The political fallout between the Federation and the New Thallonian Protectorate pales, however, in comparison to the threat of an enigmatic alien race determined to seize the infant Cwan for its own mysterious purposes. But nothing could possibly prepare Calhoun for the shocking betrayal from within an act of treachery to aid and abet this alien race forever altering the lives of the Excalibur crew....
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"Burgoyne propositioned me."
The announcement took Mackenzie Calhoun, captain of the Starship Excalibur, by surprise. Seated in his ready room, he put aside the ancient Xenexian battle axe that he had recently acquired and looked up with a quizzical expression at Tania Tobias. The conn officer was standing just inside the door, shifting uncomfortably, fiddling with the trailing ends of her hair.
"I apologize," he said, "if hir doing so made you feel uncomfortable, Lieutenant, and I assure you that "
"I wasn't offended, Captain."
"Oh." Calhoun took pride in his ability to react quickly and authoritatively to any situation. It was that resourcefulness that had enabled him and his crew to survive many hazardous situations. Yet he occasionally found himself disoriented when talking with his eclectic crew members, and this was one of those occasions. "So this is not something I should be concerned about?"
"I think you should be, yes."
He leaned back in his chair, resisting the temptation to throw his hands up in surrender.
His bewilderment must have been evident to Tobias, because she said apologetically, "I'm sorry if I lost you, Captain."
"I wouldn't say you've lost me, Lieutenant," he said, without adding aloud, I was never following you to begin with. "I am a bit unclear on what the precise nature of your complaint is. Do you see this as a disciplinary matter?"
"I see it as cause for concern."
"Why? Burgy has always been rather licentious by nature. Granted, s/he curtailed that when s/he became involved with Doctor Selar, but they never actually married and the relationship seems to have gone by the wayside. So I don't see that there are any moral issues in the mix."
" It's nothing like that, Captain. I'm sorry, I haven't been making myself clear."
No kidding. He forced a smile, which caused the edges of his mouth to hurt from the unaccustomed muscle strain. "Well, then, perhaps clarification might be in order at some point within our lifetimes."
She gave no indication that she noticed the gentle dig. "The problem is," she said, "that when s/he propositioned me, hir heart wasn't in it."
"I don't understan " But then his voice trailed off as he comprehended her meaning.
Tobias, still in that gentle obliviousness that was her foremost characteristic, didn't realize that further explanation was unnecessary. "When Burgoyne makes hir interest known to people, s/he's very enthused. S/he..." Tobias paused, trying to determine the best way to put it. "When hir attention is on you in that way, s/he makes you feel as if you're the only person in the entire galaxy. That there's nothing else s/he would rather be doing than gazing into your eyes." Her voice was soft and languorous, and she was looking dreamily off to the side as if she had mentally departed the ready room several minutes earlier. "That's how s/he does it. S/he just makes you come alive. Appeals to sensuous aspects of your personality that you hadn't dreamed could possibly "
Calhoun cleared his throat loudly, and the interruption snapped Tobias from her reverie. She looked momentarily confused, as if she had forgotten where she was. Quickly composing herself, she said, "At least that's what I've heard."
"Obviously heard and thought about a good deal."
"The point is, s/he wasn't that way with me. S/he just seemed to be "
"Going through the motions?"
"Yes!" she said excitedly as if Calhoun had just produced three doves from his sleeve. "Yes, that's exactly it. Going through the motions. S/he was doing it because s/he thought it was expected of hir, or maybe because s/he felt maybe s/he could make hirself feel a certain way."
"And your concern is that if s/he's off hir game in this manner, it could negatively affect the way s/he carries out hir duties as first officer?"
"I hadn't even thought about that, to be honest. My concern was that a friend was in trouble." She tilted her head and looked at him with open curiosity. "That wasn't your concern, Captain?"
"Of course it was," said Calhoun, who was a bit disturbed that it had not, in fact, occurred to him. "I just...I hadn't noticed anything that 'off ' about Burgy. Then again, since Burgoyne has never propositioned me, that could be why it slipped past."
"Well then," she said briskly, "I've done what I needed to do. I'm sure you can handle it from here, Captain."
"I appreciate the vote of confidence, Lieutenant."
