For what felt like the hundredth time this morning, Scott inspected the five-by-five block of hyposprays sitting before him. A push of a button drew out a quiet pneumatic hiss, telling him the mechanical functions of the sprays were working as intended; a quick visual inspection of the square plastic frame they rested in confirmed that the medical replicator was connected and working, and a quicker buff with a small microabrasive cleaning cloth made the chrome tubes shine. Twenty-five buttons, twenty-five hisses, twenty-five glances, twenty-five rubs.
He blinked blearily. Some days, Scott hated working the alpha shift. The day after a shore leave - especially one where his roommate decided to thoroughly introduce Scott to the vices and virtues of real alcohol - was definitely one of them. Especially when he was going to have to work a double shift.
The quiet clack of heels behind him made his back straighten automatically. A warm presence leaned over his shoulder, and a familiar voice said, "I think if you clean those hyposprays any harder you'll break them in two, Ensign."
Scott spun around. "Nurse Chapel!"
The unofficial mistress of the Enterprise's sickbay smiled gently and added, "I realize there's very little to do in here at this time of day, but might I suggest you devote your tender mercies to something the good doctor isn't going to be using in the next few minutes?" She looked around the room for inspiration, then suggested, "One of the biobeds, perhaps?"
"Doctor McCoy's coming down?" Scott asked, surprised. The official master of the sickbay, and Nurse Chapel's opposite in every way Scott could imagine, rarely visited sickbay so early in the day if he didn't have a patient waiting for him there. "Is someone being admitted?"
"Not exactly," Chapel hedged, glancing towards the far doors of sickbay. As if on cue, they opened up, and a whole procession of people entered the room, Dr. McCoy at their head. A couple of security officers flanked him - including Lieutenant Reyes, a friend-of-a-friend of Scott's he'd helped out a few times when her epilepsy didn't respond to standard treatment. She was nice enough, if prone to violence. It suited her career path, so Scott didn't concern himself with it. Between the officers stood two dark-haired women dressed all in black, hands bound before them - prisoners, Scott realized with a shiver of fear. He hadn't heard about a prisoner transport mission; that was unusual, considering how talkative Pavel got about things he overheard on the bridge. It must have just come in this morning.
One last member of the party walked in while Scott was studying the prisoners, another security officer, older than the rest and wearing a commander's stripes. Scott looked him over briefly, turned back to watching the women, who despite their similar coloring didn't look at all related, then quickly did a double-take when he realized he recognized the man.
"Commander," he said automatically, before looking at Scott and recognizing him in turn. "Scott? What are you doing here? Last I heard from Stiles, you were still working under Deaton."
Scott ducked his head and rubbed at the back of his neck. "Yeah, Dr. Deaton recommended me for a ship posting while I finish up my doctorate." He took in the confused (and vaguely irritated, in Dr. McCoy's case) air of the room and explained, "The commander's son and I are old friends, we shared a room at Starfleet Academy."
"How nice," Dr. McCoy said dryly. "Now, if I can break up this touching reunion, I need a full set of tests run on our guests, as well as the standard run of vaccinations given to new colonies."
The taller of the two, who seemed to be in her late twenties, looked alarmed at this. "Is that really necessary?"
"So long as you're on this ship, your medical health is the responsibility of myself and my staff, so yes," Dr. McCoy said. "I need a baseline reading to be able to judge what's gone wrong, should either of you fall ill. Assuming, of course," he said, eyeing the pair of them speculatively, "that your current health is baseline." The woman who'd spoken averted her eyes; the other, who looked closer to Scott's age, had yet to stop staring at her feet, and gave no indication that she'd heard the doctor's implied question. Accepting their lack of answer as agreement, Dr. McCoy led the prisoners to a pair of biobeds, and began taking readings from the taller one. Chapel and Scott silently agreed to split the task of the other one, with Chapel acquiring samples and Scott testing them and recording the results. The security officers lined up by the door, with the exception of Commander Stilinski, who lounged on one of the empty biobeds, watching the medical officers work.
