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Star Trek Renegade II - 2.3 Renegade by J. Grey

A team in the past blaze a trail into uncharted territory in a struggle to protect the galaxy's future from itself.

2.3 Renegade

It was dark. As hard as she tried she seemed unable to adjust to the faint glow that permeated everything around her. Her mind seemed fogged as she struggled to assert her personality on her thoughts, to stamp her conscious desire on the meandering ruminations that fleetingly visited themselves on her.

Beneath her was something soft. It yielded to the form of her fatigued body, her heavy and numb muscles almost unable to move the dead weight of its own being. Her breathing was laboured and came only with a force of deliberate effort.

"Where am I?" She gasped finally with her hard won breath fleeing her burning lungs.

"Safe." A voice told her. "You're safe."

Her mind drifted, her eyelids fluttered as her weary body struggled to rouse itself fully to consciousness. Suddenly a surge of adrenaline hit her, her chest exploded to life; her heart pounded within its bony cage and her muscles reacted with an unexpected surge of fear-induced power that surprised even her.

"No!" She cried out, twisting on the bed as if trying to break free. Her arms were seized by an irresistible force, and her legs were bound by the same power. She struggled against them as the fear pumped her heart and drove the confusion from her. All doubt was sent scuttling to the higher realms of her mind, she now focused utterly on escape and such clarity was borne of something deeper ingrained in her Human psyche. Flashes of memory began to assert themselves. She felt the growing certainty that wherever it was that she found herself was not of her doing or desire and that no effort must be spared to free herself of her bonds.

"Stop struggling." An impatient voice hissed out at her from the darkness.

"Let me go!" She demanded bravely, her body convulsing as she struggled helplessly against whatever shackled her.

"Stop." The same voice cried out more forcefully, a low guttural growl of anger laced with venomous resolve.

Footsteps served only to alarm her more as she heard them step slowly towards her. Exhausted quickly from her efforts towards escape she collapsed back and gasped for breath. The air was hot and heavy and her lungs seemed to reject it from them. Her weary muscles burnt from the exertion and she lay meekly for a moment, the sound of approaching footsteps the entire focus of her attention.

"Tell me." The voice snapped at her, the rasping sound of ferocious claws tearing through steel somehow formed into words.

"I can't..." She cried out fearfully, her eyes closing reflexively as she bucked suddenly in fear, struggling again against her capture in utter terror, terror that fed her a renewed strength.

From the darkness a leathery hand reached out a device. A face craned low to peer into her petrified gaze. The lizard-like creature had eyes burning with an alien intensity while it's long tongue flicked out at her and it's lipless mouth curled into a cruel smile. She saw the glowing lights before her as her mind exploded once more into pain.

It was dark. As hard as she tried she seemed unable to adjust to the faint glow that permeated everything around her. Her mind seemed fogged as she struggled to assert her personality on her thoughts, to stamp her conscious desire on the meandering ruminations that fleetingly visited themselves on her.

Beneath her was something soft. It yielded to the form of her fatigued body, her heavy and numb muscles almost unable to move the dead weight of its own being. Her breathing was laboured and came only with a force of conscious effort.

"Where am I?" She gasped finally with her hard won breath fleeing her burning lungs.

"Safe." A voice told her. "You're safe."

"Safe?" She muttered to herself as her thoughts slotted back into some semblance of form. Suddenly the memory hit her. The voice was unfamiliar, something was wrong. She tried to reach out but her arm couldn't move against the restraint. "Where am I?" She cried out as she felt the panic rising within her.

"You're safe." A soft, human voice told her. "We're trying to help you. You're going to be alright."

"The Corinthian?" She gasped, he chest rising and falling with exaggerated effort as the fear caught hold of her with it's powerful jaws and seemed intent to never let go.

"I don't know..." The woman told her as reassuringly as she could with a stammer of disquiet. "I don't know what you mean?"

"WP23?" Katherine cried out as realisation hit her confused mind. "I'm on WP23?"

"Yes." The woman replied with a happy sigh of relief. "You're on WP23."

"WP23..." She sighed herself, relaxing back onto the bed in relief.

"You're on Ward WP23." The nurse told her. "We're trying to help you."

Katherine Rogers sat on the edge of the bed peering around herself somewhat nervously. Her mind was still shattered and although the pieces were coming back together in accordance with her demands they did so only with a considerable effort of concentration. She looked at the nurse who peered back at her with a warmly supportive smile. Behind her was a short Asian man who seemed intent to look at a sheet of paper clipped to the top of a wooden board, and shake his head in dismay.

"You've been a silly girl." He said finally, dropping his pad of papers to his side and shaking his head still more forcefully. Choosing not to answer Katherine dropped her eyes to her left wrist where her other hand was still massaging away some degree of the numbness left by the heavy nylon straps.

"How are you feeling, love?" The nurse ventured in a slightly condescending way that Katherine found immensely irritating as if she had done some foolish thing instead of served aboard her ship with an unblemished and distinguished record.

"How long were you off them, this time?" The Asian man spoke with a note that approached boredom, his eyes drifting around the bland room as if hunting for something that might hold his attention.

"Off what?" Katherine replied after a lengthy pause, her voice containing a tone of accusation of its own.

"The Doctor is only trying to help you, love." The nurse moved forward an almost imperceptible amount so slowly it was almost impossible to see.

"Off what?" She said again, her eyes glaring out glassily from under her unkempt hair at the Doctor.

"Your medication, Miss Rogers." He replied with a sigh as his brow dropped and his expression displayed his growing annoyance.

"Medication?" She asked, her face remaining impassive as her mind searched through the clouds for some clue as to what might be going on.

"Your anti-psychosis medicine." The nurse said with a sympathetic smile as her head cocked to one side in an exaggerated display of empathy.

"Where are the others?" Katherine ignored her and focused on who appeared to be in charge.

"The others..." Dr. Singh muttered to himself sarcastically as he raised his notes to his eyes. "Oh yes. Girling, Haldo and Jones?"

"Jones died." She told him angrily, the passion welling up inside her behind a jolt of pain that shot across her temples and made her wince slightly. "Your notes need updating."

"Miss Rogers..." He began with an authoritative tone as he rubbed his temples in growing exasperation. "I can understand that you're confused. You've been given a sedative and a dose of your regular medication. In a few days you'll be feeling much better." He fixed her with a glare of rebuke. "That is you will be if you can remember to take them this time."