Tobias walked out of the ready room. Calhoun watched her go, and wondered what the best way was to proceed on the matter. Mackenzie Calhoun, one of the foremost strategists in all of Starfleet, couldn't conceive of how to handle it. What was he supposed to say? He could have found a means of addressing it if he had noticed some sort of deterioration in Burgy's performance of hir duties, but that had not been the case. Calhoun had been caught off guard by Tobias's concerns specifically because he had not, in fact, noticed anything wrong with the way Burgoyne 172 was conducting hirself. "How am I supposed to approach hir on this?"
"Have you considered doing so as a friend?"
Calhoun was startled, which was not something that happened often. When it did occur, though, Morgan Primus was more often than not involved somehow. This time was no exception, although one would not have known at first glance that it was, in fact, Morgan, because she had assumed the exact likeness of Mackenzie Calhoun. His clone might as well have walked into the room.
"Ask how things are going in a general way," the duplicate Calhoun said, "and see if s/he presents an opening. Doesn't that seem practical?"
"Change back to yourself, Morgan." He did nothing to keep the irritation from his voice. "It's just that you are the only person you ever feel comfortable consulting. Except, of course " and abruptly Elizabeth Shelby, Calhoun's wife, was in front of him.
To Calhoun's surprise, "Elizabeth" sauntered toward him. Every movement, every aspect of her appearance was indistinguishable from the original. She even had Elizabeth's smile down. Calhoun was standing behind his desk, and the image of his wife came around the desk and cradled his chin in her hand. "Morgan..."
"I can be her, if you wish," said the mouth of Elizabeth Shelby. "It would benefit you tremendously."
" You're becoming isolated and increasingly frustrated, Mac, because you're here and your wife is off commanding Bravo station. It's not fair to either of you, but it's particularly unfair to you. You could use the diversion. Release all manner of endorphins. Put you back on your game."
"I was unaware I was off it. You need to step back, Morgan." She rested a hand on his chest. "I am simply trying to " Calhoun grabbed her wrist and, gripping it firmly, said, "Step. Back."
Morgan did so, pulling her hand free. Her appearance rippled and the holographic form of Morgan Primus changed back into her normal image. "Burgoyne isn't the only one who could use a little intimate time, is all that I'm saying."
"I know what you're saying. Now listen to what I'm saying: I'm going to order Tobias and Xy to run a complete diagnostic of your operating systems."
Morgan smiled. "I don't see that that's necessary, Captain."
"I say that it is. And since I'm the captain, I have to think that my feelings on the matter take precedence over yours. Are you disputing that, Morgan?"
"No, but "
"There's no 'but' involved in this, Morgan. Obviously you don't realize it, but you haven't been yourself since you rebooted."
"And here I thought you were happy to see me return from the dead."
"I was. We all were. Even though I'm not entirely certain that what happened to you counts as 'dead.' But your behavior has become increasingly erratic in recent months."
She drew herself up, fixing him with a stern glance. "Have I been less than diligent in fulfilling my duties as ops officer? To say nothing of being the heart of this ship's operating systems."
"No, you have not."
"Then I do not understand the reasoning behind a full diagnostic. It is an intrusive procedure and the prospect makes me uncomfortable."
"You're a computer entity, Morgan, whatever else you may have been in your previous life. The fact that you would find it uncomfortable alone should tell you something, shouldn't it?"
She paused, not having an immediate response, and then shrugged as if the matter were simply not worth pursuing. "As you say, you're the captain."
"Thank you for that acknowledgment," he said, trying not to sound sarcastic and only partly succeeding.
"By the way, you'll probably want to get out onto the bridge. Something new is about to start."
"Something new? What are you ?"
His comm badge beeped at him. He tapped it, never taking his eyes from Morgan. "Calhoun, go."
The voice of Zak Kebron, security chief, came back to him. "Long-range scanners are picking up something, Captain. A ship floating."
"Derelict? Or survivors?"
"Impossible to determine from this distance, sir."
"Then let's cut that distance down, Mr. Kebron. On my way."
Calhoun strode toward the door as Morgan stepped aside. "Captain," she said.
He turned toward her and froze.
She had reassumed the image of Elizabeth Shelby, and she was stark naked. She was also smiling in a come-hither manner. "In case you change your mind, just call my name. Or hers. Never underestimate the power of a good endorphin rush." Morgan vanished before he could say anything further.
"Grozit," he murmured.
Commander Burgoyne arched an eyebrow upon seeing Calhoun emerge from the ready room. "Captain, are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Burgy."
