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A Debt Repaid

Posted on Jul 09, 2020 @ 8:44am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Jul 09, 2020 @ 8:44am

Mission: Dog Days Of Summer

A Debt Repaid =

(cont’d from “Eye To Eye” )


LOCATION: USS PHOENIX, docked at Starbase 56
SCENE: Captain’s Ready Room
STARDATE: [2.20] 0709.0014

Michael Turlogh Kane folded his hands on his desk and looked across at his Executive Officer. The ready room was still in something of a state of disrepair - one of the technicians in charge of upgrading the bridge had barged in about 20 minutes earlier, opened some kind of panel or hatch in the floor that Kane hadn’t even known was there, and plugged one end of an opti-cable into the complex grid of blinking machinery underneath. Then, trailing the coil of opti-cable behind her, the technician had disappeared out the door; if he focused on it, Kane could still hear the occasional thrumming and whirring of her equipment out on the bridge, and every so often the end of opti-cable plugged into his floor juked a bit, presumably as the technician uncoiled more of it from her end.

A side-effect of this upkeep was that the door to his Ready Room could not completely close - the cable lay across its threshold, preventing the door from swishing all the way shut. Kane had pointed this out to Jake Crichton when he’d arrived, offering up the conference room as an alternative venue for their discussion, but Jake had been in too much of a hurry to waste precious seconds walking to a different room, and aside from a single, cursory glance at the cable plugged into the floor (**Can’t ever shut those engineer’s instincts all the way off, can he?** Kane thought), his attention had been focused entirely on Kane.

“I’ve read Lieutenant Dalziel’s report,” Kane started.

“Understood, captain.”

“Commander, I am relieving you of duty, effective immediately.”

Jake started to protest, but Kane quickly put up a hand to stop him.

“Let me finish. Jake, this business with your son is damn peculiar, and you’re frankly quite right to be upset by it. Eve’s report seems to support your conclusions - this boy is not your son, which of course begs the question of where exactly your son is.”

“With all due respect, captain, I’m tired of people telling me things I already know. What I need to know is what we’re *doing* about it.”

“Which is why I am relieving you of duty,” said Kane. “Jake, I am giving you my full support in getting to the bottom of this, and Byte is more than capable of covering your duties in the meantime. Of course, ship’s resources may not 100% available right now--”

The cable plugged into the floor juked again, as if underscoring Kane’s point.

“...but I am also prepared to formally request assistance from Starbase 56 if necessary,” Kane continued. “I will also notify Starfleet Command and see if they can get a message to Ambassador Bonviva. We’re too far away for them to offer much meaningful support, but I’ll see to it that anything they have of value is forwarded to you as soon as possible.”

Jake visibly relaxed, though only a little. “Thank you sir, I appreciate that.”

“There is a caveat,” Kane said. “You need to keep Eve in the loop.”

Jake frowned. “I thought I had your total support.”

Kane nodded. “You do. But whoever that boy is, he has rights too, and someone needs to make sure those rights are being protected.”

"You can’t trust me to do that?”

Kane sighed, and leaned back in his chair. “Jake… you’re one of the most principled, good-natured people I’ve ever served with. Those can be damn annoying qualities in a first officer, but looking back on it all, I couldn’t imagine having anyone else in that position for everything we’ve gone through since Edgerton.”

“But?” Jake asked.

“But… the fact is, you’re compromised on this.”


“Your son disappears and this other boy takes his place,” Kane said. “It’s natural for you to be suspicious of him, to not want to accept him… but I have reports from Commander Pygan and Lt. Dalziel telling me they have no reason to believe that this Billy is anything more than a lost little boy who’s confused and afraid, and who thinks you’re his father. The amount of power that gives you over him needs to be checked, Jake. Your focus is on finding your son, and nobody will blame you for that, but someone needs to be focused on the boy’s well-being.”

“We need to examine him,” Jake said. “The scans they took on the starbase could have missed something. Billy could be a clone, or from a parallel universe, or the result of some kind of temporal anomaly… and if we can narrow down which one, that could tell us where to start looking for Ben.”

“Understandable,” Kane started. “But--”

“How many times?” Jake interrupted. “How many times have I come through for you over the last 6 years? How many times have you asked me to put my trust in you, and how many times have I earned your trust in return?”


“How many times have I risked my life - my *children’s* lives - doing the right thing?” Jake continued. “You owe me.”

The silence, supercharged by the tension that had existed between them since the mission to locate the SATET, hung in the air between them like a curtain. Kane wished he could simply reach out, pull it aside, and reclaim the friendly working relationship he and Jake Crichton had enjoyed for the better part of a decade. They were not exactly friends, but had worked closely enough over the years to have developed a real bond - they could predict each other, trust each other. And Jake was right - that trust had been earned, each and every time Jake had come through for Kane when he needed it most.

And now, Jake needed him.

