Noel DelMonde had been playing a particular guitar riff on and off for days. His lover, Yeoman Calaya Wheal, knew by the sound that it must be a Valley Collection song: she caught stray bits of lyrics as well as a more complete version, with bass and drums, from his mind when he was thinking about it. What she didn’t know was why he was obsessing on it.
He sat in their cabin on the U.S.S. Lincoln, wearing a pair of black jeans and a dark silk shirt, playing on his electric guitar. He hadn’t hooked it up to the amplifier, so the sound was thin and metallic, but Calaya recognized it none the less. She stood next to one of the side grills that formed a partial partition between the sleeping area and the living room, in an Indiian-styled, one-sleeved civilian dress of dark blue, watching him.
“Noel,” she said when he paused to take a drink from the bottle of bourbon that sat on the shelf that ran behind the bed, “why do you play that song over and over?”
“Do I?” he replied, his tia telling her he was well aware he did. She ignored the verbal camouflage, as she always did.
“Will you tell me why?”
He shrugged. “Dunno,” he answered diffidently. “It stuck in my head is all.”
That, too, was less than the complete truth. The Indiian put her hands on her hips.
“Why do you do that when you know I can tell?” she demanded.
Del sighed, putting the guitar aside. “It got not’ing to do wit’ you, cher,” he said.
“Did Ruth sing it to you?” Calaya questioned, moving to sit beside him.
He snorted. “Hell no. She t’ink I got a big ‘nough head as it is.”
“It is complimentary, then?”
“Sorta, I guess.” He grimaced as he pulled her close to him. “If you t’ink ‘bout it in a certain way. Maybe.” He shook his head, chuckling at himself. “Mais, no, not really.”
“Will you sing it to me?”
“It fo’ a female voice,” he evaded.
Calaya pursed her lips. “Pelori,” she finally decided.
“She never knowed it,” he responded softly, his voice the fond, sad, wistful tone it always took on when discussing the half-Indiian Intelligence officer who had been the second love of his life.
“Yet it reminds you of her,” Calaya returned. “Won’t you tell me why?”
His answer was silent. It foolish, darlin’.
“I do not judge you,” she reminded gently.
It hurt you when I t’ink of her.
“Only because the memory causes you so much sorrow, my love,” she whispered. “I accept her. I accept Ruth. How many times must I say it?”
He chuckled sadly. Till my dumbass Cajun heart believe it? he suggested.
She gave an exaggerated sigh. “Forever, then.”
“Hey, don’t be sayin’ that word,” he faux-chastised. “You Indiian.”
“Am I?” she rejoined, and glanced at her bare arm. “Why, so I am.”
His soft laughter warmed her, and she kissed him, making him forget the song and Ruth Valley and Pelori MacEntyre.
“Commander, I promise this won’t hurt a bit,” Lieutenant Darya Asaan, the Head nurse of the Lincoln assured as she gently guided Del to the medical lab’s full body scanner.
“Yeah, I know. All’s I likely t’ feel is a slight tinglin’ non?” the engineer grumbled as he sat on the flat surface, swinging his long legs up after him.
The Ter-Iranian woman smiled at him. “Well that really depends on whether or not you’ve been abusing Dr. Han’s prescription, doesn’t it?”
“Shee-it, how long it been since I done that?” he growled.
“A fair point,” Asaan conceded. In the six months since the Lincoln’s launch, only Noel DelMonde’s first monthly physical had shown a level of sapphire higher than the dosage the Chief Medical Officer had authorized.
“So when that gonna earn me a respite from these damn check-ups?”
“Dr. Han said that if this one was clear, you’d go to quarterly, like the rest of the crew.”
Del gave a crooked grin, and laid flat on the scanner. “Test away, then, cher,” he said.
Darya returned the smile and activated the device. The machine was part of the cutting-edge technology Starfleet had installed on the Nest ships. It read all the usual vital signs; temperature, blood pressure, pulse, respiration; as well as scanning for infection, damage to bones, muscles and organs, and giving a chemical screen of the cardio-vascular, lymphatic and nervous systems. It could add a DNA and retinal scan at the operator’s request, giving a full bio-psychological reading similar to the older-style Steinman Analysis. Its only drawback was, when scanning those with psychic gifts above a certain threshold, the subject felt a mildly unpleasant warm vibration throughout the entire body.
DelMonde’s body shivered as the scan proceeded, Darya checking the readings that were displayed on the monitor over the scanner with the previous month’s records.
The ‘tingling’ was worse. Del bit his tongue, counting the ninety seconds the scan and the unsettling sensation always lasted. But unlike his previous five experiences, the warmth continued to grow, becoming uncomfortable, then burning, then painful, the fiery vibration racing along his nerve endings, centering along his spine and up into his brain. He opened his mouth to tell Lieutenant Asaan to turn the damn machine off, but all that came out was a strangled groan. He gathered his telepathic gift to send her a mental alert, and white-hot agony speared into his consciousness. It was followed by a flash of the brightest cerulean blue and he forced his body upright, letting out a roar of anguish.
“Commander, what is it, what’s wrong!”
Del blinked, finding himself sitting up on the scanner bed. He stared at his hands, expecting to find them covered in medical gel, surprised beyond all belief that he could clearly see not only them but Sickbay and the woman holding a records board standing next to him. But this wasn’t the Drake’s sickbay, and he had no idea who the woman was.
