away. A mere second later his ear was grabbed and pulled so hard he stumbled off his chair. "Aaaaaaah, whyyyyeeeee!" he cried out when he hit the floor.
His stretched ear was finally let go of, Kathryn gave the back of his head a little tap. "I'm so glad you find the death of a crewmate so funny, Paris," she said cold as ice. Tom shuddered as he rubbed his ear.
The doors leading to the corridor opened. The Doctor hurried inside and up to the table. "Ah, I'm sorry I'm late."
"I think with the circumstances Doc, no one's gonna blame you," Harry said.
The Doctor smiled gratefully. He went to the only available chair he could see and sat down at the same time Tom was about to. He pouted and backed off.
Craig tried to swallow a lump growing in his throat. "How is he, Doc?"
"Fortunately I was able to treat the injuries and revive him, however..." the Doctor's face turned grim, he hesitated a moment. "The damage to his skull was quite extensive. I've had to induce a coma to protect his higher brain functions, until it can be fully treated."
James glanced between him and Tuvok. "What time did this happen?"
Tuvok's eyebrow raised slightly, "his lifesign reading ceased at 2305 hours." The Doctor nodded in agreement.
"Oh," James said a little shakily.
Tom scoffed and rolled his eyes. "You would know, wouldn't you."
Fortunately for Tom, James didn't respond in anyway to that. He merely sat there, staring straight ahead.
"What is it?" Jessie whispered to him.
James shook his head timidly, "he, I saw him not long before that."
"Is that so?" Tuvok said with interest.
James looked up at him with a deer in headlights expression. "Yeah. So it must've been after."
Harry shifted in his seat uncomfortably, opting to look anywhere but in his direction. It got his neighbours Tom and Neelix, as well as Jessie's attention. She narrowed her eyes threateningly.
"I'm sure we'll figure this out soon. James, you go with Tuvok to the Security Office. I'll call Morgan," Chakotay said, glancing at Kathryn as if to ask permission. She sighed, he took that as a yes. "Everyone dismissed."
"I wonder how he died. That's so cool," Morgan said. She looked to James standing beside her, eyeing him curiously.
He though only stared at the Security Office door directly ahead of them. "Whatever."
Morgan rolled her eyes. "What's up with you? He's not dead anymore. There's nothing to worry about."
James' attention shifted to her. "Lee was killed a few minutes after I left him. If I hadn't been in a hurry to leave him, I could have stopped it."
"Oooh, I see," Morgan pretended to sound surprised. James frowned at her, confused at her tone. She spotted it and smiled kindly. "You can't think like that. That kind of thinking will ruin you. You know the attacker would've just waited if you did stick around, right?"
James' eyes drifted to one side. "I... well yeah I guess," he didn't sound convinced.
The Security Office doors opened, Tuvok stepped out of them. "Mr Stuart, since you admitted to seeing Williams already, I will speak to you first."
James nodded and followed him back inside the office. Tuvok gestured to the chair in front of the desk, then took his own. James sat down with his shoulders tensed.
"Might I begin with why you had visited Mr Williams?" Tuvok questioned.
"Right," James said while wincing. Of course Tuvok picked up on that and his eyebrow shot up. "I went to discuss some... little thing with him."
Tuvok nodded. "I see, what were you discussing?"
"A surgery he helped assist on. When I started temping there," James replied.
"Fascinating, I was informed that you and he were on different shifts. What time did you arrive and how long were you there?" Tuvok asked.
"I'm not sure exactly," James reluctantly said, "I'd just woke up, took a while to get my bearings. I know what time I left though, roughly, because I got home just after 2300."
Tuvok studied his body language; the tense shoulders, avoiding eye contact and the occasional sitting position adjustment. "Has Mr Williams done anything to, how can I put this, provoke your temper lately?"
James looked at him suddenly like he'd been slapped in the face. "What?" He scoffed and sat back a little, "oh I see. Jumping to conclusions. Very logical of you."
"That is not my motive," Tuvok said sternly, his eyes showed a little offense. "You didn't answer my question."
"I don't..." James blurted out, then took a deep breath in and out. It didn't help soothe his nerves one bit. He leaned his elbow on the desk and buried his face in his hand. "Look, it's not... I'm not that bad."
Tuvok stood up to walk over to the other side of the desk, keeping a careful eye on him. "Two weeks ago you murdered a man. You were at Williams's murder site. Surely you understand why you'd be a person of interest. You are clearly capable of it."
