A Requiem for Leonidas
by Mike Lee -- Part Three
See disclaimer and copyright notice in part one.
Once he had made his decision, it took only a few moments to query the computer about the location of Doctor Dubois' quarters.
The door to the doctor's stateroom didn't open as he approached, which he took to mean that it was locked. Ross stepped up to it and knocked smartly on its smooth, gray surface.
After a few moments he knocked again, and then a third time. He had his knuckles raised for a fourth try when the door suddenly hissed open and Dubois stuck her head into the corridor. Seeing Ross, her delicate features broke into a smile.
"I was about to call engineering for a maintenance call," she said. "What were you doing to the door?"
"Knocking?" Ross said tentatively, as if trying to explain some primitive ritual.
Dubois' smile broadened. "Well, come inside and explain it to me."
She led him into a stateroom the same size and arrangement as his own, but already bearing the mark of the doctor's distinctive personality. The lights were muted and tinted to a warm rosy-gold, and a haunting, ethereal melody seemed to drift in the air. The table in the main room was covered with datapads, a small computer, and numerous data chips.
"I see you're still working on the project," Ross noted.
"After eight months, I don't know what else to do," she replied, reaching back to rub a tense spot on her neck. She had changed from her lab attire into a floral-patterned robe of some lightweight, silky material which accentuated the graceful lines of her body. "I persuaded Doctor Staavd to arrange the evacuation schedule so that the truly vital pieces of equipment
are going out last." She grinned conspiratorially. "He's been really inventive with his reasons. We're going to keep the portal going until the last minute and get all the data we can from it. The Doctor has even persuaded Picard to let us use Enterprise's lateral sensor array to help gather wide-spectrum cross-sections of the matrix."
Ross ran his gaze over the pile of datachips. "Have you got the scans of my 'accident' in there?"
Dubois folded her arms. "They're in the computer, as a matter of fact. Why do you ask?"
"I was hoping to borrow them. Look them over, maybe figure something out." He shrugged, trying his best to make it look casual. "It would give me something to do."
"I thought you said you didn't know anything about hyperspatial theory."
"I said I only know the basics."
"Captain Picard says we don't have time to try any tests."
"I don't have any time at all!" He hadn't meant to shout, but the desperation that had been building in him suddenly slipped its bonds. "People are dying right now. Hundreds of them, every minute. I have to get back. I have a duty-"
She silenced him with a small finger against his lips. "I know Glen. I know," she said softly, even though he could see she did not know. She didn't have the slightest idea. "To tell you the truth, I haven't stopped working on it," she admitted. "Commander LaForge and Commander Data have patched me into Enterprise's science computer, and I'm letting it sort through the data. I think I'm making progress. But even if we came up with something, how could we get back to the test site?"
Ross took a deep breath. "Let me take care of that. That's the sort of thing I do know a little bit about. Just let me know the minute you are ready."
"Computer: coffee, hazelnut, one cup hot."
The replicator chimed and came to life, and in a momentary flash, a cup of steaming coffee appeared on the assembler pad. Ross took the cup and breathed in the aroma. The smell was just slightly off, an almost perfect copy of one of nature's finest gifts. The stewards back on the Sara would either love this or hate it with a passion, Ross thought. Either way, it's a damn handy thing.
Rubbing at his eyes the commodore returned to his table. He had borrowed a couple of datapads from Doctor Dubois, and after an hour had learned to operate the stateroom's own computer. A schematic of a Star Fleet issue hand phaser rotated and spun across its screen.
All the information was out there, in the starship's computer. Once he had made up his mind to act, the rest had been frighteningly easy. And the conservatives back home complain that the US is too open a society, Ross thought. We're a bunch of fascists compared to the Federation.
In half an hour, Ross had downloaded a deck-to-deck schematic of the Enterprise, identifying every compartment and its function. Certain areas of the ship the computer labeled as restricted, which Ross found very informative. Next, a listing of personnel and stateroom assignments told him the size and composition of the ship's security detachment.
Manuals for training ship security officers were available in the library banks. After a couple of hours Ross had a pretty good idea of how the Enterprise handled its internal security. Locate an intruder with the ship's sensors. Isolate the intruder with force fields at each bulkhead frame, then send a security team into the area. On the surface, it seemed like a highly effective system, but it put a great deal more emphasis on button-pushing than on vigilance, common sense, and aggressiveness. Ross was profoundly grateful that the Enterprise didn't carry anything like a unit of gung-ho marines.