“Where th’ fuck am I?” he demanded hoarsely.
The nurse stared at him. “You’re in sickbay, Mr. DelMonde,” she answered. Her voice held an accent he couldn’t quite place.
“What Sickbay?” he asked warily.
“Del, calm down, it’s all right,” a sweet, painfully familiar voice soothed. He swung his head toward its source, his heart thundering.
Pelori MacEntyre stood a few feet away in a new Starfleet uniform, her red hair in a soft, upswept style, her grey eyes shining at him.
“Li’l Mac?” he breathed uncertainly.
“I’m here, Del,” she assured.
“You’re dead,” he managed.
She smiled at him. “You brought me back.”
The song that had been filling his mind for over a week again wafted through his mind:
Try to understand
Try to understand
Try, try, try to understand…
He’s a magic man.
Nurse Asaan quickly hit the quarantine field, sending an immediate alert to the CMO’s office. The readings from the scanning platform, which – up until the moment before the Lincoln’s Chief Engineer had so abruptly bolted up from the bed – had been perfectly consistent with DelMonde’s last check-in, now showed an unbelievable spike in the xenoneurophene levels in his system. It was clearly impossible and she checked the other neurotransmitters, shuddering at the dramatic increase in all neural activity. It made no sense, there was no possible way…
“Mr. DelMonde giving you problems, Nurse?” the cool voice of Dr. Jade Han said as she entered the exam room. There was a touch of chastising amusement in it, and Darya flushed as she remembered her over-reaction to the engineer’s tirade at the first of these scans nearly six months before:
The flashing black eyes and the tall, lean form bearing down on her had panicked her. She’d dealt with recalcitrant patients before, but never ones who had gone against all military decorum. She’d hit the quarantine switch, then, too, and had winced at his stream of obscenities until Dr. Han had come to her rescue.
“I gotta do what?! Motherfucker, you get li’l miss shrink th’ hell on in here an’ let her tell me to my damn face!”
The flashing black eyes and the tall, lean form bearing down on her had panicked her. She’d dealt with recalcitrant patients before, but never ones who had gone against all military decorum. She’d hit the quarantine switch, then, too, and had winced at his stream of obscenities until Dr. Han had come to her rescue.
She shook the memory away and faced her superior. “No, ma’am,” she said, “but the readings…” She held out the statboard and indicated the monitoring panel above the scanner. “The levels jumped like that all on their own. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Jade frowned, studying the report as well as the still-recording monitor screen. Then her gaze went to DelMonde, who had gotten off the scanner platform and was clearly lost in the act of embracing – nothing.
She moved to the intercom panel that was just outside the quarantine area.
“Mr. DelMonde, what are you doing?” she asked.
He stopped the pantomime-kiss and turned. “What th’ fuck you doin’ here, Jade?” he asked.
“I am the Chief Medical Officer…” she began.
“Th’ hell you are! Where Lian?”
“Dr. Rendell. She th’ one on my case – and speakin’ o’ that, whyfor my hands healed? How I able to see? My eyes was a ruin!”
“Del, I assure you, I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Jade returned. “There has been no damage to either your…”
His head tilted as if he was listening to someone or something. “What you mean, I not on th’ Drake?” he asked his invisible companion. After a few moment of silence, he went on. “A year? A motherfuckin’ year!? How th’ hell…!?”
After a much longer silence, he shook his head, his hand coming up to his forehead. “You sure it all gonna come back?” he muttered, then a half-smile tugged at his lips. “Non, I know you not lie t’ me, Li’l Mac.”
Jade inhaled sharply. “Who are you talking to, Del?” she asked in a deliberately even tone.
He turned toward her, his arm tightly around thin air. “I not know why you here, or even fo’ sure what ship this Lincoln she talkin’ ‘bout is,” he managed, “but… Mere de duin, it a motherfuckin’ miracle!”
“What’s a miracle?” Jade returned.
“You not gonna tell me you not remember her,” he countered.
The cautious joy on his face turned to dark ill humor. “Don’ mess wit’ me, doctor,” he warned.
“Funny, I was about to suggest the same thing to you,” was her calm reply.
He opened his mouth for what was clearly going to be an angry retort, then his gaze went to the nothing at his side, and after a moment, hardened.
“They not see you?!” he demanded.
“Del, if you’ll just tell me…” Jade began again.
His black eyes once again swung warily to her. “I not crazy,” he said.
“I didn’t say…”
“She here, she real an’ solid. I can see her, an’ touch her an’ hear her…”
“See and touch and hear who?” Jade asked, cutting him off.
He paused, then answered in a quiet, almost frightened voice, “Pelori. Agent MacEntyre.”
Jade turned to Nurse Asaan. “Get me DelMonde’s full medical history,” she said, then took two steps to the ship’s comm on the scanner control panel. “Uhura, I’ll need a call to Starfleet Intelligence and Dr. Lian Rendell on the D’Artagnan,” she said into it. “And while you’re at it, tell James I need him in Sickbay. On the double.”
She didn’t wait for the acknowledgement before again staring into the quarantined area – and at the man who was talking to and caressing and kissing the phantom of a woman who had been dead for nearly two years.
“It’s all right, Del,” Pelori said softly.
Del shook his head, wanting to pace, but afraid to let go of the woman in his arms. “But why they not see, you?” he asked. “You a ghost? Somet’ing make you solid outta th’ ether you was before?”