James looked directly up at the Commander with sharpened eyes. "I killed someone who had murdered the person I cared about the most. Fine. But Lee, it was just a little disagreement, a misunderstanding."
"What was?" Tuvok asked firmly.
"He wanted to..." James said, hesitating as he looked back ahead of him. "To blab some secret of mine, and he wouldn't listen. It's like he thought I was joking."
"So what did you do?" Tuvok questioned.
"Nothing, we argued," James replied quickly.
Tuvok strolled around to his other side, then leaned against the desk and looked directly at him. "He made you angry. You lost your temper."
"Not like that," James protested. Tuvok's plain expression didn't change. "I wouldn't kill somebody over something minor like that. This isn't the same thing."
"The sensors and its logs were hacked," Tuvok said.
James stared with his brow furrowing, "no, but..."
"You have a history of a violent temper. We have a fatal example only recently. Is it possible that you lashed out to silence him?" Tuvok said.
"Wait, that's ridiculous," James snapped.
Tuvok straightened back up but kept his firm gaze on him. "If you deny this, why won't you answer my questions? You were forthcoming the last time."
"Well yeah, I take it that doesn't count for something," James said irritably. He shook his head. "Look, it was barely even an argument. He talked, I argued, I left."
"Then it won't make any difference to tell me what it was you argued over. Perhaps then I can judge if it were trivial or not," Tuvok said.
James scoffed and stood up. Tuvok instantly was on his guard. "To kill over, no argument is worth that. You've already made up your mind anyway, I'm out of here," he said, then headed for the door.
"Computer lock the office from the inside," Tuvok ordered. The click stopped James in his tracks. Tuvok meanwhile tapped his commbadge. "Commander Tuvok to Team One. Report to the Office immediately."
"Ensign, you are restricted to quarters until this case has been resolved. You are not to leave unless escorted by an authorised guard," Tuvok said.
James shook his head, then turned back around. "I didn't kill him. I wouldn't. All I did was hit him, once. He was fine when I left."
"Any reason why you are only telling me this now?" Tuvok questioned.
"Come on," James laughed bitterly, "we both know why."
The doors opened. Thompson, Foster and an unknown crewmember stepped through them but waited there.
"Please escort Ensign Stuart to his quarters," Tuvok ordered.
Thompson laughed genuinely until everyone stared at him blankly, then it was nervous sniggering. "You're pulling my leg, right?"
"I don't see what's so shocking about it," Foster groaned while rolling his eyes. James looked at him, eyes briefly widened in surprise. "Other than it didn't happen sooner."
"Well yeah but," Thompson whined. Tuvok cleared his throat. "Yes... sir."
"So that's it, case closed? I'm surprised at you," Chakotay stuttered.
Kathryn raised her hand near him, hinting for him to wait. "No, Tuvok's only saying that's he a suspect, not the only suspect."
"I agree the evidence so far is circumstantial," Tuvok nodded.
"Like what?" Kathryn asked as she focused on him.
"It took the threat of being house arrested for him to admit to assaulting Mr Williams, when before he claimed they merely argued," Tuvok started to reply. "Stuart was also one of two people on the deck who does not live there, and claims he left immediately before the murder but also has the means to cover his tracks, hence the sensor issue. He has the motive and the capability."
Kathryn and Chakotay exchanged similar puzzled glances. "What is the motive?" Chakotay questioned.
"Stuart insists that Williams was threatening to expose a secret of his," Tuvok replied.
"A secret worth killing for?" Kathryn huffed, then shook her head. "Hardly."
"He himself did not go into detail, so I enquired as the only clue he gave me was related to his probation in Sickbay," Tuvok explained. Kathryn's gaze averted, shoulders slumped. "I believe Stuart would be capable of murder if it meant keeping the crew and one crewmember in particular from finding out."
"But, everyone knows about the prisoner murder. It spread like a typical Tom rumour," Chakotay said. Then he noticed Kathryn looking down at her crossed hands sitting on the desk sullenly. "What?"
Tuvok's eyebrow raised quizzically. "I was not certain if you or the Captain knew, my apologies." Chakotay was more than a little curious after that, he was getting a little impatient. "Crewman Rex was pregnant at the time of her murder. Stuart killed her murderer to avenge them."
"Oh," Chakotay sighed in realisation. "I get it, makes sense."
Kathryn pointed a growing death-glare in his direction, making him shudder into silence.
"That is not all Commander. The foetus survived because of a volunteer surrogate. Said surrogate is married, and logically he has not been informed otherwise we would all know about it by now," Tuvok said.
