Stanley lay propped up a several large plump pillows, ordered by the captain as soon as Stanley had started to come to after succumbing to fatigue in the corridor outside the mess hall. The captain also tenderly placed one of Stanley's scarves around him as he carefully fussed over the strange being.
Looking on in bewilderment, Jex, Noah and Sebastian shifted uncomfortably as Monroe shooed them back from the bio bed to check some more scans. When McGregor turned angrily at the interruption, Monroe scowled in return brokering no response from the captain. The entire scene confusing the heck out of the ensigns, none of whom expected to see McGregor act so caring and compassionately to one of his crew.
"I am feeling much better now captain." Stanley tried to reassure McGregor, but his double layered eyelids blinked and drooped with weariness, belying the lie.
"Just lie back and take it easy Stan. Monroe will sort you out. There's a good lad."
Stanley complied to close his eyes only to open them again alerted by the medical infirmary doors opening to admit a hurried Cartwright, an almost worried Dexter and the grim but stoic personage of Rah. Their entrance causing the trio of ensigns to step further back.
Cartwright was quick of the mark as she approached the bio bed and squeezed Stanley thin, bony webbed hands. "Is he alright? Did he have a vision?"
Caleb Dexter the chief of security stepped up close to the bio bed looking nervous and worried. His arms trying to find a place to be, he tried to cross them but leaned instead on the bio bed looking at McGregor and not the frail form of Stanley.
Monroe in soothing tones reassured them that Stanley was alright. She also asked them all to back off and give him space. "Be that as it may doc, we need to know if Mnu has a portent of some danger that might be imminent."
"Don't lecture me Caleb. I'm the doctor. And if you're so worried about imminent danger then you ought not to have abandoned the bridge so readily."
"T'Vel remained on the bridge and the Chief was headed there too." McGregor looked up happily at that piece of news. "So what did he say?"
"Nothing yet. We've been more concerned about checking him out to interrogate Stanley." Monroe pursed her lips and bowed her head defiantly. Her demeanour telling Caleb not to push the matter. "Apart from what he initially said, he's said little else. Question Cutler as to what he said and give us a moment before you drill Stanley."
McGregor stayed by Stanley's side with Rah stepping closer too, but folding his arm and remaining aloof. His amber eyes meeting McGregor's and wordless they shared some unknown meaning with the look, before returning their attention to Stanley. Molly stepped back and approached Cutler and the others with Caleb. With his hands on his hips he made an intimidating figure in front of Noah.
"What did he say kid?"
Noah shrugged. "It was all a babble. None of it made much sense."
"What did he say? Not your opinion on its worth." Caleb glowered. Molly stepped closer, placing a calming hand on the security officer.
In more soothing tones she asked, "Of what you could make out, what did he say. It might seem fragmented and confusing but Stanley's," she paused to search for the best word, "... visions ... can be very useful and insightful. They have often warned us of trouble. So whatever you can tell will prove helpful in some manner."
Sebastian blurted out, "You mean to say he's had these before?"
"Yes but now is not the time to consider the history of it. Ensign Cutler, what did Stanley say?"
"Well ok then." Noah fumbled trying to recollect as accurately as he could. "He talked of flames. And ... death. He said something about the ship being hunted by a pack of wolves. It didn't make much sense."
"It doesn't always." Molly mused, stroking her chin thoughtfully as she explained. "Sometimes the phrases he speaks are more interpretations of what Stanley has seen. But the nature of the visions means he can not always recollect the specific details or express what he is actually seeing. He doesn't mean actual wolves but an enemy."
"A pack hunting us implies more than one enemy." Caleb concluded.
"T'Hos no doubt, garnering allies in his bid to exact his revenge." McGregor spoke darkly as he reluctantly left Stanley's bedside. Rah remaining, standing over in a silent vigil. "The slimy bastard when I get him."
Molly countered, "Don't be presumptuous Captain. It may not be T'Hos."
"Of course it is Molly. He's so twisted and maddened he's going to try and take us head on. But he's not dumb enough to try such a move alone. He's going to try and get some of his Fien comrades to support him in his plan. Still stupid but not entirely suicidal."
"We had best make preparations for such an assault then Captain." All turned to meet the cool voice of T'Vel stood at the doorway. Her hands clasped behind her back, her demeanour calm and imposing. Her rock solid stance and presence emanated through the room. "An attack on several fronts precipitates our taking precautions and being prepared."