“I’m not a ghost, not like I was on the Drake,” she assured. “I’m real, and alive. I don’t know why they can’t see me unless…” She paused, pursing her lips. “Maybe I’m only visible to those with gifts.”
The engineer frowned. “That make you only ‘pathically real?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she mused. “Maybe I should get on that scanning bed and see what happens.”
Del walked the few paces to the platform, placing his hands at her waist to lift her up onto it. She made an exasperated face at him.
“I’m not helpless,” she told him.
“An’ maybe I jus’ want an excuse to keep my hands on you,” he countered.
She gave a light laugh and kissed him. As she laid down, they both heard Jade Han’s exclamation.
“What you readin’ now, Jade?” Del called.
After a moment spent checking the readings, and a moment more to collect herself, the doctor replied, “There’s a living, breathing body on that bed.”
“An’ I bet you a month’s salary that when you check, you gonna find them readin’s match those for Pelori,” he returned smugly.
“A living, breathing body so saturated with xenoneurophene there’s almost no other chemical signature,” Jade continued, as if DelMonde hadn’t spoken.
Del started. “What th’ fuck that mean?” he demanded.
On the platform, Pelori shrugged helplessly. “Maybe that you’re a magic man?” she ventured. “Dr. Han, what else does my scan show?” When there was no response, she sighed. “They can‘t hear me, either.”
“Shee-it,” Del muttered. “You s’pose they be able to feel you if we was out this quarantine field?”
“Right now I wouldn’t take any bets on it,” was the subdued answer.
“Agent MacEntyre,” Jade suddenly called, “if that’s who and what you are, and assuming you can hear me, would you be so kind as to take a deep breath and hold it for – oh – five seconds?”
Del bristled. “It what an’ who she is, alright, an’ what you mean ‘if she can….’”
“It’s a reasonable theory,” Pelori soothed him. “After all, if only you can see and hear me, it might follow that I can see and hear only you.”
“I always hated your damn logic, you know that?” he grumbled back.
Pelori grinned up at him. “I know,” she replied, then did as Han had requested.
Del counted to five in his head, and was about to say something, when Jade did.
“Thank you. Readings confirm that you did, indeed, take a deep breath and hold it. And, clearly, you can hear me. If you’ll remain there until we can get this sorted out?”
“Jade, it been a while since I saw her,” Del stated. “I not wanna spend my time as a lab rat.” He smiled at Pelori, the grin widening when a faint flush came over her fair skin.
Jade cocked her head. “You want to take her to your cabin, do you?” At his nod, she added calmly, “And you don’t think Miss Wheal will have anything to say about that?”
Del’s face fell.
The former Intelligence agent sat up, staring at Del. “Who’s Miss Wheal?” she asked in a tone laced with both jealousy and trepidation.
“Oh shit,” the engineer breathed.
When Asaan brought the files she had requested, Jade told DelMonde and the invisible Pelori MacEntyre to please wait where they were. She had expected a typical DelMonde grumble, something on the order of “We got a choice wit’ the field up?” but the engineer was far too busy explaining “Miss Wheal.”
She went to her office and inserted the data disc into the computer on her desk. She quickly found the record she was looking for: Noel DelMonde had had an accident while serving on the Drake, one in which his hands and face had been severely burned, resulting in a blindness that should have been permanent, but hadn’t been, due to the skill of the ship’s surgeon. But Lian Rendell was far too honest a doctor to take all the credit – at least in the official report. She noted that there was an aspect to the success of the procedures she had done that couldn’t be explained by mere skill or luck, and had added that there was a marked increase in the activity of the usually-dormant xenoneurophene in DelMonde’s system, both during the incident, and for a few days afterward.
Jade sighed. Xenoneurophene, she thought wryly. Why does it always have to be xenoneurophene?
The comm signaled, Uhura’s voice saying, “I’ve got your call to the D’Artagnan, Doctor. The call to Intelligence is going through channels. They’ll get back to us.”
“Thank you, Commander,” Jade replied, then waited while the screen changed from Uhura’s face to that of Dr. Lian Rendell.
“What can I help you with, Dr. Han?” the lovely Haven woman said.
“I need to ask you about something in Noel DelMonde’s file from when he was on the Drake,” Jade returned.
“Wait, let me guess. This will have something to do with xenoneurophene, won’t it?” Rendell interrupted.
“However did you know?” Jade responded dryly.
“Because with DelMonde, it’s always xenoneurophene.” The Haven leaned closer to the comm. “Do you think he has a secret supply somewhere?”
“If he does, repeated scans haven’t found it,” Jade answered. She gave an internal shake of her head, imagining what the engineer would have had to say about that, knowing that no amount of assurance on her part that it had been a standard doctor-to-doctor type of joking would have ever convinced him that his cabin wasn’t being repeatedly scanned. “He was in for a regular Gorsiini scan, and his xenoneurophene levels went off the charts. I wanted to see if there was anything you could tell me about your incident with him that didn’t make it into the official report.” She paused. “You do know the incident I’m referring to, yes?”
“Don’t even need to check my files,” Rendell returned. “You’re talking about his should-have-been-permanent-but-wasn’t blindness.”
“Your notes indicate that you manipulated the chemical in his system to aid in the repair of the optical neural receptors.”
“Yes, and it helped, but…” the Haven tilted her head. “Between us physicians, it shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Only the fact that the levels of loony juice kept increasing give any explanation for why it did.”
