Beings of Light

by Annie Hall

Kathryn Novacek: Tactical Engineering Lieutenant. Born December 2119.
Birth Place: San Francisco California.
Parents: Jerry and Marie Novacek, Marine Biologists Deceased. December 2136
Cause: Starfleet weapons testing misfire. Ruled accidental.
Sibling: Robert (Bobby) Novacek. Born 2117. Deceased May 2140.
Cause: Aircraft crash during Starfleet Maneuvers. Ruled accidental.

Joined Starfleet at the insistence of her brother in 2139. Worked to promote safer weapons and appropriate fields of testing. Taken under the wing of Jonathan Archer after her brother’s death. Though Jon was older the two formed a fast and solid relationship. Due to certain circumstances behind the deaths of her family, Kathryn has the ability to obtain favors from Starfleet’s Admiral. She called in one of these favors when she learned Starfleet Command had denied Archer’s request for a weapon system upgrade. The Admiral had her placed on board Enterprise with a time frame of three months to finish the upgrade, knowing she would not be able to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”Damn it, Kathryn, you are always in the way!” Reed pushed her aside to continue his work on the new phase-torpedo.

Kathryn nudged back, irritated by his unwillingness to let her be involved. ”Lieutenant, may I remind you that I am here to help you, not to be dazzled by your brilliance?” she said.

”Very cute. Hand me that diagnostic wand.”

”I’m not your assistant.” She handed him the wand, pulling it back when he reached for it.

”Jesus” he said, turning toward her. “You are a piece of work. Give me the damn thing.” He grabbed it from her hand and turned back to his work.

”Sorry, Reed. You are really pissing me off this morning. I only have three months on board, and you won’t even let me get my hands dirty.”

”Wish it was more like three weeks. And I didn’t ask for your help.”

”No, you didn’t. Starfleet Command sent me. They thought you needed -“

”Starfleet isn’t out here," he interrupted. "How the hell can they know what we need?”

”They know you left without being fully functional. I am here to bring things up to at least a standard capability.”

”They figure I’m not capable of that on my own? Hand me the calibrator.” He held out his hand, and Kathryn exchanged the tools without incident.

”They may believe that, Lieutenant. I think you are highly capable. In fact, some of the things you have accomplished here are far superior to what I can offer.” She leaned in for a closer look. “I think you are still off on that calibration, Malcolm. Try it at point 006.”

”I don’t believe I am off on the calibration, Kathryn, thank you," Reed muttered. "Just so you know, compliments won‘t get you on my good side.”

”I wasn’t aware that you had a good side, Malcolm.”

”Hand me the feeler.”

She again traded tools. ”And you are still off on that calibration, Malcolm.”

”Lieutenant; have you read the studies showing females far inferior to males where technology is concerned?” He turned about to look at her, exchanged his tool for another, and went back to fidgeting. She was angered by his reference to her being incapable.

”As a matter of fact, I have read the studies. They go hand in hand with studies showing the males far inferior where intimate detail is concerned. You know, of course, that 95 percent of problems are due to lack of attention to intimate detail,” she quipped.

”The discussion was technology here, Kathryn, not sex,” he slammed back.

”You are impossible, do you know that?” She readied the next tool he was going to need and held it out before he asked for it.

”Thank you.”

”You are welcome.”

”There, finished. Next step is the test run.” He smiled.

”You can’t test run this yet, Malcolm. Look at this. I think this calibration is off.”

”I don’t think it is off, Kathryn. I have checked and rechecked. Are you sure you aren’t the wrong party here?”

”Will you humor me and give it a try just to be sure?”

”I’ll think about it.”

”At least before you decide to set up a test launch, run it by the captain. I want to have my misgivings on record beforehand.”

”No wonder you get those headaches. Please take your break, Lieutenant!” He stressed the word please while motioning her toward the exit.

”Fine, but you know I will be back again.” She smiled at him. Through all the bantering back and forth, Kathryn knew they were actually beginning to make progress with the systems. She even thought they were beginning to like one another a bit.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”Hey, Kathryn,” Tucker called from behind her in the corridor. “Where ya headed?”

”Someone told me I needed a break.” She pointed back toward the armory. “Actually, I think he was right this time.” She stretched her neck from side to side and rubbed the base of her neck.

”Like some company?”

”Sure, if you’ve got the time.” She waited for him to catch up.

”Always got time for you, Kath.”

The two made their way into the mess hall. Kathryn asked the drink dispenser for hot tea. Trip waited. He noticed Kathryn still rubbing her neck.

”Headache again, Kath?”

”Yup, every afternoon like clockwork. Bet I could set a watch by them. Don’t think it could be from working with Malcolm, do you?” She smiled.

”Could be, although I don’t seem to get headaches from workin’ with the guy.” He laughed. “Have you checked in with the doc lately?”

”Not for a while. He told me it was just my body adjusting to being on board, and there was not much he could do about it.”

”Still, if it’s been a while, you may want to have him look again.”

”Yes, sir, I will.” She saluted.

”How are things goin’ with the upgrade?”