“I will instruct Lt. Dalziel to allow you some leeway in your investigation,” Kane said at last. “But she is still to be copied on everything you do, and I will expect regular reports from both you and her regarding your progress and your intentions.”

“Thank you,” Jake said. He seemed to relax a little once more.

“If there’s anything else you need, my door is open,” Kane said. Glancing down at the cable propping his door slightly open, he added, “Figuratively as well as literally, it seems.”

Jake didn’t respond to the joke - another sign of his mental state, Kane thought - so Kane nodded at him. “Dismissed.”

Jake Crichton rose and moved to the door, which now swished completely open at his approach. Before he could step through, Kane stopped him.


Jake turned to look back at Kane. “Sir?”

“You’re not alone in this,” Kane said. “Don’t… don’t do anything you might regret.”

“It’s me, sir,” Jake said, and disappeared through the door.


SCENE: Sickbay - Examination Room

Karrington Crow never liked Sickbays.

It was far from an original position; in fact, Kari, would be hard pressed to remember any person she’d ever known across her lifetime that enjoyed the antiseptic smell, the flat lighting, and the massive cloud of ego that seemed to permeate even the most milquetoast of pediatric wards.

It wasn’t a professional rivalry - perish the thought. Kari had found herself in enough backwater dives with enough medical doctors hunched over not-quite-enough drinks to know that the reputation among the medical profession for god-complexes had a pretty clear starting-and-stopping point. Yes, a timely medical intervention could restore or extend life, and the dark side of that knowledge - which all medical doctors, at least in Kari’s experience, seemed to bear with just a bit too much forced humility - meant that they could also drastically shorten or worsen it. Under those circumstances (and after one too many drinks), why wouldn’t they start to feel like gods?

But Kari was a doctor too - not a medical one, but one of *science*. Pure, objective - none of this ‘everybody lies” emotionality you found in the medical field. And oh, did you want to talk about god complexes? MD’s might have purview over life and death, but the sciences were the study of *creation*... what was a fluttering heartbeat, a few pings on an encephalogram, compared to the study of the universe itself?

But that was Kari when she was drunk, heaving her weight against the condescension of her professional peers. In the cold light of day - or under the flat lights of sickbay - it was impossible to deny the active, tangible contribution every MD made to the world around them. It stood in stark contrast to Kari’s own profession - an important one, certainly, and one in which she’d risen to the top, yet nonetheless had her hunched over a petri dish, notating incremental changes in crystalline structure or molecular activity, in the hopes she might one day publish a paper a few years after the fact.

That’s why Kari Crow never liked Sickbays… but the Klingon doctor certainly wasn’t helping.

“Move,” Dr. Keiku said, hardly waiting until she’d finished speaking the word before she was shouldering Kari to the side. Kari watched as Keiku attached a few more electrodes to the patient’s head - with a surprising delicacy, Kari noted, despite Dr. Keiuku’s brusque exterior - and put on her most diplomatic smile.

“I’m sorry to be in your way,” Kari said. “Of course it’s necessary for the calibrations I must make to your equipment, but I’m doing my best to respect your space.”

Keiku’s only reply was a disinterested snort. Kari decided she’d done all she could on that front for now, and turned her attention to the young boy laying on the biobed in front of them.

“I’m sorry this is taking so long,” Kari smiled. “Are you altogether comfortable? If you’re bored, I’m sure we could summon the EMH, and have it run through some entertainment programs from the ship’s main computer--”

“No we can’t,” Keiku said, without looking up from her workstation.

Kari spared a glance at Keiku over her shoulder, and then looked back down at the boy.

“I know how to reprogram it,” Kari whispered, giving the boy a wink.

The boy, Billy Crichton, giggled.

At the far end of the room - farther back than he had to stand, even given Dr. Keiku’s rigorous spatial expectations - stood Jake Crichton. He was out of uniform, probably the first time Kari had ever seen her ExO in civilian clothes, and his expression was grey and grave. He stood in an awkward, rigid way, as if couldn’t quite decide where his hands should go, and so he’d settled for having them flat, palms open, over his thighs. His expression was fixed on the boy, and Kari didn’t see anything like love in the Commander’s eyes. If anything, this only made her instincts to protect him even stronger, and so she hunched down on her knees - not as easy now, at 55 years old, as it had been in her 20’s and 30’s - and gave Billy’s hand a reassuring squeeze.

“It’s not going to hurt a bit,” she said. “Just some flashing lights and maybe some loud noises. And when we’re done, you get to pick whatever you want from the replicator.”

“Really?” Billy asked.

“No,” Keiku said again, still not looking up from her workstation.

“These are special science department rules,” Kari said, smiling again at Billy. “Only for the ship’s best junior scientists.”

“I’m not a scientist,” Billy said.

“Oh, but you are,” Kari smiled, gently brushing the boys shock-white hair out of his eyes. “You’re helping us all out with an important experiment. That makes you part of my science team.”

