Previous Next

Where It Hurts

Posted on Nov 18, 2017 @ 12:39am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Nov 18, 2017 @ 12:40am

Mission: Fear Itself

= Where It Hurts =

(cont’d from “Long Hours, Short Time”)


SCENE: Sick Bay

STARDATE: [2.17] 1117.1952

Aerdan Jos shut off the screen of console and leaned back in his chair. He rubbed at his eyes. He hadn’t slept since Sofia died (**rather, the Romulan who had been pretending to be her,** Jos mentally corrected himself - but that was one mystery too much for him right now), and exhaustion was creeping in.

Michael Turlogh Kane stood before Jos’ desk, his lips pressed tightly together, his hands balled into fists. He could recognize the fatigue in his Chief Medical Officer. Jos had been through a lot in the last 48 hours. Hell, they *all* had. Distantly, Kane wanted to reassure Aerdan, to tell him he understood the strain the Andorian doctor was under. But that was for another day; right now, Kane wanted blood for blood.

“Doctor,” Kane said, managing to keep his tone steady. “If you please.”

Jos nodded wearily and sat forward. “It’s the same as the others. Elevated neurotransmitters consistent with extreme fright.”

Kane didn’t want to think about what Ellie had seen in her final moments, but he couldn’t help himself. The thought filled him with a sick feeling, the sulfurous union of rage and dread. He somehow balled his fists even tighter.

“What about Mr. Vukovich?”

Jos turned to look over his shoulder. Tomas Vukovich lay unconscious on a biobed in the room behind them. He had been that way since he’d “interfaced” with the entity’s dimension. His final words before they’d tranquilized him - “It’s pure chaos” - had been less than heartening.

“No change,” Jos said. “His vital signs are steady, but I’m still detecting unusual spikes in his brain activity.”

“So he might still be connected to whatever that thing is,” Kane said. “Or wherever it’s from.”

“I could only speculate,” Jos shrugged.

“So speculate.”

Jos sighed. “Yes. I’m worried we’ve trapped him in some kind of unending nightmare.”

“Have you tried waking him up again?”

“Several times. The neurozine has been out of his system for hours. I’ve even tried several stimulants. There are physiological effects, but Tomas remains in a coma.”

Kane frowned. “Increase the dosages.”

Jos looked up at Kane, his antennae twitching. “Captain, I’m already worried about the dosage I’ve given him.”

“Mr. Vukovich is a Borg, doctor,” Kane growled. “He’s likely the heartiest crewman aboard the ship.”

“He’s also my patient.”

“I want this thing found. Right now, he’s my best lead.”

Jos slowly stood up. He’d once been Kane’s first officer, and it was those instincts he felt now. “Captain, I understand how you feel--”

Kane shot him a sudden glance, as if warning him not to say out loud what they knew was the reality of his relationship with Ellie Kalani. But Jos hadn’t been about to mention her.

“Your ship and your crew are under threat and you want to do something about it,” Jos continued. “You’re right to want to. But if you have any faith in my opinion as an officer and a doctor, you have to believe me when I say more stimulants will kill him. You’d be throwing his life away.”

“He could die at any moment! If he’s really trapped with that thing--”

“As I said, his vital signs are stable,” Jos said evenly. “It’s possible his Borg physiology is adapting… he may still come out of this on his own.”

“And we have no idea how long that might take, or if you’re even right.”

“No, we don’t. But I won’t risk his life for your vendetta.”

Kane searched Aerdan’s face, saw the determined set of the Andorian’s jaw, and relented. “Very well, doctor. What other options do we have?”

Jos wanted to have a solution, but he didn’t. In spite of all the technology, all the accumulated knowledge of a million worlds, sometimes the best you could do in medicine was to hope.


SCENE: Main Engineering

“I’m telling you, there’s nothing to detect,” said Malin-Argo. The Grazerite engineer stood near the Master Systems Display, hunched over a console that displayed a readout of the scans Jasmine Yu had taken with her tricorder during their attempt to locate the Phobophage. In spite of what Vukovich had reported seeing, their technical instruments had yielded no useful information.

Jake Crichton, Cantor Von, and Eve Dalziel also stood near the MSD. A few paces behind them, Jasmine Yu was pacing back and forth, her mind still fixed on Petty Officer Carter, whom she had failed to save.

“There has to be *something*,” Jake said.

Malin-Argo glared at him. “Feel free to have a look yourself, *sir*.”

