Chapter 6

 

 

Cookie was very solicitous and only gave Lee what he wanted, which turned out to be a few scrambled eggs and toast.   Even that was sparingly eaten.  It wasn’t that he didn’t have an appetite; it was that everything seemed to be off-taste this morning.   He finished the toast, but couldn’t bring himself to eat the eggs.  He gazed at the milk with something akin to horror.  When was the last time he had had a glass of milk?  When he had used some for his coffee, he remembered.  With a sigh, Lee got up and bussed his tray, then headed forward to the control room.   He met Sharkey in the corridor and greeted him. 

“You feeling okay, Skipper?” the COB asked, gazing at him in concern. 

“In what regard?” he returned. 

“Sir?”  Sharkey looked puzzled and then seemed to understand.  “Well, I guess in everything, Skipper.  I mean, how do you feel after last night and how are you feeling with, uh, the alien?”

“I feel okay after my dunking last night.  I’m still adjusting to having a hitchhiker, but I’ll be okay, Chief.  It’s only temporary.  Thanks for asking,” Lee responded. 

“Sir?  Can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, Chief.”

“Several of the men seem to think that this Krilore is just kind of casing the joint, looking for new hosts,” Sharkey said awkwardly.  He looked down at the deck.  “They are thinking that you aren’t really in full control.  That Krilore is calling all the shots.  Or that they’re holding the admiral ransom to make you bring the boat to them.  For all the new hosts, you know.  I mean, there are over a hundred of us.”

Lee felt Krilore’s thoughts shifting first in curiosity at the strange idioms and then to uncomfortable silence when she understood them.   But she made no comment.  “Somehow, Chief, I think that Krilore is not out to take us captive or experiment with us or any other devious kind of scheme someone slightly paranoid might think.  I believe that Krilore’s people need help to get space born again and the admiral and the scientists are helping them.”  He paused as he felt the toast sit like a stone in his stomach—along with that blasted milk.  The only good milk was in ice cream and creamer, neither of which was feasible now.  “Sharkey, I also think if that was a real issue, it wouldn’t work anyway.”

“Why not, Skipper,” Sharkey asked, gazing at Crane again.  

“Because I am battling a recurrent headache, nausea, lethargy and the feeling that I’ve been steamrolled by two menfish, a mummy and King Kong,” Lee said somewhat facetiously.  “In all seriousness, what I’m trying to say, Chief, is that I am not making a good host and I think that would be true for any homo sapien.”

Again, there were slight stirrings, but no comments from Krilore.   Lee wondered why she was so quiet, but just shrugged it off.  Probably from the dunking last night. 

“Well, I told them that was a bunch of bunk about this alien having control of you, sir.”

“Now I’m curious.  What brought you to that conclusion?”

“No self-respecting alien would have jumped into freezing water like that and risked drowning to save two of our crewmen,” Sharkey said decisively.  

Crane couldn’t help it; he burst out laughing.  “That was rather crazy, wasn’t it?”

Sharkey said nothing for a moment.  Then, in a soft voice, “No, sir, that was you.” 

They walked on in silence for a minute.  Then Lee laid his hand on the chief’s shoulder.  “Thanks.” 

They walked into the control room where everything was clicking, blinking, whirring, and pinging normally and comfortingly.  Crane checked the various duty stations as he passed.   He was still getting a few strange looks, but not as many as after the briefing yesterday afternoon.  

“How you feeling, Lee?” Chip asked, looking up from the charting table. 

“All right, relatively speaking,” Crane responded.  “How far are we from Vinson Massif?” 

“That little incident last night set us back a little, but we should make it in about thirty-two hours.” 

Lee frowned and then sighed.  “Very well.  Any word from the admiral or O’Brien?” 

“No.  I was just about to contact Frank.” 

“Do that.  The Flying Sub would be much faster,” Lee commented.  

“That bad, Lee?” Chip asked softly.  

Crane pondered his exec’s question and then shrugged.  He had felt worse on occasion, insofar as pain was concerned, but there was just that feeling of, well, feeling bad.  It was hard to explain.  “Yes, I feel bad, but not unbearably so; at least not right now.  It comes and goes.  Somehow, though, I feel that all hell is going to break loose.   It’s just a feeling.”  Lee knew he was babbling and so he just shut up.   Why did he think that time was of the essence?  He knew that Krilore was trying to help control the pain and he was grateful, but still….

Sparks called out from the radio shack.  “Skipper, a coded message from the admiral.  Your eyes only.  Vidphone.”  