Jade nodded. “And was there anything else – odd – that occurred?”
“What do you mean – besides Del’s usual oddness, that is?”
“Any odd – manifestations or hallucinations or…”
“He talked to himself a great deal,” Lian said. “And he seemed to be hearing answers.” The Haven frowned. “Do you think he was hallucinating someone or something he thought he was actually talking to?”
“An interesting speculation, Dr. Rendell,” Jade replied deliberately, “considering that he is now talking and responding to someone the rest of us can neither see nor hear – but who shows up as a discrete figure on the Gorsiini.” She paused to let that sink in, then added, “a figure which is herself filled to bursting with xenoneurophene.” Another pause. “And he thought he was on the Drake.”
“Herself?” Rendell repeated. “Does Del know this invisible figure?”
Jade sat back in her chair. “He claims it’s Agent Pelori MacEntyre,” she said. “I’ve got a call in to Intelligence to try and get her medical files – not that I actually expect that will happen – but somehow I think that even if I did, the scan would only confirm that it is her.”
The Haven was silent for several seconds. “Jade, you do know she’s been dead for two years, don’t you?” she said at last.
“Lian,” Jade began, leaning forward again, “is it possible that she was manifesting on the Drake? Could the contact with another person so strongly laced with xenoneurophene explain his healing then?”
“That damn close-mouthed Cajun!” Rendell exclaimed. “When it was clear the procedure before the final surgery had worked beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, the son of a bitch said ‘Then it did work. I did it.’ I thought he was just being a smartass.”
“And what do you think now?” Jade asked.
“I think I wish the Drake had had the Gorsiini scanner.” The Haven scowled for a moment, then said, “Clearly Del’s condition then was the push for this manifestation. Without it, he would’ve remained blind…” She paused, her thoughts racing clearly across her face. “…or had to deal with a healing from Ruth Valley,” she added. “That was our course of last resort.”
“And wouldn’t that have given me a patient for life,” Jade mused.
“So what life or sanity-threatening situation is he in now?”
“If you had asked me that an hour ago, I would’ve said there isn’t one,” Jade said. “But clearly…” Her voice trailed off. “I don’t know,” she continued after a long moment. “I think I’m going to have James pull his personnel file – the entire thing. Thank you, Doctor.”
“Let me know what happens next?” Rendell asked.
“I don’t know if I can promise that,” Jade demurred.
Lian gave her a sweetly diabolical smile. “I could always sic Dylan Paine on you. He’s always been very concerned with Del’s condition.”
Jade frowned. “You would, wouldn’t you?”
“That would be on the order of a done deal, Dr. Han.”
“Have fun, Jade.”
James Kirk, captain of the U.S.S. Lincoln, walked at a brisk pace down the corridor to the Sickbay suite. Uhura had relayed Jade’s ‘on the double’ request, which could only mean there was a serious problem in Sickbay. When he heard the Communications Chief requesting a channel to Starfleet Intelligence, he knew ‘serious’ was something of an understatement.
He could hear Jade’s voice as he approached her office, and waited in the doorway while she finished her conversation with the D’Artagnan’s Chief Medical Officer. When she broke the connection, he had a good idea of what the problem was.
“Aren’t there times you wish the Enterprise had never accepted the undercover assignment to infiltrate the Sevrinites?” he asked.
His wife glanced up, a smile ghosting across her lips as she rose from her desk. “Nearly every day of my life,” she answered. Jim moved toward her as she came around the desk. “The main problem is I’m at a loss to even begin to understand how and why this happened, or what to do about it.”
“We can’t very well let an invisible woman roam freely around the ship,” the captain agreed.
“But I doubt Mr. DelMonde will be content to have her confined here,” Jade added.
“Mr. DelMonde’s preferences don’t run this ship, Jade,” Jim reminded. “It’s prudent to keep her under observation – “ A wry grin flashed across his face. “ – such as it is, until we can identify how she came to be here and in this state.”
“Does it seem odd to you that we’re talking about an invisible, perhaps xenoneurophene-created dead person, James?” Jade wondered.
“Odd doesn’t begin to cover it, sweetheart,” Jim responded. “But in our line of work, ‘odd’ is almost normal, isn’t it?”
Jade sighed. “I suppose you’re right. After all, since the launch, we’ve only had one or two missions that weren’t memorable in some way.”
Jim shrugged. “What do you need from me, Jade?” he asked.
“I’d like to study DelMonde’s personnel file,” she said, then added, “all of it.”
“Now there’s something memorable,” Jim quipped.
“I don’t doubt it.”
“I’ll have Personnel send it as soon as possible,” Jim promised. “Anything else?”
“A suggestion or two on what to do with Agent MacEntyre would be nice.”
“Keep her here in quarantine. See what happens when you release Commander DelMonde.”
“He might not want to leave,” Jade warned.
Jim straightened. “I’ll make it an order. He can either go about his duties, or spend some quality time in the Brig.”
“Winning friends and influencing people, I see,” Jade smiled.
“Someone once told me being a captain wasn’t a popularity contest,” he returned. “And they didn’t know the half of it.” He turned. “Come on, doctor, I’ll shield you from his wrath.”
They walked side by side down the short corridor that led to the main Sickbay.
Pelori folded her arms, waiting while several novels’ worth of beginnings ran through Del’s brain. What finally came bursting out was, “You been dead an’ gone, cher. You know I not th’ type to be celibate or not’ing.”
