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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Turnabout Imposters

This Ludicrous Exchange

Camus II
Stardate 77165.4
2 likes 1269 views

Taes couldn’t remember the last time she had woken up in a prone position, face first on the floor.  She supposed it must have been that first tour on the USS Honne; her first mission as chief science officer, when orion rum had been the only thing that could quiet her paranoid mind before bed.  This was the first thought to pass through Taes’ mind.  That or the taste of stone dust on her lips.  Taes braced her palms against the ground.  She was surprised by how smooth the ground felt for carved stone.  Pressing herself up to a sitting position, Taes could see the underground cavern space had been constructed in a similar manner.  Flat walls and stone pillars, everything was carved at perfectly ninety-degree angles.  There was something familiar about the hieroglyphics etched onto the pillars; that memory came to her more easily than any memory about why she had woken up on the floor.

Just like her memory, Taes’ vision was clouded.  She recognized the haze all around her was a combination of stone dust and caustic smoke.  Taes coughed through the smoke and the coughing racked her body.  Taes felt strange.  Her ability for awareness felt muted.  Deltans weren’t fully telepathic like Betazoids, but Taes was accustomed to a sense of psionic empathy.  In this moment, her empathy felt entirely blind.  Fearing the worst, Taes assumed she must have sustained a head injury when whatever had happened to knock her unconscious.

“Lieutenant Rayco,” Taes called out for help.  Her voice sounded hoarse, deeper, and she coughed again.  Looking with only her eyes to guide her, Taes caught sight of the other Starfleet officers splayed out on the floor around her.  She tried to push herself up into a standing position, but her legs were too weak and they folded beneath her.  Probably a side-effect of the head trauma, Taes supposed.  She ordered, “Security analysis.  Is our position secure?”

The first movement Taes saw –other than her own– came from Science Officer Sootrah Yuulik.  After rolling onto her side, the Arcadian heaved herself into a half-sitting position.  Yuulik’s cognitive state appeared to be as fuzzy as Taes’ own, as she fumbled for the tricorder on her hip.  Since over-achieving Yuulik was taking it upon herself to scan for the away team’s security situation, perhaps she was in better condition than Taes after all.  Yuulik stabbed at the controls with her fingertips; a couple of times her fingernails connected with the metal casing, rather than the touchscreen interface.  Not long after the tricorder began to sing its comforting warble, Yuulik reported, “No sign of True Way pirates, captain.  No life signs around here, really, other than the away team.”

Like stubborn puzzle pieces interlocking in her mind, Taes remembered where she had seen the hieroglyphics before.  Camus II.  Taes remembered beaming down to the Starfleet archaeological excavation on Camus II.  What that meant elicited a desperate yelp from Taes.  The caverns on Camus II were rich with the radioactive element, celebium.  Cognitive decline was one of the first signs of radiation poisoning, Taes recalled.  Clearing her throat again, Teas asked, “Commander Holmgren, what’s the status of the celebium shielding?”  Lieutenant Commander Holmgren had served under Taes for years, back on Starbase 310, as her Head of Archaeology.  He had been the first person Taes had thought of when it had come time to select a Chief Science Officer.  In all their years of working together, Taes had never seen him this disoriented, not even that night on Risa.

“Jeffrey?” Taes called out to him again.  Jeffrey Holmgren was sitting with his back propped up against a slab of stone furniture.  His eyes offered no signs of recognition when Taes spoke.  Jeffrey was making entirely non-verbal vocalisations as he pulled open the front flap of his uniform.  He rubbed his palm down his chest and he stared at his own hand.  His brow furrowed, Jeffrey glared at his hand intently, as if the hand owed him money.

Ignoring him for that moment, Taes snapped her gaze in Yuulik’s direction.  Making eye-contact, Taes ordered, “Lieutenant, please tell me we have celebium shielding!”

Yuulik’s wide-set eyes appeared to bulge back at Taes in confusion.  “What’s that look for, captain?” Yuulik asked, her voice filled with self-doubt.  “I don’t know how celebium shielding works?”

All the while, Lieutenant Kellin Rayco had muscled his way to his feet.  The security chief’s movements were unsteady, as if he were suffering from vertigo.  He had been muttering things like, “What happened?” and, “I feel hideous,” while Taes struggled to pull answers from the science officers.  Popping up his own tricorder, Kellin reported, “The tantalum shielding in the walls is undamaged, captain, but two of the forcefield projectors in this chamber have been melted to slag.  Captain, radiation measurements are low.  We are in no danger from the celebium.”

“If it’s not the radiation…” Taes said, thinking aloud, “Doctor Nelli, can you examine the away team?”  Even as she said it, Taes recalled there was another protocol she was supposed to follow.  The words were on the tip of her tongue, but her diminished consciousness couldn’t quite grasp what else she was supposed to do.  Doctor Pimpinellifolia would have to be the best hope for Taes and the away team.

Across the chamber, Taes saw one of Doctor Nelli’s vines wiggling off the ground and Lieutenant Yuulik was crawling on her hands and knees towards them.  Taes cycled through the roll call in her head and she realised there was one last member of the away team who hadn’t checked in.  “Ensign Dolan,” Taes asked, “what is the status of the artefact?”  It wasn’t the most pressing concern, Taes reflected, but a call to duty often struck a primal chord in Starfleet officers when they were otherwise incapacitated.

“We need help,” Yuulik shouted back to the others.  “Nelli’s unconscious.  They’re having some kind of seizure.”  Yuulik pressed a steadying hand against the trunk of Pimpinellifolia’s body, but she recoiled her hand as if she’d touched something hot.  From that brief contact, Yuulik’s hand had become completely coated in a bile-coloured sap, leaking from Pimpinellifolia’s body.

“Ensign Dolan?” Taes called out again, when the ensign didn’t immediately make himself known.

“That isn’t funny, Dolan!” Kellin snapped at Taes.  He glared at her with daggers for eyes.  “This isn’t like you, ensign.  Now is no time for humour.”

Wincing, Taes said, “What did you–?” but her words trailed off.  Taes raised her hand to the level of her eyes.  Looking at her hand, she could see her skin wasn’t black.  Even more unexpectedly, her hands were webbed and, from the cuffs of her sleeves, she could see her forearm was covered in fine hairs.  Catching movement in her peripheral vision, Taes turned to another slab of stone furniture.  Taes saw herself — her own body– standing up from behind the slab.

Taes watched the other Taes say, “Bastard Starfleet recruiter promised me!  He promised me I wouldn’t get body swapped!” 

Comments

  • Ah a body swap!! That was totally unexpected and I love it!! And I need to know more about what is happening here. An exciting start for the crew of the Dvorak! Am I guessing they're about to encounter some funny old alien technology? Or is it a transporter malfunction? I hope we get to find out more about the crew.

    April 16, 2022
  • Oh man, a chapter so good it was worth reading twice. Throughout it had a little sense of things being OFF, but all of it easily explained with chaos, injury - radiation. It's fun when characters explore a possible explanation only for it to just be wrong; it feels realistic, it shows how they think, it shows that what's going on is something outside of the usual or the ordinary. But the end is perfect, both as a shock and for a giggle. Let the Trekkian shenanigans begin!

    April 20, 2022
  • Excellent TOS callback for the mission title too :)

    May 5, 2022
  • Love this! It screams early Trek to me. I cant imagine how hard it might be to write for established characters, but have to do it with the different personalities you have cultivated for others. Not an easy task, I’m sure, but you do it superbly. Kudos!

    May 14, 2022