Casualties of War
Summary: Tumblr prompt from @eyetagonthebridge: "It’s spider season in UK atm, I was watching tv last night and a huge one ran across the floor right at me. I shrieked like a little girl! What if KJ or C hates spiders and needs the other one to spider-wrangle for them?"
Characters: Chakotay, Janeway, Neelix
Disclaimer: Characters are Paramount’s. No infringement intended.
He’s really outdone himself this time.
“Mr Neelix.” I can hear the ice in her voice, and it sends the object of her ire into paroxysms of trembling. “Would you care to explain why you elected not to follow the correct biocontainment protocols when you beamed this … substance aboard my ship?”
Neelix’s whiskers are quivering almost as ferociously as his voice. “Ah, ah, well, Captain, you see… I, er…”
“Never mind,” she cuts him off, cracking like a whip. “Just fix it. And you, Commander,” she turns her glare on me, “I want you to supervise every move he makes. Personally.”
“Uh…” I’m starting to tremble internally as much as Neelix is on the outside. “Captain, I don’t think –”
“Well, that makes two of you.”
Ouch. She’s really steamed. Still, I try again. “Captain, it might be better if I have Tuvok take over. I’m really busy with the –”
“I don’t care what you’re busy with. Just fix it!” she snaps and stalks off.
“Well, Commander,” Neelix has already regained his joviality with the captain’s exit, “where shall we start? Er, why are you backing away, sir?”
I force myself to stand still. “No reason at all. So, where did they all go?”
“Oh, all over the place, most likely,” he says cheerily. “Agile little things, they are. And they can jump like they’ve got springs in their legs. All eight of them,” he snorts.
“And those webs they shoot out are terribly sticky, but you learn to avoid them pretty quickly. Just make sure when you grab hold of one, you get both hands around its belly. It’ll flail around a bit, but as long as you hold on you won’t hurt it.”
I can’t help it: I whimper.
“Is something wrong?” Neelix’s orange eyes focus on me.
“No,” I mumble. “It’s just that … well, I’m not … I don’t really like…”
“You’re afraid of spiders?” Neelix asks at the top of his voice.
“Shh,” I hiss at him, glancing around. Sure enough, half the crewmen in the mess hall are staring at me and snickering.
“They’re perfectly harmless, you know. Just big. And ugly.” Neelix pats me on the shoulder, then chortles. “Who’d have imagined it? A strapping fellow like yourself, afraid of a few little creepy-crawlies? Ha ha ha!”
My teeth are gritted. “Not so little, in this case.”
“Oh, they’re only about the size of a Starfleet padd, Commander. And as I said, they won’t hurt you.”
“Maybe not,” I grumble, “but they’re sticky… and all those legs… and you said they jump.” The last word comes out more like a groan.
I can see Neelix is trying to be sympathetic, but there’s a smirk flirting with the corners of his mouth.
“If you like, I can go first into the Jeffries tubes,” he offers oh-so-helpfully.
“Let’s just get it over with,” I growl.
“What was that?” My voice is an octave higher than its usual register.
Neelix glances back over his shoulder at me. “Commander?”
I scoot backward in the cramped Jeffries tube, hugging my knees to my chest. “I saw something move. Over there.”
Neelix squints. “You’re right! There you are, my little beauty!”
He scrambles forward and makes a grab for the eight-legged horror. It scuttles sideways. He lunges. The arachnid abruptly changes direction and launches itself directly at my face.
Oh Spirits. The hairy legs! The plump body! The beady eyes! The terror as it spins its slimy, glutinous web from an orifice in its belly!
I’m screaming like a schoolgirl in a haunted house, batting wildly at the Thing that’s malevolently gripping onto my hair with its horrid little feet. I can all but hear its awful thin spidery voice cackling at me. The web is sticking to my face and uniform. I can’t breathe…
“Commander!” Neelix is shouting, grasping without success at my hands. “Hold still! The poor little thing, it’s terrified of you!”
If I wasn’t so preoccupied with being absolutely petrified, I’d laugh. Or slug Neelix in his spotty, spider-loving, non-alien-food-barrel-scanning face.