Chakotay's face turned lily white. "B'Elanna. And Tom, yeah of course he doesn't know," he stammered. He shook his head, "no. We know James can be a bit overprotective, but him killing that man was still a shock. I understand it more now than I did before but..."
"If Lee threatened to expose this secret, his story checks out," Kathryn said, prompting a couple of eyebrow raises from Tuvok. "I can see him lashing out, if pushed too far. Killing him though? Absolutely not."
"This is not the first time, nor second, that he has been reported for violence," Tuvok pointed out. "For some time he had seemingly calmed down, but has recently escalated gradually over the years. Hansen has reported a number of incidents involving him, calling him a bully."
"Yes, I believe everything that attention seeker who tried to beat or even kill my daughter says," Kathryn muttered rudely.
Tuvok soldiered on as if she said nothing, "three years ago a security team covering Deck Thirteen reported being attacked by him before the explosion. They asked not to confront him because his interference apparently saved them from it."
"Oh lock him up for life, shall we?" Chakotay groaned.
Kathryn smirked briefly. "I get where you're coming from Tuvok. Still, you've already said the evidence is circumstantial. You're going on as if you're a prosecution lawyer aiming for the throat. Are you sure you're looking at this objectively?"
"Of course, Captain. However there is no evidence yet of anyone else's involvement. Mr Williams was well liked, considered a friendly, harmless individual," Tuvok answered. "Stuart had a motive, he has admitted to being in a fight with him and seeing him before the murder. Sensors were hacked, he is more than capable of doing that."
"Oh I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out how he deleted black coffee from any replicator I use, and no one else's," Kathryn grumbled bitterly. "He's good, too good to be found out so easily."
Chakotay nodded. "Yeah, true. If he had covered his tracks, you wouldn't know it so quickly." Tuvok's eyes glazed over, he recognised it as silent agreement. "Yes James has a temper, his behaviour lately helped us forget that, that's why the murder was such a shock. But at the same time, it's not that surprising. He's... what's the word, dedicated to Jessie. Murdering to avenge her is not the same as murdering to silence a secret that's gonna come out eventually."
"I agree Commander," Tuvok said to his and Kathryn's surprise. "However we cannot ignore the fact that within minutes of Stuart allegedly leaving Williams after striking him, he was murdered."
"Hmm yes, that is convenient. Almost as if someone saw their chance," Kathryn smiled knowingly.
"Indeed. But that someone must also know how to hack the sensors. Unless Stuart did it to hide the fight he had with him and unknowingly incriminating himself with the murder," Tuvok said. "I will continue investigating until there is firm evidence, of course."
Kathryn sat back in her chair looking thoughtful. "In theory, it should be easy. A punch in the face would leave DNA evidence right, skin usually. Depending on how Lee was murdered, you should be able to compare samples found on the injuries."
"The Doctor is running tests now," Tuvok nodded.
"I don't know, this doesn't add up and it doesn't sound like him," Chakotay said.
Tuvok eyed him curiously, "forgive me Commander, but we are talking about a self admitted murderer. It sounds exactly like him."
"Again, he avenged the woman he clearly loves," Chakotay said, glancing briefly at Kathryn and then Tuvok. "I mean, if they're having a baby together..."
Kathryn sighed impatiently, "apparently this love spell beam was real." Chakotay's jaw dropped, he stubbornly shook his head. Kathryn looked on in sympathy. "Most people were doing pransy stuff like writing love poems or serenading a helmsman with soppy boyband ballads," she said eyeing Tuvok playfully.
"Why would you assume I was responsible?" he asked uncomfortably.
Chakotay felt a little relieved at hearing that. "But James and Jessie were missing in that hotel for a while. So, okay..." he hesitated slightly, "they're just friends, but I stand by my opinion. At the very least he avenged his unborn baby, and lots of people would understand that. It's human nature. Lee's murder though..."
"Indeed," Tuvok nodded. "He clearly cannot control his temper due to his feelings for her. Whatever they may be, you can't deny that they are strong. In Humans as volatile as Stuart, that can be dangerous, as we have already seen."
"It doesn't mean he'd kill Lee to protect Jessie from, what, being humiliated by Tom?" Chakotay said, scoffing at the end.
"Love can be a dangerous, and unpredictable thing," Kathryn sighed sadly. Chakotay looked at her in surprise.