“I just asked a simple question, Del,” Pelori answered quietly.
“I wasn’t possessive about your chiot, was I?”
“But that were not’ing serious.”
She sighed, getting off the scanner, moving to him. She reached up, touching his face. “Which tells me this is,” she murmured. “Who is Miss Wheal?”
Del closed his eyes, confusion washing over him. “Calaya,” he said at last. “She… she…”
“Calaya is an Indiian name,” Pelori observed.
“Yeah, she is,” Del confirmed. He sat down, holding his head. “My brain feel like it on fast forward,” he said at last. “This not th’ Drake. It Fleet’s new flagship, the Lincoln. I her Chief Engineer an…” He took a deep breath, glancing up at his companion. “Calaya th’ captain’s yeoman.”
“And you live with her,” Pelori, encouraged gently.
Del looked away from her. “Yeah,” he said at last.
“Do you love her, Del?”
“Now whyfor you hafta go askin’ me that?” he groaned.
She took a deep breath. “Because she’s Indiian, which means there will be things about her which remind you of me. And she’s not an agent, which means she’s likely to be far more open with you than I ever could be. And being Indiian, she’ll be able to draw emotions from you, she’ll be able to ease the pain of losing me, and losing Ruth, and surround you with comfort when you miss her and me…” She paused. “You do miss me, don’t you, Del?”
He looked at her again, his face a mask of anguish. “How you even ask that, Li’l Mac?”
“Because I’m not as secure as I’d like you to think I am,” was her soft answer.
He took her into a fierce embrace. “Hell yes, I miss you! Every damn day!”
“Even with Miss Wheal?”
He groaned again. “You jus’ gotta make this complicated, doncha?”
“What I have to do is make this truthful,” she replied. “If there’s someone else now, I can’t very well expect you to just drop her and pick up where we left off.”
Del held his breath for a moment, then whispered, “Even if that jus’ what I wanna do?”
Her laughter was sad. “I know you better than that, Del. If you care for Miss Wheal, you wouldn’t do that, even if you did want to.” She paused. “And I can tell you do care for her.”
“You always able t’ hit me where I live,” Del muttered.
“Yes, well, you’re clearly not the same self-involved, self-pitying, self-destructive drunk that I fell in love with,” she said with equal measures of both teasing and reminiscence. “Still, I think I can manage.”
“Oh, I got me a fair supply o’ bourbon in my cabin,” he assured in the same tone. They stared at one another, Pelori’s thoughts trying not to plead, Del’s working equally hard at avoiding guilt and division. At last, Del blew out a breath.
“Okay, I gotta talk to Calaya,” he said. “We work somet’ing out, I swear.”
“You know I love you, Del. I don’t want to…”
“An’ I love you, Li’l Mac,” he broke in. “So you not say no more till I talk to her, non?”
She nodded, and they fell into another embrace, both wishing that the kiss could somehow last forever.
Jade softly cleared her throat, and Del lifted his head from Pelori’s lips. “Mr. DelMonde,” the doctor said, “your scan is complete and except for a rather alarming spike in certain chemical levels at the end of the scan, reads within normal limits. You’re free to return to your duties.”
She watched while the engineer murmured something inaudible to his invisible companion, then again faced her.
“Wit’ th’ captain’s permission,” he said, with a nod in Jim’s direction, “I t’ink I rather wait here ‘til you figure out…”
“That may take a while, Mr. DelMonde,” Kirk cut in. “I’m sure – uh – Miss MacEntyre will be quite comfortable remaining in quarantine.”
Del opened his mouth, then tilted his head, muttered, then said, “She say to tell you it might be difficult examinin’ her wit’out me since I th’ only one able t’ see an’ hear her.”
“Thank you for your concern, Miss MacEntyre,” Jade replied, “but the Gorsiini scan gives me all the information any other type of examination could provide, and unless you have some ideas on how you came to be here…?” She let the sentence hang, waiting for Del to give the agent’s response.
“She say non,” Del frowned.
“Then I’m not sure the lack of ability to communicate will hinder our research,” Jade concluded. She watched as Del’s frown turned to a scowl.
“I wanna be here wit’ her, Jade,” he said.
“Understandable,” Jim interjected, “assuming Agent MacEntyre’s appearance hasn’t changed since the last time I saw her.” He aimed a charming grin at the empty space at DelMonde’s side. “But your duties lie elsewhere.”
“Captain…” Del began
“Did that sound like a request, Commander?”
“No, sir,” Del grumbled.
Jade stepped to the quarantine controls. “If you’ll remain where you are, Miss MacEntyre?” she said, then released the field. “I’ll call you when we learn anything, Del,” she promised, and Jim motioned the engineer forward.
Del turned, clearly embracing his companion, sighed, and walked away from the Gorsiini scanner. Jade reinstated the field, then said, “Now, Miss MacEntyre, if you’ll return to the scanner platform…”
Del stopped, his eyes widening in surprise.
“She say she can’t ‘cause you got the quarantine field up.”
It was Jim’s turn to frown. “Agent, I thought we made it clear you were to remain…”
“She say she can’t,” Del interrupted. “She kinda followed me out.”
“It not her decision,” Del cut in again. “She say she was pulled after me.”
“Are you saying she physically can’t be separated from you?” Jade asked.
The engineer grinned. “Seems that way, Jade,” then added, “she say she can only get ‘bout five feet from me.” He then continued to Pelori, “An’ yeah, I do hafta sound so happy ‘bout it. You sayin’ you not?”
