Life on Federation Starship Voyager after a transporter accident.
|“Emergency transport. Lock onto – the thing in front of me and transport it to sick bay.” Chakotay sat back on his heels as the thing that had once been his geologist dematerialized with the transporter beam.
“Commander, what did I transport to sick bay?”
“It used to be Sky Logan. I don’t know what she is now. Send a shuttle down for the rest of us, I don’t want a repeat.”
Sky’s eyes snapped open. Several blinks later, she recognized the familiar surroundings of the sick bay. She dropped her focus from the metal ceiling vaults to the profile of the doctor who quietly hummed as he reviewed the details on the data screen.
Everything itched. But this hand that moved to ease the annoyance had feathers sticking out of the skin and blistered with pustules that begged to be gouged to release the festering fluid. The reality set in as she twisted the hand and watched it move to her bidding. Her hand had turned into a mottled mass of flesh with ragged feathered splotches.
The doctor empathized with her as he had her strapped in and administered the hypo spray, “There was a transporter accident. I have to put you back under anesthetic. I’m sorry.”
“Please no. I hear a voice in my head! There’s a massive lump in my back! It hurts! Look at these! What’s going on?” She hated pity. And that’s what she saw in the doctor’s eyes before blackness took over quieting the rising panic.
The doctor interrupted his data input long enough to greet the visitor to sick bay. "Hello, Captain."
"She’s the first to survive a transporter malfunction of this nature. Most arrive in an unrecognizable ..."
"I’m aware of that. What are her chances of recovery?"
"Back to her human self? None that I’m aware of. Some of her cells are fused at the molecular level and integrated with another species. Half of her original DNA is missing which means I can’t simply tag her cells for reintegration. She’s now reporting the presence of another entity, probably avian by the look of it, in her consciousness. She’s now a created life form. Any training or preferences will surface over time, as will the training and preferences of the other entity."
“Other entity? Not a complete fusion?”
“No. As they say, the two will either get along or kill each other.”
"Understood. Present your report at the next executive staff meeting."
Time passed so slowly. Movements that were once fluid and agile were now clumsy. The doctor’s words echoed through her brain becoming her mantra, she and Gaia would get along or die trying. For whatever reason the computer couldn’t interpret Gaia, the name Sky gave to the avian counterpart of the transporter merge. Yet Sky could at least understand Gaia’s wishes. Accommodations were granted most of the time between the two of them; though not between they and curiosity seekers in the crew or with an overly attentive doctor.
Once again, Sky ignored the announcement of a guest requesting entrance. For three years she’d rarely had visitors. Once she became a transporter accident freak, a steady stream of visitors offering condolences, pity, everything else she despised passed through.
She would cope with what happened; but she didn’t need or want visitors. To that end, she removed all creature comforts. The imbedded items like the padded seats remained, but nothing else offered a visitor any welcome. She centered her perch in front of the door to be the first thing visitors encountered. If they wanted in, they had to walk around it.
The locked door slid open to let the doctor stroll in. “You missed your appointment. We will conduct the exam here or in sick bay. What’s your pleasure?”
“Here. Those bio beds are terrible.” Sky glared at him. “I think my wings are broken.”
“Where do I set up?”
Sky gestured to her perch. It wasn’t pretty, but it sufficed. She straddled the seat, adjusting her knees into the padded stirrups.
The doctor surveyed her quarters.
“It’s called minimalist, Doctor.”
“It’s called boring. Why are all your mirrors and portholes covered?”
“The mirrors are permanently attached and blackness of space leaves a ghost reflection. I can’t stand to look at myself. Are you happy now?”
“My feelings are irrelevant. Where are your family pictures?”
“I don’t want the reminders. Besides, why should you care?”
“I need to determine your state of mind. Next we’ll determine the state of your physical health. Is that perch comfortable?”
“It's better than chairs with backs and no knee rests. I have to stand all the time. There are no accommodations.”
