Ellie and Todd weren’t the only ones panicking. At that very moment, Ensign Gel O’Tin, the Impulsive’s only gelatinous lifeform crewman, was slapping the door chime of his commander, Lt. LaFuentes, and begging, “Come one, L.T. Open up, open up!”

Behind him, a couple was making their way down the hall by pressing each other against the walls in passionate kisses. Someone else was doing cartwheels. No one had paid Gel any attention except to laugh…other than Minion Umat, who had made a rather specific and inappropriate request. He’d managed to duck her by oozing through a vent, but now he heard her calling his name.

“Come on!” He was about to order a security override when the door finally opened, and Lieutenant LaFuentes leaned against the threshold. He wore only loose shorts. He had a phaser in one hand and a mostly empty bottle in the other. Gel got the impression it wasn’t his first.

“What?” LaFuentes demanded.

“Sir, the crew’s gone insane!”

Enigo peered at the hallway and swore. “Am I the only one who knows what ‘quarantine’ means? Damn space loonies.”

He shot from the hip and stunned the couple making out behind Gel. “You touched anybody this shift? No? Good. keep it that way.”

“It’s a contagion?” Gel asked. “It’s spread crazy fast. I already contacted the bridge and they’re all acting just as weird, and Commander Smythe is talking nonsense about time travel, and I can’t get the captain to answer my calls and…. L.T., we gotta do something!”

Enigo took a swig of his bottle, then belched. He scratched behind his ear with the butt of his phaser. “No, I don’t. I’m infected.”

“But you’re not acting…” He waved a pseudopod toward a shirtless crewman in tight pants brandishing a fencing foil and harrying other crewmen.

Enigo shot him, too.

He said, “That’s ‘cause I don’t care, Ensign. I. Don’t. Care.”

“But Boss!”

“Loreli is gone, Gel! Dead, because I left her behind to save the fracking ship. That’s how it always is. When do I get a break? It’s been one crisis after another, and I gotta keep it together because I’m the goddamn Boss. Not this time. Loreli was the greatest love of my life, and I let her get killed! And don’t give me that crap that she’s still alive and everything will be okay. Even if the janbot was right, she’s been with the Cybers. You think she’ll be the same? She might be better off dead.”

“L.T…” Gel started, though he didn’t know what he would say next. He’d seen his commander in a lot of moods, but never in such a combination of rage and grief. He looked at the bottle in his hand and wondered exactly what impulses he was trying to drown. He noticed the phaser controls had been ripped off. To make sure he never took it off Stun?


Enigo cut him off. “I’m infected. Compromised. I don’t care about anything. You don’t want me out there. Time to shine, Ensign.”

Down the hall, someone was cooing Gel’s name and inviting him to take a bath, with him as the bath. Umat had caught up to him. Gel quivered with anxiety.

“But I’m just an ensign. I can’t—I mean, literally!”

“Yeah. Good point.” He scratched his head with the butt of the phaser while he thought. “Pulsie! Transfer all Chief of Security command privileges to Ensign Gel O’Tin. Authorization LaFuentes, Enigo.” Enigo then rattled off a security code the universal translator covered in static.

The computerized voice of the HMB Impulsive said, “Done.”

“There. Now you can do anything I can. Make us proud.”

“What if I can’t?”

He shrugged. “Then we all die, but I’ll be with Loreli. That’s a win for me.”

Enigo brought the bottle to his lips, found it empty, and with a snarl, hurled it against the wall. Since breakable glass was not a great idea on a starship, the bottle did not shatter but left a dent in the wall.

He retreated back to his quarters.

“Gel,” a voice sing-songed from around the corner. “Come wrap that sexy viscous body of yours all over me.”

With a swear word that the translator didn’t translate, he oozed into the nearest vent.

He didn’t stop until he was five decks up and three sections over. Then, he settled into a corner and allowed himself exactly ten seconds of panicked shivering before forcing his mind to the situation.

There was nothing in the security manual about space loonies, or about shipwide contagions. Those were under the responsibility of Medical, and Security just followed orders. He’d already tried to contact Sickbay, but no one answered, and Pulsie said the EMPT was offline.

Okay, so what would Sickbay do? The L.T. said something about a quarantine. “Pulsie, send out a distress beacon with the applicable ship logs. Then, I want you to lock all quarters, Security authorization O’Tin, Gel…” He blopped out his code in his native language.

“You got it,” the ship replied.

What next? He’d left his quarters to go to the gym and found the ship in chaos. Other than what Lt. LaFuentes had told him and what he’d seen with his own receptors, he had no idea what was going on.

If this is a disease and not an invasion, we need the holodoc. He started toward Sickbay, grateful for all the training they’d done wandering the vents and Jeffries tubes. It was a little chillier, but he’d move more easily without having to dodge infected crewmen—or Minion Umat. In the meantime, he asked Pulsie to give him a quick summary of what had happened since he went off duty.

As the news went from horrifying to dismal, Gel felt his panic growing. “Pulsie, stop! Can you tell who’s been infected and who hasn’t?”

“Hang on… Well, the surest way would be to track vectors starting with anyone who’s touched the away team members. That’s going to take a while, and a lot of my processing power is being diverted by auxiliary control for the TARDIS.”

“The what? Never mind.” He couldn’t override the Impulsive’s First Officer, anyway. He got to the junction just before Sickbay and took the left. He heard music from that direction, but not the wilder stuff he’d heard several times already. This was calmer, more romantic. “What about a common symptom? Other than stupidity, I mean.”

“Well, most people seem to be running a low-grade fever, though they’re sweating a lot more. More like hot flashes, only longer-lasting.”

He heard a warm laugh. It almost sounded like Doc Sorcha.

“Okay, let’s look at that. Start with any medical personnel trapped in their rooms. I gotta go silent while I assess the situation in Sickbay.”

“You got it!” Pulsie agreed.

Gel edged close to the Sickbay, which was dark. No, not dark. Dim. The lights were off, but there were holographic candles floating near the ceiling and along the walls. The romantic music was coming from this room.

In the center of the medical bay, Commander Deary was dancing with Doc Sorcha, only it wasn’t the holodoc. Her figure had been altered, and she looked about ten years younger, and she wore a slinky evening gown.

Was she in her role as Ship’s Sexy? He dismissed the idea. She’d have dropped the facade as soon as he’d called her for help. Pulsie had said the program was offline, anyway.

The commander gazed at her and sighed, “Ah, Caillen, where did we go wrong?”

She pressed her fingers against his lips. “It doesn’t matter. We’re together now.”

While the two kissed, Gel backed up and told Pulsie to extend his search for programmers as well.

“Ellie to Gel!” Lieutenant Doall’s cheery voice cut across the response of the Impulsive. “Gel, you awake?”