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Authors: J.M. Dillard

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BOOK: Bloodthirst
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“I thought you never left her quarters until our landing party arrived.”

“Look, I'm sick. My mind isn't clear. Why don't
you
figure it out?”

Kirk folded his arms. Mendez had a point—the man was probably guilty of murder, maybe more.… And yet, it was unfair to assume his guilt until he had a chance for a trial. “I suppose I should tell you you're under arrest. We're taking you to the nearest star base to turn you in to the authorities.”

“Under arrest?” Adams looked at him with wide eyes. “You're arresting me because of a
drinking
glass?”

Kirk shook his head. “I'm not arresting you. Admiral Mendez gave the order. But it will hardly make any difference to you in your current condition.”

“You're right,” Adams whispered, closing his eyes. “Any way you look at it, I'm a dead man.”

If it weren't for Lisa Nguyen this first week, Lamia decided, she would have died of homesickness, or at the very least packed up her bags and hijacked a shuttlecraft to Andor. It had occurred to her more than once during her brief stay on the
Enterprise
that she had made a horrible, dreadful mistake, and that
Tijra
was right: she belonged back home instead of on a starship, sailing around the galaxy risking her life to protect strangers. Of course, she hadn't risked anything yet; her assignments had been more boring than anything else. And she comforted herself with the thought that she had felt exactly the same way her first few weeks at Starfleet Academy, yet she had grown to love it. In time, she'd feel the same way about the
Enterprise
.

In the meantime, thank the stars for Lisa Nguyen. Lisa was a firm believer in the
Enterprise
's “buddy” tradition—making sure that new arrivals didn't get too lonely their first few weeks out in space. Lisa was more than her roommate, she was Lamia's social director, introducing her to other crewmates, dining with her, showing her the ship's facilities. Lamia could have used someone like Lisa her first year at the Academy, back when she had to learn to sleep in a room with only one other person in it, instead of the thirty-odd bodies she was used to. It was tougher then, in a way.

Of course, there were new concerns now. Lamia's
Tijra”
her mother's sister, the most important family member to a female Andorian—had still not responded to her message that she had accepted a deep-space assignment aboard the
Enterprise. Tijra
had been furious at Lamia, of course, when she had gone to the Academy on Earth, but she'd never stopped communicating with her.
Tijra
had said that Lamia would come to her senses, would realize where her duty lay—with starting a family, as it did for all those who were fertile—when she was finally faced with the reality of going out in space.

Those were the old times
, Lamia had answered.
Andor is populated again. Most children are born fertile, not scarred from dheir parents' disease. It's time for customs to change when they are no longer necessary for survival.
But
Tijra
was unconvinced.

Now Lamia was in space, and had sent word of it to
Tijra.
For weeks, there had been no reply. Of course, the
Enterprise
was very far from Andor

“Cheers.” Lisa Nguyen raised her glass of pineapple juice, interrupting Lamia's reverie. They'd just come from the gym, where Lisa had beaten her soundly in a wrestling match, and were now seated in the rec lounge enjoying a drink.

Lamia smiled and raised her glass of Thirelian Mountain mineral water in a token gesture. No matter that she'd had years of practice at smiling to her, the expression was an unnatural one, and she always felt as if she were grimacing. But then, none of her human friends had ever complained.

“You're awfully quiet tonight,” Lisa said, still smiling. She was pretty for a human, with Oriental features and dark, shoulder-length hair. Although she was rather short, her muscular body made Lamia feel weak and spindly. “Heard from your family yet?”

“Not yet,” Lamia said into the bubbling glass of mineral water, but Lisa didn't hear the answer. She was busy waving at someone else.

“Jon!” She half stood from the table and smiled broadly. “Stanger! Come have a seat with us.”

Lamia took a sip of water and looked up in time to see Stanger gazing around the room uncertainly, with a glass in his hand. Apparently he had been deserted by his “buddy"” that is, if anyone had been willing to volunteer for the job—and had been trying to slip unnoticed into a dark corner of the lounge. Now he was headed for their table. Lamia swallowed hard and imagined she could feel the water sink all the way down to her feet.

