All the Devils are Here
Summary: Shortly after the events of Investigations, the command team are struggling to trust each other again. Then people start getting sick, and Janeway begins to wonder if there's something more sinister going on.
Characters: Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, EMH, Torres, Paris, Nechayev, OC
Disclaimer: Paramount/CBS own all rights to the Voyager universe and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Written for the J/C Cutthroat Fiction comp, Round 3. My prompt was to base the story on the starship quarantine code. Story is set immediately after ‘Investigations’.
“Give it back to me,” the woman hisses, dark eyes snapping furiously. She’s small and slight, her black hair streaked with grey and twisted tightly atop her head, Bajoran ridges pleating her nose. She’s right up in my face, and so angry I wholeheartedly believe she’d have no compunction over murdering me. “I know you have it, Janeway. Give it back to me. It’s mine!”
I take a deliberate step back, hands held up to pacify her. “Doctor, I don’t know what you’re referring to but I assure you –”
“Liar,” she shrieks. “You’re a liar, like all Starfleet. I should have known. Liar! You’re a liar!”
Heart pounding, I jerk awake. The nightmare is already fading from my consciousness as I rocket up from my desk and stumble to the small refresher, dropping to my knees. By the time I’ve vomited up what feels like every ounce of moisture from my body, the memory has slipped completely away.
Sitting upright, I rest my forearms on my knees and tilt my head back against the wall, breathing slowly. I have no idea how long I dozed for this time; these sleepless nights are really catching up with me.
The time is 1342 hours.
I groan aloud. An entire morning wasted. Half my shift spent napping in my ready room, and not a single call from the bridge. Surely somebody must be wondering what their captain is doing in here?
Or maybe not. Who knows what you’ve told them? And they’d believe your every word, assuming it came straight from me. After all, the entire bridge crew heard me leave you in command –
This is crazy. This is you. The man I’ve grown to trust with my life. The only person on this ship I can really talk to, really confide in. The only one who understands.
The man who – despite my intentions – has worked his way into my heart.
You wouldn’t work against me. You wouldn’t turn my crew against me, take my ship. It’s just not in you to do that.
God, I have to get it together.
I crawl over to the sink and down a glass of water before tapping my combadge. “Janeway to Chakotay.”
“Go ahead, Captain.”
“I need to see you in my ready room.”
Your eyes, as I haltingly, stumblingly apologise – again – for my failure to trust you with the plot to expose Seska’s accomplice, do not change. Your expression remains locked in its state of blank politeness. And when I ask you to join me for dinner in my quarters tonight, you hesitate briefly before accepting with the slightest of grimaces.
It’s clear that you don’t want to be anywhere near me. But it only makes me more determined to resolve things between us, to get us back to the easy working relationship we had before. We can’t go on like this.
And, since I’m the one who lied to you, I’m the one who must extend the olive branch.
Before I can broach the conversation I know we need to have, however, there’s an entire afternoon shift to get through and a medical mystery to solve. I send Ensign Wildman to Sickbay to assist the Doctor and take my place on the bridge. If the command team is going to present a united front for the crew, it has to begin with me.
You shift position occasionally in your chair, breaking your silence only to order course adjustments or acknowledge sensor data, or to respond monosyllabically to my attempts at conversation. At the helm, Lieutenant Paris, clearly sensing the tension I can’t seem to dispel, hunches his shoulders and glances warily back at us every so often.
The afternoon drags interminably, but finally, finally, Beta shift arrives and I escape to my quarters. I’ll have time to visit Sickbay for an update before I have to shower and change in preparation for our peace talks. If only this headache would leave me be; I feel as though my brain is too big for my skull.
“Doctor, report?” I ask as I enter Sickbay, and stop short at the sight before me.
The five afflicted crewmen – Mendez, Baxter, Nicoletti, Ashmore and Foster – lie on the only available biobeds. All of them are sleeping. Mendez and Ashmore are under the arch monitors. Kes bends over Nicoletti’s bed, taking readings with her medical tricorder.
Susan looks sickly pale, as do Foster and Baxter, whose face is creased with pain as he mutters and grasps at something that isn’t there. Ashmore’s dark skin has an ashen cast, and Mendez’ normally golden complexion is almost grey. I can hear their laboured breathing, and as I stare, a readout on Baxter’s monitor begins to flash and beep. Kes rushes to his side.
“Captain,” the Doctor greets me as he moves quickly past, attracted by the alarm on Baxter’s biobed.
“Doctor.” I press my lips together. “What’s that alarm for?”
