Author: Alan Decker
by Alan Decker
Lieutenant Emily Sullivan had one thing on her mind when she entered her quarters after her bridge shift: the SSDS. Sullivan had discovered the SubSpace Dating Service shortly after her relationship with Commander Scott Baird ended. Through the SSDS, she could talk to people all over the quadrant who were also unattached. Thus far, no one had interested her, but Sullivan hadn’t given up. She logged on every day from the moment she returned from the bridge until she just couldn’t stay awake anymore. She was down to only eating once a day, and she hadn’t done anything social with the rest of the crew in weeks. But Sullivan didn’t care because every day she could hear the SSDS calling to her. Nothing else really mattered.
Sullivan sat down at her console and put on the SSDS microphone-headset.
“Activate SSDS,” she said.
“Activated,” the computer replied.
“Log in. Sullivan 444 Mythic.”
“Passcode accepted. You may begin.”
Sullivan checked who was on line at the moment and started chatting with them. She didn’t even notice that her headset was getting a little tighter.
Nine hours later, Sullivan could barely keep her eyes open. She had to be back on the bridge in three hours, so she decided to log-off and get some sleep.
“Computer, end session.” The screen flashed and went dark. Sullivan tried to pull off her headset, but it wouldn’t budge.
“What the…” She didn’t finish the sentence. The headset wrapped around her face and shot the microphone down her throat. Unable to scream, Sullivan watched helplessly as wires and conduits reached out of the SSDS console towards her.
Lieutenant Commander Jaroch glanced at the chronometer on the arm of the command chair then at the vacant seat at conn. Sullivan was ten minutes late. Unusual, but not unheard of…especially lately. Sullivan had seemed very tired and distracted during her bridge shifts over the last couple of weeks. This was the fourth time she had been late for her shift this month. Jaroch decided he’d give her another five minutes.
Five minutes later, Sullivan still hadn’t shown up.
“Jaroch to Sullivan.” No response.
“Jaroch to Sullivan.” Nothing.
“Computer, locate Lieutenant Sullivan,” Jaroch said.
“Lieutenant Emily Sullivan is not on the Secondprize,” the computer replied.
“What?” Jaroch turned to Lieutenant Patricia Hawkins at tactical. “Has anyone left this ship?”
“Not that I’m aware of,” Hawkins replied. “We haven’t detected any other vessels, we have all of our shuttles, and there hasn’t been any transporter activity.”
“Odd.” Jaroch walked back to his science station and started scanning. “No temporal disturbances. No subspace anomalies. Wait a second…there is one life form in Sullivan’s quarters.”
“The computer must be screwed up,” Hawkins said, annoyed.
“Undoubtedly. Jaroch to Commander Baird.”
“What?” the voice of the Secondprize’s chief engineer replied. He’d obviously been asleep.
“I need a full diagnostic run on the ship’s computer.”
“Hell. What’s wrong?” Baird said.
“It does not seem to be able to tell when someone is on the ship or not. It told us that Lieutenant Sullivan was not on board.”
“I’ll check on it. Baird out.”
“In the meantime, Lieutenant Hawkins,” Jaroch said. “Would you please go get our conn officer?” Hawkins nodded and stepped into the turbolift.
Commander Scott Baird stumbled out into the corridor outside of his quarters carrying an engineering kit and wearing only his underwear. He wiped the sleep out of his eyes and tried to remember why the hell he was out of bed anyway. Oh yeah. The computer couldn’t find Emily. It didn’t sound like much of a problem to him. Let her stay lost. Too bad he couldn’t keep it that way.
“Computer, locate Lieutenant Sullivan,” Baird said groggily.
“Lieutenant Sullivan is not on the Secondprize.”
“Then where the hell is she?” Baird said.
“Lieutenant Sullivan is in the Secondprize.”
Baird snapped wide awake.
“What do you mean in?”
“Lieutenant Sullivan is in the Secondprize.”
“That didn’t answer my question,” Baird said. He was awake now and running toward Sullivan’s quarters.