More than their technological power or the breadth of their culture, Ross couldn't get over how utterly trusting the people of the Federation seemed to be. They had built a rich civilization based on a vision of equality, peace, and freedom. The problem was that they believed in their ideals so much that they simply assumed everyone else would or should value the same
things. It made for a mix of sophistication and self-righteousness that disturbed him. They believed that they had conquered suffering, and fear, and hatred, but really all they had done was insulate themselves. Ross knew, even if they didn't, that the universe was still a dark and dangerous place.
He didn't want to, but if he had to, he would prove it to them.
Ross settled into his chair. "Computer," he said, addressing the replicator, "one Star Fleet hand phaser, type two."
The computer made a discordant chime. "That item is restricted."
Ross nodded thoughtfully. "Computer, one US Marine issue utility knife, circa 20th century Earth."
Again, the computer made a disapproving sound. "That item is restricted."
The commodore took a sip of his coffee. "Okay, computer, what are you authorized to fabricate?"
"This unit can replicate organic and semi-organic compounds between level one and level four in complexity."
Ross picked up a datapad and looked up what that meant. Foodstuffs, primarily, and clothing. Also glass and low-grade plastics, like his coffee cup.
For a while he sat, studying the phaser schematic on the screen. Then suddenly he straightened.
"Okay, computer, here's what I want--"
Doctor Beverly Crusher made one last pass over his prone form with the medical tricorder and checked the readings. She looked at him and smiled, her blue eyes twinkling. "That's it. You can sit up now."
Ross swung his legs over the side of the bed. He'd gone in to see the doctor under the pretense of his headaches, and she had insisted on running a full physical. After years of poking, prodding, and bleeding by the Navy, he had to admit that Crusher's 24th century method was much more pleasant. Any checkup where the doctor doesn't have to pull on a pair of latex gloves is a good one, he thought wryly. "What's the diagnosis?"
"I suspect you're suffering from starship-captain-itis," she said with a grin. "Too much stress, poor eating habits and not enough sleep. In fact, looking at your cerebral rhythms, I'm guessing you haven't slept in nearly seventy-two hours. Am I right?"
Ross gave her a guilty smile. "I hate to say it, but it's probably more like eighty hours. We were just beginning a major operation, back on the Sara, and I had a lot to do."
"If I had a piece of latinum for every time I heard that one..." she smiled fleetingly. "It appears you've had a tough career, Commodore."
His expression turned quizzical. "What do you mean?"
Crusher raised her tricorder. "Well, according to this, you have enough scar tissue for any ten men I've examined." Her tone was light, but her eyes were warm, even a little sad.
He had heard the same tone in Dubois' voice, and Picard's as well. It was as if they pitied him his military career, as if it were some sentence or affliction that he had to endure. Ross reined in his emotions, remembering that whatever her background, Beverly Crusher was a kind woman, and she spoke from honest compassion. He shrugged. "I've been in some rough places before, sure enough."
She reached out and lightly touched the scar on his neck, which ran below his collar and joined a webwork of similar scars along his right breast. Her touch was warm. "How did you get that one?"
Ross sighed. "I got a little too close to a grenade once." That had been back during the CC War, on a mission in the South China Sea. He still couldn't talk about that one, and the medals he had earned would likely never see the light of day. "That was on my last mission with the Teams. The powers-that-be thought it was time for me to change careers, try
something safer." He smiled. "So I learned to fly fighter planes."
"You know, I could remove those scars for you. It would just take a minute."
"After all the trouble I went through to get them? No ma'am. They remind me of where I've been, and how far I've come. And of people I've fought with. I owe it to them to remember."
"That's so sad," Crusher said softly. "It sounds like you live in such a harsh place."
"If the world wasn't a little sad, there wouldn't be any Delta Blues," he said. "You have to have a little bitter with the sweet, otherwise how are you going to appreciate the good things in life?"
Crusher frowned. "What's Delta Blues?"
"It's a style of music, all about heartache and soul, smoky rooms and liquor. It's about sadness. It's- hard to describe. If there was a guitar on this ship, I could try to show you."
"We may not have a guitar, but we do have holodecks," Crusher said cheerfully. "I'll bet we could work something out. I'm off shift at five. Why don't you meet me here?"
She was setting up a date. For a second it caught him off guard. The plan was for him to arrange something. He hoped she would see his surprise as just nervousness. "I think we've got a date, Doctor. I'll meet you here at five."
Doctor Crusher walked with him to the door. The head nurse, Yamaguchi, watched them with interest. Ross caught her give Crusher a conspiratorial grin as he left.
He felt like dirt as he walked back to his quarters. They had trained him to do far worse things in the SEALs than this, and he had little choice if he wanted to get back down to the test site.
