Teeth! Those teeth!
Like Lewis Carroll's Cheshire cat they floated in the air, grinning,
grinning, always grinning. As big as Asper Bugs on Ridnak Prime they
were: white, shining, hostile--malevolent. Grinning.
She had to get away from
them, distance herself from their threat, their peril, flee to
safety; but there was no place to escape in the vague darkness
around her where gangways, cargo containers, hatches and bulkheads
were simply darker splotches in an indistinct gloom. They floated
toward her from behind a dimly lit cargo container and she began to
"Go away! Leave me alone!"
she shouted, but no sound escaped her lips. "Damn you to Hell!"
Then, before she could even
get all the words out, it began.
The searing pain of the
knife blade sinking into her body brought a sudden metallic taste to
her mouth. Is it the knife or did I bite my tongue? raced
aimlessly through her mind as again and again she felt the knife,
somehow gleaming and bright in the dimness, plunging into her body,
piercing the skin, cutting muscle, devastating organs; each time
worse than the last until she could no longer separate the
individual wounds and the pain became overwhelming. She fell to her
knees in a pool of her own blood, the coppery smell filling her nose
and sinuses, too weak to fend off the repeated blows.
The gray began to creep in
from the sides of her vision, getting darker and darker as it moved
toward the center of her eyes as the strength drained from her body.
Those teeth! Grinning. Grinning. Always grinning.
It was a small sound at
first that intruded into her pain and anger. A two-toned sound that
she could almost recognize, like the faint memory of a long-lost
friend. The sound intensified, slowing her descent into nothingness,
adamant, aggravating; it called to her, seduced her like a moth to a
flame, like a drowning person grasping at a lone piece of flotsam
from a sinking ship in the middle of a boundless sea.
Suddenly her eyes snapped
open and the teeth, the pain, the sensation of falling from a great
height into an abject pit of nothingness vanished as she finally
recognized the sound: It was her computer signaling an incoming
message that had saved her from the final plunge into darkness. She
fumbled with the accept button, trembling from the intensity and the
reality of her nightmare.
"Captain, Bridge," the
voice said. She tried desperately to understand the words but their
meaning hovered just outside her reach. She fought against the chaos
that was her mind, beating back the memories that held her like a
louder, more insistent this time and she finally recognized
Commander Stryker, her First Officer.
"Yes?" she managed as a
drop of sweat trickled into one eye, her surroundings finally
starting to make sense, her voice quivering in spite of herself. She
was in her bed, in her stateroom, aboard the heavy cruiser USS
PHOENIX and all was well again--at long last. She glanced to her
right with a degree of trepidation, fearing what she might see in
the darkness. The teeth were gone. There was nothing there but the
familiar surroundings of her sleeping quarters. She turned back to
the welcome sight of her First Officer.
"Are you alright?" Stryker
asked. Her disheveled, untidy appearance and wild eyes told him all
he needed to know; it was not the first time, Nor, I suspect, the
last, that he had seen his captain escape from the recurring
nightmare of the assassination attempt. Which came far too close
to success, Stryker said to himself. He waited a moment as he
recognized the signs that she was "returning to the land of the
"Yes, Commander?" her voice
was gravelly, not her own and she had to concentrate to form the
"You wanted to know when we
reached the Desarius system. We're currently inbound to Desarius
Prime, ETA one hour."
She glanced at the time and
grimaced. It was 0434, four hours of sleep, if you can call
that sleep, she thought and nodded wearily at the computer
screen. "Give me 30 minutes to get dressed and wake up, and I'll be
on the Bridge."
Stryker nodded and his
image faded from the screen. T.E. had recognized the look on his
face and she knew he knew what she had just experienced. She
grimaced, not liking the fact that he knew, and threw the
sweat-soaked covers off, her imperative destination the sonic
shower. No, she decided, this time it's going to be
water--hot and steamy and decadent. And a cup of hot chocolate.
She glanced over her shoulder one last time, looking for a set of
grinning teeth. They were gone, but Captain T. E. Lawrence knew
they'd be back. Grinning. Always
PHOENIX is in orbit around
the Federation colony Desarius Prime. The colony is 30 years old and
seldom visited. The Desarius star system is in close proximity to
the Neutral Zone and Qon'oS, and provides a valuable "buffer" in
this sector to the Klingons. More importantly, large deposits of
dilithium exist on the planet and Starfleet has constructed a
dilithium cracking facility to take advantage of the rich veins that
meander through the planet's crust. A plea for vast quantities of
medical supplies was the main thrust of the latest resupply request
and Starfleet has sent us here not only to deliver the supplies but
also to check on the status of the colony. Contact has already been
made with the orbiting dilithium cracking station and they report no
anomalies--in fact, their was nothing in their report of anything
except delight over the quantity and quality of the dilithium coming
from the surface. Still, my intuition seems to be making small
whimpering sounds in the back of my mind and I plan on sending my
Chief Medical Officer to the planet with the supplies and my Chief
Engineer to the cracking station--if for no other reason than to
satisfy my unease.
Captain T. E. Lawrence
immediately disliked the disingenuously smiling countenance of
Desarius' Administrator, Darwan Bolden, when it materialized on the
screen in her Ready Room, just outside the Main Bridge. Commander
Wolphbayne Stryker, her First Officer, sat at the table just outside
the visual pickup, his hands folded neatly on the polished wood of
the conference table.
