Assistant Chief Science Officer’s Log, Stardate 77874.9
Lieutenant Leander Nune has been remanded to the brig since his moment of weakness on the bridge. Despite the intensity of his blood dilithium reaction, Nune has been cooperating with the science department by describing his experiences. In order to continue our research, the blood dilithium we collected from Task Force 17 command, and the USS Palm Springs’ first dig, has been divided between both hulls when the USS Sarek completed its saucer separation operation. We have positioned the crystals in a single location, behind a containment field, all the way in the mission pod’s top deck.
Nune remains under constant observation, of course. The recordings show he spoke aloud in his sleep last night. He reports having no memory of this, nor the content of his dreams. I don’t believe him. He always used to talk about his dreams at our morning briefing buffets. Last night, Nune was mumbling, and I can’t be sure of the exact words, but he spoke of breaking his bonds and using those same chains to choke his captors.
The counsellors think he’s reacting to being held in the brig for no crime. I don’t believe them. There was something familiar about the words he chose. One of the phrases was word-perfect from Trill mythology, from a forgotten god called Najiannaa that was caged within another god, the size of a solar system. The night before that, Nune paraphrased a melody from a fifth-tier Kadi deity who was held in bondage, but who liked it.
I’m not aware of Nune having an interest in mythology. Kellin tells me there are no LCARS records of Nune accessing mythology files. …What would make Nune say those things?
“How are you feeling, Leander?” Yuulik asked gently.
Padding into the brig’s control centre, Yuulik approached the cell where Leander Nune was being held. The lights had been dimmed since Nune complained about the brightness. She held her gaze on Nune through the hexagonal energy pattern of the forcefield enclosing him within his cell.
Nune’s appearance had always been too scrawny for Yuulik’s Arcadian sensibilities; there was simply nothing about him that could be considered sexually appealing. More than that, his areas of expertise –mechanical engineering and emotional intelligence– were of no threat to her own. While Nune had taken part in Kellin’s investigation of Yuulik during their earliest days about the USS Dvorak, Nune had also been the first member of the senior staff to accept her as she was. He rarely ever snapped back at her defensively. In adopting her objective lens to perform her duties as Assistant Chief Science Officer, Yuulik tamped down her genuine affection for Nune. She felt as fondly for him as she might for her parent’s pet caninecorn.
Finding Nune situated in the corner of his cell, Yuulik thought he looked frailer than ever. He had surrounded himself with a mosaic of overlapping holo-LCARS panels. Watching the movement of his eyes and his hands, she thought Nune lacked the coordination to toggle between them smoothly. Yuulik suspected he simply forgot that half of them were still open. Doctor Nelli had prescribed him a mild sedative and Yuulik could see it with her own eyes, from his slouched posture and the way his eyes blinked out of sequence with each other.
“Are you comfortable?” Yuulik asked in show of concern. “Can I get you anything?”
Distantly, Nune said, “Fine. I’m fine.”
Yuulik tilted her head to one side, taking note that Nune didn’t look at her when she spoke. She looked away from Nune. Checking Dolan’s notes on her PADD, Yuulik considered her next question and then she regarded Nune again.
“Have you experienced any distressing feelings from the blood dilithium since your last interview with Ensign Dolan?” Yuulik asked.
“I don’t think so?” Nune answered and he sounded more confused by the answer than the question. He looked up at the overhead and he dropped his hands to his sides. His left eye blinked and then his right eye.
“There’s no difference,” Nune said, “between what feelings are mine and what feelings are… dilithium? When I slipped into Kecene drag to lecture Taes on the bridge, it felt right. I never believed there was anything wrong with protecting our crew. Maybe I still don’t.”
Yuulik moved to stand at Nune’s cell, a mere decimetre away from the forcefield. She folded her arms, and her PADD, behind her back.
“Before coming to the Delta Quadrant,” Yuulik asked, “have you ever detected emotions or impressions from dilithium before?” Play-acting as if this were a perfectly reasonable question, Yuulik qualified, “Even after a double shift with too much caffeine?”