"Because you're walking rather oddly "
"I said I'm fine," Calhoun said impatiently. Moving quickly, he sat in his command chair and crossed his legs. Burgoyne considered this a bit odd, since Calhoun tended to stand or move about the bridge like a caged cat. "What have we got?"
"Single-pilot vessel drifting at 325 mark 4. Looks to be," and s/he studied the readouts from the sensors, "a reconfigured freighter of some sort."
"Or an explorer. Such reconfigured ships are popular among those who fancy themselves wandering adventurers who might stumble upon valuables and want to have a convenient means of hauling them."
Calhoun glanced toward Kebron. "Any life readings?"
"One. Sensors indicate..." The massive Brikar stopped. If he had an eyebrow to raise, he would clearly have done so.
Kebron addressed Calhoun, but was looking at Burgoyne as he said, "The pilot appears to be...a Hermat."
"What?!" Burgoyne could scarcely believe what s/he was hearing. S/he moved toward the science station. "Xy, double-check those readings."
"A less confident officer," Kebron said with just the slightest hint of annoyance, "might take offense at your lack of trust. But I do not. I understand your reluctance to "
"Later, Kebron," said Calhoun.
Not for the first time, Burgoyne found hirself nostalgic for the days when Zak Kebron was a detached, foreboding individual who rarely strung more than three words together at a time.
S/he stepped in next to hir son, Xy, who was studying the sensor information that Kebron was feeding through to him. Slowly he nodded. "Definitely Hermat. Kebron is right." Kebron did not offer much beyond a smug "Hmmf" in acknowledgment of Xy's announcement. "You don't see many Hermats out this far."
"You don't see any," said Burgoyne. "Trust me, I know my people. One of the reasons I was such an aberration was my desire to explore the galaxy. That mind-set was considered..." S/he paused and then, for want of a better term, said, "...rude. I was practically an outcast even before I chose to exile myself "
"As fascinating as this litany of Hermat social mores is," Calhoun said, "might we focus instead on the derelict that is in possible need of our help?"
"Sorry, Captain," said Burgoyne, abashed.
"Condition of the pilot?"
"Life signs are low, even marginal, but steady," said Xy.
"Have hir beamed directly into sickbay," said Calhoun, rising from his chair. "Inform Doctor Selar she's about to have a new patient."
Inwardly, Burgoyne flinched. Speaking to Selar was not a task that Burgoyne welcomed these days. It was actually painful to hear her voice, detached and emotionless beyond even what was typical for a Vulcan. For an instant s/he considered ordering Xy or Tobias to do it, but then s/he rallied. S/he was, after all, the first officer of the Excalibur. S/he shouldn't fob off an order from the captain merely because carrying it out was going to make hir uncomfortable.
Burgoyne tapped hir comm badge. "Bridge to sickbay."
"Sickbay, Selar here."
"We've found an injured Hermat in a derelict. The captain wants hir beamed directly into sickbay."
"That is against procedure," her voice came back. "S/he should be sent to the transporter room to undergo triage while hir transport signature can be studied in the buffer and properly screened for any harmful bacteria or germs."
"Those are the captain's orders."
"One would have thought that, as chief medical officer, my desire to see regulations followed would have been accorded some consideration." Her tone was flat and even, as if she were speaking about the feelings of someone else entirely. "Do as you see fit. But have hir beamed into the sickbay quarantine area rather than into the main section. That way, if s/he has some sort of infectious disease, only the immediate personnel in quarantine will lose their lives because of the captain's orders. If you require further interaction with me, I will be in quarantine. Selar out."
Burgoyne could sense the captain's gaze upon hir and could not bring hirself to meet it. Instead s/he said, "The CMO is prepping sickbay for the new patient."
"Good," was all Calhoun said in reply.
Xy exchanged a sympathetic look with his father. Burgoyne smiled wanly. Over the past months, they had both been trying to deal as best they could with Selar's smoldering rage and frustration hidden behind an impenetrable wall of stoicism. If she had been something other than a Vulcan, it would have been much easier to cope. But she was what she was, and they were simply going to have to live with it and pray that eventually things would improve.
Unfortunately, Burgoyne had very little hope of that.
What do I do with my anger...?
The odd question crossed Doctor Selar's mind, and she was astounded by it. However, being what she was, and who she was, she did not permit either the fury she was feeling nor her surprise at feeling it show upon her face. Instead she busied herself with the task of preparing for her new patient.
