Deck Eleven

Arriving outside of the auxiliary holodeck, Malik is relieved that the Chief of Security has not yet arrived. It always gave a better impression if the crewmembers were in place first. He was interested to see a medical team on the scene; seemed like there may be casualties involved. Malik checked his phaser quickly, ensuring everything was reading correctly and that it was set to stun. Knowing nothing about the current situation, he determined that the wisest course was to await orders and to remain alert.

With a low, soft shush the turbolift doors close behind Kahallan, stealing him away from the bridge... alone then, after the space of a heartbeat.

"Deck eleven..."

The command is quietly breathed, a chuff of breath, slower and perhaps even softer than his usual. As the lift begins its descent, the security chief leans back against the wall, crossing his arms, closing his eyes.

"...stupid Ki'allin' stupid. Ye stopped thinking didn't ye..."

He takes one long breath, and holds it, leaning his head back until it rests against the curved metal bulkhead.

"...aye Kat, I forgot h'ag'in, didn't I, never forget ti think, that's whit ye h'alwiys sai..."

But Deck eleven is not far from the bridge, not far at all. A handful of breaths and he is there. As the lift's motors slow, betrayed by their telltale whine, Kahallan bites his lip and strengthens his stance. Thus, by the time the doors whoosh swiftly open, of what was spoken in the elevator there is no sign.

Safely bottled away, closed tight.

Sure and sharp, clipped and disciplined, his pace quickly takes him down the curving corridor. Taut, he weaves his way around the crew, like a shark or barracuda amidst a school of silver fish. Without a word he pushes forward, until he reaches the security field.

As the chief of security arrives on Deck 11, he finds that the power has been shut down and there is something of a black out in the grid. No computer systems are up and running; security fields are in place as specified. A quick survey shows the medical team waiting patiently and trying to make scans of the area ahead, as are a small armed team of security officers. One of them appears to be a Cardassian although there's an earring that looks distinctly Bajoran.

There Kahallan stops, a few steps back from the security field, eyes narrowed, arms crossed. His stance draws the patch covered field jacket tight, as he listens to the nervous doctor. For most, the bright patches are a cacophony of color, symbolizing more than a few starships, shuttles and Federation starbases. But as his even gaze measures the four security officers, one specific patch might be a little more familiar... at least to one of the officers.

It shows the white silhouette of a New Orleans class starship, on a black field, surrounded by a spray of red, white and blue stars. The name and commission number run around the perimeter: NCC-65530 USS Thomas Paine.

A Federation starship quite infamous on the Cardassian-Bajoran border...

When Kahallan arrives, Malik could feel his presence before he saw him. His eyes quickly flick over his Commander, noting details for future reference. His eyes pause momentarily on the patch of the Thomas Paine and he swallows, firmly pushing all memories away. This was not the time or place.

"I'm picking up two life signs on holodeck two," reports a somewhat nervous medical type who identifies herself as Doctor Sadler. "One of them is stable other than tachycardia and elevated blood pressure indicating that she's probably under high stress. But the other one is down. Looks like she may be bleeding and have internal injuries from these scans, but I'll have to get closer to make a complete survey. I don't have enough for a transporter lock, though."

Malik listens attentively while the Doctor gives her report. Two life signs... were they expecting more or less? Both female but no names given, likely then that Kahallan knows who they are, very likely crew. What had caused these injuries? Had some other crewmember gone berserk? Was there someone dead in there? Pushing the thoughts aside, he waited for his orders.

"Thank you, Doctor Sadler." His words were softly spoken.

"Listen up, folks..." Immediately to the point, without pause or hesitation, Kahallan's voice doesn't raise or change in any way from its gentle inflection.

"The situation is simple. We have our chief engineer, chief science officer and a telepathic alien all together in the holodeck suite. Their last action was an attempt to break into the ship's computer systems.

"It is isolate and incapacitate time, folks. If they can't think, my guess is the alien has less to grab a hold of. So far, it only seems to affect those with telepathic tendencies... let me know right now if anyone here has had a sudden uncharacteristically bad feeling about leaving the wormhole area very, very fast..."

Now there's a pause, short and simple, coolly waiting. And when the waiting was done, a simple, "Good...”

As the Chief of Security starts his brief, Malik's mind is assessing what he hears. Chief of Engineering – and the Chief Science Officer! His eyes widen slightly. That would be Lieutenant Commander O'Shaughnessy and Lieutenant... It would come to him. And a telepathic alien... but the doctor said two life forms. On the question of having strange feelings, Malik murmurs "No sir," to the inquiry.