Scott had yet to figure out some of the shortcuts Chapel and McCoy used to streamline their work, and until he was awarded his doctorate needed to double check all his results with the ship's computer; as a result, his work lagged behind the doctor's slightly. It was frustrating, but he knew that with time and experience came the sort of sharp eye he was longing for. While the computer ran the prisoner's blood work, Scott took the opportunity to properly look at her for the first time.
She had long, wavy hair that looked soft to the touch, a solemn expression making an otherwise pretty face hard and cold, and constantly half-lidded eyes that would be gorgeous if they weren't so incredibly sad. A feeling that was not entirely wise twisted in his gut, and Scott firmly squashed it down. She was a prisoner, or at the very least a suspect in a serious crime. Not the kind of person a Starfleet officer should be interested in.
The computer beeped, jolting Scott out of his pondering, and at his request read off the results it had gotten. Scott frowned, comparing those numbers to the ones he had gotten. He was only accurate to two decimal places, an unacceptable amount of error in biological readings. He sighed, and Chapel looked up from where she was applying a vaccination-filled hypospray to the prisoner's arm. The moment's distraction made her aim off, and she depressed the hypospray at the wrong time, causing far more pain than was typical. The prisoner winced, but otherwise didn't react.
"I'm sorry, dear," Chapel apologized when she looked wary of the next hypospray. "It really shouldn't hurt like that, that was my mistake."
The other prisoner, rubbing at her arm, glanced over. "It shouldn't?"
Chapel sighed. "Dr. McCoy, really," she said chastisingly. "There's no need to rush."
The doctor, who was staring bewildered at his PADD, slowly said, "You may be right, Christine." He pulled out a fresh set of tests and made the prisoner lie back on the biobed. She obeyed reluctantly, still confused.
"I thought you already did those."
"Well clearly I need to redo them, because these results don't make any sense!" He frowned at the prisoner, glancing quickly between her and his PADD. "You are Laura Hale, right? From the human colony New Gévaudan?" He put an emphasis on the word human that Scott found curious.
The prisoner sucked in a breath harshly. "My name is Laura Hale, yes." She started to say more, but a cry of pain ripped out of her instead. Her hands flew to her temples, and her legs curled up against her stomach protectively. Commander Stilinski got to his feet, alarmed. Nurse Chapel ran to Laura's side, a hypospray of pain reliever already in hand, and Dr. McCoy pulled up one of the advanced medical scanners, but Scott, who'd suddenly developed a bit of a headache himself, thought he might know what was going on.
He joined Chapel at Laura's side, inspected her pupil dilation, and checked a few lines from the preliminary scan Dr. McCoy had already run. "Doctor, I think she's warp-sensitive," he suggested. Dr. McCoy paused, hand frozen in the act of pressing a button on the scanner, and considered that while Chapel applied the pain reliever.
He walked over to one of the wall communicators and opened a channel. "McCoy to bridge."
After a moment, the communicator beeped, and the captain's voice said, "Bridge here. What is it, Bones?"
"Did we just go into warp?"
"Yes," he said after a confused silence. "Why do you ask?"
"Never mind," Dr. McCoy said shortly. "McCoy out." He shut off the communicator and looked at Scott, an unfamiliar expression on his face. After a moment, Scott realized the expression was impressed. "Nice work, McCall," he said, voice almost approving. "How'd you know?"
Scott gestured to himself. "I'm a bit warp-sensitive myself. Not as much as she is, obviously, but the timing of the attack made me suspect."
"Well, she's more sensitive than anyone I've ever seen before in my life, but the symptoms check out. Nurse, give her - " Dr. McCoy cut himself off when he saw Chapel had already done so. "You sure you're not some kind of mind-reader, Chapel?" he joked. She said nothing, only smiling to herself as she returned to her original patient and applied the final vaccination. Scott offered her the PADD of results, which she inspected carefully, laughing when she reached his comments about the computer's results and his comparative inaccuracy.