“Have you made those requests to the procurement officer.”
“Gee, wow, wish I’d thought of that. Ever work with Lieutenant Carey? Narcissistic cretin that he is! It’s been three weeks, and it’s still on back order. So says he! The idiot liar. Claims the parts are rationed. That’s why I had to scavenge these parts for my perch.”
The doctor pulled his bio scanner from its pouch. Although rarely at a loss for words, he chose his carefully this time. “I should have guessed.”
“He’s like that with you, too?”
“Especially with me. I dare say you’re treated better than your crewmates.”
“He treats me like I’m a freak with no brain.”
“He treats everyone like brain-addled students and he their superior. And you’re not a freak, just reconstructed. I’ll put in a medical request for a stable perch.” The doctor ran the bio scanner over her physique with a rare grace of efficient movement.
“Your wings are fine. The body sores are healing well with the daily sonic showers. Your feathers and plumage will continue to fill in and we can start the facial reconstruction whenever you’re ready. Have you decided on a look?”
“Yes. I want my human body back.”
“That’s not possible. The avian species cell fusion is permanent. You will always be half human-half avian.”
“Can I get rid of these feathers?”
“You could, but it’s not advisable or reversible. You’ll need the feathers if you ever want to learn to fly. You’ll be better served coping with your circumstances. You can start by taking those coverings down.”
“There are enough reflective surfaces in the corridors and at my work station that remind me of the consequences of not following orders.”
“Yes, well . . . what do you think about this?” Sky gazed at the picture on the doctor’s image pad. “I can make your face human, give it a heart shape so your hair looks like a feathered headdress.”
Sky’s plumage flashed brilliant blue as her mood shifted from apathy to curiosity. “I like it.” The feathers framing her face burst into brilliant gold. The doctor made a mental note to set those feathers to gold and let her body chemistry dictate the colors for her plumage. She’d appreciate his aesthetic choices later. “You shouldn’t be ashamed of your appearance. You’ll be fine.”
“Flipped out, insecure, neurotic, emotional. FINE. That’s me.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it!“
Sky dropped her head onto the headrest and waved the doctor off as she hugged the trunk of her perch. Her wings drooped. She wouldn’t endure another departing visitor’s pitying look.
And so comprised the days, hours, minutes, moments of her existence for the past four months. If she had been less preoccupied with self-pity, she would have noticed the internal transformations taking place before it was too late.
The soft wetness filtered through, waking Sky from another fitful dream state. She winced as tears traced down her face. “Computer, send the full gear biohazard team to my quarters to clean up the blood.”
Sky dismounted her perch, careful not to touch any other surfaces. Sky had to relieve the pain in her hands and usually the tedious routine of immersing her hands in the salted water and then elongating the tendons in her fingers to their full length worked. She repeated this as long as it took for her joints to adjust to the new growth. The blood flow meant the channels in her bones for the retractable talons were complete and the spurs were breaking through the skin on her digits. While in mid-process of the water bath, she heard the familiar gentle chide, “Please state the nature of your medical emergency.”
“I’m okay, doctor.”
“Let me be the doctor.” His lips compressed into a straight line as he quickly ran the medical scanner over her wet hands. “Quit fidgeting. When did the talon growth begin and why didn’t it show up on previous medical scans?”
The doctor watched Sky consult Gaia by tilting her head down and to the side. As her feathers burst into brilliant yellow, and she tipped her right foot on the side, he knew the next words would be a lie, “I don’t know.”
“You can do better than that. Enter.”
The doctor locked eyes with Sky, in silent agreement to pause the conversation as the biohazard team quickly cleaned up the blue blood on the perch.
After the biohazard team left, the doctor confronted Sky, “What did Gaia say?”
“You telegraph your conversations with Gaia. Right now, I’d say you’re lying.”
The doctor waited patiently as Sky dipped her head again. He enjoyed watching the plumage rage from blue to green to pink.