The darkness was comforting; the lack of gravity was not. With knees draw tightly to her chest, one arm wrapped around them and the other across her eyes – her uniform sleeve soaking up the tears that refused to stop – Moira floated. Her back hurt, but it would probably hurt more in full gravity. The bleeding on her forehead had stopped... at least she thought so. Her shoulder hurt... badly. But none of that mattered as her mind searched for her Imzadi. In the place where Emerald had been, there was... nothing. Like a missing tooth, it felt wrong and Moira worried at the spot. From somewhere nearby, she could hear Emerald's ragged breathing, but her Imzadi wasn't there. She wasn't dead, Moira would have known if she was. So she began reaching out... searching... and stopped.

She could feel the security and medical teams assembling outside the holodeck doors. She would have ignored them, except... except Kahallan was one of them. She hesitated... Kahallan. In her mind, Moira looked back and forth, back and forth between the spot where Emerald should be and where Kahallan was, outside the door. Her mind moved outward, seeking... then back again. It was the wolfish grin that held her... and the name that sounded like music. Did she even know his given name? Oh, yes... Donovan. Again, Moira looked outward, straining, reaching... then back.

Ye're holdin' me here, Kahallan... why? Looking outward... I've got te find her. She's... lost. But he didn't answer, because he couldn't hear her.

"CPO Danalla..." Kahallan indicates the fiery chief petty officer. "Your records say you have experience with this sort of thing, so you watch our backs. We start acting strange, stop us, aye?

"Davis and Dhrule, Doctor Sadler is your responsibility. You are coming with us, are you not, Doctor?

"That leaves me and you at point, Mister Malik. I have no idea what we will find on the other side of that door, so we are going to have to think smart and think fast and not forget to think. O'Shaughnessy’s and Drake's welfare comes first... and I believe that means down and sedated fast, is that correct Doctor? Set your phasers down to stun, don't be trigger happy but don't be afraid to use them..."

Kahallan starts issuing his orders and Malik listens carefully. When he is addressed as Mister Malik he automatically but quietly corrects it. "Mister Johlann, sir, Malik is my first name..." then wonders whether he'd have been better off keeping quiet, correcting a senior officer publicly. "Sorry sir," he added quietly, staring straight ahead, expression neutral. As the orders continue, Malik thinks. Ah yes, Drake, Lieutenant Drake. He draws his phaser, not checking the setting as he had already done so, but so that his commander knew he had, he confirmed "Stun, sir."

With a smooth sharp motion, Kahallan reaches for the corridor panel which controls the cross corridor security field.

And stops.

With the slightest frown Kahallan turns to Malik.

"If you would, Mister Malik... The computer is not listening to me at the moment. And raise them back once we are through."

The Commander's request concerned him. Why wasn't the Commander able to disable the security fields himself? All sorts of possibilities crossed his mind and he glanced suspiciously at Kahallan. Not wanting to waste time but needing to satisfy himself that everything was in order, he found himself apologizing for a second time. Quietly muttering, "Sorry sir," then raised his voice to normal levels. "Computer, this is Ensign Johlann, please confirm the presence and active command status of Lieutenant Commander Kahallan and on that confirmation disable the corridor security field at block 12b."

Arms still crossed, still patient, waiting for Operations’ response, the Security Chief gives Malik a slow sidelong glance.

"Mister Johlann, think..."

There is a lean air to Kahallan. The heavy field jacket hangs a bit loose on his lanky balanced frame, and his chiseled features are framed in a rough mane of thick sienna hair. His cool brown eyes are sharp, as they catch Malik's gaze.

"Lieutenant Commander Kahallan's security codes have been deactivated by Lieutenant Sullivan, Operations Officer," replied the computer in its usual cool tone.

"...think. We are dealing with an unknown telepathic entity..."

There is a feral air to the young officer's stance. And yet his voice is a jarring contrast to his predatory bearing... soft, quiet and even, and never above conversational tones.

"Of course all of us who have command level access have had our clearances disabled until this is over. It would be a good idea to disable the team’s clearances once we get on the other side.

"What does your scan show, Mister Johlann?"

Malik takes a deep breath, "Yes sir," accepting the admonishment. "Scan shows that the area extending ten meters in from the field has no gravity or power, sir."