"Don't worry, Ensign," she said in a tone somewhere between reassuring and teasing, "you'll learn to calculate that hundredths-place accurately in your head in time." He ducked his head sheepishly. Chapel continued, speaking to their prisoner-patient. "And as for you, Allison Argent, everything looks to be in order. We can have one of the security officers take you down to a holding cell now, or you can wait here for your..." Before she could finish speaking, the prisoner - Allison, her name was Allison - had already stood up and walked over to the door. "Oh. Take care," Chapel said weakly. After so much non-responsiveness, the sudden motion had caught her, and the rest of the room if Lt. Reyes's wide eyes were anything to go by, off guard.
At a nod from Commander Stilinski, Lt. Reyes and another officer with lieutenant's stripes Scott didn't know walked Allison out the door, leading her to the elevators that would take her down, down, down to the holding cells in the belly of the ship, where she'd sit and wait, alone but for whoever was unlucky enough to catch guard duty that shift, for however long it would take the Enterprise to get her to wherever she was being taken, and that was just -
Darn it, those unwise twisty feelings were back in his stomach. Watching her go, Scott suspected that they had never left.
After the end of beta shift, Scott was torn between going down to the holding cells to see Allison again and doing something that was not a terrible idea. Indecision eventually lost to his heavy eyelids and sleep-deprived brain, and he found his way back to his room.
His roommate was there, working on three different PADDs at once. Scott thought of himself as fairly intelligent - you had to be, to be a doctor or in Starfleet, let alone a Starfleet doctor - but literally everything Pavel worked on went over his head. It was a lucky thing Scott wasn't one to get insecure about his intelligence, or Pavel might have inadvertently ground his self-esteem into paste under his shoe. Pavel waved absently as Scott walked in, finished saying something aloud in Russian - probably for his personal log, since professional work had to be done in Standard - and added some final notes to one of the PADDs before he saved the file and turned to look at Scott properly.
He cursed - again, in Russian, out of a habit he'd told Scott one of his grandmothers had gotten him into as a child: Never say anything bad about a person in a language they can understand. "McCall, you look awful."
"Thanks, Pavel," Scott said dully, changing out of uniform.
"No, really, I mean it," he insisted.
"So do I. If it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have had to work a double shift with a hangover."
Pavel winced. "A double? With Dr. McCoy there?"
"Practically the whole time." Scott rummaged through his drawers, looking for clothes to sleep in. He knew most people on the ship just replicated whatever was in fashion, but his abuela had given him real, homemade pajamas when he entered the Academy. She'd said he would need something warm to wear in space, and he found he preferred to wear them whenever he was particularly exhausted. They made him feel safe. "He kept redoing the tests he'd run on one of the prisoners we're carrying."
Pavel perked up. "Oh, you know about that?"
"I helped run some of the tests on the other one," Scott said. Ah, there they were. He pulled them on and laid down on his bed. "But I don't know anything else about them. What's going on there?"
Pavel made a hesitant sound. "Well, I really shouldn't say. It's all very 'hush-hush' by the sound of it."
Scott rolled his eyes and waited.
After a significant pause, Pavel relented, "But, I suppose so long as you promise not to tell..."
"You know I won't, Pavel." They'd done this song and dance more times than Scott could count.
"Then, I suppose I can tell you." Pavel leaned towards him conspiratorially. "It seems that the colony of New Gévaudan has collapsed."
"Collapsed?" Scott sat up, properly interested now. "How? A food shortage, like Tarsus - "
"Nobody knows!" Pavel was all but wriggling in his seat from the excitement. "All they know is, when the Saratoga arrived to do the yearly colony inspection, all but two were dead. Most of them looked to have gone peacefully, but the last few - all of them from one of two families - went bloody."
A chill set in Scott's stomach. "Murdered?"
Pavel shrugged. "Who can say?"
"You said "bloody"."
"So I did," Pavel admitted, grinning. Scott wasn't surprised; he did like bloodier stories. "Anyway, the only ones left were those two women, one from each family."
"The Hales and the Argents."
"Right. And neither of them will talk about what happened, so until the Saratoga is done with their investigation into the deaths, they're both being held on suspicions of... well. You know."
Something eased in Scott's throat. "But nobody knows for sure, right?"
Pavel frowned at him. "Well, yes, but why would they say nothing, if they were not guilty of something?"