"They'll be looking for me." Katherine told him angrily. "They'll find me. They'll not rest until they find me."

Captain Blake Girling looked at the representation of the alien vessel in the holographic panel. "What do you think?" He rubbed his head thoughtfully.

"I think the replicators need replacing with something more useful." Haldo said with a wince as he glowered in annoyance at his coffee. "In fact, I think a teapot made of chocolate might be of more use."

"You're right in a way." WP23 retorted. "My food replicators are of little use, but then I've never found a crew to be of any value either. For the record you've yet to change my mind."

"People!" Blake scolded the bickering pair, well aware of the irony of his choice of words. "People and computerised lumps of pure hatred." He corrected with a sigh.

"Computerised lumps of pure hatred and genetically fiddled-with chimps who are going to find themselves walking home if they don't shut their mouths." WP23 corrected one more.

"Blake!" Haldo began with a look of absolute concentration. "Whatever is on your mind can't be as important as my coffee."

"I was just concerned about our continued intrusion on the fabric of time." Blake glowered at him with his most authoritative glower of supremacy.

"But my coffee tastes like dirt with water in it." Haldo held up the cup before them as he whined his excuse.

"Is it not meant to taste like that?" WP23 asked in a voice that would have had a smug expression of satisfaction behind it if she had had a face.

"I'm concerned that our presence here might change the course of history." Blake told them both firmly. "I couldn't care less if your coffee tastes like the inside of a Klingon's boot and makes you so ill you beg for the happy release of death."

"I'll consider that an order, Captain!" WP23 called out cheerfully.

"Blake..." Haldo made a point of throwing the coffee into the waste hole as he spoke. "You ask me this every ten minutes. Allarn is running constant simulations on our impact. We're fine. We're not doing any harm by floundering around in this region and if we were I doubt anyone would care. I certainly don't."

"May I remind you that we've encountered an alien vessel now." Captain Girling told him with an outstretched finger pointing to the image floating above the instrument panel.

"The simple fact is that the general Runabout design has been about for years in one form or another." Haldo shrugged. "Even if this heap of junk was recognisable as a federation vessel it's so bland that nobody is going to notice it in any case."

"Bland?" WP23 cried out angrily.

"I want you to monitor for any signs they suspect there's anything odd about this ship." Blake ordered finally.

"The only thing odd about this ship is that in the state it's in she's able to sustain life or even hold together." Haldo grinned and shot a glance upwards.

"If you object to my ability to sustain life..." She sneered back.

"And you..." Blake pointed at the main windows at the front of the control room that he had ordered the crew to refer to as the bridge. "Behave."

Her robe seemed somewhat ill fitting. The pastel blue garment that replaced her clothes was uncomfortable and aroused feelings in her that she disliked although as yet she was at a loss to explain why.

She paced very slowly along the corridor of the facility, every sight and sound attracting her attention. She jumped at the slightest provocation and each unfamiliar sound sent a fresh tendril of unease working its way through her deeply unbalance mind.

The others there were dressed similarly in robes that were designed with little attention to the needs of the human form in manners of comfort or modesty.

"Hello." A woman in front of her swallowed and stepped forwards. "You're new here?" She was dishevelled and older than Katherine but by how much she couldn't be sure. Her eyes had a hollow look and seemed to be searching for something to fill them.

Katherine found her arms folding around herself in a defensive gesture as she looked silently back at the woman before her. "I'm not staying." She finally said, her eyes diverting to the ground as she spoke with strangely little confidence.

"I'm Sarah." She said with a smile. "I wasn't staying either. That was five years ago."

"My friends will be looking for me." She told her firmly.

"That's good." The woman smiled and looked wistfully down the corridor for a moment. "Nobody will be looking for me."

"Why are you here?" Katherine leant back against the wall, her eyes glancing back up to the woman, her body leaning away as if she was desperate to maintain the distance between them.

"I keep trying to kill myself." She smiled thinly, her eyes looking out helplessly. "You?"

"I don't know." Katherine admitted, her brow ruffling curiously as she exerted an effort to recall some lost fragment of her memory. "I remember some things."

"What do you remember?" Sarah leant back against the same wall.

"I'm Ensign Katherine Rogers." She frowned as even her own name came to her with considerable effort. "Chief medical officer of the USS Corinthian before she was destroyed."

"A ship?" Sarah raised her eyebrow curiously. "You're in the navy?"

"Starfleet." She told her.

"Starfleet?" Sarah's lips fluttered almost into a smile as if she thought for a moment that she was the butt of a joke. "As in space ships? The Corinthian was a space ship?"

"A Starship." She nodded slowly, trying to understand whatever reason there might be for the odd expression her admission had caused.

"I think we got away with it, Blake." Haldo grinned back to the distinctly unimpressed expression that glowered fixedly back at him.

"Captain Girling to you." He grumbled through gritted teeth.

"I thought the note of familiarity might help to disguise the fact that we're refined and sophisticated Starfleet officers from the future." Haldo told him with growing amusement.

"I was happier aboard the Corinthian." Captain Girling told him with a huff of indignation. "There was usually two decks between me and you. I feel we work better that way."

"On a completely different ship?" WP23 added. "I think you both work better that way."

Girling sat back into the hardly comfortable chair and breathed a heavy sigh, his hand running over his hairless scalp as he struggled harder than he would have openly admitted to control his temper.

"Report please, Mr. Compz." He said finally.

"Call me Haldo!" He told him with a wink. "I've watched the alien and run their behaviour through the various behavioural databases. They appear not to be concerned, if the computer interface is working even close to the way it's meant to."

"Tactical?" Blake turned behind him to the weapons station manned by their redundant security chief.

"The ship has minimal shielding and only the most basic of weapons." Goruss Clogg reported with curt efficiency. "If we needed to destroy it I don't foresee any problems."

"Him I could learn to like." WP23 said whimsically.

"Have they made any gesture we could consider hostile?" The Captain persisted.

"No, Sir." He shook his head and replied with a note of certainty.

"I could wipe them out with a low yield phaser blast." WP23 bragged to whoever might be listening. "When are you going to let me fire a Warpedo?"

"I suspect that the detonation of a weapon capable of wiping out a small planet would likely constitute a violation of the temporal protocol of non-interference of historical events." Blake reminded her haughtily.

"You can't stay awake forever..." She told him with a sneer.

