Author's Note: Happy August! Somehow I'm updating. Whoa.
I recommend getting your tetanus shot when in Malaysia because apparently, cut infections are not a fun thing- best keep them nice and mild and non-limb-threatening.
Also I've realised I despise having to work with things that have 972 combinations of quantum numbers so the rule is: don't touch molecules, kids.
Sorry, it's been a very long month. Hope y'all enjoy what my brain does in response!
Chapter 10: The Naked Time II
"Goddamnit Erso, would you sit still for just a minute."
"If you hadn't stabbed me with one of those things first time we met, maybe I wouldn't feel the compelling need to never touch it again!"
Jyn's irises flared as she gripped the edge of the table. She'd grown to like McCoy during her short stay on the Enterprise- that first glass of whisky was a symbols of truce and had reminded her more of paternal-if-slightly-gruff Saw Guerrera than she'd ever expected to encounter again. However, she'd stayed true to her word of not forgiving or forgetting the hypo he'd knocked her out with on their first fateful meeting. She could think of few things she despised more in this universe- the deceptively small size and hissing, popping noise as they dispensed some unknown substance into her bloodstream. It made her shiver at the mere thought.
"Look you're obviously having an allergic reaction to something you ate on-board at some point- most likely the chocolate- and we're lucky that so far it's only a rash. Now let me get some antihistamines into your system before we find out what else you happen to be allergic to- the hard way!"
"I'll take my chances." She muttered through gritted teeth as McCoy sighed and turned to her companion.
"Mr. Andor, any help with this infuriating creature?"
Cassian didn't even bother responding, busy as he was trying to contain his laughter at their antics. Jyn gave him a pointed stare followed by an imploring look: Make this crazy medic leave me alone.
"I'm afraid this 'infuriating creature' is known to never listen to reason." Cassian replied as Jyn huffed. McCoy only sighed again, finally giving up and putting the hypo back in its case.
"Fine then, let's see who's laughing when your throat's all blown up and you can't breathe because of some Andorian apples. Oh, wait, that won't be me because it'll be my job to save your damn life! I have better things to do than hunt after you and Jim twenty-four-seven."
"I don't need to be looked after lik—" Jyn began but was cut off by a loud beeping from McCoy's communicator.
"Bones, I need you on the bridge. We've found the Salcombe but it doesn't look too good. How many hazmats have we got d'you think?"
McCoy's face turned from exasperated to serious in a flash as he considered Jim's question.
"Enough. You're not thinking of sending an army there, are you?"
"Nah I was just curious. Get Christine to prep the medbay, something tells me we might find more than we bargained for on this ship."
"Jim, we never get a bargain. We get a slap in the face from the in-laws and a burnt apple pie at best. As your doctor I'm ordering you to start being the pessimist you should be. On my way."
McCoy took a single purposeful step before Cassian grabbed his arm. "Wait, what's going on, what do we have to do?"
The doctor frowned, his expression terse as he glanced between the two other-worlders.
"You two'll stay here on the ship and stay out of the way. If Jim's this worried about what they found then it's something serious. You're both still midway through recovering from the whole… Scare-if ordeal or whatever that place was, as far as I'm concerned, and that makes you both a liability."
"Liab—" Jyn began, affronted but McCoy cut her off.
"This is not a war. You are not soldiers. This is not a case of having every able-bodied man out there to help, it's an investigation into an unknown incident. Now relax and try to not break anything while I go and satisfy our leading madman's wishes."
With this he turned and strode out through the door, mumbling into his comm about medbay preparations. Cassian clenched his fists.
"Cassian…" Jyn sighed. "He's the third person to tell us to stay away. Why don't we just stay away then? They're all right about us being close to useless in this situation, we don't know anything about anything and we're just getting in the way."
"But what if something goes wrong, if they need us?"
"Then we'll deal with it."
She took a step forward and, feeling incredibly bold, placed a hand on his cheek. "You don't need to atone for what you did in the past by rushing into danger now, Cassian. You're a good man."
She expected him to step back or to argue with her, but he closed his eyes and she could see his breath catch in his throat. Confused, she moved to pull her hand away but he placed his own over hers and sighed.
Then he shook his head, letting go of her hand and opening his eyes. "… nevermind. Let's go try out that 'chess' game that Spock talked about. We've got nothing better to do in the mean time. You're right."
She felt her confusion at his behaviour mounting but only shrugged. "Sure. I was going to go over some archives later today but it does seem like a useful exercise in strategy."
"I get the feeling that Spock would describe the most pointless fun ball-game as a useful exercise, but in this case I agree." Cassian smiled and Jyn found herself counting the wrinkles around his eyes. Six.
The back of her hand burned where moments ago she'd felt his fingers.
This is how they found themselves, in the rec-room, surrounded by the few officers not on active call for the next impending disaster. Once they'd finally managed to set up the chess pieces, Jim's voice echoed through the ship again:
"An investigation team including myself, Dr. McCoy and Lieutenant Uhura will be beaming aboard the USS Salcombe in the next few minutes. All we know as of now is that there appear to be 50 life-forms aboard the ship and while certain areas retain life-support and no clear damage to the ship is visible, we appear to be unable to communicate with the survivors. I want everyone on shift A to be on high alert and ready to assist in case of any emergencies. I'm leaving Commander Spock as acting Captain during my absence. That is all."
Cassian and Jyn looked at each other before glancing back down at the chess pieces on the board. Cassian could feel his anxiety rising although luckily, Jyn was distracting enough a companion to keep his thoughts away from his own uselessness.