She entered the quarantine area and, in total defiance of proper protocol, wore absolutely no protective gear. This had drawn confused comments from several of her medical technicians. Selar had told them curtly that her Vulcan physiology would permit her to withstand just about anything that an incoming patient even an infectious one might have to throw at her. The truth was that she simply didn't give a damn if something happened to her. Should that occur, and should she die, then the positive aspect was that she would no longer have to deal with such inconveniences as inner turmoil.
Selar glanced around at the medtechs. They were watching her, commenting to one another in low voices that her sharp h earing would have been able to discern were she not already in the quarantine area, sealed off from the rest of sickbay. She was reasonably sure she knew what they were talking about, though. They were going on and on about how she had become unconscionably cold, even for a Vulcan. Even for a Vulcan. That was the exact phrasing she had overheard when they thought she wasn't listening.
They had no idea. They had all bought into the notion that Vulcans were emotionless beings rather than what they were: a race that labored every single day to keep emotions in check lest they lead to endless strife. They were relentlessly rational by choice, not by design. Would that the lie were the truth and that emotions were never a consideration for her.
If she ever allowed the emotions roiling within her to display themselves, it would be a sight that would terrify her coworkers. They would run screaming from the sickbay.
She waited calmly with her instruments at the ready. She still believed that beaming the patient directly into sickbay was the wrong way to proceed. But if they were determined to ignore her advice, then she was perfectly entitled to ignore protocol as well and wait for the patient without wearing any protective gear. That would show them.
Selar knew that her attitude was, at best, petulant, and at worst, unprofessional. It was, however, her attitude, and she believed she was perfectly entitled to have it.
She remained where she was as the quarantine area filled with light and with the building hum of energy that heralded the transporter beams. Credit Transporter Chief Halliwell: her aim was precise. The incoming patient materialized, supine, atop the diagnostic table. Selar immediately moved toward the Hermat for such the patient clearly was and proceeded to apply the various scanning devices to get readings on hir.
She did not require the scanners, however, to make an instant assessment of the patient's main problem: radiation poisoning. The cellular damage, the skin deterioration, were both consistent with that diagnosis.
Selar worked quickly. Bioskin could be applied to heal the surface wounds easily enough, but how she would deal with the poisoning itself would depend upon the extent of the damage. The first thing she needed to do was stabilize her patient, and she did so with her customary brisk efficiency. Within minutes, she had the Hermat's vital signs at levels that were low but acceptable.
She became aware of a familiar presence behind her. She didn't even have to look to see hir there; she just knew it. The fact that they still had that sort of connection was troublesome, but she resolved not to let it impede her ability to do her job.
"Why are you here?" Selar asked.
Burgoyne, standing on the other side of the quarantine partition, said, "The captain wanted to know hir condition."
"Then the captain could easily have asked me himself. I am correct in assuming the comm unit is still operational, yes?" She did not look away from her instruments.
"Yes, but considering the species of the patient, I thought I would come down personally to..." Burgoyne's voice trailed off and then s/he said softly, "I'll be damned."
Selar made no comment as to how likely it was that Burgoyne would be consigned to the flames of perdition. It didn't seem especially relevant to the situation at hand. "May I correctly assume you know this individual?"
"Rulan," said Burgoyne. "Rulan 12. I remember hir all too well."
For the first time, Selar looked toward Burgoyne. "A former lover of yours?"
"No. Not for want of trying," said Burgoyne. There was no shame or embarrassment in hir voice. Burgoyne was impossible to shame when it came to sexual exploits. "We were educated together. Our teachers despised both of us. Said we were bad influences on each other."
"Then I am surprised you did not, in fact, have sexual relations, if you were that much in accord with each other's sensibilities."
Burgoyne gave her a curious glance. "You seem rather intrigued by my romantic history all of a sudden."
"I have a patient dying of radiation sickness and no idea how s/he became this way. Anything and everything in hir background could be germane."
The first officer appeared skeptical, but then shrugged. "We did not become lovers because Rulan prided hirself on hir chastity."
"Really?" She arched an eyebrow, which was the most she typically allowed in her reactions. "Why?"
"S/he never said."
"Hmm. Unusual for a Hermat."
"Very much so."
"And did s/he share your wanderlust as well?"
"No. In that s/he was as conservative as the rest of our race."
"Obviously something changed."
"Obviously," said Burgoyne. "Is s/he going to be okay?"
