Short Story: "Something for the Ship"

by James L. Wright Jr.

In the suffocating darkness of the crawl-space above Ensign Suder's quarters, the demons were reasserting themselves.

I just want to do something for the ship. The words ricocheted inside Suder's throbbing skull, piercing his every thought as they had since the previous afternoon, when Tuvok and Captain Janeway had entered his quarters cordially-only to retreat minutes later, with that terrible expression he seemed destined to inspire in everyone he encountered.

I didn't like the way they looked at me. Weeks before, he would have killed them for looking at him that way, as he had murdered crewman Darwin. Even now, it took all the discipline Tuvok had helped him nurture to-if not silence the cries for their blood, at least deflect the impulse to those far more deserving.

Suder heard a clatter below and chanced a look into his quarters, moving silently to avoid detection. There was no further sound, and Suder guessed the noise to be further settling of debris. In the hours since the explosion that had destroyed his gilded brig, such noises had been common.

His downward gaze lasted several seconds. So much had been lost in that moment. His orchids, the only activity in his life that had been purely creative. His ship, which now seemed firmly under enemy control. His crewmates, most likely dead. And worst of all, the last of that tenuous mental control which had given him the hope for eventual peace.

Something for the ship. As the old furies raged within him, he wondered if he should even care. Were it not for this ship and its damnably enlightened Starfleet leadership he would likely be dead by now, the demons silenced forever, his thirst for death finally sated. In the Alpha Quadrant he had been a natural ally to the Maquis, applying his deadly impulses in a worthy cause. He was an addict, not a patriot; he needed the blood on his hands, the last gasps of the enemy ringing in his ears. Each new death silenced the voices, if only for a moment. "He did his job a little too well," Chakotay had said to Tuvok, a memory shared with Suder in that melding of minds which had given him a first taste of inner calm, but nearly destroyed his benefactor. "When I stopped him, I sometimes got the feeling he was this close to killing me."

If only you knew how right you were, Commander. When the blood began to flow, he hadn't much cared about who it came from. There was no reason to it, as Tuvok had the misfortune to learn; it was an instinct as natural as hunger. When Chakotay had interrupted his feeding on Cardassian death, he almost joined them on Suder's plate.

Suder wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his uniform. He didn't know what was happening on Voyager; confined to quarters after his murder of Darwin, cut off from most communications except for meals and Tuvok's meditation sessions, he had been even less privy to what was happening on the ship than when he was assigned to engineering. He knew about Seska and the Kazon Culluh, of course, and had heard about Michael Jonas' recent treachery and ultimate death; he imagined the current crisis was also Seska's doing. If anyone had seemed to understand Suder, it had been his fellow Maquis and engineer; it was no surprise to learn she had been a Cardassian spy all along. As for Jonas.he had been pining for Seska since their days aboard Chakotay's vessel, a weak-willed pet with a poor choice of masters.

Suder had to suppress a sudden giggle; in the months since Voyager and Chakotay's crew had been brought to the Delta Quadrant, Engineering had likely become the most dangerous place on the ship. Seska, Jonas, Hogan, Suder, even (briefly) Torres-engineers all-had been the cause and the setting of several of the ship's most severe crises. Only the mess hall could lay claim to that level of shipboard distress, but Neelix was at least a known (if well-intentioned) threat to the crew's well-being, and the doctor had found appropriate remedies.

Suder's reverie did not last long. The thoughts of such minor threats as Neelix's cooking only served to remind him that he could no longer hear his crewmates, that the only voices he heard in the ship's corridors belonged to the enemy. And the voices he heard in his head were demanding a return to the days when the enemy was a field of life, and the time was ripe for harvesting.

Something for the ship. But what could he do?

Kill, the voices cried. The cause is just. The crew needs your help. Suder sensed Tuvok's voice among the echoes, and he was grateful. Once, he would have needed no justification to kill. That the voices would attempt any logical appeal meant the Vulcan's regular efforts to discipline and pacify Suder's mind had not been totally wasted. He was glad. Before the meld, he would have killed Tuvok had the moment presented itself. As it was, the meld nearly proved fatal to them both.

Suder hoped Tuvok was still alive. They had not spoken since he and Janeway had left Suder's quarters, leaving Suder to rage at himself for allowing his eagerness to give something back to the ship to devolve into panic. Tuvok's stern voice had given him the chance to catch himself before the demons regained control of his actions, gave him the moment he needed to take that long shuddering breath and rein himself in. But the damage had been done; Captain Janeway's face told him that she had seen his eyes burn with imminent mayhem, had seen the abyss behind the infinite ebony of his pupils, had glimpsed the demons which gave Suder's pleading words a murderous cadence before Tuvok's intervention. And even Tuvok's eyes had betrayed his own illogical terrors-the memory of his own near-disastrous battle with the voices that demanded blood.

Janeway had not accepted his offer to increase the ship's garden yield. Perhaps he had spoken too soon. Perhaps in time, she would have listened to Tuvok and Kes and allowed him to help. But now he would never know; the enemy had seen to that. And for that, they would pay.

Using one of Tuvok's meditation techniques, Suder silenced the voices and listened for several moments. He was greeted with uninterrupted silence. Even the debris seemed unwilling to disturb his concentration. Finally, satisfied that it was safe to move, Suder slipped down into the wreckage of his quarters. He searched for items he could use.

For the first time in the Delta Quadrant, Suder had an enemy to fight and no ally to stay his hand. Tuvok's mental impressions urged logic and discipline, but did not argue against the course Suder had set for himself. If anything, the shared thought processes improved his chances; Suder knew the inner control, however slight, would ensure he would kill purposefully rather than with blind rage.

As Suder entered the darkened corridor, the voices cheered.

Copyright © 1996 Jim Wright

Star Trek (R) is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Star Trek: Voyager is a trademark of Paramount Pictures.

Last Updated: July 14, 1996
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