He pauses, mentally kicking himself for volunteering anything. What had happened to his desire for a low profile? but going ahead anyway. "I think that a lack of gravity and no light is likely to be of more hindrance to ourselves, sir, than to a telepathic entity. Permission to restore them, both on a gradual basis to minimize any possible reaction, to the corridor containment field and the auxiliary holodeck, sir."

After they have passed through, Malik says, "Computer, reactive corridor security field at block 12b." Without looking at his commander, Malik stands beside him ready to enter the auxiliary holodeck.

Doctor Sadler has a pocket phaser which she palms in one hand while she holds a medical tricorder in the other hand. The rest of her team is unarmed and she orders them back one section to allow for the second security field to be dropped.

"Operations, this is Kahallan. Last word on conditions inside the holodeck?”

"No power except for life support," was the response from the Operations Manager. "We are only getting two life signs in there. There are no readings to indicate that anything similar to the phenomenon outside of the ship is in there and no intruder alerts, sir."

"And can you return power to the doors?"

"I think that can be arranged, sir." There was a pause. "The doors have power, sir." And there was another pause. "Would you like gravity restored, sir?"

"Thank you, Mister Sullivan. Gravity will help. Bring it up slow, we do not want to bounce O'Shaughnessy and Drake off the floor..."

"Gravity restored in one minute, sir!"

Kahallan nods. "That will be fine, one minute then..."

Taking a half step forward, Kahallan leans against the bulkhead, one hand reaching up to the ceiling, resting, poised, impatient for the passing of sixteen short seconds.

Rat-a-tap-tap-snap. His fingers drum against the corridor wall.

"Good thought, Mister Johlann, but Ops has been running the show since the first alarm went up. But it was the right move..."

Thirty seconds. Half way there, half a gee. Without a pause, Kahallan nods to Malik, and then looks back over his shoulder toward the others.

"You heard Ops. Keep sharp. The beastie might just be playing possum.

"Time to move, folks. Follow my lead.

"Mister Johlann, I want to be through those doors as we hit one gee."

Moving, moving down the hall, to the holodeck and O'Shaughnessy and Drake...

"Confirmed, sir," Malik informs his Chief as they enter the hallway. "Scan still shows only two life energy readings." Malik moves rapidly to keep pace with Kahallan.

He wonders what they might find and hopes that the two senior crew members inside are both still alive and not badly hurt. Standing on the left of the Security Chief, he prepares to cover that side first, natural for a left hander.

Centering his attention, creating a focus deep within himself using a Bajoran meditation routine, Malik stands calmly at the door, phaser at the ready, waiting for the gravity to stabilize and the doors to open.

A quick glance shows him where the door controls are and he prepares to use them if Kahallan doesn't have it covered. He watches the figures change.

Imperceptible at first, then growing stronger... yes, the gravity was coming back. Moira braced herself, not knowing where she was in the darkness in relationship to the floor. She discovered that she had not floated far from the floor, and as gravity increased she began her cautious trek toward Emerald. Emerald actually hadn't been far. It was difficult to determine in the dark how bad Em's injuries were, but judging by how thoroughly Padraig had been beaten by the alien, Moira didn't think Emerald had fared any better... especially since she wasn't... here. Moira sat beside Emerald, knees up with her arms wrapped around them. She rested her head on her knees. Tired... she was so tired.

glass – and brown wine...
thick – like blood...
rich – like honey and blood...
hey – don't you find that funny?
i mean, it’s supposed to be blood...
what are you staring at?
haven't you ever seen an accident before?

Of course there was no answer, of course he couldn't hear, the empty bulkheads, hull metal gray, twisted and burned, charcoal black, no one could hear though that shattered landscape, no one at all, a chaos of camouflage jagged patterns of gray upon gray, shadow upon shadow, each rivet ground in so hard, scented with the coppery taste of blood, close blood, so sure, so fierce, strong, aggressive, defiant, unbroken wild...



Brightness like a hidden star, like a will-o-wisp, like the fey flight of a bluebell, wrapped in golden hair, Ekaterina, a song, a dream, dancing amidst the ruined girders, the deadly serpent cables, just out of reach, a whisper, holding back the empty, an anchor, a place to stand...

Broken walls, forced together, lashed with discipline, sure and sharp and clipped... a scavenged fortress, that last forgotten stand against the haunting shadow.


The hunting shadow...

And if this shadow would have a name, it would be an old one, very old, lost amidst the twists of time, not something known...

A name not quantified, not one of the rational, but a name felt, like a cruel winter's forget me not kiss.


Her cry is an echo, like the rush of the slow surf upon stone, forever and ever and always, at the very edge of hearing, like the sound of one’s own heart.