Finally, with a particularly wild flail of my arm, I manage to dislodge the fuzzy crawler and fling it halfway down the Jeffries tube. It ricochets off the wall and drops to the deck with a splat, then scuttles away into the distance.
Neelix is lying on his back howling.
“What is it? Did it bite you?” I’m still shaking, but I’m his superior officer and it’s my job to keep him safe.
Neelix can barely speak, but he manages to pant out, “Oh Great Tree… your face… oh my, Commander … I haven’t laughed so hard in ages!”
I feel like curling up in a ball and crying.
“Janeway to Chakotay.”
My heart is still racing as I tap my combadge. “Yes, Captain.”
“Have you and Mr Neelix cleared my ship of vermin yet?”
Neelix leans over and speaks into my combadge. “Hello, Captain, it’s Neelix. Commander Chakotay and I are making good progress. We’ve almost managed to trap one of the little critters, so I’m sure the ship will be de-spidered in no time.”
There’s an ominous pause, then: “Are you telling me you haven’t managed to trap a single spider yet?”
The venom in her voice could out-poison a Terellian tree spider. “Mr Neelix, when you requested permission to beam up three cartons of leola root, I agreed against my better judgment. When you took it upon yourself to circumvent the proper transporter protocols for biomatter, I considered having the whole shipment flushed out of an airlock. But if you don’t contain this infestation, I’ll beam the whole lot into space with you inside. Now get it done!”
Our ears ring in the sudden silence as the comm snaps off.
“Don’t worry, Commander,” Neelix offers, perking up. “I have an idea.”
It takes two hours to reconfigure the sensors to detect each furry hell-beast and set up forcefields to trap every last one of them, adjust the fields to allow a stun-set phaser beam to penetrate each one, and scoop up each unconscious arachnid into an empty flour sack. The task is made ever more onerous by Neelix’s never-ending chatter about the anatomy of the chubby little creepers, loaded with advice about ‘facing my fears’ as he swindles me into doing the scooping.
But by the time we’ve collected every last one, I have to admit his theory has some merit: I am finding the plate-sized creatures less horrifying. I’m even beginning to take an interest in the brown and bronze striations on their fuzzy little carcasses and the short little front legs that look a bit like kittens’ paws (or so Neelix claims). And when Neelix rhapsodises about their bugged-out little eyes, which he claims are ‘adorable’, I find that I no longer feel as though my spine is attempting to forcibly climb out of my body.
Contrary to Neelix’s optimistic exclamations, though, I doubt I’ll be actively seeking contact with any kind of arachnid any time soon.
Finally, all the spiders are sleeping peacefully in a containment field in Sickbay, and I trudge wearily back to my quarters, desperate for a long sonic shower. My quarters are dark as I step inside, navigating on autopilot. I’ve already stripped off my jacket and started pulling off my turtleneck when something large and furry strikes me in the chest.
Screaming like a startled targ, I hop from foot to foot, brushing frantically at my violated body. How could we have missed one of the horrible creatures? And where the hell did it go? I’ve kicked off my boots and am halfway through yanking off my pants, terrified that the crawly horror has found its way inside my clothing, when I hear it.
That low, throaty, distinctly evil, very familiar chuckle.
Shaking but forcing myself to remain still, I croak, “Kathryn?”
“Lights,” she says, and I blink at the sight of her and almost scream again.
She slinks toward me, all skin-tight fishnet and enormous winged collar, her stocking garters flashing at me through the split in her skirt with every step. As she moves right up into my personal space, her long eyelashes sweep downward and her talon-like fingernails trail across my shoulders.
“Not Kathryn,” she husks. “Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People.”
She hooks a finger into my belt, and I’m starting to tremble for a different reason altogether now.
“I hear you’ve had a very interesting time today with my minions,” she murmurs. “Did the big bad Maquis manage to face his fear after all?”
My hands are busy mapping the exposed parts of her skin under that body-stocking, and my lips find their way to her throat.
“And here I thought you didn’t like spiders,” she purrs, slinking her arms around my neck.
“I’m starting to come around to …”
But the last of my words are muffled as she takes my mouth with hers. And I decide that I like contact with this particular arachnid very much indeed.