The nurse gestured to a chair before a small wooden desk. Katherine blinked as she gazed around the cluttered office. It was painted in a thoughtless off-white colour with a sprawling grey filing cabinet occupying the length of the far wall.

"Sit down..." She said warmly with a happy smile. "We'll have a quick chat."

Katherine stared back at her and stood rooted to the spot. Her arms instinctively folded around herself as she stared back at the nurse. "Can I stand?" She averted her eyes and shuffled back towards the wall.

"If you want." She nodded and her face took on an expression of slight disappointment. She pulled out her own chair from the side of the desk and sat herself down so that if Katherine joined her they would face one another without the desk between them. "What do you remember? Is it all coming back to you?"

"Where am I?" Katherine insisted darkly.

"You're in hospital." She told her, rubbing her temple slightly as she replied.

"Was I injured?" Katherine asked, her eyes narrowing defensively. "Did they hurt me?"

"It's not that kind of hospital." She told her with a gentle smile. "You're not hurt. You're ill."

"I don't understand." She frowned deeply, her mind clouding with half recalled images.

"You have an illness that makes you believe things that aren't real." The nurse told her with a deep exhalation of breath. "You have a condition known as psychosis."

"I know what's real." She insisted angrily.

"Do you remember being here before?" The nurse asked, leaning forward slightly, her expression taking on a note of seriousness.

"No." She shook her head. "I've never been here before."

"You have." She told her firmly. "Twice."

"No." Katherine shook her head softly, her eyes now fixed on the nurse as her mind recoiled from the suggestion. "No." She whispered again.

"The first time was when you were 19." The nurse continued, her eyes closing as she spoke as if to block out something distasteful before her. "You were admitted for depression. You were very low."

"No." She shook her head firmly. "I was in the academy."

"Darling." The nurse looked up at her with doleful eyes that seemed filled with her pain. "You were never in the academy."

Katherine glanced up and fixed her with a determined stare while she could feel a growing sense of panic rising up inside her.

"Your sister discharged you and you were readmitted two months later after being diagnosed with a psychotic disorder." The nurse told her finally, hanging her head.

"I would never have been allowed into Starfleet with a psychotic disorder." Katherine insisted angrily. "I was even promoted to Starfleet intelligence."

"Katherine..." The nurse began with a sigh.

"No!" She snapped, her hand tracing up instinctively to her face as she bit her lip and forced back the tears that welled up behind her sad eyes.

"You've missed your medication." The nurse told her somewhat wearily. "It's happened before but never this bad."

"I don't take medication!" Katherine told her, her voice cracking as the confusion bit into her train of thought, unfamiliar images seeping up from her unconscious to cloud her reality.

"I want to tell you something." The nurse bit her lip almost nervously. "It's not going to be easy for you to hear."

She said nothing but her eyes held back a brimming tirade of accusations as they glowered with defensive anger back at the nurse.

"There is no Starfleet academy." The nurse said softly.

"What?" She snapped back in annoyance, a tear breaking forth from the side of her eye.

"There is no Starfleet." The nurse told her firmly.

"I'm a member of Starfleet." Katherine said, her voice cracking with emotion.

"Starfleet doesn't exist." The nurse told her as if the words were causing her pain of her own. "Starfleet only exists on the telly. It only exists in Star Trek, a television program."

"What?" Katherine finally lost the battle to hold back the tears and the welled up emotion began to overflow back through her, tears running down her cheeks, her arms tightening around herself as she pressed herself back up against the wall.

"Star Trek is just a television program." The nurse told her with a sigh. "The second time you were admitted to hospital you were diagnosed with acute psychosis because you were no longer able to distinguish between reality and a television program."

"No!" She cried out through her tears. "I'll never believe that!"

"Any message?" Blake sighed.

"Like what?" Haldo sat up from where he had slouched over the engineering controls and come quite close to falling asleep.

"From the aliens!" Blake told him.

"No." Haldo shook his head. "Nothing showing up here."

"Well a hail is hardly likely to show up on your engineering console." Goruss frowned as far as his dense exo-skeletal armour would allow for human facial expressions.

"I'm not monitoring for hails." Haldo laughed at the security chief.

"Haldo is monitoring for failures or malfunctions that would stop this pile of junk from receiving a hail!" Blake explained to the slightly confused officer. "Nothing is quite so simple on this ship!"

"Imagine how this ship feels." WP23 added indignantly.

"They've been out there now for four hours." Goruss glared back at the holographic display at his console and reflexively glanced at the targeting controls. "Nothing. Silence."

"They just don't know what to make of us." Blake looked out of the front windows to the vessel in the far distance. At this range it was almost impossible to make out the details of the strange alien craft. Nothing but a sphere with a dense metallic skeleton supporting the only thing that they could identify as an engine at the top surface. "We can't assume that they're going to interpret our presence in the same way that we interpret theirs."

"I suppose." Goruss agreed grudgingly.

"And in any case we didn't announce ourselves as Federation members or a Starfleet vessel." Haldo noted. "We're claiming to be private traders now so they have no reason to trust us."

"Especially in a region with no local security where the Orion pirate syndicate are known to operate." Captain Girling added. "They're just trying to figure us out."

"So how long do we wait?" Goruss asked with a shrug. "How long is appropriate?"

"Until something happens." Haldo suggested. "Until we at least have a reason not to trust them."

Kelly Rogers sat in the office in morbid silence. The only sound that could be heard through the eternity of quiet reflection was the ticking of a clock on the wall. A bland saucer with a plastic lens protecting three sweeping hands of the most basic and unimaginative design.

"Your sister is a very sick young woman." The Doctor said finally. "I'd like for her to remain with us until we're certain that the medication is working and she's once more able to discern reality from fantasy."

"But she's no danger to herself?" Kelly insisted, her hands clasped tightly on her lap, out of sight of the Doctor as she glowered back with a thin-lipped expression of fearsome resolve.

"I can't insist, Mrs Rogers." He acceded meekly.

"The first time she was admitted to your hospital it was for depression." Kelly told him angrily. "When she left she was in more of a state than when she first arrived. Two weeks later she was totally psychotic."

"She wasn't admitted because she suffered from depression, Mrs. Rogers." He corrected. "She was admitted because she had taken an overdose of pain killers with the intention of killing herself."