"I won't argue with that T'Vel. Trust me when I say we will be prepared. Starting with tomorrow, isn't that right Miss Jex?" The captain turned and levelled his gaze on the Trill.
"Yes sir." She agreed, tearing her eyes away from T'Vel's haughty presence. In a room filled with the formidable figures and personalities of McGregor, Dexter, Cartwright and Rah, it seemed improbable that any one could enter the room and dominate it so forcibly. But the Trill had to admit that T'Vel, at this moment in time, did just that. Her serenity and agelessness, coupled with her alluring beauty and stance, demanded attention. Jex admitted to herself the Vulcan's mere presence enthralled her. Something suggesting indeed that this was no mere Vulcan.
Building up his bravado again, McGregor declared confidently, "We know when T'Hos will attack and now we know he'll do so in numbers."
Molly rounded on the Captain. "You needn't be so flippant about the matter McGregor. You only can presume that you know what T'Hos is thinking and planning."
With some considerable swagger, McGregor riposted forcibly. "I do declare that I do know. I know how he thinks. Now might I suggest we discuss our preparations and drills before the time?"
Caleb was a little derogatory as he remarked, "Yes you know when he'll attack and you claim to know who his inside man is?"
"I think this conversation is best held among senior officers only." T'Vel announced turning her intense look upon the three ensigns. The three of them had remained tight-lipped, engrossed in the spectacle around them.
"You have a point there Lt. Commander. Excuse us, won't you ensigns?" Molly approached them.
McGregor shouted at their retreating forms. "Don't forget the party in the lounge!"
As he passed T'Vel, Noah also couldn't help but be entranced by her presence. All the more marked by the difference in when he had seen her last, drunk and incapacitated on Aubrellis. "Ensign?"
He gulped. "It's nothing. Sorry to stare." He said, continuing to stare as he walked out the door.
The three ensigns looked on as the doors closed on the tableau of the senior officers waiting to pick up their discussion and all of them watching the ensigns carefully. When the doors closed the three of them felt like exhaling deeply a sigh of relief. Trying to lighten the mood but also stating a bald fact, Jex remarked, "That was fairly intense and bizarre."
Noah could only agree, almost breathlessly. "Yeah."
"It doesn't sound right that's for sure." Sebastian concluded aloud.
* * *
As the doors had closed, T'Vel turned with her eyes penetrating and deep. "Whom was Mnu touching when he had the vision?"
Caleb nodded his head as if to point in Noah's direction. "The kid."
T'Vel raised an eyebrow in contemplative thought as she looked back in the direction of the door, as if she could see through it. "Should he be warned?"
Monroe rushed to defensively declare, "Not everything Stanley sees comes to pass. We've managed to avert them before. It means nothing. Cutler will be fine. So long as we are prepared and ready."
Molly wore a more worried face. "Stanley's warning put us all in danger. The ensign alone is not in danger. We all face death and flames." She looked accusingly at McGregor. "All of us together face T'Hos's wrath."
Balling her fists, Monroe stated quietly but with steel in her voice, "All the more reason to be ready then."
"Yeah," Caleb agreed. But he turned to sneer, "but there's still always a price of blood to be paid with Stanley's visions."
* * *
"Well are we going to this party or not guys?"
"I appreciate you trying to make light of the situation Jex but I'm a little freaked out by what happened. I'd sooner just call it a day." Noah shirked off her jovial efforts and started back towards his cabin.
Calling after him, she pleaded, "Noah. Come on."
"No seriously Leoni. Bye." With that, he gave a half-hearted wave. With the use of her first name, she knew she had lost any chance of convincing him.
"Leave him be."
Jex turned on Sebastian. "Why should I?"
"Because he needs to learn sooner rather than later to grow a pair and to not run around half-scared most of the time and the rest of the time scared."
"Is that your experienced opinion?"
"For what it is worth, yeah. And if you've all those life times of experience to draw upon then you know better too." He turned in the bulky suit to make for the airlock to rid himself of the attire.
Jex followed. "Why do you say that?"
Sebastian grimaced at being pursued. "Your other hosts are sure to tell you that a newly polished ensign who walks around as nervous and as unsure as him ends up getting himself or others killed."
