Part of USS Babylon: In Leviathan’s Wake and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

It’s All Fun and Games Until…

Sickbay, Deck 3
March 2401
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Ixabi lay on the biobed and twiddled her thumbs, taking a deep breath as the scanner chirped its completion. She watched Dr. Ang’s face as he read the results, and when it didn’t immediately spasm into a mask of horror followed by the words ‘You have 8 types of hyper-cancer and only an hour to live!’ she sat up. Another doctor’s visit completed with only minimal panic.

“So… you might have already figured this out from your scans, but I’m kind of nervous right now. Well, really nervous. That’s not going to mess up your data, is it? For these baseline readings?”

Ang tore his gaze away from the scanner readouts to look at her and shook his head. “No, no, it’s fine. Since you’ll probably continue to be nervous throughout the mission I think this is exactly the sort of data we want. Although…”

He plucked the glasses from the front of his uniform and put them on as he leaned in to get a closer look at the scan readout. ‘Oh no,’ thought Ixabi, ‘Here it comes: the hyper-cancer.’

“You’re not kidding about the ‘really’ nervous part,” said Ang. “Stress hormones at this level aren’t really tenable.”

He pulled up another holographic screen and started scrolling through it rapidly. “The ship’s formulary has sedatives I could give you that won’t disrupt your psilosynine transmitters, but according to your medical file you’ve had a bad reaction to some of them in the past…”

Ang trailed off, scrolling with one hand, tapping the tabletop with the other, brain whirling so fast that even while not actively listening it nearly made Ixabi dizzy. His obvious concern was enough to give Ixabi the courage to clear her throat and share the idea that had been tickling the back of her mind.

“I think,” she said, “What would help most right now would be if I could get some practice in somehow.”

Ang stopped scrolling and tapping and turned to look at her again. “Practice?”

“Yeah! I–” Ixabi paused, looking up at the ceiling while fidgeting her hands. How should she explain it? “I’m holding back all the time on this ship per the ethics code–per my ethics for that matter–and I feel rusty! Out of practice! And I’m also worried about it being too much too fast, you know? Like turning on the lights after sitting in a dark room.”

Dr. Ang didn’t immediately scoff or roll his eyes (‘Why would he?’ she had to ask herself) but rather pulled off his glasses and fiddled with the arms as he seemed to consider her words.

He didn’t consider them for very long at all before offering, “Well, I would be more than willing to help you practice.”

Ixabi practically jumped off the biobed in excitement and ran over to Ang. “Really? Are you sure? Actually, I can tell you’re sure! I know we technically haven’t started yet but the feeling is very loud!”

She realized that was probably the wrong thing to say when Ang’s gaze immediately shot down to his shoes, but for once the other party beat her to the awkward apology.

“S–uh, sorry about the volume, there. Uh.” He hung his glasses on the front of his uniform and looked up again. “My shift ends in a few hours, so just come back to sickbay then and we’ll start practicing.”

“Of course!” Ixabi was tempted to go in for a hug, but after her ‘loud feelings’ comment, she worried it might knock Dr. Ang right over, so she opted for a two-handed handshake instead. “Thank you!”


The rest of Dr. Ang’s shift went by swiftly, and exactly five minutes after it ended Ixabi walked back into sickbay, still smiling as broadly as she had been when she’d left.

“Glad to see you’re still in good spirits,” he said as she approached his desk.

“Well, just the prospect of getting some time in to practice has felt like a weight off my shoulders, so I was able to get through the rest of my shift without any more– you know.” Ixabi gritted her teeth, clenched her fists in demonstration, and made a strained “raaaahh!” noise.

Ang did know, though he was fortunate to have a decade or two of therapy on Ixabi.

“That’s part of the Hippocratic Oath, you know,” he said. “First do no ‘raaaahh!’”

Ixabi laughed, and the tension in her neck and shoulders seemed to soften by a degree. ‘Every little bit helps,’ thought Ang.

“So I’ve pulled a list of exercises from the medical database that we could pick through if you’d like,” he said, leaning across his desk and flipping through pages on the holographic display. “But I suspect you already have some idea of where you’d like to start.”

“I do!” Ixabi nodded. “I thought we could start with some hide and seek!”

Ang felt his face go slack for a moment until suddenly her meaning clicked.

“Right, of course. That’s almost exactly what you’ll be doing, isn’t it?”