“I’m sure the agent simply regrets not being able to follow orders,” Jim put in. “Isn’t that right, Miss MacEntyre?”
Del’s grin widened. “She say, yes, sir.”
Jade and Jim exchanged glances, and Jim straightened. “Well,” he said, “I suppose you won’t be returning to your duties, then, Mr. DelMonde.”
“And if you’ll agree to stay here,” Jade added, “the quarantine field won’t be necessary.” She turned it off again. “But I still have some research to do.”
“We not leave sickbay, I promise,” Del returned. “But it might be best to have us in one o’ th’ isolation rooms,non? In case someone else come in here?”
“You’re very transparent, Del,” Jade chided.
The engineer snorted.
“She said something to the effect of no, that’s her, didn’t she?”
“Mais, she does kinda share your sense o’ humor, Jade,” Del chuckled.
“And at this stage, it would be awkward explaining why Mr. DelMonde is talking to himself,” Jim added, “though from what I’ve heard from your staff, Commander, that might not seem odd to any of them.”
“It not all that funny, Li’l Mac,” Del responded, though clearly not to his captain.
“All right,” Jade said. “Del, Miss MacEntyre…”
“She say t’ call her Pelori,” Del interjected.
“Pelori,” Jade corrected, “you’ll be confined to Isolation Room A." She gestured.
Del muttered, “I know the way,” and he walked toward that wing of the Sickbay suite.
Jade turned to her husband. “James, if you can expedite that call to Intelligence?”
“I’m on it,” he said. “I hope DelMonde’s records provide you with some clues.”
“They might tell me why this has happened,” she agreed,” but I doubt they will tell me how.”
A wry grin crossed the captain’s features. “With xenoneurophene, do we ever know how?”
“If I ever catch the unethical people who created this nightmare…”
“You’ll have patients for life,” Jim finished. He gave her a kiss on the forehead. “Good luck, sweetheart.”
“Somehow I’m not comforted,” Jade replied. She kissed her husband, watching him walk from Sickbay, then sighed and returned to her office and DelMonde’s personnel file.
After spending a few hours studying DelMonde’s file, Jade sat back in the chair behind her desk, her arms folded. Ever since the mission on Dreamland, the xenoneurophene in his system flared up whenever he was stressed past a certain point. It made sense; the chemical was designed to enhance psychic gifts. Del usually had relative degrees of difficulty keeping his dampened down enough to function. That his body would try to increase those gifts when he might need to call upon them seemed logical. The problem with that, though, was that he was under no particular stress now – at least, none that Han was aware of.
There was another troubling aspect of his records, but seeing as how it had no bearing on the current situation, she decided to leave that for another time.
“So,” she murmured to herself, “how to determine if there’s some stress that I don’t know about?” There were two possibilities for that. For the first, she’d interview his assistant and some of the other key people in Engineering. For the second, she’d have to speak with Calaya Wheal.
She glanced at the time. Almost the end of First Watch, and still nothing from Intelligence.
Damn secretive bastards, she thought, then reached for the intercom.
“Lieutenant Commander Mrraal, please report to the CMO’s office,” she said, then started making up a list of the others in Engineering who might be able to shed some light on Del’s stress levels.
Calaya had expected a call from Noel after his medical scan, hopefully with the good news that he was being released from the monthly examinations. She knew it had bothered him not to be trusted in such a way: after all, the only time he had failed one of Dr. Han’s tests was just after the launch. He had needed the extra sapphire to make the adjustment from the much smaller Drake to the Nest, and the launch had been preceded by a few very stressful weeks – not to mention the stress of the Captain and Dr. Han’s wedding and interacting with Ruth Valley.
And, her thoughts added, that was also before he and I began living together. It was with neither undue pride nor false modesty that she recognized how steadying an influence she was on his erratic gifts. And what a comfort to his battered soul.
But the call hadn’t come, and when she’d asked Engineering, no one had seen him since his appointment in Sickbay. So she’d gone about her duties, trying not to give in to Indiian emotionalism and track him down. While she wasn’t gifted, except for her natural Indiian sensitivity, she was certain he would find a way to let her know if there was something wrong.
When she returned to their cabin at the end of First Watch, and there was still no word from him, she was beginning to get worried. She busied herself with some paperwork for the Captain, then with tidying up the already neat cabin. Then she cleaned Noel’s guitars. While he generally took good care of them, oiling and polishing the wood and strings wasn’t something he ever thought to do. She smiled to herself thinking of him. One of the many reasons she loved him was that he was truly indifferent to status symbols or accumulating possessions. While he would be lost without his guitars, and he cared for his ships like they were his children – both the Lincoln and the yacht he had berthed in New Orleans – no other thing really mattered to him. She knew this was due to the high level of his gifts; if something didn’t have an energy signature to interact with, he almost didn’t see it.
Except for certain items of clothing, she giggled to herself. And his hair. But she knew this was Noel’s innate vanity. A man couldn’t help but know how attractive he was when people’s thoughts bombarded him with it all day every day. And while he didn’t always appreciate the desires that came with such thoughts, he was too honest not to recognize that they were true.
Unlike his friend, Sulu, who is just as attractive but hates it.
She started. Where had that come from? She had only met Captain Sulu briefly, and certainly did not know him well enough to have made such an observation.