Lieutenant Hawkins was standing outside of Sullivan’s door when Baird got there.
“You waiting for me?” Baird asked.
“No. The doors won’t open, and they’re not responding to my security override,” Hawkins said. “I was about to blast them.”
“Hold off on the phasers for a second,” Baird said. He pulled a couple of tools out of his kit and opened the panel beside the doors. “Everything looks fine. The computer just isn’t opening the door. Computer, open door H896.”
“No, and definitely not for you,” the computer replied. Baird detected a slightly different tone to the voice. Something had definitely changed.
“Now can I blast it?” Hawkins asked.
“Be my guest,” Baird said, stepping back. Hawkins pulled out her phaser and fired. At first nothing happened. Soon the doors began glowing red, then white, then they vaporized. Baird and Hawkins ran into the room and stopped dead in their tracks. Emily Sullivan was inside, but almost completely encased in wires and conduits.
“Holy fuck!” Baird shouted.
“Hawkins to Doctor Aldridge. Get to Lieutenant Sullivan’s quarters now!”
“Holy fuck,” Baird repeated.
“Can you hear me, Emily?” Hawkins asked, stepping into the room. Sullivan’s body moved underneath all of the wiring, but did not speak. Hawkins turned on Baird angrily. “Are you going do something or not?”
“Yeah yeah,” Baird said. He pulled a tricorder out of his kit and started scanning. Dr. Elizabeth Aldridge rushed in just then.
“Oh my god,” she said.
“Can you get her out?” Hawkins asked.
“I don’t know,” Baird and Aldridge said.
“Find out!” Hawkins said angrily. Aldridge opened her tricorder and stepped up beside Baird to begin scanning. After a minute of nothing but the sound of humming tricorders, they looked over at each other’s screens.
“What do you think?” Aldridge asked.
“Not a clue,” Baird replied. “I’m not sure what’s happened to her.”
“The computer’s trying to kill her,” Hawkins said. “I thinks that’s obvious.”
“Not necessarily,” Aldridge said. “Her life-signs are fine…for now.”
“What do you mean for now?” Baird said.
“Well, she can’t exactly eat or take in fluids while she’s encased like this, and I can’t get to any of her skin to administer a hypo. In all honesty, Commander, this is more in your field than mine.”
“I was afraid of that,” Baird said. Taking a deep breath, he stepped up to Sullivan with a tool. Before he could touch it to the wiring, however, an appendage of metal extended and batted the tool out of his hand.
“Fuck!” Baird shouted, jumping backwards.
“Scott?” the computer voice said. Again, Baird noticed that it wasn’t quite the normal voice. Now, he knew why. It was half the normal computer’s voice and half Emily’s.
“Yes. Is that you Emily?”
“Yo…Nes. It is difficult to say.”
“Gotcha,” Baird said.
“She’s in the computer?” Hawkins said. “I’ve got to get to the bridge.” The security chief ran out of the room.
“Are you hurt?” Aldridge said. No response.
“Are you hurt?” Baird repeated.
“I am fine,” the voice replied.
“I guess she’s only talking to you,” Aldridge said.
“We’re going to try to get you out of there,” Baird said.
“I don’t want to leave,” the voice replied.
“Is that you or the computer talking?”
“Why don’t you want to leave?” Baird asked, swallowing back his urge to lose his temper at the non-answer he received to his last question.
“I can communicate with others much more efficiently this way. There are no delays while the computer relays the information to me.”
“But there’s no you anymore,” Baird said. “You’re just a mass of wires with some organic material trapped underneath.”
“LIAR!” the voice screamed. On the other side of Sullivan’s quarters, the replicator activated and shot out a barrage of plates and silverware. Baird and Aldridge dove to the floor just before the volley sailed through the places they’d been standing in a moment before.
“Touchy, isn’t she?” Aldridge muttered.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Baird replied.
“I heard that,” the voice said.
“Emily, calm down,” Baird said, standing back up. “We’re just here to help you.”
“I do not need any help, and I do not need you. You had your chance.”