“Yeah! I–” Ixabi cut herself off, hesitant and perhaps a bit embarrassed. “I probably shouldn’t be so out of practice with this one–it’s not explicitly or implicitly against anything in the ethics code–but I guess I got lazy?” She shrugged. “It’s too much work to feel around for someone’s mind when I can just ask the computer to find them for me.”

Ang leaned forward with his chin in his hand so that he could physically clamp down on the laugh that was threatening to escape. He hadn’t expected a conversation about telepathy to be so relatable.

“Anyway,” Ixabi continued, “I’ll be trying to find a massive unknown lifeform across the vastness of space instead of a humanoid on a ship with only eight decks, but the mental process is about the same. Just on a different scale.”

“I defer to your judgement as the expert in this field,” said Ang,  “So let’s get started.” He snatched a PADD off his desk as he stood up and started for the exit. “I’ll go hide–”

“And I’ll count to 100!” said Ixabi.

Ang halted. “Well, I was just going to comm you.” He pointed to his badge.

“Oh! Right, right, that’ll probably work better,” said Ixabi with an exaggerated nod. Ang briefly considered suggesting that maybe she should count after all, but she was still bouncing on the balls of her feet and raring to go so he darted out of sickbay and into the nearest turbolift, trying not to think about his destination.

He found himself a few decks below sickbay in one of the labs off main engineering. It was quiet except for the humming of the warp core and the chirping of one of the consoles where a lone crewmember had sequestered himself.

Ang affected a curiosity about his surroundings as he looked around, aiming for casual but not quite hitting the mark. There were some storage bays in the corner, approximately him-sized, and the first one he opened was conveniently empty.

He knocked on the side of the storage bay and the crewmember on the opposite side of the lab finally looked up from his console.

“You’re not planning on using this any time soon, are you?” Ang asked.

“No,” the crewman answered flatly, immediately returning his focus to his workstation.

Ang nodded, and in one fluid motion ducked inside and closed the door on himself. He managed to settle himself into a position that wasn’t too uncomfortable, then activated the PADD he’d pulled off his desk and selected some light reading before tapping his combadge. “Okay, lieutenant, you’re good to go.”

“Great! Ixabi out.”

He’d only gotten a few pages into the study he was reading when he heard a click, and Ixabi was throwing the door open in triumphant glee.

“That was fast,” he said, blinking hard in the bright light of the lab.

“Yeah! The hardest part was picking you out from the rest of the noise,” said Ixabi, offering him a steadying hand as he stood. “But once I knew which mind was yours it was easy to zero in.”

“Good!” He pushed his fists into his lower back and stretched until he felt a crack. “Should we try it a couple more times just to be sure?”

“Okay!”

She found him just as easily each time, first in the Jefferies tube adjacent to the deck two mess hall, and then…

“Back in sickbay?” called Ixabi, strolling in through the doors. “It almost feels like cheating.”

“Double bluff,” said Ang, back at his desk and scrolling through yet another report. “It’s the last place you’d look for me exactly because it’s the first place you’d look for me. And I left my glasses here.”

He dismissed the report and turned his attention back to Ixabi. “How are those nerves?”

“A little better,” said Ixabi, her voice hesitant again. “Now instead of being panicked about finding it, I’m panicked about talking to it.”

She glanced at the ground, then back at Ang, possibly waiting for some kind of platitude or reassurance. He just nodded in acknowledgement and waited for her to continue.

“I mean, maybe I won’t even have to!” she said, suddenly animated, pacing and waving her hands. “Maybe it will immediately respond to linguacode and that will be that! But I don’t think I’m that lucky, and the prospect is daunting, and it’s difficult enough talking to non-telepathic humanoids, so.”

She stopped pacing and stood there for a moment, clenching and unclenching her fists, until suddenly she rounded on Ang and leaned forward on his desk.

“Would you be okay with me giving you a task…” She waggled her fingers and pointed them from her forehead to Ang’s as if he needed the visual demonstration. “You know, remotely giving you step-by-step instructions, seeing if I can communicate them clearly enough for you to follow through?”

Ang shrugged. “Of course. That’s a great idea, in fact. What did you have in mind?”


Ang was immensely grateful for the dimmed after-hours lighting in the corridor as he approached Lieutenant Ixabi’s quarters and prepared to just walk in, casually as anything.