”We are beginning to make some progress. I think it could go faster if Malcolm would let me help. Doesn’t seem to like my ideas or suggestions.” She yawned.

”Oh, I don’t know, Kath. Malcolm is by the book. Methods and tactics, rules and regulations. You tend to go from your experience.” He took his drink from the dispenser, followed her to a small table and sat down facing her.

”I know that, Tucker, but sometimes rules and regulations aren’t the best way to go, and books haven’t been written for a lot of this yet. You almost have to go with what you feel at some point.”

”Maybe he’s just nervous bein’ ‘round a tactical engineer smarter’n he is.”

”Don’t say that out loud again.” She sipped at her tea. “I’m sure he’d really love to hear that one!”

”Ain’t that the truth. He is a bit stuffed-shirt about his job, Kath, I‘ll give ya that one.”

”Things might be different if Starfleet hadn’t sent me to watch over his shoulder. I probably wouldn’t like it any more than he does.” She rubbed the back of her neck again.

”Let me do that for ya, Kath,” Tucker said. He walked around behind her chair. ”How’s that?” he asked, kneading her neck and shoulders.

”Feels good. It just doesn’t seem to help anymore. I’ve been really tired, too.”

”You need to head to your cabin and get some sleep, Kath. Looks like it’s kicking your ass.”

”Can’t do that. I want to make sure Malcolm checks the calibrations on the...”

”The suggestion has just turned into an order, Lieutenant," Trip interrupted. "I will let Reed know. He can call if he needs ya.”

”Oh, yeah, I’m very sure he will call me if he needs help.”

”Reduced to sarcasm now, are we?” he teased as he pulled her chair out and offered to help her up.

”Aren’t we the gentlemen?” she asked.

”Just doing what comes natural, Kath.”

”Well, thank you, Mr. Tucker, I appreciate that.” She fanned her face mocking a swooning southern belle.

He took her hand into his and pulled her up into an embrace. He loved the smell of her hair and the way her body felt against his own. He had promised himself that one day he would tell her, but again, today was not the day. He kissed the top of her head and rested his chin there while his thoughts traveled into the past, finding the two of them hand in hand on the beach where Jon had introduced them so long ago. He could feel the spray of the ocean against his face and the warm sun on his skin. It felt right having her on board Enterprise.

”Kathryn to Tucker,” she said as she traced the stripe on his uniform shoulder, stopping to toy with the three pips directly above it.

”Everything okay?” she asked.

”Yeah, just remembering is all,” he said.

”Good memories?” she asked.

”Only the best. Now get out of here and get some sleep, Lieutenant,” he ordered.

The two exited into the corridor, both turning in different directions.

Kathryn walked toward her quarters, feeling like the headache would soon intensify enough to take over. She wondered if she really should have Dr. Phlox take another look. These were not her typical headaches; nothing short of sleep would get rid of them. When she tried to take anything to ease them, it came back up as fast as it went down. In fact, she couldn‘t remember the last meal she had been able to eat and keep down. Every afternoon for the past week, she had been excusing herself to find a dark, quiet corner and sleep. Each day, the time she slept grew longer. So far, Reed had let it slide, but sooner or later she knew it would have to stop or he would need to inform the captain, if he hadn‘t already done so.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Charlie Tucker was busy in the engine room when he saw Captain Archer making his little checks of the systems. Trip never really knew if these were a necessary captain's duty or if it was just a way for Archer to combat boredom on the ship. Whatever the reason, it boosted crew morale to have a captain among them who treated them as an equal. Trip had never known Archer to be the typical superior officer type, full of protocol, orders and himself. He had only seen Archer give a demanding order when there was no other way to handle the situation. He had given Tucker such orders twice. Both times they had saved his life.

”Trip.” Archer smiled and nodded toward Tucker, touching his forehead in a mock salute.

”Cap‘n,” Trip nodded back.

Archer smiled. “You sure know how to make a ship purr, Trip.”

”Thanks, Cap‘n,” he said as he came down off the catwalk to talk to his friend. “Cap’n, have you talked to Kathryn lately?”

”A little here and there. Why, something wrong?” Archer asked, moving toward Trip.

”Still havin’ nasty headaches. Wouldn’t ya think she’d be adjusted to the ship by now?”

”She hasn’t mentioned them to me, Trip.”

”You were never good at picking up signals, were ya? All you gotta do is look at her, Jon, and you’d know she is hurtin’. Some captain you are; somebody always has to come right out and tell ya whats goin’ on right under your nose.” Trip laughed.

”Sorry, Commander. Thought that’s what the crew was for,” he teased back.

”Kathryn’s headaches are gettin’ worse, Jon. She looks like she is really draggin’. I’m not even sure she is eating anymore. Malcolm tells me she spends her breaks tryin’ to sleep ‘em off in the armory corridor. I had to order her to her cabin not too long ago. Told her she ought to check with the doc again.”

”Jesus, why wasn’t I informed of all of this before?”

”You’re bein’ informed now, Cap’n.”

”Think she’ll take your advice about the doctor? We know how stubborn that kid can be.”