"It is too early to know for sure. I have managed to stabilize hir vitals and have commenced a biocellular regeneration process."
"That sounds positive," s/he said hopefully.
"The problem is that the process takes time. Up to seventy- two hours. Any time during that period, when the damage is this catastrophic, vital organs could give out from the strain. Should that happen, I may be unable to save hir. If s/he is alive three days from now, hir chances are good. Otherwise..."
"I know you'll do your best."
"Your confidence is most uplifting."
Burgoyne opened hir mouth as if s/he wanted to say something more. Selar waited. Burgoyne remained that way for some seconds, looking in Selar's opinion perfectly ridiculous. It was clear to Selar what Burgoyne wanted to do. S/he wanted to bring up their relationship, or lack thereof, yet again. But everything that could be said had already been said, at length, repeatedly, and to no real effect. What could possibly be the point of wasting both their time yet again?
She must have managed to convey her thoughts, or at least her state of mind, to Burgoyne, because eventually s/he closed hir mouth, nodded as if everything that needed to be said had, in fact, been said, and then walked out of sickbay. Selar noticed that others were staring at her. They quickly looked away, like voyeurs who had been eavesdropping on the personal matters of other people. Which, Selar supposed, they were, though she didn't especially care. She had matters of far greater importance to worry about. Let them listen in if it amused them. Let them draw whatever inferences they wished to from all that was left unsaid.
She had work to do.
Burgoyne stared into the contents of the glass before hir on the table as if the answer to all life's questions could be found within the amber liquid. Unsurprisingly, none seemed to be forthcoming.
S/he had gone off shift an hour earlier and had wound up in the Team Room, the informal name for the crew lounge. On a typical day, Burgoyne was one of the more accessible senior officers. Anyone from a lieutenant commander on down to the lowliest ensign did not hesitate to approach Burgoyne, and socialize with hir.
However Burgoyne was equally capable of conveying through attitude and body language that s/he felt like being left alone. It wasn't all that often, but on those rare occasions when Burgoyne wanted to discourage company, s/he had little trouble doing so.
So it was that Burgoyne was sitting alone at a table toward the back of the Team Room, nodding in acknowledgment to any who walked past hir, but otherwise enjoying solitude. Or, if not enjoying it, at least being relieved that s/he didn't have to interact with anyone.
A shadow fell across hir table. S/he glanced up, although s/he had an idea who it was going to be before even looking. S/he turned out to be correct. "Hello, Xy," s/he said softly.
"Dad." Xy indicated the other chair at the table with a tilt of his chin. "Mind if I join you?"
Anyone else would not have even thought to ask. They would have given Burgoyne hir space. Xy, on the other hand, didn't need to ask, but did so anyway out of politeness.
"Go right ahead," said Burgoyne.
Xy sat in the chair opposite his father. He was already holding a drink. Burgoyne recognized it immediately and said, slim eyebrow arched, "Romulan ale? Isn't that still illegal?"
"Only technically," said Xy. "Since the war, it's been a lot easier to acquire."
"Still, rules are rules. I'll have to file a report about this...unless, of course, something happens to impede my memory..."
Without a word, Xy switched his glass with that from which Burgoyne had been drinking. Burgoyne picked it up, sipped it, and sighed contentedly.
"Well?" said Xy.
"My mind's a blank."
"I thought that might be the case. So I understand you know the Hermat that mother is working on."
Burgoyne inclined hir head slightly. "Hir name is Rulan. We've had passing acquaintance. Although," s/he said, sounding chipper, "Selar seemed extremely interested in learning the details of whatever relationship I may have had with hir."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean" and Burgy paused for effect "she sounded jealous." "Jealous." Xy repeated the word. The skepticism was evident in his tone.
"Yes. Jealous," Burgoyne said again, more insistently, perceiving the doubt in Xy's voice.
"I just..." "You just what?" "I just don't see it. I mean, jealousy is an emotion. She isn't exactly brimming with emotional depth. You know what I'm saying?"
"Yes, I do. You're saying that I'm imagining it. That I made it up."
"I'm saying," Xy said softly, "that you're trying to force yourself to believe it because you're so anxious to do so."
"Is it so impossible...?" But Burgoyne knew the answer to the question before s/he even asked it. Xy didn't even have to respond. Burgoyne knocked back the rest of the contents of Xy's glass and muttered, "You don't have to look at me that way."