Keiku snorted again, and at last turned away from her workstation to look at Jake Crichton. “We’re ready.”

Jake’s chin twitched once in an almost imperceptible nod. “Do it.”

“We’re going to get started now,” Kari said, resting her hand on Billy’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’re all right here.”

“My dad too?” Billy asked.

Kari looked up at Jake, whose face seemed devoid of any expression at all. Kari wondered if he might be in shock.

“I’m here, buddy,” Jake said, at last.

“Ah, there we are,” Kari said, smiling down at Billy again. “Try not to move, okay?”

Billy nodded. Kari glanced again at Keiku, who seemed more than happy to let her take care of all the bedside manner business, and at last stepped away from the side of the biobed. She and Keiku moved to stand near Jake. Keiku activated the control on a PADD she carried, and the room’s lighting lowered. The biobed at the center of the room was awash in a beam of golden light as the modified scanners did their work, filling the room with a loud, whining hum that hurt Kari’s ears.

Billy, for his part, endured it all bravely. His eyes were screwed tightly shut against the noise and the harsh light, but he never cried out, never moved a muscle, as the scanners washed over him again and again. Kari glanced over Keiku’s shoulder at the remaining time left on the scan - 2 minutes - and because nobody else had thought to do so yet, voiced her reassurance.

“You’re doing great, Billy,” she said. “Just a little bit longer.”

The doors to the examination room parted, and Eve Dalziel stepped in. Her eyes fell immediately on Billy, still bathed in pulsing golden light, and then she turned to Jake, her expression hard.

“You were supposed to keep me in the loop,” Eve said.

“I did,” Jake said, not taking his eyes off the boy. “That’s how you knew to be here.”

“That’s not what the captain meant,” Eve frowned. “Jake, I’m responsible for this boy. We need to talk about these things before you just--”

“It’s a non-invasive scan, counselor,” Jake said. “No pain, no discomfort beyond the lights and sound. The kid is fine.”

Eve looked at Kari and Keiku for confirmation.

“The energy field created by the scan poses no threat,” Keiku said. “It’s an unusual procedure, but not a dangerous one.”

“I went over the calibrations thoroughly,” Kari said. “I wouldn’t do anything to put Billy in danger.”

“Neither would I,” Jake said.

Eve’s eyes flitted between Billy, Jake, and the two doctors. At last, she sighed.

“Alright, fine. But no more of this, Jake. I expect to be present and fully briefed on whatever measures you adopt concerning Billy.”

“Commander,” Jake said, finally turning to look at her.

“No,” Eve said. “You were relieved, remember?”

Jake and Eve locked eyes, neither one willing to break the gaze first, and then Billy started screaming.

To her credit, Keiku sprang into action at once. She moved immediately to the workstation, her fingers dancing over the still-analogue workstation (the technicians hadn’t yet gutted this portion of sickbay yet), and the golden light showering Billy began to flicker. Kari was at her side at once, looking over her shoulder at the console’s readout.

“Something’s wrong,” Kari said, looking back at Eve and Jake. “The scanning field is having some kind of adverse effect on his brain activity!”

“I’m stopping this,” Keiku said.

“No!” Jake Crichton, his face suddenly full of life and fury, stepped forward. “Something’s happening!”

“Jake!” Eve said, stepping up to his side.

Between them, on the biobed, Billy continued to scream, the high-pitched soul-shattering scream of a child in intractable pain. Keiku, not impressed with Jake’s command, turned back to her workstation.

“Turn it off!” Kari said, shouting over the whine of the scan and the shrieks coming from the boy on the table.

The golden light sputtered and died away, and gradually so too did the screams ripping themselves from out of Billy’s lungs, though his breathing remained heavy and labored.

“Shh, shhh,” Kari said, going immediately to the boy’s side, squeezing his hand and stroking his hair. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

“What the hell happened?” Eve demanded.

Keiku frowned at the readouts on her workstation, and turned to look back at Jake and Eve. “The scan used a specialized radiation pulse to bounce back cellular information from the boy’s body. Apparently, the pulse operated at a frequency that began attacking the boy’s cellular structure.”

“What does that mean?” Jake asked.

“I’m not sure,” Keiku said. Almost grudgingly, she looked at Kari. “Doctor?”

“I’ll need to analyze the data,” Kari said, not quite willing to leave the boy’s side. “Is he okay?”

Keiku looked back at her workstation for a moment, then nodded. “No permanent damage.”

“Okay,” Kari said, helping the boy into a sitting position and then hugging his head against her chest. “There there, it’s okay, you’re okay.”

“You… lied... “ Billy said, in between heaving sobs. “You… said… it wouldn’t… hurt.”


NRPG: So this is a downer storyline, huh? I’m trying to get through it quickly, don’t worry! Hope I did okay with your characters, Sarah, Susan, and Jerome!

Shawn Putnam
Jake Crichton
Executive Officer


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