Dr. Faina Stanley followed her escort down the beige corridors of the Tyee. She was listening intently as Lt. Commander Wren caught her up on current events, yet a part of her was detached, the situation seeming to become more surreal with each step.
Commander Jodahn had ordered a Rhotaurian vessel destroyed without explicit evidence of danger to his crew. He hadn’t even consulted scans, or considered simply retreating to a safe distance instead. Dev wouldn’t act like that.
Commander Jodahn had evidently taken the Rhotaurian probe’s quantum resonator and implanted it into his leg on his own, without medical clearance or much care. He had evaded her own questions and drugged her, stuffing her into a stasis pod. Dev wouldn’t act like that.
Commander Jodahn had allegedly sabotaged the fabrication systems to send technology back in time, tampering with history and damaging his own ship in the process. Dev wouldn’t act like that.
Commander Jodahn had come onto the bridge armed and nearly committed suicide when his crew successfully tried to stop him. He had to be quarantined in sickbay and protocols for potential self-harm were in place. Dev would never act like that.
As the doors to sickbay hissed open, Stanley was prepared to see a monster. Perhaps some physical deformation, a sign of the alien influence that had forced him to do these terrible things. But it was just him, the same man smiling sheepishly at her as on the day they’d reunited several months ago.
He rose and rushed to the boundary of the containment field.
“Faina! Are you alright? I … I didn’t want you to be involved in this. I can’t lose you. Please, I’m so sorry. What can I do to make it up to you?”
Stanley slowly approached the quarantined area. She felt her eyes begin to sting with tears and worked very hard to keep her voice even.
“All I want,” she murmured, “is an explanation.”
Jodahn lowered his head.
“I knew they might suspect you were helping me. I needed to keep you safe. I would have come back for you, but … listen, they’re probably not going to let me out of here. You need to get away now. Go back to Daystrom. Just as long as you’re alright, it doesn’t matter. Forget me, my job is done.”
“Your … job?” she hissed. “Your—what was it—your battle? Did you win?”
“It doesn’t matter now,” Jodahn shook his head. “Please, just go and be safe.”
“Oh dear. It doesn’t matter, eh? Since when did you start thinking I didn’t care two squats about you?” Stanley glowered and chuckled derisively. “No. You’re not Dev—”
“Don’t say that.”
“You’re someone else now, aren’t you? That … that thing on your leg is your new mind, isn’t it?”
“I’m all here, Faina,” Jodahn growled, becoming impatient. “Every memory, every skill; none of that has changed. I’m just … I’m more. Now I’m Kaladu.”
Stanley shook her head. “Now you’re scaring me.”
“I can live with that. I can even accept the fact that we’ll never see each other again, just as long as you’re okay. I’ve sacrificed too much to win this war, and I couldn’t—”
“War?” she scoffed.
Jodahn clamped his mouth shut and glanced to the floor.
“Indeed, you win,” Stanley choked. “I’ll leave. I’ll leave and I’ll hope to never see you again, Kaladu.”
Stanley rushed to the exit, hands clamped over her ears to block out the sound of Jodahn screaming after her. Then there was sizzling—he must have started pounding against the containment field. She fled into the corridor, rounded and collapsed onto the floor.
Through her tears, she hadn’t noticed the pair of startled cadets nearby who watched wide-eyed. By the time one of them had worked up the courage to approach her and ask what was the matter, the door to sickbay opened again. Wren stepped out, saw the scene, and hastily dismissed the cadets.
“Well, damn,” the first officer combed through her hair as if she’d been out in the wind, then left her hands laced around her neck. She approached Stanley with a chummy smirk. “That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten to order a commanding officer doused with anesthezine.” Wren quirked an eyebrow when she saw her attempted levity had only garnered a bleary-eyed glare from Stanley. "Not funny, huh?”
The professor slowly rose. “I don’t care what it takes, commander,” Stanley said. “Get Dev back.”
Wren dropped her arms and answered curtly, “We’ll consider it.”
“And then we may also want to consider this war of his. Dev would never obsess over a war. I’m afraid I don’t follow politics, but the Federation isn’t waging any wars he’d be involved in, are we?”
“Mm, no,” mused Wren. “But perhaps … perhaps we should take a closer look at what’s been going on at Rho Tauri.”