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Cutting Room Floor

Posted on May 26, 2014 @ 6:08pm by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Jun 05, 2014 @ 8:35am

Mission: The Tangled Webs We Weave
Location: Various
Tags: Pygram, Jake

=Cutting Room Floor=

(cont’d from “Order and Disorder”)

LOCATION: Unknown
SCENE: Unknown
STARDATE: [2.14] 0411.2219

Wen Salus was drifting.

One moment, he was five years old, playing with his brothers and sisters in his home on Betazed. The next moment, he was 11, his empathic abilities just starting to develop, and he was stealing his first kiss from a beautiful girl with fiery red hair who’s name Wen couldn’t seem to remember. Then, he was 23 and transmitting his application to Starfleet Academy while his mother cried.

**Don’t go,** said his mother’s voice from inside his head. **Oh, Wen. Please, it’s too dangerous. You know what happened to your uncle.**

Wen’s uncle, his mother’s sister, had also been Starfleet. He had been killed in the 1st Dominion War, when the Jem’Hadar had violently occupied the planet. Wen had never met him, but he could feel the pain of the loss in his mother as clearly as if it were inside himself.

**I will be fine, mama,** Wen thought back. **The war was a long time ago.**

Time seemed to smear again, and then Wen was firing a phaser at a Jem’Hadar while one of Wen’s shipmates was bleeding to death at his feet. Wen was screaming as he raised his weapon, and he kept screaming even after the Jem’Hadar went down.

The 2nd Dominion War… Wen didn’t want to remember any more of that. He had lost too much.

And so Wen looked outward. His eyes wouldn’t open, but he thought he could hear something: a distant voice that seemed to be speaking to nobody in particular. Wen strained to hear what it was saying.

“Betazoid, male,” the voice said. “Humanoid. Bipedal. Binocular vision. Typical cardiovascular system with iron-based blood cells. Sexually dimorphic species, galactic standard for humanoids. Special notes: high degree of telepathic/empathic ability.”

Wen reached out with his mind. **Who is there?**

“Spike in brain activity,” the voice said. “Subject regaining consciousness. Increase sedation.”

And Wen was gone.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LOCATION: Unknown
SCENE: Medical Bay



“Mr. Salus.”

Wen stirred. The voice sounded familiar. Wen thought maybe he’d heard it in a dream.

“Mr. Salus,” the voice came again, a little more insistent. “Can you hear me?”

**Is someone there?** Wen thought. He couldn’t seem to get his eyes to open, and his mind still felt sluggish.

“You can speak, Mr. Salus,” the voice said again. “I would prefer it if you did. I do not share your proficiency with nonverbal communication.”

With a great effort, Wen opened his eyes. His vision was blurry, but he thought he could make out a figure leaning over him. Wen couldn’t make out its features. And then, Wen realized he was laying on his back. He blinked, his vision seemed to clear, and he began to pick out features of the room: a bank of computer terminals along a far wall. Wen thought they might be medical stations, but he couldn’t be sure.

Wen reached out with his mind. His awareness seemed dim, probably a result of sedation, but he had a fuzzy impression of the figure standing over him. The figure seemed to regard Wen with polite interest, but underneath that Wen could feel… *something*… he had the impression of a quilt stretched over a snake pit.

“Where…?” Wen asked. His voice cracked when he spoke, and Wen realized how dry his throat was.

“You had an accident, Mr. Salus,” the figure said. “Here.”

The figure held out a cup of cold water and pressed it to Wen’s lips. He gently raised the glass, and the water spilled down into Wen’s throat. Wen drank it greedily, choking a little, not caring about how much water seemed to be spilling down the sides of his face. As he drank, the figure continued to speak.

“The dry-mouth is a side-effect of the sedation,” it said. “We had to operate immediately when they brought you in, I’m afraid there was no time for informed consent. I hope you don’t mind.”

Wen finished the water, and the figure turned away to set the cup down. Wen looked around some more. He couldn’t move, but he appeared to be lying on a biobed, and could see what appeared to be a surgical support frame covering his body from the chest down. The part of his chest that was exposed had a long, red mark down the center. There was no pain, but Wen had a sense that it was coming, like dark stormclouds coming over the mountains, and Wen wondered how long the anesthetic would last.

“What happened?” Wen asked, trying to keep the fear out of his voice.

“Your shuttlecraft was shot down.”

Wen blinked. “By who?”

“We’ll discuss that presently,” the figure said. “First, we should be properly introduced.”

