Quicksand, Epilogue

Quicksand

Epilogue

Repairs on Heisenberg’s impulse drive, deflector dish and structural integrity took three days. The passage of time was eased by a goodwill gesture from the crew of the Klingon freighter, two crates each of bloodwine and Romulan ale. The captain left this gesture out of his log, and mostly turned a blind eye to the fact that the repairs should have taken two days at most.

Upon completion of repairs, the Captain Bao called a gathering in the lounge. He gave a brief speech about how proud he was of the way the crew pulled together in a time of crisis. He specifically called out the contributions of the ops team, which had scoured the viral infection from the ship’s computers; the engineering team, which performed with extraordinary grace under pressure to deliver the power Heisenberg needed to outrun the graviton ellipse anomaly; science officer Loh’at, whose expertise gave Heisenberg the means to hide from the anomaly and whose wise counsel later saved both ships; and first officer Sivath, whose hands-on coordination of engine room and deflector control operations saved the ship from impulse reactor meltdown.

Drinks were distributed. Toasts were exchanged. Ale and wine were consumed. Sivath had perhaps a bit too much to drink, but he concealed it well.

The fluid dynamics of crowd mingling, which Sivath would never understand if he lived another two centuries, conspired to throw Sivath and Loh’at together. After an exchange of chilly pleasantries, Sivath decided to attempt a peace offering. “I would like to apologize for the manner in which I terminated our last conversation,” he said, choosing his words very carefully. “I allowed emotional stress to overrule courtesy, which I regret.”

“Wow,” Loh’at said. “That seemed like it was difficult for you.”

“I cannot deny that it was.”

“Were you wrong?”

Sivath was caught off guard by the question. “No,” he answered truthfully.

She laughed, but her mirth was tinged with bitterness. “Wish I had that certainty,” she muttered. “In that case, I can’t see any reason to apologize. I appreciate the thought, but I’m going to keep right on hating you, if that’s OK.”

“No objection,” he said.

They drifted apart then. It was probably the alcohol, but Sivath felt a sadness about this. Luckily, Nim wasn’t around to catch him having feelings.

As soon after that as he could manage, Sivath built up to escape velocity and extricated himself from the social occasion’s gravity well. He rode the turbolift to deck two and walked with deliberate care to his quarters. He had a moment of dizziness and had to stop for a breather outside the door, leaning against the wall with one elbow. He was still forcing the corridor to stop spinning when he heard the something break through the wall.

Sivath looked up, puzzled. He was not disoriented, however; the sound came from within his quarters.

He straightened up. Someone was in his room. He had a pretty good idea of who it would be.

Adopting the most sober manner he could manage, Sivath stepped to the door, which opened for him automatically. He walked slowly through the living area to the threshold of the bedroom, his steps careful and deliberate. The bedroom had been turned upside down; practically every piece of his personal property had been removed from its proper place and spread across the bed or coffee table. The sound he’d heard in the corridor had been the shattering of a ceramic bust of the Blessed Exchequer. Nim stood over the broken idol, casually toeing through the shards in search of something that wasn’t there. She looked up at Sivath as he filled the doorway, but looked neither surprised nor apologetic.

“Lieutenant,” Sivath said calmly. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

Nim ignored his question. “What was inside?” she asked, giving a piece of the Blessed Exchequer’s chin a nudge with her toe.

“That was a gift from my adopted parents,” Sivath said. “It was the last thing they gave me before leaving me to learn the ways of my people on Vulcan; something to remember them by.”

“Do you think I don’t see through you?” Nim stooped to pick up one of the pieces of the shattered idol, rose again to show it to Sivath. “Do you think I don’t know a hidden compartment when I see one? This isn’t my first day on the job, Commander.”

Sivath folded his arms across his chest. “You have entered my personal quarters without cause. You have disturbed and destroyed my personal effects unlawfully. And you still have no evidence to support this witch hunt you seem hellbent on pursuing. I know very well this isn’t your first day, Lieutenant. You should know better how far outside your authority you have strayed.”

“I don’t know what you’re into,” she admitted. “I don’t know how you’re involved with that Ferengi or why. But you should know that we found evidence of restricted file access from the shuttlebay right before she made her exit. Classified information left this ship aboard that shuttle, and whoever helped her committed treason.” Nim advanced on Sivath. “You might think that you’ve covered your tracks. You might have convinced yourself that you’re safe. But you’re not. You made mistakes; you left traces. And I’ll find them.” She stopped just a handspan away from him, glaring up into his face. “If you’ll excuse me, I have other avenues to explore.”

Sivath uncrossed his arms and stepped aside. Nim slipped past him, crossing the living area. She paused halfway to the door.

“By the way,” she said, glancing back over her shoulder, “when we were in deflector control, you lied to me about the virus. Lying to a telepath is really stupid, you know. Anyway, you had been thinking that you disabled the virus. That implies that you thought you had control of it.”

“I’ve heard enough, Lieutenant,” Sivath said. “It’s time for you to leave now.”

“As I said before, I don’t know yet what you’re into yet and I certainly don’t know how you justify it to yourself. But when you try to go to sleep tonight, I want you to factor something else in. When we were synchronizing tetryon emissions from four separate consoles, you didn’t have control of the virus. It had rebooted your console once and it could have interfered with any of ours at any time. If that had happened, every living person on this ship would be dead. Think about that, won’t you?”

Nim took a step toward the door, which opened to allow her egress. She paused again at the threshold.

“Oh, one last thing. Watch those contractions. They’re a dead giveaway.”

Then she was gone. The door hissed closed, leaving Sivath alone amidst the wreckage of the modest life he had built for himself. He stood there for a long time, unsure of what to do, uncertain of how to feel. He thought that he should sleep, that maybe the way forward would seem clearer in the morning.

Sivath couldn’t sleep yet, though, not with his home in such disorder. “Computer,” he said aloud, looking around at the mess surrounding him. “Broom.”

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