"Sympathetically. Sadly. As if I were pathetic."
"I don't think you're pathetic."
"Why don't you? I do."
"It's all your fault, you know."
"My fault?" Xy didn't sound angry at the accusation; he was more amused than anything. "How is it my fault?"
"You know why."
"Because I'm aging so quickly," Xy said patiently. "Because, thanks to the combination of my Vulcan and Hermat biology, I'm speeding through my life. Except I didn't create my metabolic processes, Dad. I didn't ask to be the way I am. I didn't even ask to be born. All things considered, I could be the one going around pointing fingers at you and Mother for getting together in the first place without regard for what the results of such a union might be."
"Your mother didn't have all that much choice."
"I know." Xy looked uncomfortable for the first time. "And we shouldn't really be talking about that."
Burgoyne smiled at hir son's streak of provincialism. Topics such as Pon farr, the Vulcan mating drive, were generally considered inappropriate matters for discussion. Usually that applied only to outworlders. Burgoyne was hardly any outworlder, having mated with Xy's mother. And Xy was, naturally, not a full Vulcan himself, although he shared Selar's delicate pointed ears and arched eyebrows. Yet he was respectful enough of Vulcan traditions to balk at talking about such delicate subjects, even with his own father.
"All right," said Burgoyne, not desiring to press it. S/he leaned back in hir chair and sighed deeply. "You know...for someone ho purports to have no emotions, your mother is one of the most passionate creatures I've ever met."
"Do we really need to talk about that?" said Xy, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.
Burgoyne laughed, displaying the edges of hir pointed teeth in doing so. "I'm not referring to that sort of passionate. I mean that she can become so fixated on something that it can well consume her."
"Are you thinking of anything specific?"
"You know I am."
"You're thinking about me," said Xy. "And her obsession with trying to find a way to 'cure' me. Rather than appreciating the time she has with me, she can only obsess about the time when I'll be gone."
"In fairness to Mother, the latter span is going to be so substantially greater than the former that it cannot help but weigh on her mind. Plus they were her impulses," he said for lack of a better word, "that set the events into motion that led to my birth in the first place. So it's reasonable that she would feel the greatest sense of responsibility."
"Yes. It's reasonable. It's just tragic that it has to overwhelm every aspect of her life so that she can't take any joy in anything else."
" 'Anything else' meaning, specifically, you."
Burgoyne chuckled in spite of everything. "Certainly that's one aspect of it. There's this as well, though: just the sort of interaction you and I are having now. I'm egotistical enough to think that your mother is missing out on a lot by wanting to have nothing to do with me. But I know for a certainty that she's missing out on even more by having nothing to do with you."
"I don't take offense, if that's any consolation," said Xy. "She doesn't keep me at a distance because she dislikes me. It's simply that it hurts her too much to interact with me for long, and someone like my mother doesn't do especially well with feeling hurt. Or feeling anything."
"So I should feel sorry for her like you do, is what you're saying."
"I wouldn't have put it that way..." He hesitated, then said, "Yes. I guess I am saying that."
"As am I."
"What if she knew that we feel sorry for her?" said Burgoyne.
"Honestly? I doubt she would care very much. Or at all."
"Or at all," agreed Burgoyne.
Selar did not care that she hadn't slept in more than thirty hours. She knew what her body was capable of enduring, and her need for rest was not as great as a human's. Various technicians would come and go on their shifts as the hours progressed, but Selar remained where she was and monitored Rulan's vital signs. She told herself that she was doing so because she was the logical individual to take on such a sustained duty.
Selar had not left the quarantine area the entire time that she had been monitoring Rulan's status. She had consumed a small amount of food, taking care not to exceed the minimum her body required to continue functioning, and had been likewise sparing with drink. Her assistants had offered to relieve her from time to time during the first twenty hours. She turned them down flat every time with the slightest shake of her head, not even bothering to reply. After that they had stopped asking.
It was during the thirty-first hour of scrutinizing Rulan's healing process that she began to notice something odd. She checked and double-checked and triple-checked the results, and she was still having trouble understanding or even daring to believe what she was seeing.
She had been standing while going over the results of the cell monitoring. She was surprised to now discover that she was sitting. Selar didn't recall actually sitting down in a chair; one moment she was on her feet, and the next, on her backside. It was an indication of just how stunned she had been that she had momentarily blacked out, for there was no one on the Excalibur who was more aware of her surroundings, and of the passing of every moment, than Selar.