It was surprisingly hard to tell if the instructions were being given to him as words or just raw ideas because, by the time he registered that there were thoughts in his mind that weren’t his own, he was already putting words to the images and images to the words and could no longer see their original shape. He was just grateful that he could make sense of the end result. (Or was that Ixabi feeling grateful?)

“Alright, so these are your quarters, and I’m… supposed to go in,” he said, double-checking the room number. “Of course. Just casually entering Lieutenant Ixabi’s quarters, something that is in no way noteworthy and would not be discussed among the rest of the crew if any of them saw me entering.”

Ang looked left and right down the corridor. Then left again. Then right again. Then left and right again, all the while straining to listen for the slightest disturbance or footfall.

Suddenly the thoughts ‘empty hallway’ and ‘hurry up!’ appeared in his mind and he nodded, bending forward to enter a code into the door’s control panel.

“Okay, okay, okay.”

The door whooshed open and he stepped inside, where the lights automatically activated on a dim setting.

He didn’t need much light to find the glowing dodecahedron sitting in the middle of the nearest table. It was a familiar puzzle game that had been popular as far back as his academy days. Did Ixabi want him to try to complete it with her instructions? Or…

Go find Szarka.’

Back into the turbolift, down to the next deck, and into one of the direct-access labs adjacent to the main computer core. Szarka was there with Qsshrr and they were muttering to each other, something about sensor filters.

Szarka’s face brightened as soon as she saw him and she swiveled her chair to face him. “Hey, Doc! What can we do ya for?”

“That is a great question,” said Ang as he took slow, measured steps into the room. With each step, the next instructions took shape.

“Ixabi wants me to give this to you,” he started, holding the puzzle out towards Szarka. “She wants me to tell you that–”

He closed his eyes briefly in concentration, then felt his face begin to flush.  “Well, that’s a little, um, perhaps not rude so much as overly familiar.” He opened his eyes and found himself instinctively speaking to an empty space in front of him. “I don’t think I can say that.”

Szarka’s face split into a grin and she jumped out of the chair, closing the distance between herself and Ang. “Ha! She’s talking to you right now, isn’t she? She mentioned something about ‘practice’ earlier,” said Szarka, emphasizing the word with air quotes. “C’mon, Doc, don’t scramble the message. What does she have to say?”

“She says–” Ang sighed and rolled his eyes, still holding the dodecahedron out for Szarka. “She says she beat your silly puzzle in five minutes, try programming one not meant for… children next time.”

“Ha!” Szarka slapped her leg and took the puzzle from Ang before jabbing a finger in his face. He tilted back a bit. “You can’t even trash talk me to my face and you think I’m just gonna give you another puzzle– sorry Doc, I’m being a bit too intense here, lemme pull it back a bit.” 

She gave him a conciliatory shoulder pat before stepping out of his personal space and returning to her seat. 

“Well I WILL give you another puzzle,” she said. She swiveled in her chair again and projected her voice loudly to Ang as if Ixabi were simply listening from behind the door rather than via psionic field and well out of shouting range. 

“And to hell with making it fun and enjoyable. If you want a challenge, I will give you a challenge.” She leaned forward, jabbing her finger again from a more reasonable distance. “And I cannot wait to see your glistening tears of inadequacy when you realize that you will never solve it. Again, not you Doc, you’re great. Have fun.”

The jabbing finger of accusation became a pumping fist of encouragement. “You got this, Ixabi!” she said with a smile and genuine good cheer.

Ang might have nodded. He definitely stumbled out of the lab and leaned back against the nearest wall as he tried to clear his thoughts.

“That was a bit intense,” he muttered, and his brain was immediately filled with a chorus of ‘sorry! sorry!’ He shrugged and chuckled a bit, wondering ‘What next?’ before finally saying it aloud to the corridor. 

“What next?”


Anand had assumed that he was in for a scolding when Ang entered the bridge, but the doctor didn’t seem to notice him immediately. Ang was too preoccupied with his surroundings, inspecting them as intently as if he’d never seen them before.

When Ang finally did spot him at the tactical station, he said, “Lieutenant Ixabi says you should get some rest.”

Anand furrowed his brows and glanced around the bridge, as though he might catch a glimpse of her hiding under one of the consoles.

“Nevermind,” said Ang, relieving him of the need to piece together the joke. “But while we’re on the subject, your chief medical officer also thinks you should get some rest.”

Anand made a noncommittal humming sound as he rotated the tactical map floating above the console.