She shook the thought away and checked the chronometer. Two hours past the time Noel should have been off duty. She was well aware that engineers, particularly a ship’s Chief, often worked overtime, but Noel always called her to let her know, unless some emergency prevented it. And even then, he would send her a brief telepathic message.
Worry firmly established, she called Engineering, and when he wasn’t there, decided to call Sickbay, the last place she was certain he had been.
“Commander DelMonde is a pain in the ass, ma’am, and he makes his own stress, but we haven’t had any reports of anything out of order.” Lieutenant Commander Serena Kane, the Third Watch Commander for Engineering, wasn’t too happy about having been called to Sickbay when she was just getting ready for bed. And she didn’t particularly like her Chief at the best of times. She’d been plucked from the Hood, where she’d been DelMonde’s superior – but who would have turned down a chance to serve on one of the Nests, and the flagship to boot? Added to that was the fact that she was married to another Fleet officer, Security Chief Tara Ryan’s second in command, Carlos Mangini. Starfleet wanted as many married couples on the Nests as possible, which usually wasn’t a problem, seeing as how married couples, even in Fleet, tended to want children. And that was what the Nests were for. But Jade knew it had to be hard on the woman to serve under someone who’d been promoted faster than she had.
“Thank you, Lieutenant Commander Kane,” Jade said, “and again, I apologize for disturbing you off-duty.”
Kane nodded curtly, and left the office. Jade sighed.
All right, no particular stress from his job. That leaves…
Her intercom signaled, and she reached for the controls.
“Han,” she said.
“Dr. Han, Is Noel still in Sickbay?” came the soft, clearly worried voice of Calaya Wheal. “I haven’t heard from him all day, and I know he had an appointment…”
Well, she was your next call anyway, Jade thought to herself. “Yes, Calaya, he’s still here. There’s been a – development…”
“He has not been abusing his prescription, Doctor,” the Indiian interrupted. “I would know.”
“I know that. His scan was clean…” Jade paused. “Except…”
“Doctor, what’s wrong? Is he ill? Was there some kind of accident?”
“Miss Wheal, I think it best that we have this conversation in person.”
There was a sharp cry of distress from the intercom, and Calaya said, “I’m on my way!” and the comm went dead.
“You didn’t have to scare the girl to death, Jade,” M’Benga’s voice said from the door to Jade’s office.
Jade made a face at her second in command. “I didn’t, Ben. All I said was that there’s been a development. And there has.”
“But she’s Indiian. They tend to overreact to vague statements like that,” was the TerAfrican’s calm reply.
“Jilla never did,” Jade muttered.
M’Benga snorted. “And you’re going to base your knowledge of Indiians on her?”
A light flush colored Jade’s featured as she realized she had been doing just that. Which was a little illogical seeing as how Jilla Majiir’s reactions were more often than not governed by her Vulcan genetics rather than innate Indiian patterns.
“I’d suggest you do some reading on basic Indiian psychology,” M’Benga chuckled, “but seeing as how you wrote the standard text…”
“Must you, Ben?” Jade returned in exasperation.
Her fellow physician only shrugged, and as he turned to walk away, he said, “Just be sure you talk to her before she sees DelMonde, hmm?”
Never one to discard good advice, Jade left her office for the main Sickbay room, hoping to head off Calaya.
The nearer she got to Sickbay, the more convinced Calaya became that something was terribly amiss. The sense of Noel’s presence came to her tia when she was much further away from him than it normally did, and was stronger, and subtly altered. And there was a second presence near him, one that she didn’t recognize except that he, she, or it had gifts as powerful as Noel’s – perhaps even more powerful. The fact that she couldn’t yet identify gender or species was even more unusual.
She entered sickbay calling his name, and was intercepted by Dr. Han.
“Where is he, Doctor?” she asked, nearly breathlessly.
“He’s safe, Miss Wheal, in Isolation…” Jade Han began.
“As I said, there’s been a development…”
“Who is with him?!” Calaya demanded.
Han started. “How did you…?”
“I can feel another being,” was the quick response. “Please, I must see him!”
“You can feel her from out here?” Jade asked.
The Indiian’s bright grey eyes snapped to her face. “Her?”
“Oh dear,” the doctor murmured. “Miss Wheal, if you’ll come to my office I can explain…”
Lemme explain, Jade, came to Calaya’s mind, and she cried out.
Han immediately glanced toward the Isolation Room. “That’s not supposed to be possible,” she said. The Isolation Rooms were shielded from all energy sources, even telepathic ones.
But th’ loony juice shot that all to hell before, Calaya heard. Then Noel’s voice was directed to her. Come on, cher, I gotta talk t’ you.
“Doctor?” the Indiian pleaded.
Han sighed. “All right. I suppose it won’t make any difference to our conversation. You can go see him, Miss Wheal, but only for a few minutes. Then you and I need to talk.”
“Del, she can’t come in here,” Pelori said, her calm voice belied by the alarm in her eyes.
“Why not?” Del replied. “It not like she gonna catch us in flagrante or not’ing.” He grinned wolfishly. “We already done that.”
“I don’t wish to upset her,” the former agent tried again.
“She know all ‘bout you, cher – mais, ‘cept fo’ th’ fact you here now.”
“But she thinks I’m dead and…” Pelori persisted.
Del put his arm around her shoulders. “What th’ matter, darlin’?” he asked gently. “What really wrong here?”