Focus, she told herself. Focus on procedures. That is the only way to function.
"Medical log, supplemental," she said. Her voice sounded distant, alien even to herself. "Although the bio-regeneration process is proceeding, the results are surpassing expectations sufficiently to warrant further study. The cellular damage sustained by subject Rulan 12, particularly the damage to the internal organs, is healing forty-three percent faster than my original estimates would have allowed. Since my estimates were based upon documented previous results of applied bio-regeneration, this is clearly some manner of aberration. The question to be pursued is whether the aberration can, in some manner, be replicated. Could, for instance..." She paused. To her internal shock, her voice was bordering on being choked with emotion. An outside observer would have been unable to determine such a reaction, but she was all too aware of it. An expert after long years of self-control, she managed to bring her emotion in check so that on her log there was only the briefest of hesitations, as if she were calmly pausing to select the right word with her customary precision. "...an individual such as Xy, who is essentially suffering from accelerated cellular deterioration, be aided by some manner of controlled application? An infusion of Rulan's DNA into his own genetic makeup? The notion would have no practical application if Xy did not already have Hermat biological markers in his own DNA. The further matter to be investigated is just how Rulan came to have such attributes. If s/he underwent some manner of procedure that enabled hir to regrow cells at an unusual rate, then Rulan's genetic components may not be necessary for further research; I could go straight to the source. As long as Rulan remains insensate, however, I cannot determine the "
She stopped talking, suddenly aware of Mackenzie Calhoun's presence.
Calhoun stepped up to the partition that separated the quarantined section from the rest of sickbay. He studied the unconscious Hermat for a moment, then shifted his attention to Selar. "Please don't allow me to interrupt, Doctor. Feel free to complete your medical log."
"I can do so later, Captain."
"Doctor, seriously, you shouldn't allow my presence to "
"I do not believe it is within your prerogative to dictate when and where I choose to perform my duties, Captain. Now, did you have something specific you wished to discuss?"
Calhoun did not reply immediately. Instead he stared at her for a time before saying, in a formal tone, "What's the prognosis?"
She hesitated. She had told Burgoyne that it would be seventy-two hours before she knew for sure whether Rulan would survive. But she knew now that Rulan would, in fact, be just fine. Selar couldn't determine when s/he would recover consciousness, but she knew s/he was going to survive the radiation poisoning that might well have killed anyone else. The problem was, if Selar gave the more optimistic assessment of Rulan's chances, then Calhoun might start asking what aspect of Rulan's condition had changed. And if asked directly, then Selar would naturally have to tell him...
Why not tell him? He is your commanding officer. He has a right to the information at your disposal.
Selar opened her mouth to tell him all about the Hermat's condition, about the amazing cellular regeneration properties that s/he was displaying, about what it could possibly mean for her son. Instead, as much to her own surprise, she said, "Hir prognosis is positive and proceeding on schedule." She had no idea why she said that, and worse, didn't wish to figure out why.
Calhoun's purple eyes flickered, as if he had some idea that she was being less than forthright with him, but wasn't positive enough to call her on it. Then he inclined his head slightly and said, "That's excellent news. However, I think you should know that we have a medical emergency on our hands."
"Any of my personnel could handle it, Captain, whatever it is."
"I'm sure they can, but your presence has been requested and I am inclined to honor that request."
"Sir, I am monitoring a patient who is at a delicate state in hir recovery," Selar said insistently. She realized she was fighting to keep her voice even and passionless. Fighting to do something that ordinarily came as naturally as breathing. "To take me away from hir at this point..."
"No one is taking you away from hir, at least not immediately. You have another few hours with hir. We have to reach our destination before your services are required. After that, no promises."
"I do not understand. Our destination? This is not a shipboard emergency?"
"No. It's non-Starfleet personnel, actually."
"Then I do not understand why my involvement is required at all." "Because the mother-to-be requested you."
"The..." Then she understood. "Robin Lefler."
"That's right, Doctor. Robin Lefler is giving birth to the son of the late Si Cwan on New Thallon, and you are the only person she trusts to do the job."
I do not care. All I care about is my own son. Leave me alone, you arrogant bastard.
"Please inform me as soon as we reach New Thallon," said Doctor Selar, "and I will naturally do all within my power to deliver the male heir to the House of Cwan into the world."
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