“You should go to Sick Bay.”
“What?” Lili O’Day was still shaking a bit, still trying to process it all.
“Lili,” Chef Will Slocum commanded, “I will make sure that the disposer destroys the pan. But you’ve got to go. Now,” Behind him, a wall chronometer showed the date – November the 22nd of 2153. “Don’t make me make that an order.”
“But I’ve gotta help you make Thanksgiving dinner. And it, uh, it got interrupted.”
“Will you please stop worrying about cooking, and about cleaning and all of that, in light of, of … it?!”
Lili had not been looking at the mess on the wall or the floor but forced herself to, briefly. “That wasn’t an it. That was a she. The Major said so. He said the uni patch translated to She Who Almost Didn’t Breed in Time.”
“And that’s all the more reason for you to go to Sick Bay. Go, Lili, now. I will get Preston Jennings in here, or I’ll pressgang someone like Craig Willets from Engineering. Just get out of here. Jennings and I will clean up.”
“He’s in Navigation now, sir, in case you’ve forgotten. Cleaning up is my job, sir.”
“Not when you’re cleaning up a body, Ensign. Go to Sick Bay before I have you for insubordination or something or other.” Will was almost as old as Lili, looking every inch of middle age and weary. He pleaded with her. “Please. This has to get gone; it’s not just a Health Code violation. It’s damned depressing. Don’t make me ask you again. Just go. Let Phlox treat you. Go, Lili.”
“Okay,” she whispered. She made her way to Sick Bay slowly, still trying to figure everything out, but at least the shaking had more or less stopped. The pair of Xindi Insectoids had boarded the ship and had then come into the Enterprise’s large galley. She’d been slicing sweet potatoes, and throwing them into a cast iron skillet. When she’d heard on the intercom that they had been boarded, she had grabbed the skillet. And, remembering what it was like to hit a line drive, she’d swung, and connected.
The Sick Bay doors swished open. “Doctor?” Phlox, a Denobulan, was attending to a patient, a large fellow on a biobed, one of the MACOs, who Lili recognized. “Private Todd?”
“Yeah, hi. Doc, when can I get back in the action?” Frank Todd sported a sling on his left arm.
“Private, you broke your arm in two places. Healing is far from instantaneous, despite many recent medical advancements. Relax; you’ll be staying here overnight. Ensign O’Day, what can I do for you?”
“I, uh, I, um, there was an Insectoid in the kitchen.”
“Were you injured?” asked Phlox.
“Uh, no. Um, kind of.”
“Doc, I don’t want to tell you your business, but I think I know what’s going on with Ensign O’Day.”
“Oh, Private? And what is that?” Phlox retreated a little, to check on his experimental animals.
“We’ve only seen them working in pairs. We saw only one near the Armory. Haber got it. Ensign, you look a lot like he did. Did you get the other one?”
Lili just nodded. The shaking was back.
“That’s the first time you ever got one, right? Am I right?”
“Feels weird, right? It’s like a combination of guilt and all, because you have, you know, you got a moral core so this screws with that, big time. But it’s also relief, right? As in, you know, better him than you.”
“Her, then,” Frank allowed. “Still, you got that, too, right?”
“A little, I think. But it feels wrong.”
“What?” Lili asked.
“Just, c’mere. I don’t bite, I swear.” Lili approached, so Frank continued. “Give me your hand a sec.”
“Are you hitting on me?”
“Christ, no. I like the fellas. This is for other reasons.”
“Um, okay.” She complied.
He squeezed her hand. “I know you look at your hands, right now, and you’re thinking to yourself that they’re the hands of a killer. Right, am I right?”
“Yeah,” she whispered, it was a sound barely on the edge of hearing.
“I thought that, too, the first time I had to do that. But the truth is, these are, mine, my hands, they aren’t just the hands of someone who’s done that, a killer. They’re also the hands of a guy who plays poker. And they belong to a guy who’s from Europa. And they belong to a guy who has a tattoo on his bicep. They belong to a joker, a MACO, a lover, a friend, and a son. And yours, they belong to, to a nice lady, to a chef’s assistant; I don’t know what you’re called?”
“A sous-chef; the title is sous-chef.”
“A sous-chef, then. And those hands, your hands, they belong to an Ensign, and to, I dunno, Jenny Crossman’s roommate, and to somebody who lives on C deck, and a thousand and a million other things. Not just one, okay?”
“How do you process it?” she asked. “How do you make your peace with it, Frank?”
“I do it this way,” he admitted, “And I also, you know, I think about all of the things I’m grateful for. It’s Thanksgiving, right? Am I right?”
The doors swished open and it was Frank’s commanding officer, Major Jay Hayes. “How are you feeling, Private? Ensign, are you all right?”
“We’re both gonna be okay,” Lili told him.
“Yeah,” Frank confirmed. “And we were just talking about how grateful we both are to be alive. It’s the right day for that, eh?”
“Yeah,” Jay confirmed, “it’s the right day for that.”