“Never,” Nune said. His expression became strained at Yuulik’s question. He took two steps towards her. When he was about to walk through his holographic LCARS panels, the computer floated them to either side of him. Once there was nothing between the two of them but the forcefield, Nune fixed Yuulik with a haggard gaze.
Nune said, “Dilithium isn’t sentient. Maybe I was never affected by the blood dilithium? Those videos from the Merevek crew gave me nightmares the night we came through the wormhole. I was already shaken. Could my reaction have been psychosomatic? Maybe I don’t have to be–“
“Hmm,” Yuulik intoned and she raised her index finger. Pointing a fingernail at his LCARS panels, Yuulik asked, “What are you working on?”
“They won’t let me access the propulsion systems,” Nune said. For the word ‘propulsion’, and ‘propulsion’ only, he shouted it at the brig’s sole guard. “So I’m trying to design a subspace trumpet. Our sensors can find no trace of telepathic transmissions coming from the blood diliti–“
Yuulik cut him off again. “I have no sensors that can detect the telepathic transmissions that come from your brain’s paracortex either.” Her response was simultaneously defensive and intrigued, and she knew it. “Hmm.”
Reaching back, Nune plucked three of the holographic LCARS frames out of the air and he slapped them in a row in front of his face where Yuulik could plainly see them. Nune cringed abruptly. His gaze darted to the hatchway out of the brig, but only for the length of a blink. With his attention returned to Yuulik, Nune pointed to the relevant research and prototyping on each display.
Nune said, “I’m looking for a method for our communication transceivers to generate… something like the phase pulse or distortion waves that bloomed the blood dilithium in the first place. We don’t know enough about how spatial anomalies could possibly bloom dilithium, but maybe a similar subspace frequency could amplify the transmissions coming from the dilithium.”
“Leander,” Yuulik said. Her disgust was blatant in the way she said his name and the way she jumped back from the forcefield. Yuulik narrowed her eyes at Nune as she went on.
“You want to amplify the feelings of dilithium dread?” Yuulik asked. “We’re supposed to be researching a way to dampen it.”
Nune sneered at Yuulik, but, no, he didn’t. Watching his eyes intently, Yuulik was certain that Nune was sneering over her shoulder. She looked over her shoulder but there was only an empty cell behind her.
“Yes, yes, yes, we’ll get to that,” Nune said to Yuulik. He spoke to her like she was a cadet failing a class. It was a timbre she was well-practiced in using herself. “We can’t silence the blood dilithium’s voice until we can hear it. That means the first thing we need to do is make it louder. We need to know what the dilithium wants and then maybe we can shut it up. Lieutenant, can you give one to me? Can you bring me a shard of blood dilithium?”
Yuulik frowned tightly. “I don’t trust that to be safe.”
“Sootrah, you’re too comfortable studying bones,” Nune accused. “It’s time for you to save real lives and now you’re a coward? If I can’t be in engineering then put me to use.”
Nune beat his fist against his own chest twice.
“Observe the effect of blood dilithium on me!” Nune demanded.
“I think,” Yuulik said in a brittle tone, “It’s too close to you already.”
Spreading his arms out wide, Nune spun in a circle, like a dancer on a stage. He offered Yuulik a dramatic bow and then he straighten up in a military posture.
“If you’re all going to stare at me,” Nune snapped, “then let’s put on a show!”
“All?” Yuulik asked back. “Who all?”
“Who?” Nune echoed her Arcadian accent disparagingly. “Your friends! You brought the entire science department from the USS Palm Springs to gawk at me!”
Yuulik took another step back. She could see in Nune’s dark eyes that he really meant what he said.
Sympathetically, Yuulik said slowly, “Leander, we’re alone here except for the guard.”
“No!” Nune blurt out. “No that can’t be right.” –And he blinked at Yuulik, blinked at the guard– “I saw them, no, no, but I felt them. I guess– I never saw them, but I could hear them. Can’t you hear them?”
Yuulik lifted her PADD to document whatever he said next.
“What are they saying?” Yuulik asked.
Nune said, “You don’t want to know.”