”Don’t know, Jon. Hope so.” Trip bit his bottom lip. “But I wouldn’t be tellin’ ya if I weren’t worried.”

”I’ll follow up on it, Trip. Make it an order if I have to.” He patted Trip‘s shoulder with his hand in a reassuring gesture.

”Thanks, Jon.”

”Bridge to Archer,” the intercom interrupted.

”Archer here.”

”Captain, we have spotted an incoming vessel.”

”I will be right there.”

Archer headed for the bridge.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”How far out is it?” Archer asked, entering the bridge.

”About 30,000 kilometers and closing fast, Captain,” answered Mayweather.

”Can we bring it on screen?” Archer said.

Mayweather tried, but the ship was not visible. “Frequency seems to be scrambled, sir.”

”They are hailing us, Captain,” Hoshi said.

”Open the communication line.” Hoshi did as instructed.

”This is Jonathan Archer, captain of the Enterprise," he announced to the visitor. "We are a space exploration vessel seeking first contact.”

There was no response.

”We have introduced ourselves. Will you do the same?” Archer asked.

”We are Group 10,” the vessel answered.

”Is it possible for us to see you, Group Ten?” Archer asked.

”We are trying to match your frequency.”

The screen cleared somewhat, and an image of the armory aboard Enterprise appeared.

”What the bloody hell?” Reed asked, looking at Archer with question.

A period of silence followed as images of Enterprise continued to flash across the comm screen.

”Can you explain how you are sending images from aboard the Enterprise?” a confused Archer asked.

”We have a host aboard Enterprise,” the voice said.

Not understanding, Archer gave a questioning glance to each member on the bridge looking for ideas. Finding none, he continued.

”I am not sure I understand. Are you saying you are on board Enterprise?” Archer asked.

”Only the hosted one who gathers data for correction of failure.”

Correction of failure? What have we failed? Who are these people? Archer thought. He wondered if they were really aboard and where. If he could at least see what he was up against, he might be able to understand and work this through.

”You are saying one of you is on Enterprise?”


”This would it be easier for me to understand if I could see you,” Archer said.

”We are unable to lower our frequency to meet yours at this time.”

”I know that images sometimes can’t give enough detail. We would enjoy having you on board for a first-hand look at the workings of our ship,” Archer said, trying to bait them aboard. He didn’t like the feeling that something or someone had slipped in behind his back without notice.

”We have no need to board Enterprise. We continue to see all that we need from this distance. We have, however, found human hosting to be far less beneficial than we anticipated. The hosting appears to be failing and we may...”

The comm voice garbled.

”Hoshi?” Archer asked.

”I’m sorry, Captain. I can’t get them back. I’m trying,” she answered.

”Captain, it appears they are turning about and exiting our airspace,” T’Pol announced.

”What the hell was that? Why are they leaving? Did I say something wrong?” Archer questioned out loud to himself as he paced the floor.

”Captain, they are off our sensor field,” Mayweather announced.

”Thank you, Travis.” Archer looked about the crew. “Should that make us feel comfortable?" he asked.

”Doesn’t make me feel very comfortable, Captain," Mayweather answered. "We still don’t know who or what is on the ship.”

”If anything,” Reed added.

”I think it is safe to assume we have an intruder on board. Friendly or not, we need to make a thorough sweep of the ship and find it,” Archer said.

”Captain, it is going to be difficult to find something when we haven’t a clue what we are looking for,” Reed said.

”Perhaps it can be found by scanning for bio signs, Lieutenant," T'Pol suggested. "It may also help to study the images for a consistent pattern of activity.”

”Let’s get started,” Archer said and turned to Hoshi and Travis. “Hoshi, see what you can do with what we have. Maybe you can figure out what they mean. While you are at it, try to locate them.”

”Yes, Captain,” Hoshi answered.

”Travis, you have the ship,” Archer said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Kathryn was dreaming she was being lifted on a beam of light that grew in intensity until it hurt her eyes even when they were closed tightly. She lifted her hand over her face to shield herself from the glare of the creatures before her. They asked questions, and she answered with an expertise she never knew she possessed.

Suddenly a strong feeling of homesickness hit her stomach, and she asked to be finished with her work. The request was denied. Now trying to explain her urgent need to go home, tears began to flow from her eyes. The beings insisted that more data needed to be collected before bringing her home was possible. Something didn’t feel right. It was as if there was an urgent need to go and yet at the same time a wonderful comfort in staying. She was trapped with strangers she somehow felt a connection to.

The beings became angry, demanding she answer them. Shaking her. Calling her name over and over, as if she was not listening. She was afraid to open her eyes and ashamed that she was crying.

Archer and Hansen were doing their best to wake Kathryn. Hansen had found her huddled in a small, dark corner of her cabin during his sweep of E Deck. She had not responded to his calls, and he alerted the captain.

”I think it is time we notify Dr. Phlox, Hansen,” Archer said.

”Yes, sir,” Hanson responded and called the doctor over the comm panel.