“Lieutenant Baxter’s temperature has just risen above forty degrees Celsius.” The EMH applies a hypospray to Baxter’s neck and the beeping ceases. “That should stabilise the fever. For now.”
“Has that happened to the others?”
“Ms Nicoletti’s fever has been hovering upward of thirty-nine degrees for the past two hours, and the others are also exhibiting higher than usual temperatures.” The Doctor turns to face me. “However, the fever could simply be a natural immune response, and unless their body temperatures consistently rise above forty-two degrees it’s not dangerous, just uncomfortable. I’m more concerned about the mucous build-up in their lungs. As I’m sure you can tell, all five of them are having difficulty breathing. If it gets any worse I’ll have to commence oxygenation therapy. As for the hallucinations –” he indicates the tossing and mumbling Baxter “– I’m afraid those are only going to get worse.”
“Do whatever you can, Doctor. How is your research progressing?”
“Ah, yes. Thank you for sending Ensign Wildman to assist, Captain. With her help, I’ve identified that the cause of this condition is indeed viral. Unfortunately the protein coating of the viral organism – the capsid – seems to have the ability to mask the invader by mimicking the properties of the cells to which it has attached itself.” He shakes his head. “Ingenious.”
“Well, it’s clearly been engineered that way.”
The blood drains from my face. “Are you telling me this virus has been genetically modified? It’s not a naturally occurring organism?”
The Doctor nods. “Naturally occurring viruses with camouflaging properties aren’t unheard of, of course, but this particular pathogen is not one. At first I thought it employed a unique form of natural camouflage using DNA sequences that the host body would ignore because they mimic the host’s. That would allow the invader to penetrate the host’s cellular structure without triggering an immune response.”
“But that’s not the case?” I rub at my aching temples.
“No, Captain. The excess DNA strands are not there to hide this virus. They’re intended to target a different kind of host system.”
“Meaning?” Why am I having such trouble following this? I shake my head to clear it.
“Meaning,” the Doctor says patiently, “that they are infective but inert. Those DNA sequences have not been triggered during the invasion process because they don’t need to be. The ones that have been activated are doing the job quite nicely, thank you very much.”
“Are you saying,” my tongue feels thick, “that this virus has been engineered to infect several distinct host species?”
The EMH is nodding. “More than that, Captain,” he says earnestly. “This virus is designed to activate specific genes to give it the best chance of infecting the particular species it inhabits.” He clucks his tongue. “Whoever engineered this was a genius.”
“Or a psychopath,” I tell him sharply. “How do we stop it?”
“I’ve asked Ensign Wildman to concentrate on isolating the genetic sequence activated within the virus – the one that’s affecting the human crew members in my sickbay. If we can identify the exact programming sequence, we’ll have the first step toward a treatment.”
There’s something vaguely familiar about all this, something nagging at me, but my head hurts so badly I can’t focus long enough to nail it down. A stray pinch and rumble in my stomach reminds me that I haven’t eaten all day, which is no doubt the cause of my headache. Brushing aside the irritating sense of déjà vu, I rest a hand on the EMH’s shoulder for a moment.
“Carry on, Doctor, and be sure to keep me updated.”
“Of course, Captain.”
He’s already trotting back to his lab by the time I exit Sickbay.
Hot water beats down on my bent head, swirling in elegant spirals down the drain, my eyes drifting shut as the shower sluices over me. Soothed, cocooned in warmth, I squint down at my own hands. They clutch each other under the spray, washing away the day’s grime. Washing away my sins, I think idly, and the image behind my closed eyelids shows the water running red with blood.
My insides grip as faces float through my imagination. Darwin, Bendera, Durst, Cavit, Stadi. Countless officers I’d sent into battle or on deadly missions. Faceless Cardassians. All dead by my orders.
There’s so much blood on my hands.
The Bajoran with dark, accusing eyes looms into my mind’s eye. Give it back to me, she screams. It’s mine. It’s mine!
And as she rushes for me, hands outstretched, I jerk awake, crying out, barely catching my balance before I slide to the shower floor.
My hands are clean.
Forcing my breathing to slow, I shut off the shower and step out, wrapping myself in a towel. “Computer,” my voice is shaky, breathy, “what is the time?”
The time is 1908 hours.
You’re supposed to have been here for dinner at 1900. Racing into my bedroom, I throw on the first clothing I find and try to squeeze the excess water out of my hair. There’ll be no time tonight to apply my armour – makeup, impeccable hair, impermeable air of certainty. I’ll be greeting you in sweats, looking like a harried, half-drowned rat.