Those sharks at Aerotech made backstabbing look easy. How they lived with themselves he would never know.
When he got back to his quarters, Dubois was waiting for him.
"I think I've got something," she said as they ducked inside his room. "The science computers here have eliminated a lot of the random noise in the matrix, and let me refine my equations. I should be ready to try a test this evening. Do have a way of getting back down to the planet?"
Ross nodded. "When do you think you'll be ready to move?"
Dubois folded her arms, her eyes narrowing in concentration. "Seven. I'll be ready by seven."
"Meet me outside transporter room twelve."
Doctor Crusher met him promptly at five, taking his arm with a smile and a jaunty wave to Nurse Yamaguchi. It turned out that she was a lover of music and dance, and the short trip down to the holodeck was full of lighthearted conversation.
They stood outside the door to the simulation room for fifteen minutes while Crusher translated his descriptions into the holodeck program. Her eyes twinkled with knowing mirth, like a loved one at Christmas who knows they've found the perfect present. Through it all, he forced himself to smile, even as he damned himself inside.
When the program was ready, they walked into a large, bare room, overlaid with an uninspiring blue gridwork. "Computer, begin program: Ross 1-A," Crusher said.
And for an hour, Glen Van Ross was in heaven, or the closest thing to it for a blues man.
They were in the back of a smoky cafe on Beale Street, in Memphis, Tennessee, a big wooden fan overhead turning slow and lazy in the humid summer air. The guitar in his hands didn't have a name or a pedigree, but it sounded all right, and he couldn't get any better company. Ross sat in a creaky wooden chair next to Muddy Waters, moving to the mournful guitar licks of Blind Lemon Jefferson as he sold his soul to the "Jack O' Diamonds". Next to Jefferson, a cigarette hanging from his lips, was the man the legends said did indeed sell his soul to play the blues. Robert Johnson, the man from the crossroads, jamming with a guitar tuned by the
Ross let the music stir up the muddy waters in his own heart, shaking up the sadness and the loneliness and letting it run through his fingertips. He made the guitar echo what he felt inside, and when his turn came, he sang the "Crossroad Blues" from down deep in his soul. And those legends of the blues he had summoned up to join him nodded their heads and added their own sounds to his. For an hour, they made even the angels cry. When the program ended, he could still taste the smoke in his throat, and rum on his lips, and never before had he felt so far from home.
Crusher's eyes were red when they left the holodeck, and she looked a little green. Ross felt a stab of regret. On impulse, he put his arm around her shoulder. "Are you going to be okay? The blues can make you cry sometimes, but I've never heard it make anyone sick. Did I sound that bad?"
He got the laugh he wanted, with a few hard coughs thrown in. "No, no, Glen, you were wonderful- it was just all the smoke. How do you sing like that?"
Now it was Ross' turn to laugh. "The rum helps, I suspect." He guided her down the corridor to the turbolift. Whatever the holodeck gave in place of alcohol evidently did nothing to impair his abilities, though part of him wished he could have gotten Crusher at least a little drunk. When the entered the turbolift, he set it for the deck his quarters were on.
She followed him to his quarters without comment, smiling warmly as he stepped aside to let her enter first. "Would you like a glass of water for your throat?" he asked, as he went to the dresser drawers beside the replicator.
"Oh, no, I'm fine," she said, a little breathlessly.
He opened the drawer and reached inside. "Okay then," he said, taking a deep breath and steeling himself for what was to come. "I need you to do me a favor, Beverly."
"I need you to take off your communicator pin and set it on the table."
He turned, holding the phaser down by his side, but letting her get a clear look at it. "Take off the communicator. You and I need to go somewhere."
Ross watched the gleam go out of her eyes and the smile die on her lips. The worst part of it all was how little she reacted. She gave no hint of how deep her hurt ran. "Okay," she said softly, and took the gold pin from her uniform. She set it on the table with exaggerated care.
He motioned for her to lead, and they went back out, down the hall to the turbolift. "Deck eight," he said.
"Glen, please don't do this." She had retreated to the far end of the lift, her arms tightly folded across her chest. Only know was the pain beginning to show in her eyes, like blood welling up from a deep, deep wound.
"If I had any other options, I would take them," Ross said. "Believe me. But I have to get back, and every minute I lose puts more lives in jeopardy. I may already be too late, but I can't just give up."
He stuck close to her as they stepped off the turbolift, concealing the small hand weapon behind her back. Passing crewmembers smiled politely, and went about their tasks.