”Kathryn!” Archer raised his voice in one last effort, and then waited for the doctor. He had an odd feeling the intruder was watching him. He motioned for Hansen to make a scan of the room. The scan came up empty.

”Hansen, I will stay with the lieutenant.” Archer sighed, probably just jitters. “You are free to continue with the rest of the sweep.”

”Thank you, sir,” Hansen answered. He stepped out of the room as the doctor entered.

”Captain?” Dr. Phlox questioned.

”Can’t wake her, Doctor. Hansen found her like this about 15 minutes ago.”

”Perhaps the lieutenant simply has a deep sleeping pattern,” Phlox said as he bent over her and readied his diagnostic wand.

”I have never known Kathryn to be a deep sleeper, Doctor, or to curl up in the corner to do it.," Archer offered.

”Stranger places of sleep have been known, Captain,” Phlox answered as he continued with the wand. He sighed. "There seems to be some sort of disturbance. I am not getting clear readings. It may be better to transfer her to sickbay, Captain.”

Archer called the medical team to come with a stretcher.

”I will let you know what I find,” Phlox said.

”Thank you,” Archer replied. He had an odd feeling that this had something to do with the intruder, and that someone familiar should be there with Kathryn. Archer buzzed Trip.

”Archer to Trip."

”Trip here.”

”They are transporting Lieutenant Novacek to sickbay. Meet them there, and have the doctor fill you in.”

”I’m on my way Cap‘n. Trip out.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Archer made his way to the situation room hoping that T’Pol had come up with something.

”Anything?” Archer asked as he entered.

”It appears the images follow a pattern beginning and ending on E-Deck,” T’Pol answered.

”Make another sweep of E-Deck. I had a creepy feeling when I was there,” Archer said.

”Creepy feeling?” T’Pol asked.

”Human emotion, T’Pol. Never mind, just make the sweep. I want to check in with Hoshi."

”Yes, Captain.” T’Pol answered with a raised eyebrow.

”Until we know what he have on board and why - I suggest we all watch each other’s back," Archer added.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Hoshi was listening closely to her earpiece when Archer entered the bridge. She motioned for him to come closer.

”Found anything, Captain?” she asked.

”Nothing we can see. You?” Archer asked.

”I’m not sure, but listen to this.” Hoshi unplugged the earpiece so that Archer could hear. “We have found human hosting...”

”What am I listening for, Hoshi?” Archer asked.

”Captain, I believe that ‘human hosting’ is referring to a situation like pregnancy,” she said.

”Pregnancy?” Archer cocked his head.

”Like someone carrying a child. Or having something else inside of your body.”

Archer sighed. He had an idea where it was.

”Thank you, Hoshi. I think I know where it is!” Archer pressed the comm button.

”Archer to T’Pol.”

”Yes Captain?”

”I think the intruder in sickbay with Lieutenant Novacek.”


”Trust me, Hoshi has translated further. She says this thing has a human host. I think it’s the lieutenant.”

”I will meet you there. T’Pol out.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tucker followed Kathryn into sickbay, watching as they placed her on the bio bed while Phlox relayed what he knew.

”I believe it would be beneficial for you to remain until Kathryn wakes. Having a familiar face here may be a wise idea,” Phlox said.

”Not goin’ anywhere, Doc,” Tucker responded.

Dr. Phlox ran the diagnostic wand over Kathryn as he had in her quarters. He looked at the readings that appeared.

”It appears that I am getting a double reading. I am picking up some fluctuation in the heart rate and blood pressure. I suppose it could be due to the transport," he said to Tucker as Kathryn remained in her coma state. “I want to run her through the scanning tube to take a closer look.”

As they watched Kathryn enter the tube, Tucker filled Dr. Phlox in on the headaches.

”I understand you have known each other for quite some time?” Phlox asked.

”Yup. Seems like forever,” Trip answered.

”And she is a light sleeper?”

”As far as I remember, Doc. She always has been.”

Phlox continued to quiz Tucker until Kathryn’s body exited the tube. Tucker glanced at images coming up on the monitor.

”Huh," he said. “Looks like it’s not just the wand, Doc. Got a double image here, too. Must be a glitch in the system.”

”I am not aware of any ‘glitch’, Commander,” Phlox said with irritation.

”Sorry Doc. Didn’t mean it as an insult.” Tucker slipped quietly back to Kathryn while Phlox studied the images.

”Kath? It’s Trip. I know you’re tired, but you’ve got to open your eyes. I wouldn‘t ask if it wasn’t important. Will ya do that for me?”

Kathryn stirred.

”Open your eyes, darlin‘. I know you can do it,” Tucker encouraged.

”Commander,” Phlox called to Tucker. “I think you are right. We do have a double image here, but it isn’t the machine. I think we have found the problem.”

Kathryn opened her eyes as Tucker turned toward the doctor. She caught his sleeve. He turned back to her and then back to the doctor.

”Doc, she’s wakin’ up,” he called to Phlox.

”Stay there. Try to keep her still, Commander. I will come to you.”

Phlox started toward Kathryn, stopping to pick up a few pieces of equipment on his way. The doors to sickbay opened, and Phlox made an about-face to usher Archer and T’Pol back into the corridor to share his findings with the Captain.

