"Home Sweet Home"

Author: Lieutenant JG Tricia McMillan
Date: June 5, 2384
Location: Approaching USS Ronin

"Ronin, this is the Delta Flyer ‘Pendragon’ on final approach," Tricia announced.

[Pendragon, this is the Ronin. Opening main shuttle bay doors.] Commander Markos announced. [Captain Evans and Doctor Hancock are awaiting your arrival. Welcome home, Tricia.]

"Thank you, Ronin. Pendragon out," Tricia replied, switching off the communications link.

It had been a lonely two days traveling back to the Ronin. With Klara now safely on Valaria, beyond the immediate influence of Section-31 and Gregholt in stasis onboard the Flyer, there had been no-one for Tricia to talk to.

Although when they had first left for Valaria, Tricia wouldn’t have described Steven as a friend, over the two weeks that they’d been working together on Valaria they had started to form a friendship. Tricia had spent most of her off-time with Klara exploring the Valaria capital city. But during work hours, it had been Gregholt who had made the day pass by smoothly.

Now he was stuck in a stasis pod, infected with an unknown virus that was designed to attack the immune system of anyone infected. And what made things even worse was that this virus was not natural, but had been engineered in some lab.

Tricia flew along the dorsal length of the Ronin and noticed several areas of the hull where the plating had recently been replaced. On other sections there were still the tell-tale scorch marks from disrupter fire.

Looks like the Ronin’s been in a fight whilst I’ve been away, Tricia thought.

She flew past the rear of the Ronin, before making a one-eighty degree turn and headed into the main shuttle bay, bringing the Flyer to rest on the deck.

She slowly rose from her seat and headed down into the living area of the shuttlecraft.

"Welcome back," Captain Evans remarked as Tricia opened the port side door.

Both Captain Evans and Doctor Hancock entered the living area and started to look around.

"Where’s Lieutenant Gregholt?" Ryan asked.

"Over here," Tricia replied, walking across to the bio-bed and bringing it out from the storage area.

Steven was just laid out, looking to all those around that he was simply asleep. But of course, Tricia knew better. He wasn’t asleep, but in suspended animation, his vital functions brought to an almost total stop.

"He was hit by an assassin during the opening ceremony for the medical centre. A genetically modified virus that was designed to attack and disable the Valarian immune system has infected him. Unfortunately, the virus has had a far more devastating result on Gregholt, than it would have had on a Valarian. The LTMH estimated that he had only two days before the virus totally destroyed his immune system. After that, the simplest of infections would kill him," Tricia explained. "Stasis was the only option. The Valarian authorities are following all this up, but I don’t hold out much hope of them finding an answer."

"Do you have any information on the virus?" Hancock asked.

"Not a great deal," Tricia replied. "All the LTMH’s records are downloaded into this PADD. There’s also everything they it had on the Valarian immune system." Tricia passed the PADD she had in her hand to the Doctor.

"Interesting, but there’s only part of the virus recorded here. Without a full sample there’s no way we can start to look for a cure," Hancock replied. "Wow, the Valarians have some immune system, don’t they. It’s no wonder the virus has had such a devastating result on Gregholt."

"I know," Tricia said. "The Valarians are going to try and track down the research lab where the virus was created."

"But why would anyone create such a virus?" Hancock enquired.

"It appears that there are those on Valaria who are opposed to Valaria joining the Federation. The Klingon flu was the first stage, designed to make the Valarian population fear disease and therefore outsiders. When we arrived they must have realised that we’d discover their deception, so moved onto phase two. They planned to infect the monarch with the virus, hoping that seeing him sick would work."

"Sounds like Valaria has been having some problems," Ryan remarked.

"That’s not the worse of it," Tricia continued. "They had help, there was no way the Valarians could have produced such a virus on their own. Also, the assassin wasn’t a Valarian, he was human. A former Federation doctor, Addison Hillstead."

"Hillstead," William remarked. "Now there’s a name I’ve not heard in a while."

"You’ve heard of him?" Tricia enquired.

"Not personally, no." William replied. "But I know of his work. He was a brilliant geneticist, working on DNA splicing techniques if I remember rightly. I also remember something about him being accused of murder about five years ago. If I remember correctly, he was acquitted of all charges, but he was given a dishonourable discharge."

"That’s what the database said as well." Tricia stated "Strange that given he was acquitted, he was ‘drummed’ out of Starfleet. I wonder why ?"

"Go get something to eat and then some rest," Ryan ordered. "We’ll take care of everything here."

Tricia left the Flyer and headed towards her quarters. She wasn’t looking forward to being around people just yet. All she wanted to do was be alone.

Suddenly she found herself standing outside the Counselor’s office. Tricia had no idea why she had come here. It wasn’t on the way to her quarters and she wasn’t very comfortable talking about her feelings, especially to counselors.

There was also something about the Ronin’s new counselor that Tricia didn’t trust. She was OK around Dinara, but Karissa was something different. But Torasu liked her, so she couldn’t be all bad.

She pressed the door chimes and waited for an answer.

The doors opened and Karissa stood there, staring at Tricia. She could sense something was wrong, but she obviously didn’t know what.

"Lieutenant?" Karissa enquired "How can I help you?"

Tricia just looked at the Counselor and turned away, heading towards the turbolift.

Karissa stepped out of the office and watched the Lieutenant continue her walk down the corridor.

"Bentara to Captain Evans," She announced after stepping back into her office.

[Evans here. What can I do for you, counselor?] Ryan replied. Even though their relationship was now common knowledge, when on duty they had to keep things official.

"I’ve just had a visit from Tricia McMillan," Karissa explained.

[Must have been a quick visit, she’s only just left the shuttlebay.] Ryan joked.

"Which only makes me more worried. She looked as if she wasn’t expecting to see me here, she may not even have realised where she was herself," Karissa explained.

[She’ll have to report to sickbay tomorrow anyway for a medical check-up, after her away mission. Maybe you should be there so that you can have a talk with her.] Ryan suggested.

"I think it maybe easier for Tricia if I were to get Ensign Tyran to do that. I don’t know Tricia that well, and Dinara's been around her longer than me, so she probably knows her better," Karissa replied.

[You could be right. Tricia was only aboard a couple of weeks before she left for Valaria and this is a large crew to get to know. I’ll have a word with Dinara myself and set things up. I’ll also get Lieutenant Jin to look in on her, she’s probably Tricia’s closest friend. Maybe she can find out what’s wrong.] Ryan said.

"Sounds like a plan. See you tonight," Karissa replied.

[Of course. Evans out.] Ryan replied.

Tricia arrived at her quarters and went inside. The room was in almost total darkness. She walked over to her bed and just ‘fell’ onto it, crying herself to sleep.