When Sky’s shoulders drooped and her feathers returned to white, he knew he would get the truth, “Gaia’s forcing me to grow the talons. She insists that she needs them. I think they contain venom. I feel safer with them, but then again --”
“If you won’t answer my question, at least give me a few drops of the venom. ”
“Maybe there’s a way to inoculate the crew against accidental exposure.”
“I don’t know….”
“We can do this voluntarily, or I can put you in quarantine while I run biohazard tests to tell me what I’m dealing with.”
“She won’t like that.”
“I understand.” He slapped his com badge, “Doctor to Security. Report to Ensign Sky Gaia’s quarters.” He caught Sky as her body went slack. “You’ll thank me later. Or not. It depends on how ornery Gaia will be when she awakens.”
“What did you do?” Gaia couldn’t fight off the need for sleep.
“Anesthetic released when I hit my comm badge. You will be out of commission long enough for security to get you to quarantine. If forced, you will be put in stasis until the tests are complete.”
The doctor rolled his eyes when Gaia’s hissed her displeasure as her eyes rolled back into submissive sleep. He had to wait another five minutes for the feathers to fade from black to white, assuring Sky Gaia’s unconsciousness when transferring her from her quarters to the isolation unit in sick bay.
No one could tolerate this security duty. Ensign Kim drew his third duty assignment in quarantine, convinced that someone manipulated the duty roster. He rolled into sick bay just in time to get an unintelligible mumbled report from Lieutenant Carey as he pushed past Kim. That bird was still hissing and squawking her displeasure at being caged. “Computer, activate EMH.”
“Please state the nature of your medical emergency.”
“Can’t you hear that?”
“My ears are operating within normal parameters.”
“That’s not what I meant. What’s wrong with her? She won’t stop squawking!”
“She wants out of quarantine.”
“I don’t understand why the universal translator isn’t working.”
“What makes you think it’s not?”
“She won’t shut up!”
“I deactivated it.”
“You might as well plant her in the Tower of Babel after the babel. You can laugh, that was clever.”
“Whatever. Wait. What do you mean?”
The doctor paused his bioscans of Sky Gaia to confess, “I deactivated the translator to make her angry and producing venom. She can’t understand or communicate.”
“Then you should have enough by now! Turn it on!”
“I tried three duty shifts ago. The computer can only translate her obscenities. I had to turn if off again. If she calms down, I will turn it on again.”
“Great! No one can take it. Give me a hypo spray, I’ll sedate her myself!”
“Never mind. You! Shut up!”
“Kiyiyiyi!” Gaia’s plumage shifted in shades of black.
The doctor tried again, “You’ll ruin the vocal cords if you keep that up.”
Her voice cracked, “Kiyi?”
“Quit it. Let me speak to --”
Harry resisted his urge to laugh, “That’s probably a no.”
“Ensign, your brilliance is surpassed only by your grasp of the obvious.”
“Here’s another obvious. Sedate her. That’s an order.”
“I outrank you. Excuse me.”
“I apologize but I needed to speak to --”
With that, she slipped to the floor as if enveloped by several gentle strong hands easing her down. The doctor gathered the last bit of venom dripping from her talons. The litmus strips showed that the serum neutralized the venom. The next phase would be to determine how long the inoculation would last.
Time moved at a maddening pace for Sky. Sometimes she enjoyed Gaia’s company, other times she longed for some private thoughts or actions. Only one thing was certain in this battle for lead time, the two entities had bonded and could anticipate the other’s needs or demands. The doctor’s prediction manifested, they chose to get along. The other crew were coming into alignment as well. Everything would turn out okay if Commander Chakotay would just leave it be. But the Commander had his orders and his responsibilities, and they didn’t match Sky Gaia’s needs. “Captain, she hasn't logged any transporter time since the accident.”
“Has the doctor cleared her for transporter related duties?”
“Have you run a Level Five diagnostic?”
“Every duty shift since the accident.”
“For five months?