”Captain, I have reason to believe I have located the intruder,” Phlox said.

”Novacek?” Archer asked.

”Yes, Captain. It appears to have integrated with Kathryn,” Phlox explained.

”What does that mean?” Archer asked.

”The being has attached itself to Kathryn. She is being used as a type of hosting chamber. However, Captain, humans are incapable of hosting anything much more complex than a pregnancy, and even then...”

”Your point, Doctor?” Archer interrupted.

”The life form appears to be feeding on Kathryn‘s energy. Her body can’t keep up with its demands and is shutting down.”

”What do you suggest, Doctor?”

”Because I am not certain I can remove the life form without causing one or both of them serious harm, I suggest you find its comrades as soon as possible. Perhaps they are better equipped at removal. Her vital signs are fairly stable at the moment, but I am afraid that if they remain together much longer, we could lose both of them.”

”T’Pol I need you to...” Archer started.

”On my way, Captain.” Without hearing the rest of his sentence, she headed for the bridge.

”Can I see her, Doctor?”

”Certainly, Captain. Just keep her quiet.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”Where are we?” Kathryn asked Tucker.

”Medical, Kath. Just a precaution. How ya feelin‘?”

”I’m so tired. Head hurts like hell.”

Archer and Phlox came toward them, and Tucker traded places.

”How are you feeling, kid?” Archer took her hand, making Tucker feel uncomfortable about being there.

”I guess I will get back to Engineerin’, then.” he said.

”Trip, stay. I think you need to hear this, too,” Archer said.

”Somethin’ wrong?” Tucker asked.

”Kathryn is hosting a life form,” Doctor Phlox answered.

”What’s that s’posed to mean, Doc? Tucker asked.

”You recall the double image, Mr. Tucker?”


”It is a condition rather like pregnancy, except the being is not a fetus,” Phlox answered.

Tucker shook his head. He didn’t quite know if he was really hearing what the doctor had said. He started to ask another question, but Kathryn asked first.

”The headaches, being so tired, the strange dreams... they haven‘t been dreams, have they, Doctor?” she asked.

”I would say what you perceive as dreams are part of its communication process, Kathryn,” Phlox answered.

”What else can you remember? Any idea where you picked it up?” Archer asked.

”The dreams started on the shuttle to Enterprise. I remember I had a bad case of flight flu, and I thought the dreams were just from adjusting to being off the ground.” Kathryn flinched as if she were shaking off the cold. “I can feel it and it wants out. I want it out. Can you get it out, Dr. Phlox?”

”I am not sure, Kathryn. It appears that it has integrated with you on some functional levels. Even if I knew exactly how, removal might not be wise at this point. It is using you to survive outside of its own environment, whatever that may be. Kathryn, the human species was not designed for this type of hosting as some more advanced species are. It is my hope that we will find a solution soon.”

”And if you don’t find a solution soon, are you saying I will I die?”

”Kathryn, it is very likely you will both die,” he answered. “I am sorry.”

Tucker made an about-face and headed for the door. Archer followed him.

”Don’t think they expected the question,” she said to the doctor.

”Kathryn, I think it was the answer that was unexpected,” he said. “Medicine is not foolproof. Sometimes, as you humans say, ‘you need a miracle‘.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tucker stopped just outside the Medical door when his feet would go no further. He slid down onto the floor with his back against the wall, brought his knees into his chest, leaned his head back and closed his eyes.

”I didn’t want ta’ hear that, Jon. I can‘t deal with that right now,” he said as he heard Archer make his way toward him.

Archer sat next to his friend, pulling up his knees in the same manner, not quite certain what to say. He hadn’t expected to hear it, either. The two sat in silence as thoughts whirled around in Archer’s head. Thoughts of all the time the three of them had spent together on the ground now made him realize just how difficult it had been to be here in space without her. He had brought her aboard by convincing Starfleet Command she was the best available tactical engineer. It was only just now he realized that all along it had been a selfish request.

He blamed himself for what was happening to her, and he knew Trip would blame him, too. With all the memories and feelings whirling inside his head, all he could get out of his mouth was, “I’m sorry, Trip.”

”Gotta go, Jon. Can‘t be here now. Can‘t do this,” Trip said, but he didn‘t bother to move.

Archer spoke softly but firmly when he finally talked. He needed his friend to stay there in sickbay, not only for Kathryn’s sake but also for his own. He gripped Trip's arm with his hand with the thought that it was a time for truths to be told.

”I’m sorry, Trip. I convinced them to send her. I was selfish. I wanted her here where I could take care of her. Some caretaker I turned out to be.”

”Jon, you can’t blame yourself. You didn’t know this would happen.”

”No I didn’t. But like you said, Trip, some things happen right under my nose.”

”And there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it. Don‘t blame yourself. I don‘t. There are just a lot of things that I should... never mind. I need to get away from here.” Tucker started to get up.

”I know how you feel about her,” Archer said.