“Hello,” Stanger said. He had spotted the Andorian, but he directed his attention to Lisa, returning her smile. “Are you ladies managing to keep the lounge secure this evening?” He asked the question with an easy good humor that surprised Lamia; he seemed altogether different from the irritable man who had beamed down to Tanis.

He pulled a chair next to Lisa's. “So,” Lisa asked, “how's the first week on board going? Like it enough to stay?”

“It's going fine,” he answered, without so much as a glance at Lamia. “There're some good people on board this ship.”

Lisa dimpled again. “Glad you think so. I hope that applies to all of us in Security.”

“It does,” Stanger said gallantly, and raised his beer in a toast before taking a sip.

“Well, good for you. Not everyone hits it off with Tomson right away. She usually takes some getting used to.”

Lamia waited for him to say something. Surely he wasn't going to claim he liked
Tomson
, not after what happened this morning”

“She's all right,” Stanger said casually.

The Andorian could hold her tongue no longer. “You can't mean that.” She leaned across the table toward him, and he was forced to meet her gaze. “Not after the time she gave you about being a minute late.” She turned to Lisa. “He was
one minute
late, and for that Tomson spent five minutes lecturing him. If she were really angry and trying to run a tight ship, then give him a demerit and be done with it. But it's almost as if she were looking for a chance to unload on someone. I'd heard she was unfriendly, but she seems well, almost hostile toward the junior officers.”

Stanger's good humor vanished. His voice became quiet, but there was an undercurrent of anger in it. “It was more than a minute, okay? Besides, I'd rather not go into it, En—Lamia. Let's just say I deserved it. In Security, one minute can make the difference between life and death. The chief of security has got to be a stickler for details, and she's got to drum it into her crew any way she can. I damn well deserved a demerit. But I'll take a lecture any day if I can avoid” He broke off. “Oh, the hell with it. Let's drop it.”

But Lamia wasn't about to let it rest. How could anyone be so forgiving when their pride was at stake? “Instead she called you on the carpet in front of another officer. I thought it was cruel. I'm just trying to stick up for you”

“I don't need anyone to stick up for me,” Stanger snapped, so sharply that Lamia recoiled into her chair. “As long as Tomson does her job, it doesn't matter a damn bit whether her crew likes her or not, does it?” He took a savage gulp of beer and almost choked, but managed to swallow it.

“I suppose not,” Lamia answered icily, her antennae flattened on her scalp in a gesture of disapproval.

Lisa squirmed uncomfortably in her chair as the others looked down into their glasses and sulked. “Hey,” she said, with insincere brightness, in a pathetic attempt to lighten the mood. “Speaking of Tomson, I forgot to tell you both today's skinny”

“Skinny?” Lamia was still sulking while counting the bubbles in the Thirelian Mountain water.

“You know. The lowdown. The latest gossip. I got it from Acker Esswein—you know him, he's security night shift”

“We share quarters,” Stanger said softly, in a way that let everyone know he wasn't pleased by the fact.

“Good.” Lisa continued bravely. “Anyway, Acker overheard Lieutenant Tomson talking to the captain. It's been months since Tomson's had a second-in-command. They were going to bring someone in from outside because nobody on board was due for a promotion, but apparently Tomson is so picky that no one has suited her. So Acker overheard her saying to the captain that she's decided someone on board the
Enterprise
should be promoted anyway.” Lisa leaned back with a satisfied expression. “How's
that
for news?”

“I suppose this means that everyone will be knifing his or her colleague in the back.” Expressionless, Stanger rose, leaving his glass on the table. “If you'll excuse me, ladies.” And without further hesitation he walked out of the rec lounge.

“Hey,” Lamia said angrily. “What is
wrong
with that man?” What she wanted to say was:
Humans. What is wrong with them?
But for Lisa's sake, she held back.

Lisa seemed more sad than angry. She watched him leave, and her eyes lingered at the doorway for a moment before she spoke. “Don't be mad at him, Lamia; it's my fault.” She stared disconsolately into her pineapple juice. “I always do this. I just ran my mouth off without thinking. I should have known it might upset him.”