“I’ll take it in the admiral’s cabin,” Crane said, looking at his watch.  He headed aft, eager to find out how the admiral and the others were doing.   Soon he was sitting behind the admiral’s desk.  He reached forward and turned on the vidphone.  The admiral’s concerned countenance greeted him.   He felt a great deal of comfort in seeing the familiar face and he smiled.  “Are you all right, Admiral?” he asked. 

“I was going to ask you the same thing, Lee,” came the quick reply.  Lee could see almost nothing in the background to indicate the admiral’s surroundings.  “But we are fine here.   We have been working very closely with the Vreestrich to repair their ship, but there are a few components they need.  Luckily all of these are already on the Seaview, and you and Krilore can bring them.”  He paused and studied his captain carefully. 

Crane had been trying to hide his exhaustion, but apparently he wasn’t entirely successful.  “It will take a few days unless Frank gets back with the Flying Sub soon.  A little less than a day and a half to get to the nearest shore and another day and a half to get to your camp with a cat.”  He almost leaned back to relax more fully, but knew that wouldn’t be comfortable for Krilore.  Instead he just sighed and rested his elbows on the edge of the desk.

“Lee, I’m sorry.  I didn’t know who else I could trust or who might be willing to do this.  And I couldn’t say much in the message.  Even private codes can be….”

“You don’t have to apologize, Admiral.  Krilore and I have had some very scintillating conversations the past….”  He looked at his watch.  “Twenty-four hours, so it’s not been entirely painful and inconvenient,” Crane interjected.  “What is it I need to bring?”  As the admiral told him, he wrote down the items.  They were mostly electrical supplies, although there was also a request for some of the admiral’s notes, conductors and other things that would go together to make an electro-magnet.   Thankfully there was no request for any radioactive fuel. 

<Highly primitive and dangerous.  It is easily traced, too>  Krilore didn’t elaborate.  Indeed she sounded as tired as he felt.

“Got it all down, Admiral.”  Suddenly an intense pain curved from his back and into his chest, causing him to double over.   With a moan, he slid to the floor gasping for breath. 

“Lee!  Lee!” the admiral called.  The voice seemed distant. 

What was she doing, Crane wondered frantically?  The pain subsided as quickly as it began, but the first breaths were ragged.  He still continued to hear his name—it was the admiral.  Everything swirled back in to focus.  Slowly he pulled himself back up into the chair.  

The admiral gazed at him anxiously.  “Lee, are you all right?  What happened?” 

“It . . . was sudden.  Kind of like when Krilore joined with me.  Quick . . . no pain now.” 

There was a strange, but somewhat familiar noise in the background and the admiral turned away from the screen.   He was suddenly joined by one of those insect-like creatures he had seen in his dream.  Lee was startled to realize that what he had seen was real.  The down on this host’s body was an almost turquoise color, the eyes dark crimson.  They studied him intently.  Lee tried to force a smile, all the while feeling that there was something the same, but not quite the same about this creature and the ones of his dream.  All he could do was sit up a bit straighter, holding on to the desk with both hands.  “Admiral, are you going to introduce me to your fellow scientist?”   And he knew that this was true, even without Krilore telling him.   

The host made the same kind of screeching/clicking noises that Lee had heard before, and again Crane was able to understand what was being said.  It was requesting something on the order of a status report.   Lee chuckled softly.  If he didn’t know better, it was almost like conversations he had heard between Doc and himself or Doc and the admiral.  The alien gazed at him in consternation, as though surprised that he could understand and react.  Did they think that Krilore wouldn’t communicate with him?  Of course, Krilore had said that hosts of the past were not very high on the sentience scale. 

Lee felt undercurrents of extreme irritation from Krilore, but thankfully it didn’t seem to exacerbate his own pain.  <Tell him that I will report when I am ready to report!>   There was a slight pause and Crane felt Krilore’s anger rise to the boiling point.  <He seems to forget himself> she said, seething. 

Crane raised an eyebrow.  Still, he couldn’t help but smile when he said, “Krilore said she would give you a report when she was good and ready to and not before.” 

The alien seemed almost to back away a step and then spoke again, the noises louder and more demanding.   “I have rights as the second in command.”   Lee didn’t even wait to get an answer from Krilore.   “Look, you heard the lady.  Now if you don’t have anything further to say, then I need to talk to the admiral.”  From somewhere out of a dream came a hand motion that he used.  The alien backed away as though slapped.  Lee hoped he hadn’t overstepped his bounds, but he was too tired to deal with pompous windbags of any species. 