”What do you mean, ‘you know how I feel about her’, Jon?” he asked, sliding back down to look at Archer.

”I mean, I know that you love her, Trip. It has never been secret from me, no matter how hard you tried to keep it one.”

”All this time, you knew?” Trip suddenly felt foolish for thinking he had kept his feelings for Kathryn in check, but with it came a sudden feeling of release, and tears welled up in his eyes. ”I have never acted on those feelings Jon. You do know that, right? I woulda never risked losin’ either one of you.” His voice choked.

”I know that, Trip.” Archer said, squeezing his friend's arm as Trip gave in to the flood of tears, allowing them to wash away all the years he had kept silent on the subject of Kathryn.

Archer turned toward Trip, gripping his shoulders in a show of affection. ”This isn’t over, Trip. I know in my heart this isn’t over. We can’t lose her now. Not like this. We will get her back.”

”And if wishing can’t make it so, Jon?”

”We deal with that when the time comes, Trip. Now is not that time. You and I have to suck it up and be strong for her. Take a deep breath, lose the tears, go back and get her through this.” Archer squeezed Trip one last time. “Please, Trip, you have got to be strong. I can‘t do this myself.”

”Just gimme five more minutes, Jon,” he said.

”Five minutes you can have, Trip. The rest of your time belongs to Kathryn,” Archer said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”T’Pol to sickbay.”

”Phlox here.”

”Doctor, we have located the vessel and anticipate communication capability in approximately half an hour. I think it would be wise if you could be here to speak with them.”

”Certainly, Commander.”

”Please relay this message to the captain. T’Pol out.”

Archer stepped back through the door, and Phlox met him there.

”Captain, they have located the vessel and hope to be within communication range soon. Sub-Commander T’Pol has asked that I speak with them. Perhaps, Captain; they have the expertise to extract this life form without complication to Kathryn.”

”Thank you, Doctor. I would like to speak to her,” Archer asked.

”Certainly, Captain. I will give you your privacy and meet you on the bridge.” He smiled and quietly slipped away.

Archer leaned over Kathryn, allowing his body to come to rest against hers.

”I am so sorry, kid. This shouldn’t be happening to you. I am seeing now just how selfish I was bringing you on board,” he whispered.

Kathryn raised her hand and ran fingers through his hair gently shuffling it back and forth. ”You didn’t bring me here, Jon. Command wasn’t concerned about Enterprise. Your request for upgrade was denied. I got really pissed off, pulled some strings and called in a favor from Admiral Forrest, the deal being I come aboard unpaid and get the job done in three months. He insisted I couldn’t do it. You think he was right?” she asked.

”No, he is wrong, kid. He has no idea who he is up against in you.”

”I wanted to prove him wrong so badly.”

”You will, Kathryn. I am sure of it.”

”Jon, I’m afraid.”

”We will get you through this, Kath. We need you... I need you. This is where you belong. Promise me you will fight to survive.”

”I promise.” She smiled.

”T’Pol to Archer,” came over the comm.

”Archer here.”

”Captain, we are closing in on the vessel and expect to be within communication range in five minutes. Will you be assuming command?”

”Yes. Thank you, T’Pol. Archer out.”

Archer passed Tucker on his way out of sickbay. He was still seated on the floor.

”Tucker, your five minutes is up,” Archer said. "She needs you.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”The ship is within range, Captain,” Mayweather said as he tried to bring it on screen. Through the static, the shadow of a rather tall cylinder shape with a rotating ring on each end appeared.

”I have not seen this type of vessel before, Captain,” T’Pol said.

”Hoshi, open the communication line,” Archer said.

Hoshi opened the line.

”On screen,” Archer said.

”Yes, Captain.” Mayweather responded by punching up the screen.

On the screen, three glowing shapes faced them.

”We’ve got them this time, sir!” Mayweather said.

”This is Captain Archer of the Enterprise. We have need of your assistance.”

”Captain Archer, you are in need of our assistance?”

”The lieutenant you have chosen as a host is in need of medical assistance. Our ship’s doctor was hoping you could help."

”We are aware that the human hosting is not going well, Captain.”

”Doctor Phlox.” Archer motioned for the doctor to take the conversation from that point.

”You are aware the hosting process is failing?” Phlox asked.

”Yes. We had hoped that we would be able to collect sufficient data before...”

An angered Phlox interrupted. “The human life form is far too simplistic to host anything other than its own offspring. This procedure is an unacceptable practice anywhere in the federation.”

”We have found human hosting to have failed on other occasions, as well. We had hoped using the female of this life form would be a better choice.”

”I am afraid neither human life form was wise choice. This human female, as will the form she is hosting, will die unless they can separated very soon,” Phlox said.

”We have not finished gathering the data we need. Without sufficient data, all of Group 10 will die. Far better for one to perish for a noble cause.”

Archer became impatient. “What kind of data are you looking for? If it is on board the Enterprise, I will get it for you. I won’t give up my lieutenant waiting for you. Help me, and I will help you.”

”Humans help other life forms, Jonathan Archer?”

”When the need arises,” Archer answered.

