“Lieutenant!” Gel almost gushed with relief, then he realized what she’d just said. “You’ve infected, aren’t you?”
She responded with a giggle and hum of pleasure. “Of course, silly! Are you?”
“No. Lieutenant, can you—”
“Ellie. You can call me Ellie, you know. I like my name. I like it even better when Todd says it. Oh! Oh! Someone wants to say, ‘hi.’”
The voice of Todd Ahndmore, her fiancé, said, “Hey, Gel. I’m so glad you’re not infected.”
Wasn’t he? Maybe he was hallucinating. “Uh, Todd? Where are you?”
“Don’t worry, I’m safe on Sapphire. Ellie called me.”
“I missed him so much!” she cut in. “He said he’d help me with our project.”
She laughed. “Saving the ship, of course! Just don’t make me do it myself this time. I hate doing group projects all by myself. When I was in school, the girls always left the work to me. ‘Oh, do be a dear, Ellie. I have important princess things to do…’” Her voice turned haughty and sneering.
Todd cut in, “You’re my princess, Ellibean, and we’re not leaving this to you alone. Right, Gel?”
While she giggled and cooed, “Princess Ellibean and Prince Toddybear!” Todd said in a private channel, “Gel? How much do you know about what’s going on?”
“Maybe as much as you,” he replied. “Is she okay?”
“I’m trying to keep her focused on the problem, but she’d rather talk about uh…other things.”
“That seems to be a running theme.” He’s been making himself ignore the sloppy sounds coming through the vents, except where they might indicate someone was using them to move around, like Umat.
“I’ll bet. Anyway. I’m not leaving until you guys are safe, okay? Whatever I can do from here, I will.”
“Hey!” Ellie cut in, her voice suddenly afraid. “Are you still there?”
“Yes, Lieutenant,” Gel said.
“Always,” Todd said. “How about we start with what we’ve each done? Ell locked down all the airlocks, the shuttle doors, and the weapons lockers. We’re going through the logs to try and get ahead of any other dangerously stupid stunts this thing makes people do.”
“It’s kind of fun!” Ellie said. “What have you been doing?”
She applauded as Gel gave her his status. “You are so smart, Gel! I totally should have thought of a distress call. I’ll be so happy to see rescue, I could hug them all!”
Todd said, “Gel, did that distress call say anything about wearing protective gear?”
The Impulsive computer cut in. “I marked us as a Class One Biohazard.”
Ellie made a distressed sound. “Oh! Right. We don’t want to spread this. I’m sorry. I just want to hug someone—you, Toddybear—and kiss you and… Oh! And it’s so hot in here!”
“Really?” Gel said. “I’m chilly.”
Todd said, “Concentrate, guys. We’re on the clock. According to the reports and the logs, the crew of the Marvin went from silly to suicidally stupid in about five hours. Ellie said they got back to the Impulsive about two hours ago.”
“Do you know what caused it? Or better yet, how we can cure it?”
“There’s nothing in the records we found.”
Gel shivered. “First priority is to get the holodoc back online.”
“Can you figure that out?” Ellie asked, her tone lazy. “I have to talk to Todd. Privately.”
Todd’s voice was playful and scolding. “Princess, we agreed. First work, then play. I promise it will be worth it.”
“Oooh! Do tell.”
“Oh, no,” Todd teased. “You have to earn it. How do you get the Holodoc online?”
While Todd worked to get Ellie back on task, he muted the line and told the Impulsive to flood Lt. LaFuentes’ room with knock-out gas and keep him unconscious until all this was over. He’d never forgive himself if he let the Boss get stupidly suicidal.
Meanwhile, Ellie said, “Okay, okay… Um… We’re sure she’s offline?”
Gel said, “He’s calling her ‘Caillen,’ and they’re making out. I don’t think that’s in the Doc’s personality.”
“Aww,” Ellie cooed. “That’s his old girlfriend. He must be lonely. I’m so glad I have you, Toddybear.”
Todd said, “Did he overlay a personality, then? Ellibean, can you override it?”
“Assuming she was already compromised when I came on the bridge, he’d have had 20 minutes to make the changes. That’s not enough time for a full overhaul. He probably used a cascading overlay across descending matrices using the real Caillen’s personality files and any memorabilia.”
“You’re so hot when you talk tech,” Todd sighed, and Gel didn’t think he’d said it just to encourage her.
“What do we do?” Gel demanded.
Ellie continued. “It’s probably overwriting the code we instituted as new behaviors are introduced. The longer we delay, the longer the program runs, the more extensive the revisions. The EMPT can only be modified in Sickbay by someone with a Class Three Computer Operations Clearance and permission from ops. I can give the permissions. So, Class Three… Commander Paolinelli and Lieutenant Sisco are infected. Chief Lewis?”
“Infected,” Pulsie said, “and Senior Minion Lassiter.”
“Well, that’s bad,” Ellie said, then hummed. “Have you ever noticed how soft the captain’s couch is?”
Gel cringed and added this to the list of things he vowed to forget when this was all over. “L.T.? Can we just reboot her? If we powered her down, could we restart with the backup?”
“Yes! Then we need to get Tank to download the Marvin’s sickbay files. Leslie delegated to him. I hope Leslie’s okay. You know, she likes how decontamination makes your teeth feel too. Okay, umm… What are we looking for?”
“To power down the doc!” both Gel and Todd answered.
“Right. Sorry. This’ll be fun. So, you know the main medical programming console, right? Where we plug in the portadoc when it’s not been squashed by an anvil? There’s a panel on the lower front…”