I’ve just returned from visiting Soriedem in Sick Bay. The doctor reported that he had no idea how this happened to Sori; let alone how to reverse it. However, he did confirm that his brain patterns matched those of my lifemate, with the exception of those belonging to his t’O.
When the tiny creature that binds all Tobarri together was mentioned, Sori crumbled emotionally. He wept openly at the loss of his lifelong companion. I couldn’t imagine being without my t’O; its familiar moods; its twinges of emotion; its connection with all Tobarri, past and present; our history and collective knowledge; our hope for the future. I tried to comfort him, but there wasn’t anything I could say or do to help him through this. I simply looked into those alien eyes of his, laid my hand tenderly on his arm, and nodded reassuringly. I needed to fix this. I left him in sick bay to rest.
Back in my quarters, I prompted my t’O to reestablish communication with Sori’s body. His t’O was still frightened and angry and fighting the alien consciousness that controlled the body it shared. However, once I shared with it the news that Soriedem was with me and we were coming to rescue it, it settled down a bit. Through flashes of memory, colors of emotion, and glimpses of metaphor; we communicated. I will try to explain our communication in terms that non-Tobarri will understand.
Our first question was whether the alien was aware of its presence. It replied that the thief suspected something was wrong, but didn’t know specifically what was happening. Next, we asked if it had access to the alien’s mind. It said that it could implant suggestions, but it had little success with anything more than basic responses. It could, however, monitor their experiences and report them back to us. As proof of its ability, Sori’s t’O shared with us its current orders and position. We had a starting point.
Then, we asked it, the most important question of all. Was the alien presence able to access the t’Os network? It didn’t respond. We repeated our question. Reluctantly, it replied that the bodysnatching bandit could indeed access the t’Os network, but it hasn’t realized that it’s even there yet. If it were to discover the t’O and our network, it’s conceivable that it could transfer itself from Sori to any Tobarri in the galaxy. This was a dangerously horrifying prospect. We needed to restore Sori to his body before that could happen.
Finally, we told it to hold out, to fight the consciousness for as long as it can, to provide it with misinformation if that fails, to do whatever it could to keep it isolated to Sori’s body until we can arrive. It agreed to fight, but it didn’t know for how long. We reassured it that we were on our way. The t’O disengaged its connection but promised to let us know if its status changed.
My next task was to inform the other Tobarri of this potential threat. Although they objected to the extreme measures we proposed, they eventually acquiesced and agreed to desist from using their t’Os for the foreseeable future. However, this was only a temporary solution. They could not be expected to resist using their t’Os connection for very long. We were given a few hours to solve the problem. It wasn’t enough time, but it would have to do. We disengaged our connection.
We’re due to arrive to Deep Space Seven shortly. I’ve got to get to the bridge with our new course and heading.
Computer. Pause Recording.
> - - <
Computer. Continue Recording.
Before heading back to the bridge, I stopped by sick bay to check on Sori. He was sitting up in the bio-bed. I asked him how he was doing. He was feeling better, more in control he replied through heavy breaths. Sori had a lot of bad habits, but the mouth breathing that was required by his new form was maddening. I doubted my ability to tolerate it for very long. If there wasn’t enough reason already to get my lifemate back into his former form, the mouth breathing was the most motivating reason of them all.
I informed him of our current course of action and asked if he wanted to join me on the bridge. Eager to get out of sickbay, he agreed and sprang from the bio-bed. He approached me and took my hand as he liked to do from time to time. I, once again, became aware of the differences in our heights. I’m ashamed to admit that I suddenly felt very conscious of everyone’s eyes on us. I ordered them back to work as Sori and I left sick bay.
Back on the bridge, I took the center chair, while my first officer gladly offered Soriedem the seat next to me. Sori jumped into the large chair; his feet dangled inches off the ground as he swung them back and forth as a child would. I got the distinct feeling that Sori was somehow enjoying the experience; making lemonade as the humans like to say.
“We’ve reached the coordinates you specified, Captain,” my helm officer announced, “but there’s nothing here.”