”Is this true, Doctor Phlox? Humans help other life forms?”

”Humans help other life forms all the time,” Phlox answered. “I believe it gives them pleasure.”

”Can we trust Jonathan Archer, Captain of the Enterprise?”

”Yes. I believe he is a man of his word,” Phlox answered.

”Tell me what you need, and I will try to get it for you,” Archer said.

”We seek data that will allow us to correct our engine and navigation systems so we may return home.”

Archer felt a bit relieved. “I am quite certain we can help you with that. I can send a team to board your ship that can fix your problem. Can you help us in return?” Archer asked.

”Yes, Captain, we believe we can safely return your host to you once our life form has been removed. We can transport three beings aboard with the host. Please let us know when they are ready for transport.”

Archer thought quickly.

”Doctor, I want you to go with Kathryn. Take Reed and Trip, they’re the best we‘ve got,” Archer said to Phlox, and then turned to the beings.

”I would like to send Doctor Phlox with the host. I will also send Lieutenant Reed and Commander Tucker to help you get your engine back on line. We can have our transport there in 10 minutes.”

”Enterprise transport is not necessary. We will transport the beings aboard once they are assembled with the host.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Phlox and Reed headed for sickbay. Archer called Trip on the comm panel and brought him up to date. The three were soon assembled next to Kathryn.

”Think we are in for a wild ride, gentleman,” Reed said with a smile.

”What do you mean, Lieutenant?” Phlox asked as light particles began to filter around the four of them. In a flash they were gone from Enterprise and standing aboard the alien vessel.

”Was I right, or was I right?” Malcolm smiled at the other two as several small bright beings floated toward them, all giggling.

”Doctor, are these children? I think these are children,” Tucker asked and then answered his own question.

Four of the beings took the hands of Tucker and Reed, one on each side, and guided them to a small engine room. They quickly exited.

The other beings carried a sleeping Kathryn while Phlox followed toward the medical room and placed her on a long table. Their Elder was summoned, squeezing a star-shaped box that floated in the air amongst what appeared to be glittered fog. The Elder seemed to float through the door as he entered. He stopped to greet Dr. Phlox before turning to Kathryn.

”May I be of service to you?” Phlox asked, quite fascinated but at the same time quite anxious to get underway.

”Certainly, Doctor. I would welcome help,” the Elder answered.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”Trip, this is like something out of a fairy tale,” Reed said as small shapes and bright particles floated about them.

”Makes me feel like I drank too much. I always hate that fuzzy feelin’ that ya get,” Tucker answered with a laugh.

”Looks pretty standard tech, wouldn’t you say?” Reed asked.

”Yup, but it looks like they get a lot higher than warp 5 on this craft. Gonna have ta check this out well before we go!” Tucker looked further down the lines and smiled. “Looks like they just pushed the engines a little too far without proper maintenance.”

”Think you are right at that. Looks like a walk in the park,” Reed said, continuing his inspection.

”Won’t take much to help the little guys out here. I just hope they can help Kathryn in return,” Tucker said. “Wonder if they have an engineer on board? I’m gonna call Archer and tell him what’s up. If ya run into any of the little ones, ask, will ya?”

”Not a problem,” Reed answered as he continued the inspection.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”It appears the little one is frightened, Doctor Phlox. Seems afraid to let go of his host. I know I shouldn’t be using the children to collect data. It isn’t the best decision I have ever made, but I was left with no other choice.” The Elder worked as he talked to Doctor Phlox.

”What happened to the adults?” Phlox was curious.

”Nothing that I know of, Doctor. The little ones and I were on a short science expedition when we ran into a particle storm. This ship has not been maintained well. In trying to outrun it, the main panel froze. Being out of communication range with our home planet, we have been attempting to collect data for nearly one lunar year.”

”All by using external hosts?” Phlox asked while he once again made a scan of Kathryn. As her vital signs worsened, Phlox searched the resources of his mind for anything that may help.

”We felt we had no other choice, Doctor. Most species have been unaware of the hosting process," the being answered.

”That does not make this process the correct choice. You are seeing what it has accomplished in my patient,” Dr. Phlox interrupted with anger rising in his throat. “You must realize your patient will die, as well. Seems to me a very high price for something that could have come from a simple distress call.”

”The little one has to be willing to let go, Doctor, or I can’t bring him back. He is far too young to understand the concept of death,” the Elder replied, remaining calm and aloof.

”In a short while, he may understand it far too well,” Phlox replied. “Excuse me while I speak with my patient.”

”Certainly, Doctor,” the Elder said, moving back and ushering Phlox toward Kathryn.

Doctor Phlox bent toward Kathryn‘s ear. “Kathryn, can you hear me?” he asked.

”Yes,” Kathryn answered through the coma-like sleep.

”We are aboard the vessel of the being you are hosting. It appears his physician is unable to convince it to let go. Are you able to communicate with it on any level?”

”I’m not sure. I can feel what it is feeling.”

”Tell it what you are feeling. Ask it to let you go. It may be your only hope, Kathryn,” Phlox told her.

”Is it a child?” Kathryn asked.