“What would upset him? About the promotions? Just because his chances aren't good? Well, mine aren't either, but you don't see me walking out. It's no wonder he's an ensign at his age.”

“You don't know.” Lisa looked up at her wonderingly. “I guess I never told you.”

“Told me what?”

Lisa glanced around guiltily to be sure Stanger was gone, then lowered her voice, as if afraid he'd overhear anyway. “About Stanger. You didn't know he was the security chief on board the
Columbia?

Lamia's antennae surged gently in Lisa's direction.
"Chief?”
She brought a hand to her mouth. It certainly explained his behavior down on Tanis. “No wonder he kept calling me ensign—I just assumed he was pompous. But how”

“He made a big mistake, that's how. The story I got from Acker was that they caught Stanger trying to smuggle illegal weapons onto the ship. Apparently, he didn't offer any sort of defense when they caught him.”

"Smuggling?”
Lamia gasped. “I'm surprised they let him stay in the Fleet!”

“I know, it's hard to believe, isn't it? Acker said his record was otherwise so good that all he got was a demotion.” Lisa sighed. “And you know, it's really hard for me to believe, after meeting him.”

Lamia shook her head slowly in disbelief. “No wonder Tomson yelled at him for being late.”

“Everyone's been gossiping about him and avoiding him, so I felt like the least I could do was try to be nice to him. I really
was
trying to be nice when I asked him to the table.” Lisa's expression was still one of remorse. “I shouldn't have mentioned the promotion. It was like rubbing salt in an open wound.”

“Well, he'd have heard about it somewhere else, then.” Lamia leaned across the table and patted Nguyen's arm. “Don't feel bad, Lisa. He's the one who made a mistake. If he can't handle being reminded of it, then he doesn't belong in Starfleet.”

She was talking about Stanger, of course, but in a way, she knew the words applied to herself as well.

Christine Chapel adjusted her visor and gave a worried glance at the patient behind the crystal barrier as she lowered the tray into the vacuum lock. No matter that Adams was a suspected killer—he was a patient, first and foremost, a patient that had Chapel very concerned. There was a soft
swoosh
as the lock sealed itself and reopened inside the isolation chamber. Robot arms lowered themselves from the ceiling and deftly ferried the tray with the steaming bowl to Adams' bedside. Just as efficiently, they disappeared again.

“You'll feel better if you eat something,” Chapel said into the intercom beneath the crystal. “I refuse to give you another IV. You're not sick enough. Now eat.”

The man on the bed continued to lie with his face turned toward the wall.

“Don't make me have to sound like your mother.” Chapel's tone was light but firm. “I'm not leaving until I see you eat something.”

She amazed herself sometimes with her ability to put on a good show. Adams had gone into a sudden, rapid decline; within a matter of hours, he had deteriorated to the point that he looked—to Chapel, anyway—like a skeleton. He had the look of death to him it was only hours away now, and Chapel was frightened for his sake. But she was too damn good a nurse to let on. She'd seen miracles before—people who lived, who had no business surviving. They just simply hadn't known any better. Hadn't realized they were close to dying.

But Adams realized it. He'd already slipped into a depression. If she could somehow convince him that he had a chance

She cleared her throat and tried again. “I'm
not
leaving.”

He sighed and stirred. Chapel saw him glance at the bowl next to the bed. After all that time in the unlit chamber, she bet he could see better than a Vulcan in the dark.

“What is it?” Adams asked feebly.

“Some nice chunky soup.” She tried her best to make the words themselves sound delicious. “Or stew with broth. Whichever sounds best to you. Good and hot.”

He raised his head and looked up in the direction of her voice. “Why should I eat? I'm just going to die.” He said it with the simple, unself-pitying bluntness of a child.

“You're not going to die,” Chapel answered with what she hoped was convincing exasperation. “You've stabilized. And our lab is very close to a breakthrough on this.” Both lies, of course, but if it took a lie to help him, then she would never speak the truth again. Her tone became lightly teasing. “Besides, I wouldn't waste this good food on you if you were going to die. Now, eat up. You must be awfully hungry.”

BOOK: Bloodthirst
10.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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