Chapter 5
Erisian Waves

Location: ESS Ticonderoga, Uranian Sphere
Date: Tue 09 Jul 121
Time: UST 0419

Lieutenant Yudmila Trifkovic was asleep. 'Was' being the operative word. She was woken up by the sound of something, or rather, someone banging on the bulkhead. It didn't take much brainpower to guess who it was.
Trifkovic only had to look over to confirm her suspicions. There was Lieutenant Han lying backwards in her rack, kicking the bulkhead over and over again. Lam was holding her pillow over her ears because she was too scared of Lieutenant Han to say anything. Fortunately, Bhakta was out on duty, or she'd be pitching a fit right about now.
She was half-tempted to follow Lam's example, but as her sub-leader, Trifkovic felt responsible for Lieutenant Han and couldn't just leave well enough alone.
"Nyx, what's wrong?" she asked.
All Lieutenant Han do is mutter 'fuck, fuck, fuck' like it was all she could say. Some days Trifkovic wondered if it was all she could say. Fighter jocks were known for their salty language, but Lieutenant Han was ridiculous. Of course, her language wasn't the only thing about her that was ridiculous, but rather than dwelling on that, Trifkovic had to find a way to resolve the current situation.
Reluctantly, she got up and went over to Lieutenant Han's rack. Lieutenant Han was holding her head and squirming all over the place while she continued to kick the bulkhead.
"What? Have you got a headache?" Trifkovic asked. "Take some ibuprofen for God's sake."
All Lieutenant Han did was continue to mutter curses to no one in particular. Between that and her constant kicking, Trifkovic was losing patience with her.
"If it's that bad, go to Sickbay, dammit."
Still Lieutenant Han ignored her and Trifkovic started to get angry.
"Listen, Nyx, I'm sick and tired of putting up with your shit. You've made our lives a living hell since you moved in here and I'm not going to take it anymore. If it's that bad, you're going to Sickbay if I have to drag you every step of the way."
She took hold of Lieutenant Han, who now started thrashing and screaming. With a great strain, Trifkovic managed to pull Lieutenant Han off her rack, sending them both to the deck. Lieutenant Han was a bit bigger than her, so physically dragging her all the way to Sickbay sounded less and less like a good idea.
An alternative came to her, though she had no guarantee of it being any better of an idea. Grabbing Lieutenant Han by the collar, Trifkovic dragged her across the deck into the shower room. Pulling her into the stall, Trifkovic turned the water temperature all the way down and hit the button to start the shower cycle. The stall door closed behind her and the two of them were immediately drenched by the freezing jets of water.
Trifkovic pulled the screaming, struggling Lieutenant Han to her feet to ensure that her head got well soaked. Thankfully she was too preoccupied with holding her head to thrash about too much, which would spare Trifkovic a few bruises. All she had to do was hold Lieutenant Han relatively still until the cold water worked its magic.
After a couple minutes, the water cut off, leaving them very cold and very wet. Lieutenant Han had stopped screaming and was giving Trifkovic a stunned, wide-eyed stare, as if she had just now come to realize where she was.
Trifkovic was still clutching Lieutenant Han by her shirt, her fists bunched tight and shaking from the cold.
"Feeling better?" she asked.
"I still have a headache," Lieutenant Han mumbled through chattering teeth.
"What the hell was all that about?"
"Since yesterday, I've had this fuckin' headache. It kept gettin' worse an' worse. I can't think straight. It's drivin' me crazy."
"Go to Sickbay, dammit."
"Don't make me go there."
"Go. Now."
Lieutenant Han stared at Trifkovic a while before finally nodding. Trifkovic sighed in relief. At least that was over and she could go back to sleep.
Then the water kicked back on again. This time they both screamed.