The young woman glared back with an anger far in excess of that required by the situation. "She's coming home with me." She said simply, leaving no further room for discussion on the matter. "Right now."

"Her psychosis appears to be growing." The Doctor hung his head to scan quickly his hand written notes. "When her fantasy began she simply believed that Star Trek was real. Now her fantasy is more complex. She now believes she's serving on a vessel quite outside what's been shown in the series."

"So what?" Kelly retorted firmly. "Once the medication takes effect properly she'll be ok. In the mean time she's no danger to herself and I see no reason why she shouldn't come home with me to be with people who love her."

"I really don't think you fully understand the scope of the problem." The Doctor told her somewhat awkwardly, not used to being spoken to in that manner in his own hospital.

"I'm taking my sister home." She said simply.

Katherine's clothes were not her own. A loose fitting white T-shirt and light blue jeans seemed somehow familiar but were not the uniform she had expected to be given when the nurse said she was to have her things returned to her and be allowed to leave. In any case she dressed in what they gave her which fitted well.

She frowned deeply as someone knocked on the door, her expectation of an electronic bleep unfulfilled. "Come in." She called out. The light wooden door opened and she stood before a woman several years older than herself but otherwise quite similar.

"Hello Katherine." She smiled broadly as if relieved to see her. She looked back in confusion, struggling to recall the face that seemed so familiar somehow.

"Hello." She said back.

"Do you remember me, at all?" She said hopefully. Katherine shook her head slightly but her eyes remained fixed.

"Did Blake send you?" She asked, frowning as if struggling to remember.

"No." She said softly. "I'm your sister, Kelly."

"My sister..." She repeated. "I don't remember..."

"That's ok." She smiled in obvious disappointment. "It'll come back to you before you know it."

"I was on a ship." She began.

"I'm taking you home." Her sister told her firmly. "You're going to stay with me for a while until you're feeling better."

Katherine nodded solemnly in agreement, not wishing to remain any longer in the confines of Ward WP23 in any case.

The sun was bright that day, the light licked across her face warmly and the light breeze echoed through the trees like a gentle orchestra playing out a chorus just for her.

"I'm on Earth." Katherine said with some surprise as they finally stepped out of the building.

"Yes." Kelly smiled back supportively. "We're all on Earth."

She looked up into the sky for an instant as if she imagined she might, if she stared hard enough, be able to see a ship passing by or one of the many stations in orbit.

"No shuttles." She said finally with some confusion.

"No." Her sister agreed. "There are no shuttles."

"I'm in the past." Katherine said suddenly as her mind found a memory and grabbed hold of it tightly. "We were sent to the past. I'm back in the past."

"No!" Kelly stopped in her tracks and took her sister by the shoulders, turning her so the pair were staring into one another's eyes directly. "This is not the past. This is the present. You were never in the future, you imagined the whole thing after missing your medication. You're here now, on Earth in the year 2007. This is where you've always been."

"No!" Katherine insisted weakly, pulling back from her sister's firm grip and failing to break free. "I remember!"

"You remember a television show." Her sister continued. "You remember a bunch of movies, you remember books and comics and crazy internet stories written by people who should be on a psychotic ward even more than you."

"No." She insisted again but this time her voice was weaker and sounded more like a plea. "I remember Blake, Haldo. I remember our ship, the Corinthian."

"Blake!" Kelly shook her head sadly. "Blake is real."

"He's here?" She asked excitedly. "He's come to save me?"

"Let's go home." Kelly said finally.

"I'm receiving a long range hail!" WP23 announced with disinterest. "It's from the Asimov."

Captain Girling sat up in surprise. "Not from the aliens?" He asked, wiping his eyes as if rubbing away the boredom and fatigue of waiting patiently for over four and a half standard hours.

"It's a Starfleet subspace carrier wave." Haldo added. "It has to be the Asimov, it shows their identification codes."

"You don't trust me?" She spat the words at the crew angrily. "I'm centuries in advance of the technology you're used to with a processor that endows me with many hundred times your intelligence."

"Put it on the main viewer." Blake ordered, ignoring her as far as he was able.

"We don't have a main viewer, Blake." Haldo grinned widely in amusement. "We left it 280 years in the future with the rest of the Corinthian when it blew up."

"Put it on the display." He growled in barely disguised rage as his temper broiled away inside him.

Suddenly in accordance with his command the image of Captain Franks appeared in a small metal alcove peering out at him in miniature. "This is Captain Franks." He began. "Any luck?"

Captain Girling shook his head solemnly. "I'm not sure that posing as traders is the best approach." He began. "We've encountered an alien vessel who were also interested in doing some trade but we have nothing to actually trade with them."

"Can't your replicator create something of interest?" Franks asked with a shrug.

"We're hoping." Girling admitted with a curt nod. "Once we've established a rapport we'll see if they have any information about the Cardassians."

"Well we're getting nowhere." Franks said solemnly. "Sensors have detected nothing. We're going to move on to the next grid."

"Ok." Girling nodded. "Hail is if you discover anything. Girling out."

"More good news." Haldo grumbled.

"At least it's not bad news." Captain Girling leant back in the chair and huffed impatiently.

"For a change..." Goruss added.

Kelly's house was pleasant enough, set amidst a maze of suburban back-streets far enough from the main roads to be quietly insulated from the sound of passing traffic. Almost in the centre of a terraced row of houses hers was nicely arranged with a tidy garden at the front and plenty of room inside for the inhabitants.

As soon as she stepped inside Katherine felt a sense of relief wash over her. Almost no tension anywhere in the house, just a peaceful sense of quiet ease.

"Welcome home." Kelly smiled to her sister warmly as they stepped into the narrow hallway. "You can stay here as long as you need or want to."

"Thank you." She smiled back thinly, still very unsure of herself amidst the inner turmoil of confusion. "Who else lives here?"

"Just me and my husband." Kelly told her.

"Harry?" Katherine snapped suddenly. Her sister smiled broadly and nodded, hey eyes moistened as she fought back a happy tear. "Yes, Harry. You remember?"

"He's tall..." She nodded, frowning deeply as she concentrated hard to recall. "And he's annoying."

Kelly laughed out loud. "Yes, he can be a bit annoying at times but I love him to bits. He's a computer engineer. Do you remember?"

"Haldo..." She muttered to herself as all efforts to remember her sister's husband reminded her only of the Corinthian's chief engineer.