Jake glared back. “I don’t appreciate your tone.”

“With all due respect, I am the chief engineer aboard this ship. If you feel you are more qualified in that role, perhaps accepting a promotion was a mistake.”

Jake’s jaw tightened. “That’s enough, Commander. We may have the same rank but I’m still your superior officer.”

“Jake,” Eve said gently. “If there’s nothing to find, there’s nothing to find.”

“I don’t accept that,” Jake said. “This thing has already killed four people. And if we don’t do something, it’s going to kill a hell of a lot more.”

“You’re supposed to be the expert on the creature,” said Malin-Argo. “If you overcame it once, surely you must have some idea how to do it again!”

“I already told you everything I know.”

“And a fat lot of good it did any of us!”

Eve Dalziel slammed her hands down on the surface of the Master Systems Display. Both Jake and Malin-Argo turned suddenly towards her, and when she was certain she had their attention, she spoke in a soft, measured voice.

“Gentlemen. This feud is getting us nowhere, and the distraction might cost someone their life.”

Both Jake and Malin-Argo spoke up simultaneously.

“I was only-”

“You heard what he-”

Eve put up a hand. “Stop.”

The two Commanders did. Eve waited a moment, again ensuring she had their attention, before she continued. She first looked to Malin-Argo.

“Your conduct towards Commander Crichton has, in my opinion, edged ever closer to open insubordination. Whatever your opinion of how he used to run this engine room, he is now your superior officer, and you are obliged to treat him as such.”

Malin-Argo bristled, but did not reply. Eve turned to Jake.

“And you have been antagonizing him since he came aboard. You don’t work down here anymore, Jake. It’s time you accept that.”

Jake didn’t back down quite as fast as Malin-Argo had. “You don’t understand. I’ve seen this thing before. I know what it can--”

“And this isn’t helping anyone,” Eve said. “Given your past experience with the Phobophage, I have reason to declare you emotionally compromised and recommend that you be relieved of duty. But I don’t think that’s going to do anyone much good. Do you?”

Jake looked towards Malin-Argo, then to Von, and back to Eve. “No, I don’t.”

Eve nodded. “Good. Then we need to figure out what our next step is.”

“We should leave this area,” Malin-Argo said. “I understand the need for quarantine, but we can relocate the PHOENIX without exposing anyone else.”

“We know the entity is tied to the music box,” said Cantor Von. “If we leave, maybe this entity never gets put back where it belongs.”

Malin-Argo shot Von a contemptuous look. “That could happen even if we remain where we are.”

“No,” Jake cut in. “We know the music box reacted with our warp core, and that’s when we were standing still. If we go to warp, we might let a hundred of these things through into our dimension.”

“The music box,” said Von. “Vukovich mentioned seeing a portal. He said the entity was connected, but not constrained by it. This all started after I inspected that box.”

“So we blow the damn thing up,” Yu said, suddenly coming to a stop from her frantic pacing. She turned to face them. “If this box is where it comes from, we get rid of the box.”

“I’m not sure that’s going to work,” said Von.

“Why not?”

“I felt a definite presence when I first encountered that box,” Von said. “After my… vision or experience, or whatever you want to call it… I didn’t feel that presence anymore. I agree, that music box is somehow tied to this thing, but I think destroying it would be like closing the barn door after the cows have escaped.”

“You’re saying we have to put it back,” said Eve.

Cantor Von shrugged. “I wish we weren’t relying so much on metaphor here, but basically, yes.”

“And how do you propose we do that?” Malin-Argo growled. “We barely know what it is we’re facing here.”

“This all started with a quantum distortion,” said Jake. “Why don’t we end it with another one?”

“Sorry sir, but didn’t you just say going to warp could make all of this worse?” asked Yu.

“Sure, but that’s on our side of the rift,” said Jake. “So why don’t we share the wealth? What happens if we trigger a reaction on *their* side of the rift?”

Malin-Argo didn’t look happy, but he nodded nonetheless. “If a warp reaction on our side of the rift opened this gate, it’s possible a similar reaction at the other end might close it again.”

Yu stepped forward. “Tomas said he saw a portal.”

“Right,” Jake nodded. “So we find that portal. We find a way to bring a quantum torpedo through it, then we blow it from the other side.”

“Without any sign of where such a portal could be?” Malin-Argo crowed. “I’ve been over the scans again and again, and I’m telling you, there’s nothing there for us to track!”