A very grim looking Jessie walked slowly down the corridor leading to her quarters. As she anticipated, Foster and Thompson stood guard with a third person she didn't know. Two of them were more interested in playing a game on a PADD Thompson had brought.
"What I would give to be in your position, Jess," Morgan said on approach, startling Jessie into stopping.
"Yeah, who wouldn't want a bunch of twelve year olds standing outside their home?" she said loud enough for them to hear.
Thompson looked up, shrugged it off and continued. The unknown gasped and snatched the PADD from him, "wait your turn!" Foster rolled his eyes.
Morgan sighed, "not that. I mean living with someone who'd kill for you."
Jessie's face scrunched up, "what? You don't believe that, do you?"
"Well duh," Morgan laughed, "he killed your murderer a few weeks back."
"You..." Jessie stuttered before her face froze with a slack jaw. She attempted to shake it off, "you scare me sometimes."
Morgan seemed surprised at that. "Why? You gotta admit, it's cool what he did. I really underestimated him."
"No I don't," Jessie grumbled. "He's no different to the James we've always known. Nothing's changed." She continued walking to her quarters.
"You don't know how lucky you are," Morgan said wistfully, then hurried after her. "My best friend wouldn't avenge me."
"Sad," Jessie muttered under her breath once she got to the door. Two out of three of the team scrambled to help Foster block her entrance. "Oh come on, really?"
Thompson shook his head, "nuh uh. He's not allowed out."
"I'm not trying to do that, I want to go in," Jessie said.
Foster took a step ahead of the other two, "if you go in there, you're putting yourself in danger."
Jessie laughed mostly out of disbelief, but also to hide her offense. "Don't be stupid. James wouldn't hurt me."
Morgan appeared eagerly at her side, cueing an eye roll from Jessie. "Or me, I'd kick his ass. I'll watch her back."
"That's not..." Jessie tiredly said.
"I suppose that'd be okay," Thompson said. Foster and the unknown stared at him blankly. "What, I've been waiting for someone to kick his ass."
"Coolio," Morgan giggled. She shoved Foster out of the way, making him stumble a few feet away. Jessie walked into her quarters mouthing what she said with a grimace. Morgan followed.
They both found James lying on the sofa looking sorry for himself. As soon as he noticed, he sat up quickly. Jessie sat beside him and Morgan sat on the chair nearby.
"Now come on, enough of that," Jessie said. With a friendly smile on her face she gave him a playful elbow to the arm. "You don't give up that easily. I won't either. We'll figure this out."
James turned his head toward her, "you assume that I didn't do it?"
Seeing his sullen expression made Jessie's cheerful mask slip for a second. It then helped her get motivated, "of course you didn't. You have no reason to kill Lee, or even hurt him."
James flinched and looked away, "I did though." Jessie waited patiently, hiding her concern. "He knows about the baby, and he was going on and on about wanting to tell the whole ship. I tried to talk him out of it, but I..." He sighed, annoyed at himself. "I snapped. Hit him. I left him to be killed, I may as well have..."
"No, don't do that," Jessie scolded him in a gentle, soothing voice. "It's not your fault. It could've been anything else. A violent person who he snatched food from, or someone who couldn't handle his chirpy nature."
Morgan stuck out her bottom lip and nodded. "Yeah maybe. He is a bit gross, and steals rations apparently."
James glanced down at his lap, head shaking. "Doesn't matter. Everyone will think it was me."
"Since when do we care about what other people think?" Jessie asked.
"Since I was accused of murder this morning," James replied.
Morgan grunted in disgust. "Ugh, that judgmental unemotional prick. So much for logic. Want me to slap him around a bit, or..."
Jessie's attention darted to her with her eyes wide. "I don't think that will help somehow Morgan."
As soon as she turned her focus back on James, Morgan pulled a face and wandered away.
"I hit him, so my DNA will be found on him. They're testing for it. They'll think I did it all," James mumbled.
"Yeah, that sucks," Morgan said.
Jessie once again looked up, then around to scowl at her and back again. "It's not going to happen."
"Of course it will. They'll toss me in the brig for the rest of this journey, all for something I didn't do because I couldn't keep my temper," James stuttered, his voice cracked. Jessie saw tears brimming in his eyes.
"No, no. They won't, I'll make sure of it," she said with a frog in her throat. She moved closer so she could wrap her arms around him. Instantly she noticed the tension in his shoulders and arms, despite it lowering when she did so.
"Don't worry Jess, the Captain is my mother. I could talk some sense into her," Morgan said.