Jex swatted him hard on the shoulder as he walked away. Her hand hitting the tough EVA suit hard. Immediately, she winced in pain, throwing her hand under her armpit to quash the pain. "Why do you say that?"
He stopped and questioned her harshly. "Don't you know? He's a walking time bomb. He hesitates and he quivers at every new turn of events. We're serving on a Border Patrol vessel not a luxury liner. Maybe he should have signed up to be steward or something."
"It's the truth; unless he toughens up he's going to be washed out in less than a year." He added darkly, "If he survives that long." Sebastian started walking again in cumbersome steps. Jex looked at him appalled.
"You're letting Mnu - Stanley's- vision, scare you now."
"It's not hocus pocus. It's hard facts learned by history. You know it too. You said your past hosts served in Starfleet. Don't they recognise the type? Wet behind the ears ensign who blunders into an accident and gets himself killed."
Jex shook her head angrily. Mostly because she knew his words had a certain truth. "No, no. He's just learning. He never expected to be on border patrol. He just has to get his head around it. What makes you such an expert anyway? You washed out before trying your hand at border patrol duties."
"That's pretty much it."
"Enough of the swagger. Just answer me plain. You protest that Noah is going to get himself killed or others as if you're some kind of authority on good command practice. The model officer. The silver spooned Admiral's boy. So please enlighten me."
He angrily retorted, spittle flying and face red, "Because I killed the likes of him!"
The violence of his words rocked Jex. She staggered backwards even as Sebastian ran a hand through his hair embarrassed and angry at admitting the truth of his past.
"Cut it out. Becca Swift has badmouthed me to enough people for you to know the ins and out. I'm not going to stand here and try to defend myself."
Something about his frank honesty made the bravado fall away and Jex saw that Sebastian in reality was alone and hurting. She offered softly, "Look if you want to talk about it."
This only served to raise his anger. "No I don't!"
"Fine!" Jex shouted back before calming herself, taking a deep breath in a deliberate attempt to do so. "However, your side deserves to be heard too. I mean for all your talk about Noah, you too are cutting yourself off from the crew. You are hiding yourself away in some sort of self-imposed exile." She added in realisation after his outburst. "I dare say punishing yourself."
In a snarky tone he replied, "Enough of the analysis. Didn't you hear the captain? The captain sold the last ship's counsellor."
"A minute ago you were the one giving me advice about Noah. Dole it out but won't accept it. Huh. Fine. All I will say is that you haven't made much of an effort to get to know other onboard apart from the security team. Maybe you need to realise that you need some friends to fight your corner too." She smirked and then trotted away in the opposite direction.
"Wait." He called after her. Jex stopped surprised and turned to face him again. "Maybe I was wrong. Don't leave the ensign to his own devices. He needs to be cheered up and have company."
"Thanks. That's what I was going to do."
He gave what might have been a shrug but the EVA suit absorbed and masked much of the subtle movement. "Figured as much."
She playfully rejoined with a genuine smile on her face, "Who is doing an analysis now?"
He smirked back before catching himself. To account for himself he added, "Still he needs to toughen up." Then he started once more on his way to the airlock. Jex watched him go for a moment before heading off herself to catch up with Noah.
* * *
Jex caught up with him near to his room. Noah was stood in front of a window port looking out at the passing stars. Lost in thought she broke his reverie. "Sorry. I know you wanted to be left alone but I couldn't just leave you."
"For crying out loud Jex. Can't you let a matter rest?" Jex's face showed how stricken she was by his anger. Immediately his anger dissipated upon seeing her hurt expression. "Sorry Jex. You're right. I'm just a ... dolt."
"A moron, a fool, a prig, a ..."
"I get the idea. Sorry truly." Then by way of apologising, he beckoned to his door ahead. "Are you coming in? We can watch some of those old movies you like so much. I'll even replicate you some popcorn with ... toffee right?"
"I thought you hated the smell of popcorn?"
"Yeah I do but ... a small sacrifice for your company." She elbowed him in the ribs.
"Watch it! And you had better believe it. But I get to choose the movie."
The doors to the quarters opened. Lying up on the sofa lay Noah's elusive room-mate.
"I don't believe it!"
A lip curled in disgust the roommate snarled, "You don't believe it! I bloody well can't bear the thought of it."
His room-mate was none other than Ronak!
* * *