“Start scanning for the Tobarrus,” I ordered my science officer. “Try to boost the range of the sensors. We have to find that ship as soon as possible.”
She tapped a few controls and a moment later, she had an answer. “Captain, we’ve found the Tobarrus. Heading 315.2 by 89.1 by 144.”
The helmsman spoke up next. “Course entered, Captain.”
“Maximum warp,” I replied as I glanced over to Sori.
His gaze was transfixed on the viewer with an intense concentration that I recognized as patently his. He was searching the streaking star field for even the smallest sign of his ship. Suddenly, he stood up on his chair and pointed to the view screen. “There it is!” he cried out with glee.
My science officer announced, “The ship isn’t in visual range yet.”
“What do you mean?” he asked as he hopped down from the chair and approached the view screen. He pointed to a tiny spot of light. I can see it clear as day. It’s right there.”
I glanced over to my science officer as she tapped a few controls. “I’m checking … Confirmed. It’ll be within visible range in ten seconds.”
“The doctor said, that all of my senses are far superior in this compact body, except for my sense of smell, of course” Sori explained taking another deep wheezing breath.
“Open a channel to the Tobarrus,” I interrupted. When my comm officer confirmed that the channel was open, I began, “USS Tobarrus, this is Captain Audria Leah Cim of the USS Oppenheimer. Come in Tobarrus.” I waited a moment for a response and began to repeat it, when the response came in.
“Audria … I mean Captain Leah Cim,” Fausto, the Tobarrus’ new first officer, said stepping into frame of the Tobarrus’ bridge. “It’s good to see you.”
I needed to know how much they knew of the current situation. “Where’s Soriedem?” I asked.
He became noticeably nervous before responding. “Uhh … He’s unavailable right now.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“We had no choice but to relieve him of duty. He’s currently in the brig,” Fausto replied.
I didn’t want to tip my hand just yet. “The brig?” I asked.
“He’s been acting strangely ever since the attack on Deep Space Seven. He was sporadic, unfocused, completely unlike himself. We urged him to go to sick bay to get checked out, but he refused. Ultimately, Drem had to order him to sick bay. When he refused again, she had no choice but to relieve him of duty. He got angry and attacked her. We had to stun him in order to remove him from the bridge. Right now, he’s in the brig calming down before we let Drem check him out.”
“Is she alright?” I asked, concerned for Drem.
“Her pride was bruised, but she’s doing fine.”
“Good,” I replied. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but that’s not Sori. It’s some kind of body-snatching alien. I’ve got the real Sori onboard my ship. We request permission to beam aboard to question him. Hopefully, we can figure out how to return Soriedem to his original body.”
For the first time during our conversation, Fausto actually seemed relieved. He took his role of First Officer seriously, and wasn’t comfortable with the fact that he had led a mutiny against his Captain. He sighed with relief. I wasn’t sure if it was because he had made the right decision, or that his time as interim Captain of the Tobarrus was in its final moments.
Soriedem took a deep breath before he spoke up. “You’ve done well Fausto. Now, beam us aboard so that we can fix this little problem of ours.”
Fausto looked around the bridge, unsure about how to proceed.
“Fausto,” Sori said reassuringly. “Do you remember what I said to you when you came on board the Tobarrus for the first time?”
The comment caught Fausto’s attention. He nodded a response in the affirmative.
“I had explained that this may have been a Federation starship with a Starfleet crew. But, I wasn’t the standard cookie-cutter captain,” he exhaled heavily and quickly followed it with a massive inhale. “Then, I said that if you couldn’t handle it, I would be glad to order a transfer for you without a negative recommendation on your permanent record. However, if you stuck around, I’m sure you would not regret it.”
Fausto smiled. “And I have not regretted staying on board the Tobarrus for a single moment.”
Soriedem smiled widely. It sent shivers down my spine. “We’ve had some good adventures haven’t we? Remember the little excursion to Drozana Station last year?”
Fausto began to laugh. “At the time, I thought you were mad to help that Orion female escape her slave masters,” he said before turning to someone off screen, “Lower shields; permission to come aboard is granted.”