<No, Lee you didn’t do anything wrong.  I thank you.  When we have both rested, I think there is much that I need to discuss with you> 

“Admiral?” 

Nelson stepped into the picture, grim faced.  “I think you insulted a very high ranking official, Lee.” 

Crane simply shrugged.  “I was just following Krilore’s request.”  He smiled.  “Somehow, I don’t think she is too worried.” 

“So it’s true,” the admiral almost whispered.  

“What?”  He remembered more details from his/Krilore’s dream.  “Oh, yes, I guess so.”  He let that thought hang a moment, because what he had picked up in the dream still seemed a bit ethereal.  “Chip is supposed to be finding out about the Flying Sub.  I think that whatever needs to be done, the quicker the better.” 

The admiral nodded.  “I think so, too, Lee.  You really look like death warmed over.”  He smiled softly at his very lame joke.  

Lee smiled in return, mostly to reassure the admiral.  “Hell, Admiral, no worse than a couple of those ONI missions.” 

The admiral didn’t bite.  “Lee, let me know when you are ready to come inland.” 

Crane nodded.  “Aye, sir.”   The admiral cut the communication and Lee languidly reached over and turned off the vidphone. 

<Lee, I think you need to return to Sickbay.  What the doctor gave you last night was not enough for both of us.  And my physiology will take what it needs from its host in times of stress, regardless….> 

Okay, Krilore.  After I rest my eyes.  He started to lay his head down on the desk. 

<No, Lee!  Now!>  The tone was one of the best command tones Crane had ever heard, as good as anything that the admiral had in his arsenal.  

Lee sat up and blinked.  “Okay, okay!  I’m going.”   It was like walking in quicksand.  When he opened the door, it was to a very surprised Chip Morton.  

“Lee!  Here, just lean on me and I’ll get you to sickbay,” he said, his voice anxious.  

“You and Krilore been talking behind my back?” he mumbled.  

“No, Lee.  I was just coming to let you know that Lt. O’Brien is on his way back.” 

Thank goodness for small favors, Crane thought remotely.    He didn’t remember much of the journey and less of his reception in sickbay.  All that counted was that he was lying down and able to sleep.    

 

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Doc waited until Chip had gone back to the control room before he did a more thorough exam.  He gently took off the skipper’s shirt and gazed at the flattened entity that seemed so serene against Crane’s back.  Somehow, the way the captain had described it, the alien was supposed to be only about four inches in diameter.  This creature was not anywhere near that small.  

Gingerly he reached out and touched it gently.  <Doctor>   Doc jerked his hand back in surprise.  Then he realized that this was the only way he would be able to communicate and he touched it again. 

<Doctor Jamieson, you have questions, as do I> 

“You better believe I do!  What are you doing to Captain Crane?” 

<You can think your questions, Doctor>

Like this? he asked. 

<Yes.  Doctor, you must get more of that nutrition into Captain Crane.  It is imperative for both of us>

Taking his hand away from the entity, Doc started an IV.  Lee Crane had all the earmarks of someone who was not only exhausted, but also anemic and/or malnourished.  He got the glucose going and then finished his exam.  While he was at it, he gave his patient a B12 shot.  Krilore appeared to have grown even while he was proceeding.  He reached out his hand and lightly touched the organism.  The thoughts seemed slightly anxious and befuddled, then Krilore seemed to gather herself to communicate.  Now tell me what the hell is going on, he demanded of the alien. 

<Some time ago I had what you would call a mate.  He had been chosen for me, but we were attracted to one another.  He was also the equivalent to my executive officer.  He was killed in a battle against our enemies, but I was able to keep his genetic materials within myself, as our race is easily able to, until a more peaceful time when I would allow his . . .>  She seemed unable to explain fully. 

I imagine you are talking about the equivalent of your mate’s DNA.  There are some Earth organisms that can do something similar, mating at one point and some point in the future allowing the offspring to develop, sometime years beyond the initial breeding.  And you decided that now was the time?  Doc felt his irritation rising.  When the captain was hosting you?

<No!  This is not the right time.  It shouldn’t have happened now.  Our enemies have continued to follow us, engage us, trying to annihilate us.  The crash landing, the loss of my host, Dr. Crawford’s attempts to host, everything combined and when Captain Crane became my host . . . > 

“It happened and you were in no condition to stop it,” Doc finished aloud.  

<Yes, Doctor.  But Lee cannot sustain two of us.  Even our ancestral hosts were unable to sustain two **vreestrich at a time> 

It would kill the host, wouldn’t it?  

<Yes>

   

 

 

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