* * *

Date: Tue 09 Jul 121
Time: UST 0622

Lance Corporal Asif Radjabu sat in the Sickbay waiting area, clutching his head and rocking back and forth in his chair. He deliberately avoided the aid station on Deck 6 because he didn't want to deal with all the hell he'd get for going on sick call over a headache, but he couldn't take it anymore. He just wanted the pain to go away.
"Radjabu!" a nurse called out.
Radjabu raised one hand while still holding his head with the other and stumbled over to the nurse.
"You going to make it, Marine?" the nurse asked.
"Ye, yes'm," Radjabu mumbled, unable to even articulate the 'ma'am'.
"Come this way," the nurse said.
The nurse led him into an exam room, where she gestured to a nearby seat. Radjabu sat down and she proceeded to take his vitals. While this was going on, she asked the usual questions.
"And what brings you here today?"
"Headache. Really bad."
"Well, I guess that means a yes for pain. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you can imagine, how would you rate your pain?"
"Eleven."
"Is it really that bad?"
"I haven't had a headache like this before."
"Any known drug allergies?"
"Penicillin."
"Okay, that should do it for now. The doctor will be with you shortly."
The nurse left the room and though she said the doctor would be in shortly, it felt like an eternity. His only company was his aching head. The hell of it was that he couldn't even describe the pain, couldn't pinpoint where exactly it hurt. It hurt so much that he almost wondered if it was really hurting at all. That's how much this headache was warping his sense of reality.
What was pain?
What was he?
Everything seemed so distant, so abstract.
Then all the sudden he was brought back to the here and now by someone hitting him twice upside the head with a hammer. That was what it felt like anyway. Radjabu turned to see the doctor standing right next to him, having apparently clapped his hands to get the young Marine's attention.
"Sorry about that," the doctor said. "You really must have it bad to not notice me coming in."
"Nnh."
"I'm going to need you to use your words. Now you told the nurse you haven't ever had a headache like this, right?"
"Yeah..."
The doctor went over to the sink and came back with a small cup of water in one hand and a couple white pills in the other.
"Let's start you off with some ibuprofen and see what that does for you."
Fuckin' ibuprofen. What was that going to do?
Still, Radjabu would take what he could get. He popped the pills and gulped down the water, but he wasn't expecting much to come of it.
"We've got a few other cases like yours," the doctor continued, "so I want to run some tests. You know where they do the blood draws here?"
Radjabu shook his head.
"Come on," the doctor said, motioning for him to follow. "I'll show you."
Radjabu clumsily got up on his feet and followed the doctor out. Where on earth were the wonders of modern medicine? Ibuprofen and blood draws... They could do that a hundred years ago. Two hundred years ago even. Maybe more.
He just wanted the headache to go away. He'd do just about anything...

* * *

Date: Tue 09 Jul 121
Time: UST 0750

Jack and Ally were walking to Sickbay. Ally had went on sick call complaining of a headache, but the ibuprofen and saline drip they gave her at the aid station wasn't doing the trick. For anyone else in the squad, Sergeant Rahim would've had the sick person go alone, but he was happy enough to be rid of the two of them that he sent Jack along with her.
To be honest, Jack was a little worried for her. Not only did she appear to be in a lot of pain, but she would zone out every now and then, which made all the more reason for him to go with her.
"So this has never happened before?" he asked.
Right now was one of Ally's more lucid moments and she replied, "I used to get migraines every now and then when..." She blushed. "When, well, you know..."
Jack could be a little thick at times, but it didn't take him that long to connect the dots and leave it at that before he embarrassed her any further. That wasn't likely to be the problem, though. If the suppressants weren't working on her, it would've shown up sooner.
They kept on walking and Ally bumped into someone. It was just a light grazing that she didn't even seem to notice and Jack barely registered it himself.
"HEY!"
They turned to see that the person she bumped into was an officer. Not just any officer, but an O-5.
Jack could feel the blood chill in his veins as he snapped to attention. Fortunately, in spite of her headache, Ally's conditioning took over and she was at attention hastily stuttering an apology.
"E-excuse me, sir! I--"
What followed seemed to happen in slow-mo. The officer punched Ally right in the face--dropping her like a sack of potatoes--and proceeded to furiously kick her in the gut. Almost as soon as Ally went down, right as the first kick was connecting, Jack gave the officer a forceful shove. It was then that he saw the wild, frenzied look in the officer's eyes. He was straight psycho.
The officer swung at Jack, who managed to dodge successfully, and then lunged at Ally. Jack rushed at him before he could reach her, ramming him into the bulkhead. The officer pounded away at Jack with his fist before prying him off and making another go for Ally.
Desperate to keep the officer off Ally, Jack's arm shot out, grabbing the officer and yanking him back. While the officer was off-balance, Jack moved in and got him in a headlock. If it worked right, he'd pull off a blood choke and the officer would be out in seconds.
The officer wasn't going down without a fight, though. He bucked like wild horse, clawed at Jack's arms and his head thrashed around trying to smash Jack in the face. When that didn't get the job done, he started hitting Jack in the ribs with his elbow over and over again. The officer was crazy strong and it hurt like hell, but Jack didn't dare let go.
The officer then stabbed Jack in the sides with his fingers like they were knives. Jack gritted his teeth, but didn't break the hold. If the officer wasn't punching through the skin, it damn well felt like it.
Finally, the officer went limp. As tempting as it was to keep up the choke for another minute or so, Jack let go and let the officer crumple on the deck.
He was just about to check on Ally when the strangest sensation came over him. It was like his heart stopped and then everything went black.