He could still feel her hand on his cheek and it burned every time he thought about it. For a second he'd imagined… leaning down just a little, just to see if he could taste her spirit and defiance on her lower lip. He'd barely caught himself on time, only to see the confusion in her eyes. It was enough for him to stifle the sudden urge but not enough to let go of her touch. He would take as much as she allowed him to have, even gestures made in friendship.
"So… it says here that the white pieces make the first move." Jyn muttered, startling him again out of his thoughts. "So you'd better start."
"Er, let me have a look at the rulebook again."
It took them about twenty minutes to figure out a slow but steady pace for the gameplay. Cassian found himself absorbed so much in the strategy that he pretty much forgot about his surroundings and the situation developing on the other ship. Jyn seemed just as captivated by the game, if slightly more aggressive with her tactics than him, more impatient. They were relatively evenly matched in their inexperience and their aptitude to adapt to the rules of the game although Cassian might have felt he was doing a little better what with investing the time to plan ahead more than she did.
They were so consumed by the game, in fact, that they barely noticed the commotion on the other side of the room a good twenty seconds after the first shout rang out.
"Help! It's Seska! She just got caught in some weird transporter beam and vanished!"
Cassian caught Jyn's worried look as they both made their way to where a distraught woman with strange markings on her forehead was crying, already surrounded by many that had been enjoying themselves in the room.
"What happened?" asked Jyn as they neared the commotion. "What does she mean by 'caught in a transporter beam?'"
She didn't need to wait for an answer however, because as soon as she said it one of the blue Andorian men standing in front of her began to shimmer and then suddenly, with a flash, disappeared. Some people around them gasped and shouted in horror.
"What's going on?"
"How are they locking onto our signals like this?"
Before their panic could reach breaking point, it was interrupted by the concerned thrum of Spock's voice over the speakers:
"Attention all crew, we seem to have lost contact with some of the members of the away team and are having difficulties communicating with the rest. It appears as though someone on the other ship is—"
Cassian never got to hear about what the other ship was doing, however, because suddenly there were flashes of light dancing in front of his eyes and he could feel a strange twisting in the pit of his stomach, like he'd eaten something that didn't completely agree with the idea. His panicked eyes caught Jyn's. He saw her open her mouth in terror and begin to reach for him. Then he blinked.
…And his eyes opened to be met with almost complete darkness. The jolt of the transition was familiar to him from only one past experience- his arrival to the New Universe from Scarif. He now understood the meaning of the words behind its explanation.
I've been beamed somewhere.
That, however, turned out to not be the most important bit of information for him to pay attention to because within a half-second of opening his eyes to a new environment he also realised that he couldn't breathe.
Panic tore through his body properly now and he focused on taming it, painfully aware how his rapidly beating heart was asking for even more oxygen than usual. His eyes slowly adjusted to the incredibly dim light of his surroundings and he began to recognise the outlines of his surroundings. For a moment he'd dared hope that he was back at the Rebellion base, thrown through the same gates that had taken him away from familiar ground, but he realised now that he was likely in another ship like the Enterprise- the corridor on the bridge level, to be precise.
It's probably the Salcombe, he thought as he stumbled forward trying to figure out a way to find a supply of air before he collapsed. Something is beaming people to the almost abandoned ship.
His hands fumbled with one of the First-Aid locker doors in the corridor as he forced it open hoping against hope for—
Luckily he was on one of the most well-stocked levels of the ship what with it being the one housing the command room. The locker was stuffed with equipment and amongst the defibrillators and hypos he noticed a portable oxygen tank with a mask he could put over his face. Cassian inhaled the sterile-smelling air truly like a drowning man would.
Once he'd adjusted the device on his hip and made sure the mask was on properly, he investigated the instructions that came with it. He should have enough air for at least two hours and he definitely didn't plan on staying there that long, so there was no reason to lug around the second tank that was still sitting in the locker. He had to figure out a way to turn on the air supply throughout the ship and find out where he was.
Well, he thought grimly, you wanted to be where the action was. Now deal with it, Cassian Andor.
His best bet was trying to get into the command room aboard the ship. If the layout was similar to the Enterpise- and he'd studied it meticulously- then he should be somewhere not too far away. He just had to hope he'd find a way in once he got there.
He turned to round a corner of the corridor and then two things happened in quick succession: the first was accidentally kicking two very human-shaped objects on the ground before him. It took his mind a second to realise that what he was looking at were dead bodies, curled around each other in a heart-breaking display of emotional rigor mortis.
The second was an all-too-familiar flash of light and the sudden appearance of—
"Spock?" he exclaimed in disbelief, his voice muffled by the oxygen mask.
The commander's eyes widened as they focused on Cassian but then the rebel Captain realised that his new companion needed oxygen in almost the same way he did. While Spock did not show it too much outwardly, it was hard not to notice the sudden tension in his neck or the bulging eyeballs that signalled his severe discomfort
"Damn…" he muttered as he signalled to Spock to follow him to the First Aid box. Luckily the half-Vulcan was quick enough to understand his plan and grabbed the very convenient second oxygen tank from its perch. Cassian wondered briefly what they'd do if someone else were to appear in the corridor.
"Captain Andor." Spock addressed him finally, far too calmly for the sort of situation they'd suddenly found themselves in. "It appears as though we have a rather unusual situation on our hands. I hope you will join me in an attempt to correct it."