Her cry is something she has never heard, and yet is strikes deep, like the talons of a black crow, it is something never wished to hear, slicing like a dagger of ice through an engineer's heart.

Her cry is woven tight about the wolf's fierce soul.

Her cry is of a starship dying.

Somewhere far away.


In the Dark.

And then... something... terrible, horrifying, a sharp, abiding trauma, the stench of death. Moira gasped, her head jerking up. Was it the alien?? No... no... a vision, a golden specter, one that Moira thought she recognized. But from where? Her brows furrowed, concentrating... where? Recently... yes. Then her head snaps toward the door. She knows where the door is, yes indeed. And who is on the other side of the door. That's where it was coming from... because she saw that golden girl before... only a few days ago... in a staff meeting.

Why is it I'm readin' ye so clearly now, I wonder? Kin ye tell me that, Kahallan?

Moira sat beside her lover – silent, patient, somewhat confused – and stared at the door. She really wanted to ask him that question...

"Gravity restored. Opening containment field," says Sullivan over the comm link.

With a slight sizzling sound, the containment field rises. The hallway is still dark ahead of them but scans reveal that gravity has been restored. Only the two life signs remain and motion detectors show only the two. Nothing else seems to be moving directly ahead of the party.

The field goes down.

And Kahallan is already moving. The darkness doesn't slow the security chief down; in fact, he seems more comfortable quickly stalking through the corridor shadows. Fast, sure and silent and in a smooth graceful movement Kahallan has his phaser out, thumbing to the proper setting, red and green telltales like stars in the darkened hall.

His arm strikes out, as he spares a quick glance over his shoulder, to confirm that both security and the doctor are at his heels. To the side of the door Kahallan stands, his head snapping back around, his attention once again at the door, focused just beyond the door, by the time his fingers tap out the opening command.

Over the comm, just before the door leaves part.

"Lights, Mister Sullivan. Bring them up slow..."

Then Kahallan, quiet like a wolf, at home in the dark, carefully pads inside...

To see what he may find.

Darkness. Normally, Moira enjoyed darkness... its closeness is conducive to relaxation and meditation; there are no distractions as the images of her art form in her mind. But today... today the darkness feels oppressive, slightly menacing. Are her forebodings merely a remnant of the alien's presence? Is the alien – somehow – still there? Or is it Kahallan? There is something about him and darkness... and worse.

The holodeck doors slid open, noticeable only as a small chuff of sound, for the corridor beyond them was as dark as the holodeck itself. Not that it mattered. Moira could sense him as he moved through the doorway. She'd have to wonder later why she was suddenly so much more receptive... and why Kahallan? Perhaps... no, she had other things to worry about before she could begin to think about that.

"I hope ye've brought a doctor with ye, Kahallan," she said, her voice betraying her weariness, and despite that, his name crossed her lips as though it were a song, or perhaps a prayer. "Emerald's hurt... badly."

She could see his face in her mind... those brown eyes full of suspicion. As an officer, she could understand and appreciate that suspicion; after all, he was Chief of Security. It hurt nonetheless. No matter that his suspicion was focused on an unseen alien. No matter that she could plainly feel his concern for her and Emerald, his protectiveness. It hurt. Everything seemed to hurt just now.

Resting her head against her knees, she dared to relax... ever so slightly. She was so tired. The lights came up – slowly. The medical and security teams were doing whatever it was they did in these sorts of situations... generally acting wary, from what Moira could feel. With a mental shrug, she focused her attention on Emerald. Imzadi?

Half a breath, half a step, and then he was moving.


A step to the side to let the fleet footed doctor past. Narrowed eyes followed Sadler, very sharp, very close, making sure she knew her way around a broken body. His breath exhaled slowly, almost a growl, not happy at all at the way the doctor's dedication moved her between Kahallan and Drake's still form.

But, in the end, intelligence finally out fights instinct.

And by then he has crossed the empty space between the door and his two crewmates, and in a smooth predatory motion he is down, balanced in a low crouch, upon the balls of his feet. Somewhere between the door and Moira the phaser was holstered. Now it is nowhere to be seen.

A long look, close and intense, sharp brown eyes unreadable, then just deep... trusting his instincts.

Turning from Moira, Kahallan nods to Doctor Sadler, acknowledging her request for transport. It is just a shift of his head, to look up at Johlann Malik.