A light flared to life above Wen’s head, and Wen closed his eyes tight against it. When they opened again, Wen could see the figure more clearly. He was human, plain looking, roughly middle aged with brown hair that was starting to grey at the temples and sad, brown eyes. He was smiling slightly, but Wen thought he could read all he needed to know about his physical condition from this man’s expression: it appeared as if the prognosis was not good.

**But why can’t I feel you?** Wen thought. **Every time I try, you seem to slip away.** It was true: to Wen’s Betazoid senses, the man was all but invisible. Wen could feel almost nothing from him, except that polite interest with brief flashes of *something* underneath.

“My name is Dr. Abel Pygram,” the man said. “Open your hand, please.”

Wen did as he asked. Dr. Pygram turned, picked up something from a nearby table that Wen couldn’t see, and placed the object in Wen’s hand. It was wet, and nearly slipped out of Wen’s hand. Wen tightened his grip, and his fingers seemed to squish into the material. Wen strained to get a look at what it was.

“Here, let me help,” Dr. Pygram said. He brought over a large mirror, and angled it so that Wen could see what he was holding: a bloody blob of meat, roughly the size of his fist. Wen’s eyes widned.

“What…” he said.

“That is your heart, Mr. Solus,” Dr. Pygram said. His polite smile and sad eyes didn’t even twitch. “You’re holding your own heart in your hands. Not a lot of people get that opportunity.”

As the realization swept through him, Wen’s fingers seemed to go weak. The heart slipped out, and hit the floor of the medical bay with a dull “plop!” Dr. Pygram glanced down at it.

“Whoopsie daisy,” he said. He leaned down, picked up the heart, and this time he set it on Wen’s chest, over what Wen now realized was an incision. Wen stared at it, his eyes almost bulging out of his head. The first hints of pain seemed to prickling through his body, as if his nerves were just starting to wake up along with the rest of him.

“Don’t worry,” Dr. Pygram continued. “You’re on bypass, you won’t be dying ahead of schedule. I just thought it would be best if I make the nature of our relationship very clear to you from the outset. You know what they say about first impressions.”

“You…” Wen said. “You shot down the shuttle.”

“Of course not,” Dr. Pygram said. “I’m a doctor, not a soldier. I wouldn’t even know how to work a tactical station.”

“Then why…” Wen started.

“Why did I cut out your heart?” Dr. Pygram asked. “It’s not just that. I also removed your liver, your kidneys, your bladder, most of your intestines. You’re just about hollowed out from the chest down. I left your lungs and your larynx so we could chat, and I left your stomach so you could enjoy that cup of water and perhaps another later on, but everything else was non-essential.”

“…why?” Wen asked again.

“So you would understand your situation, Mr. Salus,” Pygram said. “You are beyond rescue. This ship is cloaked, outside of Federation territory, but even if it wasn’t… even if your shipmates knew where to find you, and staged a heroic rescue, you wouldn’t survive two minutes unhooked from my machines.”

Pygram leaned over Wen now, his expression still an immutable mask of melancholy calmness. Wen tried to pull away from him but, of course, he had no where to go.

“You were dead the moment you found your way to my table, Mr. Salus,” Pygram said. “What’s at issue now is exactly how horrific the life that remains to you will be. Because I also left your central nervous system untouched. You can still feel pain, Mr. Salus. I imagine you’re starting to feel it now.”

The doctor was right. The pain was getting worse, growing from a dull ache to a burning agony that seemed to come from the middle of his body and spread out to his extremities. And still, Wen could tell this was just a shadow of the pain that was to come. Wen tried to focus, tried to hold on to his rationality even in the face of this insane circumstance. The next few hours would be… difficult.

“Do we have an understanding?” Dr. Pygram asked.

“Wen Salus, Lieutenant Commander, USS BORLAUG, United Federation of Planets.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Pygram said, turning to pick up a scalpel from a nearby table. “Well then. Let’s get to know each other, shall we?”

Wen was wrong. The next few hours would be more than difficult.

--------------------------------------------------

LOCATION: USS SHERWOOD
SCENE: Captain’s Ready Room

Captain Lacey Rayborn looked up as Crichton entered. She smiled, and gestured at the vacant seat in front of her desk.

“Jake,” she said. “Have a seat.”

“I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything,” Crichton said as he took a seat. He helped himself to some hard candy from the small bowl the captain always kept on her desk. Today it was raspberry flavored, and Crichton’s lips puckered involuntarily at the tart flavor.

“Not at all,” Rayborn said. “Just catching up on the department reports.”

“Lt. Chambers told me we’ve changed course and speed,” Crichton said. “We’re heading for Earth?”