Scott thought about that, and all at once realized something that had been bothering him absently throughout the day. "Allison never spoke."
"Allison Argent, the one closer to our age. She never spoke, not once."
"So you are thinking...?"
"I don't know!" Scott ran a hand through his hair, frustrated. He was too tired to work this out properly. He fell back with a heavy flop, head bouncing against his pillow. "Just... maybe it's not that she won't. Maybe she can't."
If Pavel said anything more, Scott fell asleep before he did.
The next day, he divided his time between 1) looking into the New Gévaudan situation as much as his clearance level allowed, 2) beta shift with Dr. M'Benga, 3) trying to convince himself not to visit Allison after beta shift ended. One turned up little more detail than Pavel had provided, frustratingly. Two went well - he loved working with Dr. M'Benga, whose xenobiological knowledge was more specified than Dr. McCoy's, being focused just on Vulcans (and therefore also Romulans). He didn't learn things that were widely applicable, but should he and an injured Commander Spock ever be trapped in a turbolift together, he was more than adequately prepared to assist. Three...
Three failed completely.
Lt. Reyes was the security officer on duty. When he explained why he was there, her grin showed more teeth than Scott was comfortable with, but she let him through without commenting on it.
He found Nurse Chapel there, administering another pain reliever to Laura Hale. Apparently her warp-sensitivity hadn't eased up after a few hours the way Scott's did. Although, thinking back to how bad her initial reaction was, he supposed that maybe it had eased up. He felt momentarily sorry for her, then remembered what he'd read about just how much blood she'd been covered in when the Saratoga found her running through the woods, snarling and vicious and generally making herself seem feral. Allison had been just as bloody, but in contrast almost cataleptic, sitting next to one of the bodies (identification still in process as of the Saratoga's last update) and staring blankly into space.
Scott was pretty sure he was biased, but that didn't stop Laura from looking like the more suspicious of the pair of them.
He approached the holding cells warily, nodding to Nurse Chapel as she left. He watched the force field spring back into place, an assurance that if she was the killer, he was safe from her for the moment. He turned his attention to the next cell over, where Allison sat, staring at some point on the floor.
"Hi," he said cautiously. "I don't know if you remember me, from yesterday. My name's Scott." She said nothing; her head didn't move, and her eyes stayed right where they were, staring at whatever she found so captivating. "Right." Scott shuffled around on his feet. Though she didn't say a word, he could tell Lt. Reyes was amused, watching him. He could practically feel her holding back laughter, and he felt so ridiculous right now he could hardly blame her. "I just - I noticed you yesterday, and I wanted to make sure... you were doing alright down here. I mean, not alright, but as well as could be expected, considering." He felt his face heat up. Smooth move Scott, mentioning that you know her whole family's dead and she's suspected of killing some of them. Why don't you just finish the job and ask whose body she was standing over when they found her?
"She won't answer you," a pained voice said from the other cell. Laura was still lying on her side, but her eyes were open; the pain relievers looked to have given her some clarity of thought. "She hasn't spoken since..." she trailed off, voice going thick from a different source of pain.
"I know." And Scott immediately felt bad again. She'd lost her whole family too; reacting to it in a different way didn't make her a bad person. Though maybe it made Scott a bad person to think that about her. "I thought I'd try anyway." He squinted, trying to give her a medical once-over, but from a distance (and through the force field) it was hard to do. "How are you feeling?"
Laura made a noise that sounded like it was trying to be a laugh, but hurt too much to come out right. "Not alright, but as well as could be expected, considering." He flushed at his own words being thrown back in his face.
"No, I mean the warp-sensitivity. The headaches, muscle cramps, are they - have they gotten any better?"
She slowly shifted on the bench, groaning slightly with the movement. "Not really. But this is hardly your typical warp-sensitivity; I wasn't expecting it to improve."
Now that was interesting. "You weren't?"
"Nah. It's a family thing. My parents helped colonized New Gévaudan before I was born, but they told us stories about how much the trip out hurt." She shrugged, an attempt at a grin turning into a grimace. "Anything above light speed disagrees with us. I... don't know why."