"Mister Johlann. Go with them. Watch over Lieutenant Drake. I do not want to hear of anything bad happening to her, aye? Remember, that boojum's still loose." His words were soft, yet strong.

"I am..." He paused. His words were obviously spoken for Moira, from close next to her, Kahallan's head level with hers. But he doesn't look at her.

"I am sorry I didn't get here quicker. My fault."

He watches the shimmering stars of the emergency transporter beam steal his crewmates away, bound for sickbay. And when they are gone, he just looks ahead.

"But Lieutenant Drake, she is in good hands, and between Doctor Sadler and Mister Johlann, she's got good folks looking over her..."

For just a moment, his eyes dart, to the medical technician left behind.

"...the corpsman is probably going to give you something. Which means you probably will be getting a little fuzzy, Commander O'Shaughnessy..." Quiet, truthfully concerned. The obligatory report to the bridge can wait.

"Aside tha' obvious...

"You okay, lass?"

The wolf was crouched beside her, his brown eyes (wolves don't have brown eyes, do they? came an idle thought) not willing to meet her green ones. The whine of the transporter scratched her nerves, and she blinked. It was Kahallan beside her, and his words sunk in as Emerald disappeared.

"Nae yer fault, Duffy." (She barely registers the surprise at knowing that name... a name she should not know.) "An' there's naught ye could hae done." A hand reaches out... graceful, strong fingers lightly touch the back of his hand. "I tried... I could nae protect her, could nae protect Paddy." A tear rolled down her cheek.

His other words did not register until the med tech approached with his hypospray. At that moment, a scream from Emerald echoed in her mind. Moira gasped as Emerald's pain washed over her body. Instinctively, her arm lashed out at the med tech, knocking the hypospray across the room. The young man stood there, surprised, open-mouthed.

"NO!!" Those strong, graceful fingers wrapped tightly now around Kahallan's wrist... she had to ignore the swirling images and well-ordered thoughts that came crashing into her mind (damn it, I'm nae the touch telepath! What in th’ name o’ th’ Lady’ll be goin' on?), block out the pain from Emerald. Softly, urgently... "No drugs... the ship is in danger... I don' know how or what... warn Lucara." A squeeze of those fingers, closing the door on his thoughts when all she wanted to do was dive into them, touch them... protect him. (Protect Kahallan??!?? What, are ye completely daft, girl?)

"Lucara's got te talk te Emerald... NOW." Moira struggled to her feet, sharp pain in her back, dull pain in her shoulder, an unpleasantly familiar headache forming behind the lump on her forehead. The psychic overload wasn't helping her head any, either. She noticed her hand still holding Kahallan's wrist; reluctantly she let go. The med tech had backed away from her (crazy Irishwomen), the security team looked to Kahallan for guidance. "I need te get te sickbay... are ye comin', Kahallan?" She really didn't look like she was going to make it to the door by herself, but she was damn well going to get to sickbay if she had to crawl. The ship was in danger... Emerald... all of them... danger.

Em... Imzadi... I'm on my way.

Mo, that entity, it was weak. The other, much stronger, is waking up. Tell Lucara. We have only seconds, minutes at the most. Torps might be effective. Other suggestions: Flee, max speed, don't know if it will be fast enough. Tractor them, drag them into wormhole, release them, might find their way home. Danger from psionic attack, no defense... The train of thought was lost as Emerald grew tired. Hurry, love...

Emerald's thoughts flowed into Moira's mind in an instant, before she had even reached the holodeck doors. She spun to face Kahallan again. (Protect Kahallan.) (What??) She relayed Emerald's information to the Security Chief, hoping that she was making sense. Oh, hide, Padraig... hide! Father kin nae harm ye if he kin nae find ye. Hide! Go find Mam.

"Git ye te th’ bridge, Kahallan... hurry... ye an’ Lucara hae got te stop it." (Protect Kahallan.) (How in th’ bloody hell am I supposed te be doin’ that?) Then she stopped. And gasped. His darkness. The wolf. Oh, blessed Lady! The alien... No defense... (Protect Kahallan.) Not true... the wolf will defend us... but how? Moira shuddered. Shadow-walking? With the Wolf? She heard the banshee cry... a warning. Shadow-walkers became... changed... too open to others. Could she dare? Could she NOT?

A sigh. A decision. She moved... to follow Kahallan to the bridge. I've a job te do on th’ bridge, love... I'll be with ye soon, Em... if I kin.

© Kelly Cunningham, Gypsy, Jerimiah Morris, Mike Naylor, Ian Ralph and Dan Woo