Not taking his eyes off it, he asked Ang, “Did you ever play ‘statues’ when you were little?”

Ang seemed to wrack his brain for a moment before understanding flashed across his face. “Ah, yeah we did. Though we called it ‘shuttle pilot’ or something along those lines. ‘Warp one, two, three, full stop!’” he said, and though the words were different, the cadence was the same one Anand remembered from childhood.

“Exactly. It just feels as though if I were to take my eyes off this map, all the little Dominion blips that are lurking just out of range–”

Ang cut him off, “Will defy all laws of physics and appear in weapons’ range before you get a chance to crawl out of bed and get to the bridge?”

Anand huffed. “I’d thank you to leave your logic out of this conversation about childhood nostalgia.”

Finally, Anand turned fully away from the map to face Ang. “I actually did get a bit of a nap in,” he said, nodding in grateful acknowledgement of the doctor’s concern. “But we’ll be within range of the first subspace vacuoles soon. I was debating whether or not to call alpha shift to the bridge early, but I guess I’ll refrain on the off chance that any of them are asleep.”

Ang didn’t respond. He was still looking in Anand’s direction, but his eyes had become glassy and unfocused. Before Anand could say anything, he heard Ang speak, barely above a whisper.  “Captain, it’s here.”

A shrill proximity alarm rang and Anand nearly jumped out of his skin, and a second later, much louder, a thundering boom hammered the ship. He flailed for the tactical console and managed only enough of a grip to slow his descent to the deck plating.

“Red alert, damage report, and what the HELL was that?” he said, scrambling to his feet and glaring at the accursed tactical map. He’d only looked away for a minute.

“Jem’Hadar fighter, sir!” called the officer at ops.

“How many?”

“Just the one. I think.”

“You think!?”

The ensign threw his hands up in frustration for a second before immediately returning them to the controls, “As far as our sensors are concerned, that one might as well have not existed a few seconds ago… but it’s still the only one I read so far.”

“All propulsion systems offline,” he heard from behind him, “Shields down to 50%.”

So he was still napping and this was an actual nightmare, surely.

He felt the briefest second of relief as Bohkat came barreling through the door to take his station at tactical, prompting Anand to finally release his death grip on the console and get to his seat.

The relief began warring with confusion when he heard Bohkat announce, “The fighter is moving away from us at full impulse.”

“I need to see it!” called Ixabi, appearing breathless on the bridge as if she’d run the whole way.

“Lieutenant??” was the only response Anand could muster as she dashed over to his chair and gripped the arm (and his arm).

“Captain, I need to see it! Please.” Her eyes were locked on the viewscreen.

“The… Jem’Hadar ship?” he asked, despite his strong suspicion that that was not at all what she meant.

“The creature!” Ixabi locked eyes with Anand. “It’s here! But it’s so–”

She closed her eyes and grimaced, and Anand might have reached up to pat her shoulder if she didn’t already have one of his arms in a vice grip.

“It’s so much,” she said at last. “If I could see it…”

“Ensign Bolen,” Anand called to ops. “Are you picking up anything other than the Jem’Hadar fighter?”

“No.”

Another proximity alert chimed at the ensign’s console and he threw up his hands again. “Yes.”

“Close enough for a visual?” asked Anand.

The response was the flash of the viewscreen, and in the center was a seed-shaped mass floating in space, its matte husk absorbing the surrounding light. A filament of iridescent light shot across its length from tip to tail every few seconds, each one briefly hinting at the breadth and width of its form.

Ixabi stared, mouth agape, while Anand watched her face for any hint of distress.

Another shout from ops: “The Jem’Hadar ship is closing on the creature.”

“We’re still within weapons range,” noted Bohkat.

“Of them AND the creature,” said Anand, denial implicit in his tone. “ I can’t risk you accidentally hitting… Gomthree.”

Szarka rushed through the doors and settled at a console behind Anand. “Qsshrr and I have already begun transmitting linguacode,” she announced. “No response yet.”

“Lieutenant Ixabi,” said Anand, reaching over with his right hand to gently pry her off his arm. She let go immediately and began walking slowly towards the viewscreen. Anand stood up and followed her. He wanted to tell her to stop whatever it was she was doing at that moment, at least long enough to come back to reality and check in, but before he could say anything she whispered.

“It’s aware…” she said.

“It’s aware of our ships… it’s aware of the Jem’Hadar, and us, it’s…”

Suddenly Ixabi hunched over and clutched her head in her hands. “It’s aware of me.”