“Yes, Captain. Every crew member except Sky and the Doctor have logged transporter time.”
“Has she filed a variance request?”
“Well, it’s your assignment. Use the people you need.”
“Thank you.” The Commander tapped his comm badge to signal the crewman.
“Report to the Ready Room.”
“Just a second.”
He recognized the background noises. “What are you doing that needs a computer scan?”
“I’m – ah – I’minSickBay.”
He slapped his comm badge breaking off communication with his recalcitrant crewman, “Computer, locate Sky.”
The metallic recording informed, “She’s in her quarters.”
Military precision took over. Each step could be measured at a 24 inch gait, each breath controlled to support 72 heartbeats per minute, eyes straight ahead, ignoring all lesser ranks along the way.
“Computer, security override Chakotay Pi Alpha 1.”
The hybrid creature was mounted on her perch, head bowed, wings tucked in close, grasping the trunk of the structure. “Hello, Commander.”
“Never disobey my direct orders! Report to the Ready Room! Now!”
“I can’t do that.”
“I – I – I just can’t.”
“You can do better than that.”
“I don’t feel well. Something’s wrong.”
“You’ve been cleared for away missions. Try again.”
“How can that be?”
“The doctor cleared you. We need you on this mission. Let’s move it.”
“What’s the other option?”
“There’s no other option. You report for duty or you report to the brig.”
“For how long?”
“How much time in the brig?”
He took a long stroll around the perch noting the new color, ice blue and silver gray. “Dismount.”
She unclenched her fingers to push off the trunk, then, rose in slow deliberate motion elongating her frame to her full six foot stature bringing her stormy eyes to the same level as his, demanding. “Security to my quarters.”
“Belay that order. Crewman, you don’t have to do this. It will be an easy mission. Just transport to the surface, collect samples, transport --”
“Crewman, you’re playing a game you can’t win.”
Her feathers told their own tale as they danced between ice blue and silver. “C-c-c-computer. Security t-t-t- to m-m-m-my q-q-q-q-quarters.”
“The brig is nothing like quarantine. You can’t deal with that other voice in your head for very long. In the brig, she will go crazy. This away mission will seem like a vacation in comparison.”
“Enter! I need an escort to the brig.”
Chakotay stood back as Security escorted Sky Gaia down the corridor. In his turn, he strode with purposed steps back to the Ready Room to report to Captain Janeway.
“Permission to do a forced transport of Sky Gaia to the surface.”
“That’s a rather strange request. What happened?”
“Sky opted for a tour in the brig rather than do her duty.”
“I can’t put crew in the brig for each infraction.”
Chakotay tensed to attention, picked the spot on the wall to the upper right of the Captain’s head, “Aye, Captain.”
“Chakotay, I’m not choosing sides.”
Lips pursed tightly together, a stern countenance replacing his usual lilting cadence with her, “Aye, Captain.”
Captain Janeway rubbed her furrowed brow, then let her hand trail to cradle her chin. “What would you have me do? Court martial her?” Chakotay’s eyes were still glued to the spot on the wall. “Chakotay, you can’t be serious.”
“Permission to speak freely.”
“You always have.”
“My grandfather taught me of the Wind Horse. Wind Horse was the best of all the Indian ponies. He felt no fear, and there was not one that would harm him. If an Indian needed help, Wind Horse was there to care for and to carry the Indian.
One day, Wind Horse answered the call for help from an Indian Boy caught in a trap meant for Bear, and would soon go to the Hunting Grounds. Wind Horse knew that if he stayed with the Indian child, he would share the fate of the rider, for a bond would be forged that could not be broken.
As they traveled, Wind Horse allowed the bond to form with the boy. He also knew that it would be his last journey. He had a new world to explore and he had a friend to explore it with.”
“Okay? How does Sky’s bonding affect the crew?”
“I’m not sure. I just know we went from one person making poor decisions to two-in-one double the trouble. This will be their last cruise period if we don’t do something.”