“Please, Del, can you speak with her somewhere else?” Her eyes were miserable, and Del frowned.
“I can’t get five feet from you, cher,” he reminded. “No matter where I go, you gonna be there.”
“Maybe if I concentrate, I can…”
“Noel?” Calaya’s worried voice said as the door to the Isolation Room opened.
Del got off the small bed, moving toward her, and she abruptly stopped. “Sumin tu, Noel, what is that?” she gasped. She was staring straight at the spot on the bed where Pelori was sitting.
Del blinked. “You see her?” he asked.
“Her? I can see – a mass of swirling blue. It is a ‘her’?”
Del’s head jerked around to Pelori. “What this, cher?” he demanded.
“I don’t know, Del!” Pelori cried helplessly.
“Whatever she is, she’s lying,” Calaya pronounced, her arms folding in front of her.
The engineer stared warily between the Indiian and who he clearly saw as Pelori MacEntyre. “An’ you hear her, too, non?”
Calaya tilted her head quizzically. “Of course.”
“Why you say she lyin’?” he wanted to know.
Calaya gave him an exasperated look. “I’m Indiian. I can feel it.”
“But you not feel she…”
“Del, don’t!” Pelori broke in.
“She obviously feels she knows you well,” Calaya commented.
Del’s frown was rapidly becoming a scowl. “I not know what goin’ on here,” he began, “but Calaya, cher, what I see is…”
“Please, Del, stop!” Pelori begged.
“Why?” he snapped.
“He is becoming suspicious of you – whatever you are,” Calaya informed her.
Pelori ignored her. “You know who I am, Del,” she pleaded. “I don’t understand what she sees or why, anymore than I can explain why no one else can see me at all. But you have to believe me, I am who I say I am!”
“And who is that?” Calaya asked.
“That what you not want me t’ say, non, cher?” Del stated, his voice flat with suspicion.
Pelori blinked helplessly. “Yes,” she said at last. “I don’t know why, but it’s important.” She stared into Del’s eyes. “Please, my love, you have to believe me!”
“My love?” Calaya repeated. Her grey eyes narrowed speculatively, then widened. She turned to Del. “It cannot be Ruth, you would be questioning it,” she said carefully. “Therefore you must see …”
“Don’t name me!” Pelori screamed.
Calaya backed a step, Del moving to stand in front of her. “I say your name,” he growled. “Why you so fuckin’ scared of it wit’ her?”
The woman on the bed was weeping. “I don’t know, Del, I don’t know! All I do know is there’s a panic inside me at the thought of it…”
“Come to t’ink on it,” Del went on warily, “Dr. Han say your name, too. An’ so did Captain Kirk. Why it so different wit’ Calaya?”
Pelori only sobbed, and Calaya murmured, “Noel, what she said – may I assume that neither Dr. Han nor the captain can see or hear her?”
Del nodded, his troubled emotions clear.
“And you see – who you see,” the Indiian went on, carefully forestalling another outburst. “And all I see is the outline of a body filled with blue…” Her voice stopped. “Bright blue, Noel,” she repeated. “Did Dr. Han say anything about your Gorsiini scan involving…”
“Yeah, th’ loony juice actin’ up again,” he confirmed. “But how the hell it do somet’ing like this?”
“Does this mean you aren’t going to have a discussion with her?” Pelori said, her voice full of sorrow and fear.
“You not want me to admit who you are,” Del pointed out. “What you want me to say?”
“What would you have said, Noel,” Calaya asked, “if I had seen and heard her as you do, or not at all, like Dr. Han and Captain Kirk?”
Del sighed, running his hand up over his forehead and through his hair. At last, he said, “I was gonna try an’ explain that P—“
“Del!” Pelori warned, and he glanced at her, then sighed again.
“She,” he corrected, “was somehow back, that she say I brought her back, that I not t’ink I able to let her go again…”
“You would have asked me to step aside for her,” Calaya returned softly.
“Cher, you know how I feel…”
“About both of us, yes,” the Indiian broke in. “And if she were somehow truly restored to you, I would be amenable to discussing ways in which we could share you.” A faint smile touched her features, then was gone.
“Share?” Del repeated, his shock obvious. “I not t’ink Indiians…”
“You base your assumptions on one who is wed,” Calaya interrupted again. “An unmarried Indiian doesn’t expect that kind of fidelity.” She smiled again. “Regardless of the depth of emotion between partners.”
Del turned to Pelori. “That true, cher?”
The woman nodded, then whispered, “But I’m half Human.”
Calaya’s expression hardened. “So you’re saying that even if you were who Noel sees, you would object to his relationship with me,” she said.
“I – I don’t think I could share you,” Pelori responded as if Del had been the one to speak.
“And why exactly won’t you address me?” the Indiian wanted to know.
“Del, I need – I need to rest…” Pelori murmured. Her hand came up to her forehead, and she started to slump. Del reacted, moving toward her, laying her down gently on the bed. He didn’t look at Calaya when he spoke, even though he was speaking to her.
“You gotta understand,” he murmured. “I see her, an’ she… she mean so much to me…”
“I do understand, Noel,” Calaya answered gently. “I always have. But you must understand, that whoever or whatever she is, I do not feel an Indiian/Human hybrid.”
“What do you feel?” he asked plaintively.
“An unknown,” the Indiian answered. “Nothing I’ve ever sensed before.”
to hear the title song, click here
Go To Part Two
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
Return to Valjiir Continum