“Nothing *we* can track,” Jasmine Yu countered. “But what about Mr. Vukovich?”

The room went silent for a moment. The assembled officers exchanged guilty glances, as if they each had somehow intuited what it was that Yu was suggesting.

“Lt. Vukovich is in a coma,” Eve said cautiously.

“And he has been ever since we sent him looking for that thing,” said Yu, “I’m only saying what we’re all thinking. He’s still connected to this… whatever it is. And we’re fools if we don’t use that.”

“And how do you propose we do that?” Malin-Argo said. “Or have you forgotten that Mr. Vukovich is comatose?”

“I haven’t, as a matter of fact,” said Yu, meeting Malin-Argo’s bluster without hesitation. “I’m suggesting there may still be a way to reach him.”

Malin-Argo didn’t look impressed. “And what, exactly, would that be?”

“She means me.”

All eyes shifted to Cantor Von, who had just spoken. He stepped forward, accepting the shared regard with the all the dignity of a Starfleet officer. “I could go in after him.”

The room was silent for a moment. It was Jake Crichton who spoke first. “You mean a psychic connection.”

Von nodded.

Eve spoke up next. “You were already in there, and for only a few seconds, and it nearly killed you.”

“She’s right,” said Jake. “We don’t even know how long you’d have to be in there this time.”

“From what we’ve learned so far, this thing doesn’t need me to be inside its dimension to eat me,” Cantor Von shrugged. “If we’re going to stand any chance against it… I think I need to do this.”

“Even if you make contact with Vukovich, that doesn’t put the monster back in its cage,” said Eve. “How do we get the phobophage back on the other side of the portal?”

Jake shook his head. “I didn’t want it to come to this.”

Eve looked at him. “What do you mean?”

Jake Crichton’s pale blue eyes went momentarily distant. “The last time I met this thing, whatever the hell it is, was on GATEWAY Station. I don’t know what got rid of it, outside of what I already told you… our CO, Towers, stunned himself in the head. But before that… I know we managed to lure it. Because Towers used me as bait.”

The assembled officers exchanged guilty glances.

It was Yu who was the first to give voice to what they were all thinking. “If we can bait this entity, then perhaps Von and Vukovich can track it back to the portal.”

Jake nodded. “Major Thytos went to the captain with a similar plan. I think she’d be up for it.”

“How do we make the phobophage go after her?” asked Yu. “It might come at any one of us while she’s trying to lure it.”

Jake sighed. “She has to be scared. Really scared, so she stands out to the entity. We might even want to consider a chemically induced fear state in her, to cover our bets.”

“We’d be risking her life,” said Eve.

“Her life is already in danger,” Jake said. “And anyway, when was the last time Kass let danger stop her?”

Eve sighed. “Never.”

“Right. I don’t like it any more than you do, but right now I think it’s our best shot.”

“There’s one more thing,” Malin-Argo frowned. “Even if they locate the portal, Mr. Von and Mr. Vukovich won’t physically be there. Their bodies will still be here in Main Engineering.”

“That’s correct,” Von nodded. “I can touch whatever this thing is psionically, but someone’s still going to have to physically deliver the bomb.”

“I’ll go with Major Thytos,” Yu said at once. “I’ll deliver the bomb.”

Now Jake shook his head. “No.”

“Sir, I’m more than ready to--”

“I know you are,” said Jake. “But it’s too dangerous. You’d have to enter this things dimension and activate the warhead, and you’d have the Phobophage in there with you while you did it.”

“That’ll be a problem for everyone,” said Yu.

“Not everyone,” said Eve. “We have Lt. Byte.”

Jake nodded. “Byte’s completely synthetic, which means no neurotransmitters, no fear reaction. The Phobophage shouldn’t be interested in him. Byte can accompany Kass to the portal as she lures the entity, and once Von and Vukovich have confirmed its pass through, Byte can follow it and activate the bomb. Once he emerges, we detonate it… and if we’re lucky, the portal closes.”

“We might even kill the entity in the bargain,” said Von.

That thought had crossed Jake’s mind as well. This entity had stalked and killed his crewmates, his *friends*, years ago on GATEWAY, and now it had returned to wreak even more havoc. Whatever it was, it needed to be stopped.

“Okay,” Jake said. “Commander Malin-Argo, I want you to coordinate with Byte, get us a quantum warhead small enough for him to handle. Lt. Von, make whatever preparations you need to. I’ll brief the captain. I want us ready to execute this plan within the hour.”

