A/N: This will be the last chapter posted for awhile (not sure how long 'awhile' is going to be). My other fanfic story has been waiting for a month to be fed. Thanks for sticking with the story, "I'll be back."


Chapter Seventeen: Out of the frying pan...

Old Romulan Barracks One – Q'a'ta'Orbin

Leeza's face was still grim when she handed Christine the results of her blood work.

"CBC, Protrhombin, Liver, Lipid, CMP, TSH, Catecholamine test – high levels of dopamine and norepinephrine," she said.

"Like Teacup?"

"Yes, only yours are not as stable. There's a fluctuation from one sample to the next taken seconds apart. Maybe we should test again?"

"I doubt we would get any different result but you can take another three vials..." Christine said, reacting to Leeza'a frown with a tilt of her head, the hint of an accepting smile. She handed the padd back to Leeza, "and then, send what you have to Nuress. Tell her she is free to share everything with Doctor McCoy."

Leeza stood with her hands still clutching the padd in a death grip.

"Everything?" Leeza asked.

"Everything," Christine answered, and, picking up the padd she had given to Jim Kirk, swiped the reports over to Leeza's padd. "I've already informed Captain Kirk. Captain Spock knows as well. When I leave Q'a'ta'Orbin..."

"Chris..."

Christine held up her hand. "We both knew it might come to this."

"Can I at least tell them it was Doctor Seren who falsified your results?"

"We don't know that for certain, only that someone did."

"Someone? He had to have known. He did the tests himself. Why are you still trying to pretend that the jealous son of a bitch was not out to destroy you...and Captain S...?"

"Stop," Christine interrupted her. "You are traveling outside the bounds of our friendship as well as chain of command."

"Don't you dare pull rank on me. We've been through too much together. I'll take my chances of being charged with insubordination! This is as much my, our fight, fight as it is yours. You will leave, but the rest of us will have to stay here. Have you thought of that?"

Leeza regretted not just the last five words, but the last five minutes. "I'm sorry, of course you have."

Christine had come to understand, long ago, the burdens of command; the people you led into harm's way, those that are left behind, the ones who died under your watch...or because of some personal quest...

"I am trying to be objective, Leeza. As much as I admit that he must have known and hid the results, I can't assign motivation. At least not until we can mount a full investigation."

"Because you've already done enough damage by being silent all this time?"

"Lieutenant Bridges!" Christine said and watched Leeza's whole countenance defiantly brace for impact. She calmed herself and then continued with a sympathetic tone in her voice. "You are the best nurse I have ever had, and one of the best friends. But you are also a Starfleet officer. And you're right. Your duty...your duty is for you to decide. In this case, I can't decide it for you or dictate it to you. I don't have that authority anymore. I was effectively relieved from that particular responsibility when I surrendered myself to Captain Kirk. I understand full well that I am leaving you, and the rest of the team, what's left of it, to face it on your own. But I promise you, I will do whatever is within my power to protect this team, and the Torbin." She was holding Leeza by the arms before she finished, trying to convey as much assurance as possible.


Christine left the aft lab in Barracks One where Leeza had syphoned off another three vials of her blood.

Another test would not make a difference, only give Leeza something on which to focus. At least, now she knew she had been infected with the organism – she did not require a brain scan to confirm it – that would come later when they could return to HQ, or more likely the Enterprise, where Maalouf would insist she be thrown in the brig.

All that would have to wait. It had started to drizzle outside. Jim had updated her on their concerns about the biofilters; that they had been disassembled and were being analyzed "piece by 'bloody' piece." The magnetic fields were too dangerous for transporters, with or without biofilters, even if they relaxed the decontamination guidelines. That was a last resort strategy.

The shuttles were back at HQ and they could not bring them into this jungle of twisted magnetic fields. They were going to be forced to ride out the rain, with the promise of some long, long days ahead.

Torbin Summer Encampment – Q'a'ta'Orbin

The lone figure of Doctor Christine Chapel stood at the edge of the cliff overhanging the lake and its vermillion sanded shoreline scattered with remnants of the winter habitat of the Torbin fisher clan. The beach was already disappearing and the land bridge to the island, still visible, was approximately three feet underwater.

She shuddered, not from the wind that buffeted her, but from the water at the lake's edge that had turned a reddish hue where the deposits of cinnabrin* had been recaptured by the water's rise over the beach.

Before leaving the old Romulan barracks, she had changed into garments appropriate for meeting with the elders; a yellow kurti that hung to her calves, over leggings with simple, soft, pull-on moccasin type footwear. The kurti was unbelted and hung loosely on her. Over that, she wore her hooded cloak. The wind caught the hood and it fell down her back, making her unbraided hair fly wildly around her face.

Standing on the precipice, she was struck with a pain, the searing pain she had experienced before, but different this time. She had not blacked out, had not felt other memories. She was being drawn to the island. When she reached the trail head, she spotted a figure on the shoreline of the island side. She was nearly a kilometer away but could see that the figure was a child.

Teacup?

The pain only eased as she moved down the trail toward the beach, toward the figure of Teacup. Then, before she was aware of where she was or what was happening, she was up to her midsection in water. The land bridge was filling up around her.

She would have no memory of what happened to her after that until the moment when she was pulled out of the blood red waters of the lake.


A/N: *Cinnabrin is so named as the Torbin equivalent of cinnabar, which is a vein-filling mineral found in a mercury ore and used to make the color vermillion and used in some cosmetics. Although the mercury ore is toxic, even to the Torbin, the deposits of cinnabrin are already eroded from the ore and deposited on the beaches with no ill effects to the Torbin. (I used a little latitude.)