If you ever get here.
Tying my damp hair up in a ponytail, I close my eyes, trying to find my centre just as the chime rings at my door. My eyes spring open.
You enter in uniform. I see the flicker cross your face as you take in my wet and tangled hair, my baggy sweatshirt, my bare feet. You recover quickly, though, your features rearranging themselves into impassivity.
“Captain. Have I come at a bad time?”
“No,” I swallow, and deliberately use your name rather than your rank, “your timing is fine, Chakotay. I’m the one running late. Please come in.”
As graciously as I can, I wave you to a seat at the table and pour two oversized glasses of Shiraz without asking your preference. Sliding yours across the table, I sit opposite you. You watch without expression as I try to find words.
Small talk isn’t going to work tonight, so after a large gulp pf wine I jump right in. “I asked you here tonight,” I pause, “because it’s clear you and I are not what we used to be, or where we need to be. There’s a distance between us, Chakotay, and we need to bridge it. For the sake of the ship.”
You’d lifted your wineglass to your lips, but now you set it down deliberately without sipping. “Do you have a specific complaint about the way I’m performing my duties, Captain?”
“Of course not.”
“Have I offended you in some way?”
“No.” I take another long drink and set my wine down unsteadily. “But I’m aware I’ve offended you, Chakotay, by not confiding in you about the plan to expose Michael Jonas.”
Your face shutters again. “That was your call to make. You’re the captain.”
Between the wine, the tension and the hot shower I’ve just stepped out of, I’m sweating. I push at my sleeves irritably, regretting my choice of bulky sweatshirt. “My point is, Commander –” damn it! “– Chakotay, it’s bad for the crew to see us at odds. And I want us to trust each other again.”
You huff out a laugh, shaking your head briefly.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I snap before I can stop myself.
For a moment, your face darkens in anger and you look directly into my eyes, and I think you’re going to be honest with me – finally – about whatever is simmering under that normally unruffled surface of yours. But instead you glance away.
“Maybe it’s just going to take some time,” you offer, and your tone is cool but not unfriendly.
“I can live with that,” I mutter. “Shall we eat?”
The vegetable soup I set before us seems sour and unpleasant to me, but you eat as though there’s nothing wrong with it. I watch it dribble from my spoon back into my bowl, like water sluicing over bloodstained hands.
I jolt. “Huh?”
“Are you all right?” You’re looking at me with curiosity and a touch of concern.
“Oh. Yes, I’m fine. Just not hungry, I guess.” I try to smile at you before dropping my gaze back to my soup. I know I need to eat – my stomach is completely empty, and I’ve drunk a full glass of wine – but I can’t seem to bring the spoon to my mouth. My head pounds.
“It’s good soup,” you offer, almost kindly. “Family recipe?”
“I suppose you could say so. Mark used to make it for me when I was working late and wouldn’t take the time to sit at the dinner table.”
“Yes.” I smile at you. “It’s my first choice when I want something unchallenging and familiar.”
We fall silent again, and I think about how, a few weeks ago, you’d have encouraged me to open up to you, to talk about the things I’d left behind. Always kindly, always gently, trying to make me remember the sweet things without the bitter.
“What about you?” I ask awkwardly. “What’s your comfort food?”
You shrug. “I was never all that interested in traditional cooking when I was a kid. Pizza, I guess.”
“My Academy roommate loved it.”
“Oh.” I search for a way to keep the conversation going. “You and Lieutenant Paris have more in common than I suspected.”
You place your spoon deliberately in your empty bowl and meet my eyes. I flush. Bringing up Tom Paris probably wasn’t my smoothest move.
“Torres to Chakotay.”
Saved by the comm.
“Excuse me,” you offer politely, pushing your chair back and standing. “Chakotay here,” you tap your combadge.
“I looked into that file you gave me, and I found something you need to see –”
“Not now,” you cut her off hastily. “Meet me in my quarters as soon as possible. Chakotay out.”
“Something I should be aware of?” I ask as you turn back to me.
“It’s nothing, Captain, just a personal matter, but I need to attend to it.”
You’re lying. I don’t know why, or how I’m so absolutely certain of it, but you’re lying.
“Now?” I raise my eyebrows. “It’s that important?”
You straighten. “Am I dismissed?”
What choice do I have? I squint up at you through my blurring eyes. “This wasn’t an official meeting, Commander, but yes. You’re dismissed.”
The moment you’re through the door and I’m alone, I feel my stomach lurch in protest against the evening’s abuses, and once again I find myself running for the ‘fresher.