The assembled crew nodded. Just as they were about to break up, the voice of Ensign Jonathan Maynell sounded suddenly from Jake’s commbadge.

[[Maynell to Crichton.]]

“Go ahead, John.”

[[It’s Ryan and Chaucer, sir,]] said Maynell. [[They’re not responding to my communiques.]]

A sick feeling filled Jake’s stomach. “Computer, locate Ensigns Lynette Ryan and Chaucer.”

[[Lynette Ryan and Chaucerrrrrrrrr,]] said the computer, slurring the final syllable in Chaucer’s name as the voice warped and distorted. The assembled officers’ eyes widened as the synthesized computer voice was suddenly drowned out by a haunting, familiar melody.

It was Peter and the Wolf.

“We need to find them,” said Jake. “Right now.”


SCENE: Jefferies Tubes

Ensign Lynette Ryan and Ensign Chaucer were crawling through the maintenance access tunnels, so far wholly oblivious to the danger they were in. They were performing repairs - though the Phobophage was the priority, the ship had still sustained damage after its failed warp jump when the creature had arrived - and as part of Kane’s charge that nobody go anywhere alone, they were working in tandem.

Lynette came to a stop at a T-junction, looking both left and right.

“I probably shouldn’t say this,” she said. “But I keep thinking I’m going to round one of these bends and come face to face with… oh god, I don’t even know.”

[[My name is Chaucer,]] Chaucer’s Vox buzzed from behind her. She turned to look back at him; the Gorn didn’t fit inside the tube nearly as well as she did, but he seemed to be in good spirits nonetheless. Of course, Lynette couldn’t be sure; it was hard to read emotion on Chaucer’s reptilian features. Sometimes Lynette forgot that Chaucer was every bit as emotional as she was, though in different ways. She supposed he might be as terrified as the rest of them were.

“At least I have company,” she smiled. “Come on, it’s this way.”

They started off again, crawling a few more meters. The light was low in the Jefferies Tube, and Lynette realized she was having trouble seeing more than a few feet ahead of her. That wasn’t normal; there was supposed to be lighting throughout the tube to aid in the engineers in their work. She supposed some of the lighting might be offline as a result of the lingering damage to the ship, but that didn’t make her feel any better.

“Hold on,” she said, slowing.

Behind her, Chaucer came to a stop as well. [[Yes.]]

“I think there’s something…,” Lynette whispered. “Up ahead.”

[[Help,]] said Chaucer’s Vox, suddenly sounding almost frighteningly loud in the enclosed space.

Lynette squinted; something *was* moving up ahead, in the dark. Moving *towards* them.



Now there was a sound, a series of slow, wet scrapes along the metal of the maintenance tube. Lynette strained her eyes, hoping against hope that she wasn’t seeing what she thought she was, but then a sickly, bony hand shot out of the darkness and clutched the bulkhead. It pulled, heaving a body out of the dark. Lynette could see bone, rows of teeth through a hole in the cheek, tangled knots of blonde hair… but there was still enough skin, putrid and grey though it was, for Lynette to recognize who it was.

“Sofia…” Lynette said, her eyes wide.

Sofia Andersson - her roommate, and friend. The first to fall to the Phobophage. So far as Lynette knew, her body was still in sickbay… but then what was this hideous vision before her now?

As she grappled with the question, she was dimly aware that the corpse’s bony hand had shot out again, pulling itself ever closer. Another few pulls like that, and it would be in grabbing distance. Lynette wanted to turn, wanted to turn (**can’t,** she thought crazily, **Chaucer’s behind me and he’s too big, too big, he’ll never get turned around in time--**), but she couldn’t tear her eyes away from Sofia’s ruined visage as it clamored eagerly out of the dark towards her.

Then a voice. [[Help.]]

Lynette recognized that; it was Chaucer’s Vox.

[[My name is Chaucer.]]

Lynette managed to tear her eyes away from Sofia, turning back to look. Chaucer was still there, and she realized he could see the corpse too. His yellow predator eyes were fixed on it.

Pulling her eyes away from the corpse seemed to break her paralysis. She twisted, turned back to crawl the other way. “Go!” she shouted, almost into Chaucer’s face. “Go go go!”