Phlox gave a questioning glance toward the elder, who nodded yes.

”Yes, Kathryn, it is.”

”He misses his mother. I have a familiar scent, and he wants me to stay with him,” Kathryn said.

”Think about your feelings, Kathryn. See if it can understand you.”

”I’ll try doctor.” Kathryn said.

Kathryn began to think about her feelings. She understood the sick emptiness that comes from losing your family and the deep need to find a place to belong. She tried to give the child comfort and hope as she relayed instruction from Dr. Phlox and the Elder.

”Doctor Phlox,” the Elder whispered. “I think he is letting go.”

He smiled and leaned over Kathryn. He spread his arms wide and directed a beam of light toward Kathryn’s chest. Phlox watched as small bright being rose up from Kathryn through the beam and into the arms of the Elder. Tears rolled down Kathryn’s cheeks as she felt the headache melt away and drifted off to sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”Kathryn, your scan is returning toward the normal range. How are you feeling?” Phlox asked as Kathryn came around.

”The headache is completely gone. A bit hung over, maybe. I am seeing things floating every where,” she sighed with a smile.

”No, Kathryn,” Phlox laughed. "Those are real. It is quite an extraordinary ship we are on.”

”Okay,” She said, looking around, seriously doubting the doctor. Her eyes came to rest on a bright little being who hovered near her. She smiled, knowing this was whom she had unknowingly carried aboard Enterprise.

”Doctor Phlox, I think I promised this little one I would help fix his ship. Do you think I can follow through on that promise?” she asked.

”Well, Kathryn,” Phlox sighed, placing his hand on her shoulder. “I think that any promise made should be kept.” He smiled.

”Thank you, Doctor.” Phlox helped her sit slowly and then stand.

”Remember Kathryn, you are still very weak. There are two men on board who know how to take orders.”

”Will you show your host to the navigation chamber?” said the Elder. The little one took Kathryn’s hand.

”I am happy to meet you,” she said as she followed the little one toward the navigation chamber.

Once there, the little one left Kathryn and glided over to Tucker, who was running checks on the engine panel with Reed.

”Hey, little guy, where‘d you come from?” Tucker said, patting its head. “What can I do for ya?”

The little one turned toward Kathryn. Tucker looked up and saw her standing there in Starfleet issued underwear. He looked from the little one to Kathryn a few times realizing that this had been the ‘glitch’ in the system.

”I promised him he could help out.” Kathryn said as tears began rolling down her cheeks, matching those on the cheeks of the commander.

Tucker made his way to Kathryn and closed his arms around her.

”I thought we lost you, Kath,” he whispered.

”You thought wrong, Commander,” she said, snuggling into his embrace.

Tucker knew today was the day he could finally say it.

”I love you, Kathryn.” He kissed her as the little one fluttered about them.

”Hey!” Malcolm said, interrupting the kiss. “There are children on board this ship!” He laughed as they separated. “Welcome back, Lieutenant.” He extended his hand to Kathryn as he called Enterprise.


”Captain, I have a list of things for transport.”

He glanced at Kathryn. He knew Archer cared more for his crew than he ever would about the status of an alien vessel, and he altered the order of his list.

”Start that list with a uniform and shoes for Lieutenant Novacek. It could become quite chilly working in Starfleet underwear, sir.” Malcolm flashed a smile in the direction of Kathryn. “Hmmm, that’s odd. The captain would like to speak to you before hearing the rest of my list, Lieutenant,” he teased as he handed the communicator to Kathryn.

”Captain,” Kathryn answered, keeping the open communication formal though she wished otherwise.

”It is certainly good to hear your voice, Lieutenant,” Archer said, allowing the feeling of relief to come through with his voice.

”Thank you, Captain.”

”Welcome back, kid. We will save small talk for later,” Archer responded, deciding to save all the things he wanted to say to her for another time when they were all safely back on board Enterprise.

”Thank you, Captain. It is good to be back,” she said. She then handed the communicator back to Reed, who was eager to finish his list.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Archer said to the bridge, “We have Lieutenant Novacek back and doing well. The being has been safely removed and is also doing well. Lieutenant Reed says the vessel should be up and running within the hour, and our crew will be transported to decon shortly thereafter.”

With the crisis averted, Archer gave the command to T’Pol and headed toward his ready room to collect his thoughts. Once there, he leaned back in his chair, crossing his hands behind his head. He smiled at the thought of seeing the admiral’s face when Kathryn told him the Enterprise upgrades had been completed ahead of schedule. He had no doubt whatsoever that it would happen.

He fought back a yawn. It had been a long day for all of the crew, but he knew there would be no sleep for him until Kathryn was back on board and safely tucked in where she belonged.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

”Damn it, Kathryn,” Reed said.

”I know, I know. Get out of the way!” she said, raising her hands in the air and backing away from the torpedo bay as it was being readied for the test launch.

”Actually, I think I could use your help on this,” Reed said to her.

”Ouch!” she said. “I bet that hurt to say.”

”Like a bugger,” he answered with a smile. “But I’ll get used to it.”

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