"Why do you want to help, Morgan?" Jessie asked.
"Who wouldn't help a friend?" Morgan replied.
Tuvok waited patiently at the door while the Doctor worked on the computer on his desk. He on the other hand was not looking very patient. He kept looking up at the Commander, rolling his eyes and sighing as he glanced back down, louder each time.
"You know, we do have this marvelous invention called a commbadge," the Doctor said after doing that six times.
Tuvok's plain expression didn't change. He barely moved at all. "This is the only lead we have. Besides, it doesn't usually take you so long to run a DNA comparison."
The Doctor once again exhaled loudly and irritably. "There were several samples to compare to. One of which was fine, the rest are partial matches. I don't understand it."
"Partial matches, and one is fine? Perhaps I can work with that while you work on the others," Tuvok said.
"Yeah that's the thing," the Doctor huffed. "The one sample that isn't a problem is somehow tainting the other samples. If I tell you who has matched, then you'll arrest the man for murder when I..." he chuckled bitterly, "I really don't think so."
Tuvok stepped forward with a curious expression. "Doctor, I do not run my investigations with only conjecture or partial evidence, nor do I decide with my gut. Explain please."
He got another sigh. The Doctor glanced up reluctantly. "The sample I recovered from the bruising around Lee's eye, that's a match for Mr Stuart," he said before turning his voice up more than double, "but..." Tuvok raised an eyebrow. "The others, particularly the killing blow, are only a 25% match with Stuart."
"That suggests he was involved, that he did more than strike him in the face," Tuvok said with certainty.
The Doctor shook his head at him, widening eyes, "no no, see, this is why I didn't want to report until I was absolutely sure. If he did do this, the other injuries would be a match like the first one. There's no reason why they'd be degraded."
"I see. What would cause this?" Tuvok asked.
"I don't know, that's the problem. The only theory I have is not possible," the Doctor replied. Both eyebrows were up now, Tuvok's face hinted for him to explain. "James was telling the truth when he said he hit him, but the person who assaulted Lee shares a DNA structure with him."
Tuvok recoiled a smidgen in surprise. "A relative of his? He has no living relatives on board. Not yet anyway."
The Doctor nodded. "Now you get it. It makes zero sense. Like you say, there's only really the unborn child. If you cast aside the ridiculousness of that idea, I'd get a 50% match, not 25%."
"Indeed. So it must be something else," Tuvok agreed.
"Right. I'm looking into other factors that could possibly affect a DNA sample, as I've ran various tests and got the same results. Unfortunately I'm running out of ideas, I'm close to suggesting another time travel incident with a very peed off grandchild," the Doctor chuckled.
"Perhaps," Tuvok said while in deep thought, making the Doctor pass a judgmental expression his way. "Perhaps it's not the sample, but the equipment. Thank you Doctor." He turned to exit, leaving the hologram baffled.
The doors opened abruptly and yet James barely gave it a glance. The Security team strode in, each of them grasping a rifle pointed toward him. Foster took the lead, if a bit anxiously at first.
"Tuvok wants to see you. Come on," Foster said.
James looked up at them all, not impressed at all. "You don't need those."
"Huh, right. Nice try," Thompson said nervously.
Foster looked back over his shoulder, first to Thompson, then to the unknown. "What are you waiting for?"
Thompson laughed as the unknown stepped forward, overtaking Foster. The laughter trailed off and his face went pale. "Are you kidding me?"
Foster stepped back, keeping his rifle trained on him. "I got your back."
"You little... pansy," Thompson grumbled, reluctantly going forward as well.
James stood up with an annoyed groan, "for god's sake." Thompson jumped back and re-aimed. The unknown, a few inches from grabbing his arm merely froze.
Two of the trio lead James down the corridor, with Foster trailing the back. They entered the turbolift, Thompson made sure he was as far away as possible even if it only made a few centimetre difference.
"Deck Five," Foster ordered.
James frowned, "Sickbay, why?"
"That is where Tuvok wants to see you," the unknown said with a scoff. James looked across at him, mouthing an oh. Even that unnerved him. James sighed and looked straight ahead instead.
A short uncomfortable turbolift ride later they stepped out. On their way to Sickbay the doors opened early. Annika stepped out, closely followed by an unknown woman. She headed their way for the same turbolift.
James didn't think anything of it until she spotted him and stopped, grunting in disgust. The woman following her didn't slow. She smiled coyly while her brow raised. He expected the two to bump into each other. Instead the woman walked straight through Annika as if she wasn't there.