* * *

Date: Tue 09 Jul 121
Time: UST 0912

Master at Arms Third Class Laurentio Ribaldi was late for his shift at the brig. Chief was going to tear him a new asshole for sure. He was probably going to spend half his shift pushing. Joy.
While he was thinking of the lovely fate that awaited him, he saw something odd. A skinny black Marine was standing near the door to the brig, leaning face-first into the bulkhead, almost like he was balancing on his forehead.
It was odd, yes, but Ribaldi could've left it at that if something else didn't catch his eye. Clutched in the Marine's hand was a P43.
Ribaldi instinctively went for his own weapon, but stopped short of drawing. He didn't want to risk provoking this guy, but he wasn't going to take any stupid risks either.
"Hey, Marine, MA," Ribaldi said, trying to speak as loudly, clearly and confidently as he could.
The Marine tilted his head toward him. Ribaldi had his attention.
"How about you place that weapon on the deck? Nice and slow."
Yes, he should've told instead of asked, but he was trying to play this cool. If it got the job done without anyone getting hurt, who cared if he followed the manual word-for-word or not?
The Marine, still keeping his forehead pressed against the bulkhead, raised the P43 and held it steady center mass. With a quick glance down, Ribaldi could see the red dot of the laser sight on his chest. He felt a bead of sweat run down the side of his face.
Keep it cool, he told himself. Keep it cool.
"Why don't you lower the weapon? And while you're at it, put it down on the deck."
The Marine was breathing heavily, but his hand remained steady.
"Open the door," he said.
"What?"
"Open the door," the Marine repeated, his voice strained like he was hurting something fierce.
"Put down the weapon and we can both go in right now."
"Open. The door."
The Marine wasn't backing down and Ribaldi was starting to think he couldn't talk him down either. Was he going to have to take the shot? Could he actually take down the Marine before he got shot himself? P43s didn't have a lot of man-stopping power, which was both good and bad for him since he was armed with the same thing. His disruptor might actually have a better chance of putting the Marine down, but it'd take him even longer to draw that and he only had the slimmest chance of getting a shot off first as it was.
He decided to make one last attempt to get the Marine to comply before taking any greater risks.
"Put the weapon down on the deck," he said, this time more forcefully. "Put it down on the deck... slowly."
It wasn't happening. He had to take the shot.
Don't think. Just do it.
Relying wholly on his reflexes and his training, Ribaldi darted to the side and drew his weapon. It just took a fraction of a second for his thumb to disengage the safety, but that was also all the time it took for the Marine to squeeze the trigger. Two more pulses followed in quick succession.
The thing about a charged pulse is that there's essentially no mass. It's just a little packet of energy that goes right through you. There's no punch to it like a bullet. It doesn't knock you back when it hits you. In fact, you barely realize you've been hit at all.
And yet Ribaldi found himself paralyzed where he stood. For some reason, he couldn't pull the trigger himself. He just stood there for a moment, his weapon pointed at the Marine, but his finger refused to bend the little bit it needed to fire off a shot of his own.
His leg buckled and he fell to the deck. The Marine stepped away from the bulkhead and turned to him, all the while keeping the P43 trained on him. He looked down on Ribaldi with vacant, heavy-lidded eyes.
"Sorry," he mumbled distantly. "I'm sorry... They said it was the only way... The only way to make the headaches go away..."
A figure dressed all in black appeared out of nowhere and hovered over Ribaldi's body.
"You should've just opened the door," a man's heavily modded voice said.
And that was the last thing Ribaldi remembered.