“Fine!” Baird shouted. “Stay in there and fucking die! See if I care.” Baird stormed out of the room with Aldridge chasing right behind him.
“You aren’t just going to leave her like that?” Aldridge demanded.
“She seems fine with it,” Baird replied without stopping or turning around.
“She’s going to die,” Aldridge said in desperation. Baird stopped. Despite all the harsh words spoken and all of the fights he and Emily had had during their three months together, he didn’t want anything to happen to her. Without responding to Aldridge, he turned and walked silently back into Sullivan’s quarters.
“Yes?” the voice asked.
“I care,” Baird said, pulling out the tool again.
“What are you doing?” the voice asked.
“I’m disconnecting you from the computer,” Baird replied, advancing again. The metal appendage extended again, but this time Baird was ready. He swatted it away and thrust in at Sullivan. The appendage recovered quickly and parried the blow. Soon, Baird and the appendage were engaged in an all-out battle. Baird thrusted and parried like a champion fencer while the appendage defended Sullivan ferociously.
“What can I do?” Aldridge shouted.
“We have to disconnect Emily from the computer,” Baird shouted back. “Cut the cable connecting her to the terminal.” Aldridge reached into her med-kit, pulled out a laser scalpel, and maneuvered behind Sullivan towards the cable. Another appendage shot out and swung at the doctor. Aldridge managed to leap out of the way just in time.
“You have to love multi-tasking,” the voice said.
“You always were a smug bitch,” Baird said.
“What!?” the voice demanded angrily.
“You heard me.” Two more appendages shot out at Baird. He dove to the ground beside his engineering kit and pulled out another tool. It was his two arms against Sullivan’s three. The odds weren’t exactly in his favor, but he had the fact that he was truly pissed off on his side. Baird jumped back into the fray, blocking blow after blow and advancing slowly on the connecting cable. In the background, he heard the replicator activate again. A second later, a plate smashed into his side. Baird grunted, but then pressed forward with more energy. Sullivan was really, really making him angry. Two more plates and a cup slammed into him, increasing his anger every time.
On the other side, Aldridge was dodging attacks from the appendage while trying to lunge in at the cable. One of the appendage’s attacks connected with her hand, sending the laser scalpel flying. It hit Sullivan’s shoulder, producing a flurry of sparks as the scalpel cut through the wires. The voice screamed.
In that second, the appendages faltered. Baird dove in and struck at the connecting cable. He could feel the appendages grabbing him as they recovered. More sprung out, latching onto him and wrapping around his body. Baird did not stop his assault, though. The appendages wound tighter and tighter, crushing his body.
Beyond Sullivan, Baird could see two appendages pressing Doctor Aldridge against the wall. Still he attacked. Black spots began appearing at the edges of his vision, closing in fast. The world became fuzzy and went dark as his arm went down for one more blow. Then, everything stopped.
A voice cut through the darkness. Baird became aware that he still existed. His entire body sent aching messages to his brain that everything was still there, hurting but still there.
Baird opened his eyes and almost screamed when he saw Emily Sullivan looking down at him. He sat straight up and looked around. He was in sickbay.
“Are you all right, Scott?” Emily asked. He looked at her.
“You got me out,” Sullivan said. “Thank you.”
“You’re thanking me? I didn’t think you wanted out,” Baird said.
“I didn’t at first. But now I’ve decided that maybe dealing with real flesh-and-blood people is better than having electronic relationships,” Sullivan replied.
“Well, don’t think you’re getting back together with me. Not after what you did to me,” Baird said.
“Not a chance,” Sullivan replied. “Besides, I have too much fun torturing you.” She walked off toward the doors.
“Bitch,” Baird said.
Sullivan turned back to him and smiled. “Asshole,” she said, then left.
“She didn’t sound too grateful,” Dr. Aldridge said, walking over to Baird.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, she called you an asshole.”
“And I called her a bitch.” Baird replied. “So what? Those were practically our pet names for each other while we were together.”
“Real healthy relationship there,” Aldridge remarked.
“It sure hasn’t done anything for my health,” Baird said, rubbing his aching sides.