"What?" James stuttered, slowing to a stop as well. The team instinctively did too and re-pointed their weapons.
Annika stuck her nose up in the air, "get that monster out of my way."
The woman giggled maliciously as she looked over her shoulder back at Annika.
"We can't, we're going to Sickbay. We're gonna pass at some point," Thompson said.
"Ugh, fine," Annika groaned. She turned around and stomped off.
The woman turned back to stare at James, giving him a wink before twirling around to follow Annika once more.
Foster meanwhile nudged him in the arm with the tip of the rifle. "Hey, don't get any ideas."
James tried to move his attention, but the woman turned the distant corner while staring at him with the same dark smile on her face. Once gone he couldn't shake off the cold feeling of dread he only just noticed she left in her wake.
"I've been meaning to ask, man. What's up with the name change, did you marry a guy named Stuart or are you changing your first name?" Thompson asked. Unknown and Foster glared at him, he smiled and winked.
"What?" James said with a frown. He looked around at the others. "You didn't see that?"
"See what?" Foster asked, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
"I only saw a woman scorned. What did you do?" Thompson snickered. "Oh, I get it, you slapped her around again," he winked. "Don't be put off, I think she likes it."
James stared blankly at him at first, but his nose started to shrivel up in disgust. "What's the matter with you?"
Foster again nudged him, "I don't think you have any right to be asking that. Come on, or we'll drag you there."
"Yeah, sure," James said while managing to resist a smirk.
The four made it to Sickbay. Tuvok waited in the office for them. The Doctor meanwhile grumbled and tapped on his computer angrily.
"Ensign, I have a couple more questions for you," Tuvok said.
"You couldn't ask me over the comm?" James said, glancing briefly at the team standing behind him.
Tuvok's shoulders raised for a moment as he took a deep breath. "Did you tamper with the Doctor's scanning equipment?"
James didn't answer right away. He stared at the Commander in disbelief, then rolled his eyes and looked away.
"Ensign," Tuvok said sternly.
"I don't believe this," James muttered to himself. "No, of course not. Why?"
Tuvok took a few steps forward. "Very well. Second question. We have verified cause of death; intense pressure to the throat. Whoever did this strangled him with so much force his neck was broken."
James couldn't help but notice the only figure lying on a biobed right at the edge of his peripheral. Coupled with what Tuvok said he could only flinch. "That's... I see. What's the question?"
"Do you think you are physically capable of doing this?" Tuvok asked.
"Physically?" James said warily. "You mean..." Tuvok nodded. "No."
Tuvok stared at him, unblinking. It made James feel a little uncomfortable.
"If you are innocent, then you would co-operate, assist us in finding the true culprit. Lying..." Tuvok said.
"I'm not," James quickly interrupted. Tuvok's eyebrow raised in judgement. "Look, I never touched him, not like that. Surely it'd be easy to prove that."
The Doctor growled. "You'd think!" he angrily grunted at his computer.
Tuvok briefly looked over his shoulder at him.
James stared as well. "Why, what's happening?"
"That's not your concern. Thank you, you can go back to your quarters now," Tuvok said.
"That's it?" Thompson stuttered. "We escorted Mr Stabsalot here, risking our literal necks apparently, for two questions you could've asked him over the comm?"
Foster groaned, "I do wonder how you've kept this job for so long." Thompson narrowed his eyes.
"It's important when questioning suspects and witnesses that you study their actions as well as their answers," Tuvok said patiently. "Now dismissed."
Loud chatter and laughter below pounded against Craig's sore forehead, even after he moved to the second floor to work.
He was caressing his forehead when he heard footsteps approaching him. He groaned, expecting one of his new workmates to be dumping more of their paperwork on him.
"I have a bone to pick with you," he heard Morgan say, surprising him into forgetting his migraine for the moment.
"Morgan?" he smiled until he realised what she said, then he looked worried. "You do?"
"Thinking about everything that was said, it occurred to me that you meant me," Morgan said, folding her arms tightly. Craig stared blankly, infuriating her further. "The blood donation. You did it to impress me."
"What?" Craig laughed very nervously. "No, no. I would never do that."
Morgan walked forward strangely close to him, peering into his face with squinted eyes. He thought he should back off since she was mad, but he couldn't convince his feet to do anything.
"You do like me, don't you?" she asked.
Craig attempted to swallow the lump in his throat with no success. "Oh god, um... no?"
Morgan eased off a tad, sniggering to herself. "You moron."