"And nobody ever looked into it?" Scott wondered. That sounded like the kind of phenomenon a medical researcher would pounce on; it was even appealing to him, and he by far preferred patient care to research. She stayed silent, shrugging again. "Well, we'll be out of warp tomorrow. So it won't be that much longer. Just one more day."
"One more day," she said. "And then I'll be on Starbase 109, awaiting trial." She spat out the word trial like it was supposed to be a joke but she didn't find it very amusing. Scott's thoughts jumped to Stiles - wasn't he working on Starbase 109 these days? - then to his father, apparently the man in charge of if not their case at least their containment, and back to Allison.
"I know why she hasn't said anything," he said, "but why haven't you? If you didn't do it, you've got no reason to keep quiet."
Laura had gone very, very still. "You know nothing about me. Don't judge my decisions." With that, she turned so her back was to the force field and would say no more.
"I'm telling you, Pavel," Scott said at breakfast the next day, "there's something they're not telling us."
"And I am not arguing with you," Pavel said, eating at a comparatively sedate pace. Which was to say, he bothered to swallow between bites of food. "I am simply thinking - well, yes. They are not telling us how or why or even if they killed their families."
"And I'm telling you," Scott insisted, "it's something bigger than that."
"What could be bigger than covering up murder?" Pavel cried, throwing a hand in the air.
"I - " Scott sighed. "I don't know." He finished up his food as quickly as he could manage; he had alpha shift again today, and with nearly two dozen officers and NCOs being rushed to sickbay due to a minor explosion down in Engineering, it was sure to be a busy one. He stuffed the last of it in his mouth and managed to say, "I'll see you later, Pavel," as he dashed out of the room. Pavel waved, though whether it was to Scott or to Lieutenant Sulu, who'd just walked into the mess, was hard to say.
Scott was right about it being a busy shift; the worst of the injuries were being taken care of in surgery by Dr. McCoy, two other doctors, and a dozen nurses, leaving the minor burns and bruises to be treated by Scott alone. He ran from patient to patient, barely taking the time to ask what hurt worst before he began treatment. The hours flew past, and before he knew it Dr. McCoy was out of surgery and relieving him of duty. As he left, he passed Nurse Chapel coming in, who grabbed him and asked a favor; she was supposed to bring Laura another of the pain reliever hyposprays, but with all the burn patients Chapel couldn't really be spared from sickbay, and did Scott think he could...?
He accepted right away, and told himself it was because he wanted to apologize to Laura. A twisting sensation at the bottom of his stomach said otherwise.
Lt. Reyes was on duty again; Scott had a feeling she owed a coworker a favor, or had lost a bet very badly very recently. She didn't grin today, just lowering the force field when he told her why he was there. Laura didn't say a word as he treated her, not even when he quietly said, "I'm sorry for what I said yesterday." She just looked away. He waited until he'd left her cell and the force field was down again to add, "You were right. I don't know you. Maybe you don't actually know anything about what happened. Or maybe you're protecting someone. It isn't important."
Very quietly, she said, "Yes it is."
Before Scott could ask her what she meant, Lt. Reyes said, "Hey, McCall, can you watch my post for a second?" She gestured towards the lavatories down the hall. "I was supposed to have a someone replace me by now, but he never showed up. Probably in sickbay," she muttered. Scott said yes, and sat down at her station after she left.
Squeezing his eyes shut he rubbed at his temples, feeling a headache coming on. Hoping she'd elaborate, he looked up at Laura, but she shook her head. "I'm still not saying anything. But my reason is important. It's the most important thing in the world." And then she twitched twice, curled up into a ball, and screamed.
They must be coming out of warp.
Of course the warp-sensitivity would get worse for her when they shifted back to light speed. Scott wished he'd thought to bring a second hypospray.
And then her scream turned into a snarl, and her hands turned into claws, and he was falling out of Lt. Reyes's chair in shock and not thinking much of anything at all, except perhaps a giant blinking question mark. When he scrambled back to his feet, it was to see Laura sitting upright, apparently totally fine but for the claws and - were those fangs? And what happened to her face? Were her eyes actually glowing red?
"So that was real," Allison breathed.