"Sorry?" Kelly asked, hanging her thin jacket up on a hook before leading the way into the comfortable living room.

"Where's Blake?" Katherine asked, the urgency to find him seeming to have left her for now.

"You haven't seen Blake in years." Kelly told her with a sigh. "You two fell out a bit, I think."

"Why?" Katherine asked with obvious pain in her eyes. "What happened?"

"You met him the first time you were in hospital." Kelly told her softly.

"No." She rubbed her temple as she tried desperately to remember. "I met him before. I met him when I was just a child. I met him again later in sick bay. I helped him to recover from what they did to him."

"I never knew you met him before." Kelly said suspiciously.

"It was aboard a ship, just before he was killed." She told her as confidently as she was able.

"Katherine!" Her sister began, her patience beginning to buckle very slightly. "You have never been aboard a ship. There are no space ships. There is no Enterprise and there never was a Captain Kirk."

"It was the Enterprise." Katherine's eyes widened. "It was an ambassadorial transport but it was actually the NCC-1701-A. Of course by then it had been re-commission and downgraded."

"Katherine." She said firmly. "That's just Star Trek. It's not real."

"It feels real." She said softly, her shoulders sagging suddenly and her whole body deflated with them.

"Oh darling..." Her sister wiped away a tear. "I know it feels real but it isn't. This is real. I'm real, this house, Harry."

"Why does it feel real then?" She asked, her voice barely a whisper and full of defensive rebuke.

"Because you're not well." She told her. "You need special medicine to help you tell reality from fantasy and you forgot to take it." They remained silent for a while, their eyes locked together, neither knowing what else to say.

"I want to see Blake."

Haldo rubbed his temples and shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the other as he regarded the small piece of technology before him.

"What's wrong?" Allarn asked as the pair stood alone in the lounge to the rear of the small ship. "You've been stood there now for three minutes."

"It's this!" He pointed uneasily to the alcove. A small, square box fitted uneasily to a hole slotted in a bulkhead fed with a mismatched array of pipe-work.

"The replicator?" Allarn frowned uneasily as a slight smile flickered across her lips. "You're scared of a food dispenser?"

"Yes!" He snapped back defensively. "Have you tasted anything that comes out of that thing?"

"No." She admitted. "I'm not as stupid as you are."

"Allarn." He turned back to the alcove. "I need coffee."

"Well you're an engineer." She reminded him. "Fix it."

"I can't fix it." He told her. "There's nothing wrong with it. It has to be WP23, she has to be deliberately tampering with the program."

"She's just a computer program herself." Allarn smiled to herself and lost interest in the conversation. She made her way back to her terminal to continue working. "Why would she bother to modify the replicator patterns anyway?"

"To annoy Haldo." WP23 suggested. "I thought that annoying Haldo might raise morale generally."

"I may have to report this to the Captain." Haldo scowled in irritation.

"Go ahead." She sniffed. "I dislike him more than I dislike you."

"I need coffee." Haldo turned to Allarn, almost begging for her help, his voice was a pathetic whine. "Blake won't let me drink beer."

"I'm busy..." She gestured to her terminal. "You've left all the real work to the grown-ups, remember?"

Haldo slapped his palms together and made a pathetic gesture with his face, pleading for assistance.

"WP23!" Allarn asked with a sigh. "Can you please give this man some coffee?"

"He has to ask nicely." She sneered at the engineer. "He has to ask nicely and he has to keep being nice to me."

"I am nice to you." Haldo stood up straight and frowned at her. "I saved your life."

"Well I didn't ask you to." She retorted.

"So what do you want me to do?" He huffed indignantly. "Say nice things about you?"

"Yes!" She snapped. "Say nice things about me."

"Well..." Haldo began thoughtfully looking around the lounge. He looked up the narrow corridor to the control room. "Well..." he said again.

"I'm waiting." She told him grumpily.

"I'm thinking." He told her. He looked around again, his eyes casting their attention over the jumble of cluttered engineering and filthy assemblage of ancient components. "To hell with it!" He cried out, throwing his arms up in dismay and storming off back to the control room.

"Allarn?" WP23 asked politely. "Would you like some coffee?"

Katherine stepped out of the passenger seat of her sister's car. The journey had been a short one in terms of conventional technology after her sister had wearily assured her that she did not have access to a transporter of any kind.

Kelly stepped out of the driver's side of the light blue Ford and she faced her over the roof of the car. "Would you like me to come in with you?" She asked softly. Katherine looked back to her after staring at the stairs leading up to the flat. She shook her head slowly. "I'd rather go up on my own if that's alright."

Kelly nodded her agreement. "I'll be right here if you need me." She told her. "I'll be here as long as you like."

"Thank you." She agreed, turning back to the flat. Below was a chip-shop with a doorway to the side which looked incredibly familiar. As she stepped up to the entrance she felt an urge to take out her keys as if in her pocket was one that might fit the crude metal lock. She shook away such confused thoughts and continued to the door. To the side was a plastic panel with a single mechanical button which she pressed. She waited in silence for a moment, her heart pounding nervously in her chest and her stomach bubbling. Her legs were weak and numb and none of it made sense. She had seen Blake that very day aboard their ship, WP23 and yet now she was about to see him again and felt more nervous than she ever remembered feeling in her entire life.

Finally the door cracked open and a man stood before her. He was tall and dressed in scruffy dark clothing. His shaved head showed off a dark scar to the side of his temple and an untidy beard sat somewhat awkwardly on his face. His eyes widened in surprise as he stared at her.

"Blake." She smiled, her head swimming with relief as she recognised him. "Thank god!"

"Katherine!" He gasped back. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again."

"I'm here." She breathed a sigh of relief. "I made it."

"Are you ok?" He asked, leaning against the wall, his mouth open in surprise as he rubbed his head, trying to marshal his thoughts which were still reeling away.

"I don't know." She admitted. "Can I come in?"

"Of course." He stammered and gestured inside. "Come in."

He led her up the stairs into the flat. She ran her hand against the banister as she followed. Uneven brushstrokes had built up along the old woodwork over the many years and many re-decorations it had seen. It all seemed so familiar.

"How long is it?" Blake asked as he led her through a doorway into the lounge.

"I don't know." She admitted. The room was light and airy. A shelf running along the far wall had a row of small model ships displayed along it and she recognised them all. Her eyes took in every detail, greedily scanning the room for anything that might reveal the truth.