They reached the transporter room without incident. Dubois was standing outside the door, a small equipment case hanging from her shoulder. Her eyes widened as she saw Doctor Crusher. "There's someone inside," she warned as they joined her.
"I was counting on it," Ross replied, "because I sure as hell don't know how to operate a transporter." He took Crusher gently by the arm and turned her around to face him. "Okay, Beverly. When we go in there I want you to tell the officer on duty that we are beaming down to the Prospero site to help with the evacuation. I need you to be as convincing as possible. If you can't get us down to the planet, I'll have to take things in my own hands, and some people might get hurt. Do you understand?"
Crusher nodded. "I know what to do," she said sadly.
He gestured, and they entered the transporter room. A young ensign looked up at them from his place behind the transporter console. "Hi, Doctor Crusher," he said. "What can I do for you?"
"We're beaming down to the Prospero site to help with the evacuation," Crusher said with surprising confidence.
The ensign frowned. "The bridge didn't notify me."
"We only just now talked the captain into it," Crusher replied. "He'll probably call you any second. Do you want us to wait until you hear something?"
"Oh, no, that's okay." The officer began setting coordinates into the transporter. "I'll tell the captain you've already beamed down when he calls in."
Suddenly the doors opened behind them. Commander Worf and two security guards rushed inside. All three had phasers resting in holsters on their hips. "Commodore Ross, the captain has made it clear that you are not authorized to return to the Prospero test site." Worf's voice rumbled ominously. "You and Doctor Dubois will come with me at once."
It had been a calculated risk. From what he had been able to gather about the ship's tactical officer, a former regular crewmember, Ross thought that Worf just might be paranoid enough to put some form of surveillance on him. Clearly, he had been right. Ross swiftly raised the phaser to Crusher's head. "I'm afraid that won't be possible, Commander. You and your men
remove your weapons and toss them to me."
Ross wasn't sure who looked more shocked, Worf or Doctor Dubois. "The ship's sensors said you were unarmed!" the Klingon cried.
"That's what you get for believing everything a machine tells you."
Worf was clearly torn, unwilling to surrender. "A phaser shot so close to the Doctor, even at the lowest setting, could kill her."
"Then I guess you'd best do as I say." Ross said levelly. "Come on Mister, make your decision. I'm not in the habit of waiting."
The Klingon bared his lips in a snarl- and pulled his phaser carefully from its holster. He tossed it over to Ross, and the security troops followed suit. "I had thought you to be a man of honor," he said contemptuously.
"Perhaps we have different definitions of the word. Now, if you and your men would put your backs to the bulkhead over there-"
That was when the sound began. It started as a low, scratchy hum, seeming to emanate from various points in the room. The Star Fleet officers looked curiously at their chests, and Ross realized that the sound was coming from their communicators.
The sound suddenly spiked, climbing to an ear-piercing screech. Arcs of electricity wreathed each of the men, making their bodies go rigid.
Then the communicators exploded in a shower of sparks and tiny shrapnel.
"Worf!" Crusher yelled as he and his men fell to the deck, their muscles convulsing. Ross made no effort to stop her as she rushed to the injured men. Clouds of thin smoke hung in the air, reeking of ozone and charred flesh. Then from somewhere overhead came a sound like a huge, muffled gong, reverberating through the ship's metal frame. It was a sound Ross had heard all too often since the war began. An internal explosion, deep inside the ship. The Enterprise was under attack.
Crusher's hands moved swiftly and surely, checking the wounded men's vital signs. "What is happening?" she cried, more to herself than anyone else.
"T-the communicators overloaded--" Doctor Dubois said, her eyes wide with horror. She covered her face with a trembling hand, as if to hide the sight of the burnt, quivering bodies.
As yet, no alarm claxons had sounded, urging the crew to action. Ross thought furiously, unconsciously falling back on hard-trained reflexes. He was a starship captain, first, last, and always.
If the communicators had overloaded, then it was reasonable to assume that the same thing had happened all over the ship. That included the bridge crew, engineering- anyone still on duty or just recently finished, like Doctor Crusher. At best, only a third of the crew- those on the late watch, now asleep in their bunks- were unaffected. They had to be called to action.
Ross saw a blank wallscreen near the transporter console. Computer interfaces on Star Fleet ships were virtual screens, he remembered, able to be configured to any shipboard function. "Doctor, help me configure this screen!"
"I've got to get these men to sickbay!" she shouted angrily. "They're dying!"
"There are intruders on the ship, Doctor, possibly Klingons. They may be between us and sickbay. We have got to put the ship on alert and organize a defense!" He put every ounce of presence he had behind his words. Without her help, they weren't getting anywhere.