Scott didn't realize what had happened for a moment, caught up in his worldview being shaken. But sure enough, Allison had spoken. She was standing as close to the force field as she could manage, standing at the corner of her cell that bordered Laura's. Laura shut her eyes for a minute, breathed deeply in a pattern that looked like meditation, and when she opened her eyes again the claws and fangs and extra hair and glowing eyes - all of that was gone.
"Yes," she said quietly. "That was real."
"I thought I'd imagined it, that I'd imagined that whole day."
Scott boggled. "What are you?" Laura winced, and when he realized what he'd said he immediately scrambled to rephrase. "Not - not like - I mean, are you a new kind of alien? I haven't finished reading Dr. McCoy's xenobiology textbook, so you might just be one I haven't gotten to yet - but I've never heard of a species as sensitive to warp speeds as you are. What do you call your species? Is this a Prime Directive situation? Oh man," he said, panicking, running a frantic hand through his hair, "I always skimmed over that stuff at the Academy, I don't know what to do here!" Then he stopped short, because.
Because Laura was laughing. "Sorry," she said once she'd calmed down. "That's just not one I've heard before. I'm not an alien, I'm a werewolf. My whole family was full of werewolves."
Werewolves? Scott... Scott needed to sit down. Allison sat down too, looking shaken. "And mine was full of werewolf hunters. At least, I think - something my aunt told me, that day... I think she was trying to get me to be one too. And then... your uncle said my aunt killed your whole family, humans and kids and all. And she didn't deny it. And when he - she managed to hurt him enough, poison or something, that he died before he could kill me too."
The laughter had left Laura's face. "Argents have been killing Hales since the original Gévaudan, in Ancient France. But we can't - this has to stay a secret," she begged, and Scott realized with a start that she was begging him. "That's why I haven't said anything, no one can know about - about me. Someone in the Federation, at Starfleet Medical or something, they'd turn me into a test subject, experiment on me, and I can't - "
"They wouldn't - " Scott started to protest automatically, then faltered. Hadn't he been thinking only yesterday how interesting it would be to study Laura's family's warp-sensitivity? He wouldn't have called it experimentation, but how else could you get results? He felt vaguely nauseous. "I won't tell anybody."
"Thank you," Laura said, "but I don't think it'll do much good. Once they've got me on the starbase, with round the clock twenty-eight hour surveillance, there's no way they won't find out eventually. When large satellites are in certain positions relative to me, I can't control it - the change. I transform involuntarily."
Realization lit up in Scott's mind. "That explains the references to the moon in old Earth folklore! So is that why warp hurts you so much?"
"I think so, I'm not sure." Laura approached the wall of her cell bordering Allison's. "What about you? Are you going to tell?"
"No!" Allison said, too quickly. "I - no. No offense, but I never want to hear the word "werewolf" ever again." She grimaced. "Or "hunter". Or "Federation"." Scott felt a sad little jolt at that. "Coming to this colony got my family killed just as sure as if the ship had crashed en route. The Federation official on the governing board of the colony didn't do a thing to help when people started getting sick. And when the were... when the Hales and Argents started panicking, he just made things worse." She shivered, remembering. "No, I won't tell Starfleet or the Federation anything. Except that I want to leave."
Laura snorted. "Yeah, I hear you. But we can't exactly leave while we're murder suspects."
But Scott's head was buzzing with ideas. A plan was formulating. "Yes you can."
"What?" both women said simultaneously.
"I've got a friend on that starbase we're headed for - Commander Stilinski's son," Scott said excitedly. "He can distract his dad, he's got loads of practice doing that, and you guys can escape. Buy a ticket on a ship headed anywhere, there's got to be at least one headed out of the Federation."
"And you're sure he'll do this for us," Laura said doubtfully.
"He'll do it if I ask him to," Scott confirmed. "I'll just, I don't know, I'll tell him I've fallen in love with a criminal and I'm helping her escape custody. He loves that kind of stuff. And besides," he shrugged, blushing slightly, "it's mostly true."
Allison stared at him, eyes wide, and burst into a smile. She was even more beautiful than he'd imagined.