Chaucer tried to twist, but agile as he was, he was also considerably larger. Sofia could hear the wet scrapes in the tunnel behind them as the thing that wasn’t Sofia Andersson came ever onward. She did not risk another glance back, knowing that to look back at whatever that thing was would surely mean her death. She waited for the feel of putrid flesh and bone to settle gently over her ankle…

Chaucer managed to get turned around, then took off down the Jefferies Tube in the direction from which they’d originally come. The big Gorn could move fast when he wanted to. Lynette realized she was having trouble keeping up. The wet shuffles and scrapes still sounded behind her, and Lynette distantly wondered if this vision was hers, or if it was Chaucer’s.

Finally they saw an opening ahead, a way out into the main corridor. The access panel was closed, and as Chaucer came to a stop before it, Lynette was suddenly filled with the grim certainty that the panel would not open. Chaucer thumbed the controls, but they only squelched angrily in return. The panel did not move.

“Let me try,” Lynette said, managing to wriggle past Chaucer. She snatched her omnitool from her belt, nearly dropping it. Behind her, Sofia crawled ever closer.

“Please oh please oh please,” Lynette repeated as she worked at the panels controls.

[[Help,]] said Chaucer’s Vox. The artificial voice sounded maddeningly calm.

“Open!” Lynette screamed, eventually slamming her hands against the panel in desperation. WIth a sudden hiss, the panel slid easily aside. For a moment, Lynette could hardly believe it - then she pulled herself through, tumbling out of the Jefferies Tube and into the corner. She was on her feet in an instant, whirling to grab for Chaucer, meaning to help him out of the tube. He was so big, he often had a hard time getting in and out--

She turned, and her eyes met Chaucer’s. The big Gorn’s expression was hard to read, but in that instant, Lynette couldn’t have mistaken what she saw there: pure terror. Her hands went up, grasping for Chaucer’s scaly claws…

Bony arms circled around Chaucer’s neck and face. The Gorn was suddenly pulled backward, with far more strength that the real Sofia Andersson could ever have possessed. Lynette’s fingers grazed along Chaucer’s outstretched hand as he was pulled away, grabbing only air.


But Chaucer was gone, pulled back into the darkness that had grown now the fill the Jefferies Tube. For an insane moment, Lynette thought about going in after him.

Instead, she slapped at her comm-badge. “Ryan to security! Emergency situation on deck 9! Hurry!”


Lynette turned. At the other end of the corridor, she saw Jake Crichton, Jasmine Yu, and a team of security officers running towards her. They were all armed with phasers, though Lynette wasn’t sure that was supposed to make.

“It’s Chaucer!” Lynette cried. “Something in the tube--”

Jake was already moving, with Yu a half-step behind him. As Lynette watched, they did what she had been too afraid to do only a moment before - they went into the tube.


Jake and Yu crawled as quickly as they could. Jake knew these tunnels well - he’d spent more than enough time in them when he’d been the PHOENIX’s Chief Engineer. He thought he could hear sounds up ahead, but it was hard to tell between the sounds of them clattering through the tube and their own ragged breathing.

“Do you see anything?” Yu asked from behind him.

“Nothing yet,” Jake said. “Be ready to-”

Then he heard a voice. It was the synthesized sound of Chaucer’s Vox, coming from somewhere up ahead.

[[Help. My name is Chaucer. Help.]]

“This way!” Jake said. They rounded a bend, Jake already bringing up his phaser--

Chaucer lay in the Jefferies Tube before them. His body was twisted, the arms and legs bent backward at the joints. Sharp knots of bone poked out through scaly skin. Green blood pooled beneath him. Chaucer’s eyes were open, but the light in them had gone.

Though its owner was dead, Chaucer’s Vox continued to buzz it’s message, again and again.

[[Help. My name is Chaucer. Help. My name is Chaucer. Help--]]


When they emerged from the Jefferies Tube a few minutes later, Lynette could read the results in the expressions on their faces. Even so, she risked the question.


Jake didn’t answer. His expression had gone hard and cold.

Yu shook her head gently. “We were too late.”

Tears sprang up in Lynette’s eyes.

Jasmine Yu turned to Jake. “What do we do now, sir?”

Jake Crichton took a long time to say anything. Eventually, he turned to look at her, his pale blue eyes full of something like fury.

“Let’s kill the fucking thing.”


NRPG: His name was Chaucer. :-(

We’re moving into the endgame for this mission. The phobophage has a lot to answer for, now let’s make it pay.

Shawn Putnam


Jake Crichton

Executive Officer



Previous Next