“New orders from Starfleet Command,” Rayborn nodded. “The SHERWOOD is to report to Starbase One for immediate crew reassignment.”

Crichton blinked. “Crew reassignment?”

“I don’t have all the details,” Rayborn said. “The rumor is they’re reactivating the USS DISCOVERY. I’m told they’re recalling several ships near Sector 001 with the intent to gut their staff. I guess they want the old girl to have a trustworthy crew.”

“Huh,” Crichton said. He’d heard of the DISCOVERY, though he’d never seen it. If memory served, it had once been captained by Michael Kane, whom Jake had served under aboard GATEWAY Station years ago. “Any word as to why?”

“None that command has seen fit to share,” Rayborn shrugged.

“Strange,” Crichton said. “I thought our fleets were just getting back to full strength after the war. Why would they need to reactive an older ship?”

“Above my pay grade,” Rayborn said. “Jake, there’s something else. I would have waited until we reached Earth, but since you’re here…”

She held out a PADD. Jake took it, glanced over its contents, then looked at her.

“*I’m* being reassigned?”

“So it would seem,” Rayborn said. “You have the option to appeal, of course. I hope you’ll take it, I hate to lose you.”

“Why didn’t they send this to me directly?” Crichton asked.

“They’re trying to keep it under wraps, I expect,” Rayborn said. “It’s unusual, but not unheard of. When we reach Earth, I’m to report to Admiral Edgerton for de-brief, and I imagine they’ll be in touch with you to explain the parameters of your reassignment.”

“Any idea when the DISCOVERY ships out?”

“None whatsoever,” Rayborn said. “Why the curiousity?”

“Besides the fact that it looks like that’s where I’ll be bunking from now on?” Crichton smiled. “I had hoped we’d be in-system for awhile. I was hoping to visit Earth.”

Rayborn nodded. “Your wife and son?”

“Yeah,” Crichton sighed. “I was hoping to spend some time there. I haven’t seen Ben in over 18 months.”

“Or your wife,” Rayborn observed.

“Yeah,” Crichton said.

“You should have a few days, at least,” Captain Rayborn said.

“Right,” Crichton said. “Then we ship out again, to god knows where and for god knows how long.”

“Life in the fleet, Jake,” Rayborn said. “It’s no different than it’s ever been.”

“That’s not quite true,” Crichton said. “Less chance of being blown out of the sky by a Dominion patrol these days.”

“There is that,” Rayborn smiled. “You know you could put in for reassignment. Get a permanent position on Earth. The Academy would love to have you as a full-time teacher.”

“I don’t think life planetside is for me,” Crichton said.

“It seems to suit your wife.”

“Yeah,” Crichton said.

“And she seems to suit you. You married her, after all.”

“it’s… not that simple,” Crichton said. “Listen, Captain, I appreciate your advice but this is something I’d rather not talk about right now.”

“Understood,” Rayborn said. “You know I’m here to talk if you need me.”

“I know.”

“Well then,” Rayborn said. “You’re still my Chief Engineer for the next day or two at least. I expect you’ll have the dilithium-exchange systems in tip-top shape before you disembark.”

“Roger that,” Crichton said, standing. “If you need me, I’ll be in Engineering.”

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LOCATION: Unknown
SCENE: Medical Bay

“Your command codes, please.”

“W-Wen Salus, Lieuten-… Lieutenant Commander, USS-”

The scalpel, etching another line across Wen’s cheek. Wen, trying to scream through the shredded remains of his larynx. Pygram’s sad eyes and slight smile, his brow furrowed in concentration.

“Your command codes, Mr. Salus.”

“…Wen… S-Salus…”

The scalpel came down again.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

TIME INDEX: Hours later

Pygram was holding out another cup of water. Despite himself, Wen sipped at it as greedily as his ruined lips would allow. His head was swimming with pain and whatever drugs Pygram was using to keep shock from fully setting in.

“You’ve earned that,” Dr. Pygram said. “You’re doing very well. A true credit to your uniform. I thought you should know.”

“…please…” Wen said. “…telling… the truth…”

“Your command codes?” Dr. Pygram asked. “I know. We verified them almost an hour ago.”

There was enough left of Wen Salus to feel surprise. His eye, caked in blood from when Pygram had removed the lid, rolled in its socket to focus on Pygram.

"…why… still cutting?”

“Hush now,” Pygram said. He set the cup down, and picked up the scalpel again. “We mustn’t waste time, Mr. Salus. You have quite a lot of dying left to do."

======================================================


Shawn Putnam

a.k.a.

Jake Crichton, Commander

Chief Engineering Officer

USS SHERWOOD

 

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