"How do I know you aren't behind all of this?" Now the pain of his betrayal shone through, here expression anguished and uncertain.
Without a word, he tossed her his phaser.
Crusher caught the weapon with both hands and turned it on him without hesitation. Then her expression clouded. "This isn't real."
"It turns out that the stateroom replicators have no problem fabricating realistic plastic models," Ross said. "I was bluffing. Does that sound like someone who would then try to kill off the entire crew? I just want to get back home."
Crusher dropped the model and ran to the wallscreen. "Okay, what do you want?"
"Access to the ship's internal sensors, and a way to communicate with the crew. Then see if you can get the shields raised."
Crusher went to work. "You've been doing your homework, Commodore."
"You can cram in a lot of study time if you don't bother sleeping," Ross said grimly. "Every plebe learns that at the Academy."
In a couple of minutes Crusher had an internal sensor display running. Sure enough, there were Klingons on the bridge, in main engineering, and several small parties were moving throughout the ship. "Looks like about sixty of them," Ross said, frowning. "And they know their business. They've already rounded up most of the off-duty crew." A setup. This was a carefully-planned attack, he thought. And they must have had help from on board the Enterprise.
"What are we going to do?" Crusher asked. "There are casualties everywhere- it looks like there was an explosion in sickbay! I've got to get to work!"
"Standby to raise the shields."
Crusher frowned. "The moment they go up the Klingons on the bridge will see it and just lower them again."
"If they're able to. Doctor Dubois, I need your help-"
"No, Glen, I don't think so. Step away from the console."
He turned, and saw the phaser in Doctor Dubois' trembling hand.
"I don't want to hurt you Glen," she said, her voice cracking with emotion. "I didn't want to hurt anybody. They told me the overload would just stun the crew--"
"You told the Klingons about the project," he said, trying to gauge the distance between himself and the doctor. By accident or design, she was just far enough away that he couldn't reach her.
"Someone has to stop the Changelings! The Federation won't do it- the Jem'Hadar destroyed my uncle's ship, and they did nothing. The Klingons understand what has to be done!"
"All this time, you've been trying to stall things, so they would have time to get here before the Enterprise completed the evacuation." He edged a small step closer. "You weren't really trying to help me at all, were you?"
"That's not true!" she cried. "I want to help you. I care about you. You can stay here. The Klingons have promised me a fortune. We can make a new life together."
"No, Miriam, I don't think so." He edged another step closer.
"Don't move! I'll shoot!"
"Miriam, put the weapon down!"
"No!" she screamed, and pointed the phaser at his chest.
There was a flash of orange light and a high-pitched whine- and Miriam Dubois collapsed.
With an cry of pain, Commander Worf struggled to his feet. The tiny type one phaser seemed like a toy in his large hand. "A Klingon never relinquishes all of his weapons," he said through gritted teeth.
"Mr. Worf, I need your help here." Ross moved quickly to the transporter console. When he looked up, the Klingon was simply staring at him, rage and pain burning in his eyes. "I'm trying to save this ship, Commander! Are you with me or not?"
"So long as you realize that you're under arrest," Worf growled. He staggered to the console. "What do you want me to do?"
"Lock the transporter onto the Klingons currently on the bridge. Doctor Crusher, are you ready with the shields?"
"Wait- yes, I'm ready."
Worf fed instructions into the console. "I have transporter lock."
Ross nodded. "Raise shields."
Crusher touched several buttons. "Shields up- but we can't transport anything while they are-"
Ross cut her off with a raised finger. "The transporters can't send anyone beyond the ship with the shields up. Nothing says we can't dematerialize things. Mr. Worf, begin transport."
"Energizing." Worf worked the controls. "The bridge is now clear. Where shall I put them?"
Ross shrugged. "You have a brig, don't you?"
"The brig=92s force fields must be activated from security control."
"Well, at least something on this ship makes sense." Ross frowned. "Okay. Dr. Crusher, lock off one of the holodeck rooms. Put the prisoners in there, Mr. Worf- stark naked. I don't know where you hid that other phaser, and I don't want to take any chances with these other Klingons."
"A wise precaution," Worf muttered. Ross thought he caught a ghost of a smile from the tactical officer.
The next target was engineering. Minutes afterward the last of the Klingon patrols materialized on the holodeck.
Ross breathed a sigh of relief. "Okay, Dr. Crusher, let's get this crew in gear. Sound red alert. Whoever put those boarders on the Enterprise is still out there. Mr. Worf, can you walk?"
"Of course," the Klingon said.
"Then we had better get to the bridge and see what we've got to work with."
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