Anand reached for Ixabi’s arm, but before he could say anything the creature on the viewscreen began to spin. It began to glow.

That stupid Gomtuu report that apparently every science ship nerd with credentials has read flashed through his mind. What had that thing done to the Enterprise

And they were much closer than the Enterprise had been. And much smaller. 

Damaged shields. 

Couldn’t move. 

Guess that’s it! The mission ends here.

All he could do was watch while a white disc of energy arched out and away from the creature, but Anand couldn’t help but stare as he realized what he was seeing. He kept his reaction restrained in case he was mistaken, but he wanted to shout. ‘Gomthree, Gomthree, you talented little space pip. Thank god you know how to aim.’

The disc had no depth: it was angled away from Babylon as it expanded through space, slicing through the Jem’Hadar fighter in a brilliant, blinding explosion that consumed the entire viewscreen and illuminated the bridge. The Babylon wasn’t even grazed.

“I’m sorry!”

Ixabi was clutching his arm again, though he couldn’t begin to imagine what she was apologizing for.“Ixabi,” he started.“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she muttered absently. She sounded so far away, Anand wasn’t even sure she was speaking to anyone on the bridge.

“Seems like a great time to compare against those baseline readings,” came Ang’s voice from behind them. Ixabi released her grip on Anand’s arm and followed the doctor off the bridge, muttering all the way.

“What’s the status of the creature?” he asked, rubbing absently at his bicep.“It’s… gone, sir,” said Ensign Bolen.

Anand’s heart sank. “Did it destroy itself?”

No answer for a moment. Then, “I’m detecting debris from the Jem’Hadar fighter…” 

Another pause. “And that’s it.”

Anand nodded. “Continue scanning the area, I need that double and triple confirmed. Find out what, if anything, the debris can tell us about the energy it emitted. Szarka,” he called over his shoulder. “Confer with Qsshrr and meet me in the conference room in an hour so that you can tell me exactly why neither the Jem’Hadar nor Gomthree appeared on our scanners until the last possible second.”

“Yessir.”

He tapped his commbadge. “Zamora–”

“Already in main engineering, Captain,” she said, and that was another relief. “Impulse in a couple of hours. I’ll keep you updated.” 

That left just one more thing.

“Bohkat?”

Anand turned around and began shuffling back towards his chair, gesturing in the direction of tactical for Bohkat to come closer.

Bohkat said nothing, but Anand could hear his footfalls and felt him halt less than an arm’s length away.

“Can you help me get to sickbay?” he asked quietly. “I can’t see a damned thing.”

Comments

  • It is good to see you character building in these post and explaining the characters on how they think, feel or think about their fellow colleagues on the ship. Ixabi and Ang interaction is such example to show how a doctor is trying to calm his patient and a nervous crew member is trying to endure the check. The interaction of the Jem'Hadar and the creature is played well out, it is vague that it peeks my interest to keep reading and now it disappeared? I wonder where it is, look forward to more!

    May 30, 2023
  • Brilliant; from the nervousness regarding the tests and doubt in Ixabi's own mind to the interesting way the doctor helped first calm her down and then test out her abilities with a game of hide and seek. Then the connection with the creature, did it understand enough to realise the USS Babylon is not a threat, and how did it appear along with that Jem’Hadar fighter out of nowhere and vanish again so swiftly after the fighters destruction. I look forward to finding out more.

    May 30, 2023
  • That's some pretty spectacular character development you've got going on there. Glistening tears of inadequacy is a phrase I am going to steal and use in real life at every opportunity possible. I love the game of hide and seek, and the instruction giving. It was great that Sarka was well in for the challenge, when others may have freaked out at the 'mind control' on display. Then we have the mystery of Gomthree itself; where did it go? What did it do to Anand? Ixabi did her job and did it well. I hope there is no personal cost for doing so.

    May 31, 2023
  • Ixabi continues to be a well-drawn character, in touch with her emotions and anxieties. I enjoy the whimsical ways her perspective on events, and on Ang, help to tell the narrative. (Ang is quite funny too with: First do no ‘raaaahh!’) The notion of practicing her telepathy through a glorified scavenger hunt was a delight to read. As with your interview round-robin, I liked that it gave us a chance to visit with the main characters and introduce Gomthree! Absolutely stunning introduction!

    June 1, 2023