"They told me you were catatonic!" He said finally, turning to face her. "Last time I visited you, you didn't even recognise me."

"I recognise you now!" She assured him with an awkward smile. "Captain Blake Girling."

"Captain?" He shook his head and frowned deeply. "My name's not Girling."

"From the Corinthian." She whispered, crestfallen, backing away from him reflexively as nervousness caught hold of her once more, dread creeping up her spine with cold, clammy fingers.

"The Corinthian." He smiled to himself. "She's gone now. Finally gone for good. We had some good times on that."

"Yes." She breathed a sigh of relief. "She was destroyed. We survived though... most of us."

"She was scrapped." He narrowed his eyes. "I sold her for scrap."

"I don't understand." She shook her head, her mind clouding once more.

"My old bike." He told her. "You remember, don't you?"

She shook her head very slightly, her eyes filled with sadness. "Tell me..." She pleaded.

"It was an RGV 250, just about the fastest thing around at the time." He began with a nostalgic haze. "I crashed her quite badly." His smile left and his fingers traced up to the scar on his forehead. "I ended up in the same hospital as you while I recovered from my head injuries. That taught me not to buy cheap crash-helmets again."

"Go on..." She whispered softly.

"I rebuilt the bike as best I could." He shrugged. "I never replaced any of the bodywork but she was still fast and looked better without it. I called her the Corinthian after a character from a graphic novel. Last year I sold her to a mate for scrap, the engine finally gave in, it wasn't worth fixing her up any more."

"No..." A single tear traced its way down her cheek as she stood in the lounge of the suburban flat surrounded by ageing furniture with models of Star Trek ships along the wall and a small rack of DVD's of episodes of the various series.

"I have pictures." He shrugged to her, stepping over to a cupboard drawer and taking out a booklet of old photographs. He held up one for her to see. She looked down to the image, the RGV motorbike, it's bare metallic frame gleaming under the sunlight with the engine gaping through the sides, plumbed in by uneven tubes and wires. The tank sat aloft, finished in matt black paint that covered the damage from his crash.

"The Corinthian..." She sighed. Her voice cracked with emotion and her dark eyes looked up to his, glassy and moistened from the tears as they streamed unchecked down from them, no longer could she hold them back.

"You don't remember?" He whispered gently.

"It's not that..." She told him sadly. "The problem is that I think I do."

Katherine accepted a cup of tea, sat down now in a fairly comfortable chair that actually belonged in a garden. She curled into the corner cushion defensively and sat waiting for Blake to speak as if his words could penetrate the darkness and free her clouded mind from the bonds she herself had created.

She glanced around the room again, afraid his gaze might bore into her mind, see the clouded thoughts, the half-accepted memories. She saw the computer in the corner. It seemed at once a modern machine, able and useful in a modern world and at the same time laughably crude compared to the ones used where she remembered being. Suddenly she noticed the screen, black wallpaper punctuated with myriad white dots while in the centre sat an image of the Enterprise. Suddenly the screen flashed blank and the screen-saver began. Circles swept into clouds and drifted towards her in a tunnel of blue lights and she remembered. She remembered the first time they'd travelled at Transwarp in the Corinthian and at the same time it was a screen-saver. A computerised image for the sake of amusement. Little more.

"We left hospital at roughly the same time." He began haltingly. "We saw a lot of one another. I was completely discharged but you went back quite a lot for check ups."

"Back to WP23?" She shrugged. He nodded in agreement.

"Were we close?" She asked, lowering her head to avoid his expectant gaze.

"You don't remember?" He said softly. She shook her head sadly. "We were engaged. We were getting married."

"I'm so sorry..." She whimpered, feeling hollow and empty, her soul scooped out of her body and ravaged by the demons haunting her disjointed thoughts.

"You stated to act really weird." He began. "You hated going back to the hospital then you started to get obsessed with Star Trek."

"You like Star Trek." She told him, gesturing with a nod to his models.

"It's funny." He smiled thinly and without humour. "You hated it when we first met. You didn't really like any sci-fi."

"So what happened?" She sighed deeply, needing to know out of morbid curiosity although almost afraid to hear the answers to her questions.

"I don't know." He admitted. "You got worse and in the end it was like there was nothing of you left any more. There was nothing left but a fantasy."

"About our ship, the Corinthian?" She said softly.

"I don't really know the details." He snapped somewhat caustically, as if her words had hit a raw nerve.

"I never meant to hurt you." She told him earnestly.

"I know." He agreed with a note of deep regret.

"In my mind you're the Captain of our ship." She began with a vague expression of affection for the memory. "It's just our crew against the whole galaxy. Everyone is out to get us but we're faster and smarter than they are."

"Sounds about right..." He smiled weakly as if the gesture required considerable effort.

"I have feelings for you." She told him honestly. "I never admit it though and you never seem to notice."

"But it's not real." He told her with a look of sadness. "In reality you left everyone behind. In reality you withdrew into a dream and left everyone who loved you outside wondering what we'd all done wrong. You left us wondering how we'd hurt you, what we'd done that made you hate us all so much that you couldn't face us any more."

"No..." She shook her head as tears welled up again in her eyes and her throat tightened. "I would never do that to you."

"But you did." He told her simply.

"No..." She shook her head vigorously and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "I loved you too much. I would never do this."

"So then why?" He asked pointedly, the pain of the past beginning to surface once more now that the initial shock of seeing her began to wear off.

"Something must have happened!" She frowned. "If only I could remember..."

Captain Blake Girling paced the control room angrily. "Five hours now..." He mumbled to himself thoughtfully.

"It's getting a bit much." Haldo agreed, eyeing a cup of emergency-ration coffee suspiciously.

"I agree it's rational to suppose that their thought process is entirely different from our own." Goruss Clogg began. "However if they're traders they should be more used to dealing with other races, at least enough to know how to keep them at their ease."

"Quite." Blake agreed with a nod. "Hail them again." He instructed finally. "Tell them we wish to know what they have to trade."

"Maybe we could tell them that we have a prior engagement and would like to get under way soon." Haldo suggested with a shrug. "We wouldn't seem so rude then to be getting impatient."

"I like that!" Blake looked at him in surprise that he had any talent whatsoever in the field of negotiation, certainly none had ever presented itself before.

"Should we be worried?" Clogg asked. "I mean I can't just destroy that vessel if they attack us."