What happened after that, Craig assumed instead that she had knocked him unconscious and that he was dreaming it. A small kiss planted on his lips, topped with a flirtatious wink before she walked off, leaving him wondering what got into her with a stupid smile on his face.
"I'm just saying, if he thinks he's that dangerous then why couldn't he walk here, or ask for backup to escort him?" Thompson rambled on as he paced in front of the quarters' door.
The unknown watched him looking very bewildered. "Hang on, I'm covering for this guy because he's a suspect, right? He works in this team and has for years."
"Yeah," Thompson stopped and nodded furiously with his eyes wide. "You don't have to remind me."
"Well then, you'd know if he was like that, wouldn't you?" the unknown said.
Thompson grunted, "ugh you know it. The guy's got a screw loose. Thinks he's above everyone, and treats other guys like dirt. It's no surprise to me that he'd snap the way he did."
Foster approached them from around the corner. "All right, who's turn is it?"
The unknown darted forward, "oh me. I've been bursting for the loo." He ran off, leaving Thompson and Foster on their own.
"If he knew who we were escorting, he wouldn't need to go," Thompson smirked. Foster stared at him as if he had asked permission to date his mother. It wiped the smile off his face. "Dude, what's up your butt today? You're really grumpy."
Foster didn't respond, he continued to stare all around him with a suspicious look in his eye.
Something heavy slammed against the door, The pair jumped to attention, quickly raising their rifles. Foster pressed the panel to open it, then stepped back.
As soon as the doors started to part, a body tumbled through the cracks and slammed down by their feet. Thompson shakily crouched down to roll her over onto her back, he gasped and stumbled back in horror. "Oh my god, oh my... eew."
"Yes it's Annika, grow up," Foster scolded him.
Thompson very shakily pointed, trying desperately not to throw up.
Foster stared down with an intense frown. The body appeared to have been sliced from the belly, up through the middle of her chest and straight through the shoulder. He assumed it happened quickly. Annika looked to be staring straight up at him with her still open eyes.
Without hesitation he stepped over her to get into the quarters.
He found the living room empty. First he checked one of the bedrooms; a neat one with a shoe rack opposite full of women's shoes. Since that was empty as well he headed for the other bedroom, passing another door on the way.
That door opened, he quickly pointed his weapon toward it. On the other side James instinctively grabbed the tip of it with his left hand, realised that was a mistake and lowered it. "What the hell, what are you doing?" he snapped while tossing a towel he'd been holding in the right down at his feet.
"You. You're disgusting," Foster growled, "you're under arrest."
"Um," James looked confused as well as a little mad, "I already am."
Thompson cleared his throat from the door, Foster turned to him so he pointed to the floor in between him and them. Foster looked first, James followed. His jaw dropped slightly and his eyes flickered at the sight of a blood stained knife. Foster shook his head while clicking his tongue, not surprised in the slightest. He tapped his commbadge.
"Foster to Tuvok. You wanted the smoking gun, we've got it, and another victim."
"Oh what the hell, who is it this time?" Kathryn's voice answered to Foster's disdain.
"Captain, he called me. Explain Ensign," Tuvok's said.
James frantically glanced between Foster and the knife, "what? What other victim?"
Thompson made a sound that was a cross between a whimper and a recoil after Neelix's stew, getting James' attention. When he looked across he noticed the massive amount of blood by the door, then half of the body sticking out through the door. He attempted to step forward in a hurry but got a rifle slammed in his ribs for his trouble.
"Thompson for god's sake, back me up," Foster grunted. Thompson whimpered again, then went looking around for the rifle he assumed he dropped in his shock since he wasn't holding it. "I don't know how he did it Captain, Commander, but we heard a noise from his quarters. Opened the door and a body fell out. It's Annika Hansen."
"Oh, okay," Kathryn's voice said calmly.
The commline cut off abruptly. Foster looked a little annoyed, and was too preoccupied with that to bother with James walking over to Annika's body, still with the same expression he had after seeing the knife.
"Tuvok to Foster. Apologies for that. Please escort Stuart to the Brig. Seal off the quarters as you go. I'll send another team to check it out. Tuvok out."
"Gladly," Foster said, re-aiming the rifle at James' back as he had crouched down beside Annika. "Up, now."
"How did she even get in here?" James muttered only to himself.
Foster flinched, "you tell us. She tried to warn us all this time and we ignored her. Now look at her."
James stood up while at the same time turning to face him. "How the hell could I have done this? I just got out of the sonic shower, I didn't even know she was here!" he snapped.