"Welcome to Bolden Colony,
Captain," the Administrator said cheerily. Bolden Colony, is it?
Lawrence thought. How interesting that the
colony's name was identical to the Administrator's.
She smiled her most
diplomatic smile but not without a trace of a smile.
Bolden shook his head and
his own smile, impossible as it seemed, stretched wider. "Oh,
Captain, I can see your wonder at the name of our little home. My
father was a retired Starfleet officer and was the driving force
behind the establishment of our colony. The colonists, of course,"
he waved a depreciating hand, "voted on the name. I could hardly go
against their wishes, now could I?" Butter would not have melted in
his mouth even on a hot day.
T.E.'s eyes cut to Stryker,
who had a disgusted look on his face. He rolled his eyes. Lawrence
couldn't disagree with his reaction.
"Of course, Administrator,
I understand completely. It must be very satisfying to you
personally for the people to honor your father so publicly. At any
rate, Starfleet indicates that you have need of a large amount of
medical supplies. Is there a problem we need to know about? We have
a very experienced and capable Sickbay on board the PHOENIX and will
be more than happy to help in any way we can."
Bolden waved Lawrence's
concern away with one hand, as though trying to swat a fly. "It's
really nothing, Captain. But with the cracking station and the mines
running so deep into the planet, it's not unexpected that we have
the occasional case of dilithium poisoning."
Stryker's response was a
frown and Lawrence could read his thoughts as though he had written
them down: Any dilithium cracking station, not to mention the
dilithium mines themselves, were required to follow strict protocols
to ensure the safety of personnel. If this was not the case on
Desarius Prime, then Starfleet was not getting the whole story from
the Administrator. Stryker obviously didn't like that idea.
"I see, Administrator,"
Lawrence answered cautiously. "In that case, I'll be sending an
engineering team to the cracking station and a team down to visit
your mines as well as the medical supplies you requested." She
mimicked his own dismissing hand wave of a few minutes ago. "No, no.
I insist. We're here to help in any way we can."
Just for a fleeting moment
the expression on Bolden's face slipped into what Lawrence could
only describe as anger, then he recovered. "Oh, that really won't be
necessary, Captain. All we need are the medical supplies. Our own
engineers are quite on top of things."
"But I insist,
Administrator," Lawrence said firmly. "Starfleet is fully aware of
the importance of Desarius Prime not only to the area but the mines
as well. We are at your service." Her tone said that the matter was
not open to discussion.
Bolden leaned back in his
chair and there was poorly disguised fury in his eyes. He stared at
Captain Lawrence for a moment or two before he answered. "Yes, of
course...." his voice trailing off. "Well, uh," he continued
hesitantly, leaning forward again without meeting her eyes. "Then we
will await your people with...gratitude." He seemed pleased to have
found just the right word. "Will you be joining your landing party,
Captain? I'd be delighted to show you around Bolden Town and," his
eyes became crafty, "perhaps, dinner?"
Out of the corner of her
eye she caught the emphatic shake of Stryker's head. He didn't like
that idea at all and his vehemence surprised her enough that she
looked at him. He shook his head again. She turned back to the
monitor. "No, unfortunately I will be unable to visit you on this
trip, Administrator. But," she smiled, "you and members of your
staff are welcome to come aboard the PHOENIX for dinner with me and
my First Officer. You'll find we have some very capable chefs aboard
the ship, ones that I am very proud of. Say, 1900? We'll beam you
Bolden's voice trailed off
again. "Yes, well...perhaps another time, Captain?" He reached out
to terminate the exchange and his hand paused. "Oh, by the way,
Captain. When your crew beams down? Please make them aware that I am
addressed as "Papa." He smiled crookedly and ended the connection.
Lawrence and Stryker traded
Darwan Bolden muttered to himself as he ended the conversation.
Isn't that just like a woman--can't leave things alone. Always got
to go stirring the pot. Well, Miss High and Mighty Captain
Starfleet, there are ways to make you sorry that you didn't keep
your nose where it belongs. He leaned back in his chair and put
his hands behind his head and propped his boots on the desk.
It had been only six weeks
before when Bolden had made an unexpected and highly unusual visit
to the deepest vein in the dilithium mines where the engineers were
about to break though another wall of rock to open yet another mine
tunnel. He stood back and watched the boring machine eat the solid
rock like a toddler devouring a birthday cake. The oxygen mask was
uncomfortable but he was glad to have it, the clouds of dust kicked
up by the huge machine would have been lethal in mere minutes.
Suddenly the wall of rock collapsed and the bore operator shut it
down quickly to keep it from running away as all resistance
disappeared. Darwan wasn't a mining engineer but he knew enough to
recognize that something unexpected and unusual had just happened.
He shouldered his way past
the shift supervisor and the borer and boldly stepped through the
hole left by the collapsed rock wall. What he had found made the
money flowing into his personal accounts from excavating the
dilithium look like pocket change and he gasped as he realized
exactly what he had found.
Aboard the PHOENIX, Captain
T. E. Lawrence pressed the comm button. "Bridge, Captain. Have
Lieutenant Commander QaS, Lieutenant Commander MacInis, and
Lieutenant Commander Sphan come to the Ready Room, please."