Gel had stiffened up in the cold of the vents; a normal thing for a human, but not for a Globbal. He moved more slowly than normal and found he had to repeat Ellie’s instructions to keep them in his mind. While he rebooted the holodoc, she was going to try to find and load the Marvin’s medical records and find a way to get their infected crewmates into a common area. He paused at the vent and sent out one tentacle to look around.

Commander Deary had darkened most of Sickbay and used the holographic generators to create a fire in a fireplace and a large couch in the far corner. He and “Caillen” were sitting in it, kissing. Well, he assumed from the sloppy meat smacking sounds and hums that they were kissing; other than an occasional flash of the top of one’s head, he couldn’t see them.

No point trying to stun the Commander, then. He couldn’t get a clear shot from the vent, and the phaser would not fit through the slats in the vent cover. He’d have to disable the doc, then take out their chief engineer if needed.

That would make the second senior officer I’ve taken out in the space of an hour. I wonder if I’ll get a commendation or a reprimand? He carefully oozed out into Sickbay, keeping to the edge of the floor, trying to stay in the shadows. It was a degree or two warmer in the room, and relief washed over him as the fluids of his body again loosened up. He moved slowly, nonetheless, pausing when he heard a rustle from the couch. Naturally, the vent he’d exited was across the room from his target.

Suddenly, Elie’s voice sounded over the intercom. “Attention, everybody! Pizza Party in the mess hall!”

“What was that?” Caillen yelped and sat up, scanning the room. She saw Gel and screeched.

Cover blown, Gel raced to the Sickbay controls.

Suddenly, Caillen was there. She swung to slap Gel away, but instead of a human hand that he would have easily flowed around, he was instead struck by a force field that flung him back hard against the wall. His body, still not fully thawed, did not absorb the blow with its usual alacrity. The world grayed around him for a moment.

Caillen was on him, screaming and smacking him. Commander Deary was shouting for her to stop as he tried to scramble over the couch. His foot caught on the back, and he fell flat on his face. Over the intercom, Ellie was going on about birthdays and cake.

There was a small intake vent near Gel. He chose the better part of valor and oozed into it as fast as he could. He heard a metallic twang as she kicked the vent. Then he heard the commander yelling and her yelling back.

He kept moving.

He took the first left, then paused to assess his injuries. He had been hurt, but fortunately, not as badly as he’d expected. Even so, it kind of unnerved him. “O’Tin to Doall.”

“Gel! Hi! And call me, ‘Ellie.’ Did you hear about the party? That should get everyone to the mess hall, where we can lock them in. Oh, but I did program the replicators to make pizza and cake and ice cream and…”

“Ellie! I failed. I couldn’t get to the Sickbay controls. The doc may think she’s the commander’s old flame, but she still moves like a photonic being. She kicked my butt. Is there another way to reboot the system? A failsafe or something?”

But Ellie was still going on about cake.

“Todd? Todd, are you still there?”

Ellie replied, “Oh, he’s offline for just a minute. He’s calling off work, for a ‘family emergency.’ Isn’t it sweet? We’re his family! Oh, Gel, I love him so much. He’s so sweet and wikadas smart and sexy…”

The ship is family, Gel thought. That was the first thing Lieutenant LaFuentes had taught them. The second thing—well, the second thing was “When in doubt, stun them all,” but the third thing was “Always have a backup plan.”

The Boss would know the holodoc could be compromised. How would he plan for that contingency?

“Pulsie,” Gel called out, grateful that the ship’s AI was not subject to the virus. “Is there any way the Chief of Security can reboot the holodoc?”

“As a matter of fact, Acting Chief, there’s a switch in the Security Office.”

Gel groaned. Sickbay was in the Saucer Section. Security was in the Other Section—five levels and 500 meters away. Ellie’s nattering was starting to blur into a buzzing. He was so sore. Maybe he could take a minute…

Something clanged against the vent, and the shouting between Commander Deary and his holographic girlfriend got louder. Gel heaved himself toward the Security Office and the reset button. Regardless of what happened with Doc Sorcha, he was going to get rid of Caillen.


“Gel?” Todd’s voice came over the intercom in the stilted way that told Gel he was typing the message. “Did you reset the holodoc?”

“I’m working on it,” Gel snapped. He was one level away from the security office, but every inch was harder than the one before. Only another hundred meters…

“Okay, but you need to hurry. Ellie’s getting worse. It’s getting harder to keep her focused. I mean, she’s focused, but it’s only on—”

“I don’t want to know!”

“You okay? Oh, no, Gel! You’re not infected, too?”

“No, I’m just freezing.”

“Really? She keeps saying it’s too hot. In fact, she’s still sweating, and she’s removed most of her uniform.”

“She’s human, Todd. I’m a Globbal, remember? The temperature’s been turned way down, and I don’t have the authority to override it. Wait! The L.T. can. Make her turn it up.”

“How?” Todd’s voice rang with frustration bordering on panic. “I’m running out of ideas! Now, she’s obsessed with joining the pizza party. It’s getting hard to even keep her in the ready room, much less saving the ship. And I’m dead serious that she doesn’t have much on. Does that sound like her? Come on, Gel. You’ve known her much longer than I have. What motivates her?”

Why do I have to do everything? he thought. At least getting mad was taking his mind off the pain. “Tell her Lieutenant LaFuentes will break your face if she doesn’t save the ship.”

“Good one! I’m on it. Hey, has Ellie been hitting the gym more lately? Because she’s really, really…”

“I don’t want to know!”