"Sure," Foster scoffed, he pointed at James' still damp hair, "you killed her, dumped her there, then went to the bathroom to splash some water over your head. That's not an alibi you psychopath."
"I'm sure anyone with an IQ over ten would come up with something better than sticking a head in a sink," James said irritably.
"If you didn't do it, who did? You're alone in here, right?" Foster hissed.
James looked around, "well I don't know anymore. I was alone ten minutes ago."
"Oh my god!" the unknown security officer stammered on approach. He hurriedly got his rifle ready, noticed Thompson had his trained on Annika so he pushed that up too. "I only went for a pee, how could you guys screw up that quickly?"
"Clearly, Stuart has a talent for murder," Foster replied without taking his eyes off James. "Let's go Stuart."
"All right, but on one condition," James said.
Foster scowled, "you're in no position to bargain."
"Well..." James said hesitantly, "okay, just tell Jessie not to come back here, or even be alone."
"I see. One track mind. What did Annika do to her to cause this?" Foster asked, but still hinted he should leave by raising his phaser frequency.
James sighed and slowly turned to leave. Thompson and the unknown backed off so much they bumped into the wall, still with their rifles trained on him.
Security Team One encircled their ex-teammate, leading him to the brig at the bottom of the corridor. Thompson hurried his steps until he was alongside Foster.
"You really should keep to the side, back Ivans up if Stuart takes advantage of my back turned," Foster said.
Thompson wasn't listening, he hurried forward once again toward an approaching woman. "Laura, I didn't want you to meet up with me, it's dangerous."
Foster stopped first, James and the third Security officer did as well.
"Really Thompson?" Foster groaned.
James sighed and casually looked around while his mind raced. That all stopped when he noticed a familiar face entering the cross-section a ways behind Ivans. The strange woman only he seemed to see earlier who walked straight through Annika. James watched her closely, unnerving Ivans further as to him it looked like he was staring at him.
She hadn't seen him, seemingly too invested in following someone into an adjoining corridor who he only saw the back of.
"I'd say my shift's over in five minutes, but I gotta escort the serial killer to the brig. Very important," Thompson bragged, even his chest puffed up. Foster rolled his eyes.
Ivans briefly glanced at his two teammates. In those few seconds he felt his rifle disappear from his hands. He hurriedly looked back at it, then to the right in time to see James turn the same corner he saw the woman go down, holding the rifle.
"Uh... uh, red alert," he whimpered.
"Yes, that was the plan," Foster said through gritted teeth.
"Oh, so exciting," Laura giggled.
James kept a safe three metres distance behind the woman he was following. He tried to peer around her to see who she was stalking, but saw no sign of anybody.
Moments later she turned and strolled literally through a door. James turned his pace into a run. He'd only just got there and was about to hack the door open when he heard a girl's scream come from the other side.
He changed his tactics to get in much quicker. Once inside a wave of anger, guilt and despair crashed into him, stalling him in the door frame and nearly bringing him to his knees from the weight of it.
Another body, another victim lay sprawled on her front only inches from his feet. Her head was turned away from him so he could only see the back of her blonde hair, and the small frail body of someone no older than a teenager.
He knew what would happen if the team followed him, or anyone else showed up. And still he couldn't help but stumble forward and drop to his knees to check on her, hoping that his entrance had put off her attacker. With his sleeve quickly shimmied down to cover his hand, he used it to gently pull her onto her back. The sight of her face had him scrambling back with his heart racing, all of the blood drained from his face and chest, making his whole torso prickle and him nauseous.
Not that he cared about any of that. The face he couldn't tear his eyes away from he hadn't seen in so many years, and yet it hadn't changed one bit. A teenager barely over fourteen, small oval face. Her blonde hair lay dishevelled and damp with blood and sweat across her bruised right cheek. The eyes, still a striking blue just like his own only lifeless were pointed right at him.
"Oh my god," a woman cried behind him, breaking the daze he was in. He looked back over his shoulder at the hyperventilating woman in a blue uniform trying to tap her commbadge in a blind panic.
James found his head turning back to the blonde girl lying in front of him. Only this time she was a different girl, a similar age and hair colour but that was it.
"Naomi, my god. My baby, she's dead," the woman behind him sobbed. "Please Security, he's still here."
Then it all hit him, he darted back up to his feet and hurried for the door. Samantha Wildman got out of his way and rushed for her daughter.
TO BE CONTINUED
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