"No, of course." Blake agreed thoughtfully. "What are you thinking?"

"That maybe things are not quite what they seem." He suggested.

"Check long range scanners." Blake instructed to Haldo. "Look out for anything heading this way. Even under cloak."

"Do you know something?" WP23 called out from no place in particular. "I can modulate my scanners to penetrate their outer shielding. I can get a view of the inside of that ship if I can scan at a high enough resolution."

"You're offering to help?" Blake felt himself smile and was unable to stop it.

"I'm willing to make the best of things for now." She sneered at him. "In any case, there's more at stake here than my general dislike of you."

"Get on it." He told her, glad of every piece of help.

"This doesn't mean we're friends!" She reminded him.

"It's been a long time, Blake." Kelly said as her sister led the pair over to the car. She leant back in from the window and stepped out of the vehicle.

"Yes it has." He nodded, the pair not sharing any great sense of happiness to see one another.

"Are you ok?" She turned to Katherine and in a maternal and slightly condescending way leant into her as if to exclude Blake from the conversation.

"No." She shook her head and reached for his arm. "We were getting married. Why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you?" She looked up to his face, an expression of stony reserve. "I thought you knew. It was your idea to stay away from him once you were on the medication."

"Why would I do that?" She scowled at her meddling sister.

"Lots of reasons." She cast a caustic look at the young man. "I thought it was best for you if you weren't around a man filling your head with nonsense. He filled your head with Star Trek, it was all his fault."

"No!" She cried out angrily. "I would never believe that."

"No!" Kelly shouted back at her. "You never did. You never blamed him but you stayed away anyhow. You stayed away because you didn't want to hurt him any more than you already had."

"Kelly," Blake began in annoyance. "Do you honestly believe that because I liked a television program it caused your sister to create a psychotic fantasy until she was no longer able to discern the real world from her imagination?"

"Yes!" Kelly snapped at him, stepping closer to her sister. She closed her eyes and huffed a large sigh. "No. Of course not."

"So what really happened?" Katherine held his arm tightly as if she were afraid her turmoil of emotion might wash her away into her fantasy once more if she lost her bond to him.

"Nobody knows." Kelly admitted.

"But you said I was alright once I was on the medication." Katherine argued. "Did I never say anything?"

"You were never alright, Katherine." She told her sadly. "You were better but you were never alright. You never remembered what happened, or at least you'd never say so."

"I want to be alright." Katherine said finally, swallowing hard and standing straight, her back stiff and proud. "I want my life back, whatever that really means."

Blake and Katherine sat in the back of her sister's car as the vehicle moved quickly along the narrow lanes with her driving with an effort of pure concentration while also listening, to the best of her ability, to the conversation behind her.

"It seems so real." Katherine smiled at herself as she explained. "I walk onto the bridge of the Corinthian and it's all so real. I can hear the noises, see the lights. I can smell everything. I'm there."

"And I'm the Captain?" He smiled back as supportively as he could although such things still disturbed him greatly, as if he felt that the fantasy itself had robbed him if her.

"Yeah." She smiled broadly. "I'm not even the main character in my own fantasy."

"Is she there?" He gestured to her sister in front of them. Katherine nodded curtly. "I think so. I think a lot of people I know are there. A lot of things look the same here. Even your old bike."

"You know something..." He said thoughtfully. "I could probably buy it back." He looked at her with a look she hadn't seen in many years. "She was expensive to run and a pain in the arse to keep on the road but she was fun. I think I could probably get her back on the road one way or another."

"I think that would be fantastic." She smiled and wiped away a tear that was welling up in her eye. She sniffed loudly and looked away shyly.

"I think I'll get rid of all my Star Trek videos though." He sighed.

"But not your models?" She turned back to him.

"Oh I could never manage to bring myself to throw those out." He smiled to himself.

"Why not?" She asked.

"Because they're not mine." He told her. "They're yours."

Katherine took a deep breath, her heart seemed to skip slightly in her chest and the smile that flashed over her lips was utterly uncontrollable. She held his arm still tighter.

"And you really want to leave all this behind?" He asked. "You really want to come back?"

"I really do." She told him earnestly. "I won't lie to you. I still feel like they're out there." Her smiled vanished for an instant to be replaced with a frown. "I still feel as though somewhere the crew are out there trying to save me."

"That's ok." He told her. "I'm not looking for a miracle. It doesn't have to happen today. I just need to know it really is going to happen this time."

"Blake!" Goruss warned with a sense of urgency. "They're moving away. I'm detecting power being injected into their engines."

"Haldo?" Captain Girling turned to the engineer.

"I would guess it's a kind of series of Vulcan Warp rings." He shrugged. "I would guess they're capable of about Warp 3. They're in no shape to outrun us."

"There's a beam emitter at the front of the engines." Goruss noted. "If it feeds from the Warp engines then it could be reasonably powerful."

"But won't work at Warp." Haldo grinned. "They can't run and fight."

"WP23, any luck with scanning the interior of the vessel?" Blake asked.

"Not yet." She admitted. "The main hull is a pressure sphere made from a particularly dense amorphous crystal substance. Very difficult to scan when their shields are up."

"I could get their shields down." Goruss suggested wryly. "I don't see any problems with that."

"They're moving off." Haldo noted, pointing to the readings. "One quarter impulse and rising."

"WP23, pursue and match their velocity." Girling commanded. "Close the gap to optimum weapons range."

"No problem." She agreed. "Trying to outrun me in that ship is like trying to outrun a laser beam in a wheel-chair."

"Except not many laser beams are rusty, slightly senile and are constantly threatening to fall to pieces at the slightest provocation." Haldo reminded her.

"I think I can take out the engine with a precision phaser hit." Goruss spoke with the confidence of a consummate professional. "I don't foresee any problems."

"I can think of one!" Blake told him. "Katherine is over there. I don't want to risk firing on that ship until I have absolutely no other options."

The hospital loomed large before them. The visage of the very building was imposing with a foreboding sense of dread. There seemed no welcome built or designed into the walls, no warmth carved even by accident into the grim architecture. It stood as an edifice of doom and the three felt it as they stood in front of Kelly's car.

"I don't want to go in there." Katherine said softly, nudging herself closer to Blake.

"I don't see a choice." He told her with a heavy exhalation. "I'll be here with you." He looked over to the quiet indignation of her sister. "We'll be here." He corrected himself.

The Doctor sat facing the three across the desk. "I'm pleased you have acceded to my opinion that Katherine needs to spend some more time here among us." He said with condescending superiority.

"I'm not coming back." Katherine said firmly.

"Miss Rogers..." He began.

"We were hoping you might be able to help us." Kelly told him rather flatly. "We think something might have happened to my sister during the time between her discharge and re-admission for psychosis."

"There is nothing to indicate any incident in my records." He told her indignantly. "If something happened outside of this facility which she chose never to mention then that might be another matter."

"Is there nothing in the records to suggest that she ever spoke of any such incident?" Blake asked.

"And you are?" The doctor asked him pointedly.

"My friend." Katherine told him. "I want him here."

"No." He shook his head. "Nothing."

"Nothing happened to cause her to retreat into a fantasy so real it absorbed her entire life?" Kelly asked sarcastically.

He remained silent for a moment while he contemplated the case. "I agree," he began, "there must have been some kind of catalyst but according to her notes she never recalled what it might have been. She even refused to discuss her fantasy at any length."

"How did it start?" Blake turned to her. "The fantasy, how did it begin?"

"You died." She frowned deeply. "You were wounded fatally in the head but we found you later and you had recovered."

"What utter nonsense. I suppose anything can happen in Star Trek!" Kelly folded her arms over her chest and shook her head disapprovingly.

"I was serving aboard the Violator under Captain Faruqui." She continued, making a point to ignore her sister. "In the end he crossed the line and we escaped on the Corinthian."

"Captain Faruqui?" The Doctor looked from face to face, his eyes widening as if in alarm. "That was never in the notes."

"Is it important?" Blake looked at him curiously as the doctor fidgeted nervously. He nodded slowly and wiped away beads of sweat that were prickling at his brow.

"I don't understand." Kelly uncrossed her arms, she gazed on expectantly waiting for him to continue.

"This might be difficult." The Doctor looked squarely at Katherine, his eyes full of regret.

"Go on..." She told him, half-filled with anticipation and half afraid to hear what might be coming next. She grasped Blake's arm tightly and stole herself for the news.

He began looking through her notes, swallowed hard and straightened his glasses although they were not crooked in any case. "There was a Dr. Faruqui that worked here."

"And?" Blake asked impatiently.

"He sexually assaulted a patient." He said softly. "Once we found out two other women came forward and made similar claims."

"Oh my god!" Katherine gasped, her hand clenched over her mouth as the shock caught her.

"Captain Faruqui..." Kelly looked at her sister, her eyes unable to mask the pain. "The Violator..."

"No..." She hung her head sadly, as the pieces of her life seemed to fit finally together.

"If this indeed happened to you then it could explain why you escaped into a fantasy world." The Doctor admitted. "A world where everything can be fixed. A better world where people look after one another."

"I've got her!" WP23 cried out excitedly as she approached the alien vessel. "I can get a fix on her for transport but I'll need to knock the shields down first."

Blake turned to the security chief. "Can you do it?"

"I already set the program!" He nodded with a wry smile. "Just give the order, Captain!"

"Fire!" He nodded.

A bolt of phaser energy lashed out from her powerful cannons and tore into the alien vessel. It pulsated brightly, blue arcs licking across the hull as the shields collapsed.

"Shields are down!" Goruss Clogg announced proudly.

"They've given her a sedative." Kelly told him as she stepped up next to Blake from the private room her sister had been admitted to. "She's going to sleep for a while now."

"How was she?" He frowned in concern. "Does she seem alright?"

"Upset." She shrugged. "She still doesn't remember very much."

"Maybe it's best if she never does." Blake suggested with a sigh.

"They say not." She scratched her head. "They say that she won't recover properly unless she faces it. She needs to face everything that's happened."

"I can't believe this has happened." He said sadly. "I can't believe any of this."

"Me neither." She agreed. Kelly shifted her weight from one foot to the other awkwardly as if building up the courage to ask a difficult question. "So what now?" She said finally.

"What do you mean?" He shrugged.

"Are you going to stay around?" She asked accusingly. "Are you intending to see her again?"

"Yeah." He nodded softly. "I think so."

"Good." Kelly said finally. "I think that would be good for her."

Blake grabbed her as Ensign Rogers materialised on the bridge of WP23. She fell limply into his arms and he lowered her to the floor as Haldo jumped up to help.

"Oh my god!" He growled. "What have they done to her?"

"Do you want me to kill them?" WP23 suggested dryly. "It's no problem!"

"Phasers are set!" Goruss Clogg added.

"Let them go." He growled angrily.

"Let them go?" Haldo snapped up in surprise. "After this?"

"That's right." Blake shouted back at him. "I said let them go."

It was dark. As hard as she tried she seemed unable to adjust to the faint glow that permeated everything around her. Her mind seemed fogged as she struggled to assert her personality on her thoughts, to stamp her conscious desire on the meandering ruminations that fleetingly visited themselves on her.

Beneath her was something soft. It yielded to the form of her fatigued body, her heavy and numb muscles almost unable to move the dead weight of its own being. Her breathing was laboured and came only with a force of conscious effort.

"Where am I?" She gasped finally with her hard won breath fleeing her burning lungs.

"Safe." A voice told her. "You're safe."

"Blake?" Her eyes fluttered open.

"Yeah." He smiled back at her. "You're on WP23. You're home."

"What happened?" She groaned.

"We sent you over to visit an alien vessel." He reminded her. "We thought they were friendly but they held you captive and drugged you with some kind of hallucinogen. We think they were trying to find out who we were."

"Am I in hospital?" She asked, her voice still quite weak.

"You're on the ship." He told her. "WP23."

"And the Corinthian?" She asked. "Are you still going to buy it back?"

"Buy?" He asked, confused. "What do you mean? It was destroyed."

"Nothing." She grumbled to herself. "I just had some very strange dreams while I was over there."

"Allarn gave you something." He told her. "You'll feel better soon."

"Thanks." She smiled thinly and shut her eyes.

"You better get some rest." He told her. "I'll drop by later."
"No!" She gasped suddenly with the last fragments of her strength as the surrounding darkness began to encroach on her thoughts with a fog of total fatigue.

"Are you alright?" He leant over the bed in concern.

"Can you stay?" She groaned as her eyes fluttered closed.

The last words she heard as she drifted to sleep were from him, telling her that he would.

 

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