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Jessica ran her hand through her tangled mess of hair, looking over the items laid out on the bed. She sized each of them up, comparing them thoroughly and looking at the small duffel bag that was off to the side of it all.

How the hell did I fit all of this in here?

There was a small knock on her bedroom door. She shrugged and called out "come on in" as she continued to mentally attempt to pack her bag. The door opened slowly, and Jessica glanced up to see Justine walk in slowly, gripping anything within reach to keep her steady. Jessica smiled at her. "Stretching out?"

Justine nodded. "I can't believe how sore and weak I feel." She managed to cross the short distance to the bed and hopped on top of it, causing a small stack of folded shirts to fall over. "When are you leaving?"

Jessica decided to start packing the smaller articles of clothing, rolling up her underwear and stuffing it into the bag. "Not until tomorrow morning. I'm catching a shuttle to the space dock and then..." She trailed off, looking up at Justine. "And then back out there."

Justine nodded, looking down at her hands. She looked back up and nodded again. "It's what we signed up for."

"It doesn't make it easier."

"No." The girl leaned back on the bed, slowly kicking her legs up and down. "But we can always talk still."

Jessica smirked. "Yeah, I guess so." Finished with the small pile of underwear, she moved to her socks and began packing them. "What are you going to do?"

"I figure I have another month of leave saved up. After that I'll be out there with you."

"Have you checked in with your captain yet?"

Justine paused, then shook her head. "No, not yet. I guess this is me checking in now."

Jessica finished balling up a pair of socks before she stopped in surprise. She looked at Justine, speechless for a moment.

Justine blushed and looked down. "I...put in a transfer request."


"Yesterday. It was approved. I'll be on the Rafale in a month and a half."

Jessica dropped the ball of socks in the bag, her mouth open in excited surprise as she began to understand what her friend had done. "You're...you're going to be on Rafale. With me."

Justine nodded, smiling bashfully. "Merveille is in dock indefinitely, and short of being on a starbase on the Klingon front, I won't be much good. I can actually do something on the Rafale. And," she paused, looking up at Jessica. "And we wouldn't have to just call each other."

Jessica clapped her hands together, laughing as she jumped on the bed and tackled Justine. The girls laughed together for the first time in what seemed like forever, and Jessica kissed her friend's forehead. "Welcome aboard, sweetie."

They lay on the bed for a while, giggling together and talking about life on the Rafale when the small console on her nightstand beeped, alerting Jessica to an incoming transmission. She sighed before sitting up, and Justine sat up. "Duty calls?"

Jessica nodded to her friend. "Welcome to being friends with the captain."

Justine shrugged before struggling for a moment to hop off the bed. "I think I can get used to it," she said over her shoulder as she walked out and closed the door.

Jessica was still smiling wide as she pressed the button on her console. The image of the Bajoran lieutenant appeared, and he smiled back in surprise. "Well, you look much happier today."

"A lot's happened in the past few days."

Obruz nodded. "Good. I'll have to call Justine later." He glanced off to the side for a moment and then back. "I was just calling to make sure you remembered your shuttle tomorrow and to just say..." He paused for a moment, then shook his head. "Well, I wanted to say good luck. I wish you the best."

Jessica nodded. "Thank you, Dossu."

"Your crew will be on board and ready to go, minus a few key positions. You, uh...never did get back to me about a few. Starfleet is going to just assign you someone in the next few days if you still don't make a decision."

Jessica's smile wavered, and she sighed. "To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought. I had a lot else on my mind the past few weeks."

Obruz nodded, smiling a little more. "I know."

"Dossu, really; thank you. You did a lot for me the past month when I really had no business expecting you to." Jessica looked up at him. "You were...an incredible help."

Obruz waved her off. "It was the least I could do. For Bridget."

"Well, from all three of us, thank you." Jessica smiled, and she hoped the man understood just how much help he had been to her. He had been an incredible confidant, an amazing XO, and a true friend in the aftermath of Vega, from the moment she had beamed over to the Merveille. His volunteering to help, even months after, was a blessing for her.

"Well, I'll let you finish packing, Commander. Be safe out there. Maybe, Prophets willing, we'll cross paths again."

Jessica looked away for a moment as an epiphany struck her. "Wait," she said, turning back in time to see him reach in front of him to close the channel. "Dossu. I still need a first officer."

Obruz nodded. "Aye. First Officer, an Operations Officer, maybe a couple other dedicated department heads. I forwarded the list to you a few weeks ago. Do you need it again?"

Jessica shook her head. "No. I need you to contact command."

Dossu smirked and nodded, picking up his PADD to take notes. "Whatever you need."

"I need you to put in a transfer request to the Rafale, Dossu."

Obruz stopped, looking up at Jessica in confusion. "Ma'am?"
"I need a first officer, Obruz." Jessica leaned forward, grinning at the still confused Bajoran. "You better get on that transfer request before Starfleet sticks me with someone else."


He had to keep moving.

Tosek stole a quick glance behind him, his eyes searching for the unseen presence he could feel behind him, his keen senses in conflict with what his eyes were telling him - that there was nothing there.

He normally would have dismissed the feelings as nerves, since logically there was nothing he could see or hear around him. He was alive, just like anyone else on the Warwick, and subject to the same stresses and woes as his crewmates. He was simply fortunate enough to not need to show his anxieties outwardly.

This was different, however. The occasional flash of blue lights throughout the old ship had caught the attention of the engineers, and they had started going through the ship trying to isolate the cause of the lighting malfunctions. A few crewmembers had fallen ill, but it had been ignored - humans seemed to always be ill.

Tosek tapped the control pad next to the cargo bay door, instructing the computer to let him in. The hairs on the back of his neck raised, and he jumped inside impatiently once the doors were just wide enough for him to enter.

He felt a slight shift in the air as the lighting flickered to deep blue around him again. He frowned.

The lighting problem had never been fixed. More crewmembers became ill, until finally people began to die, their bodies simply shutting down. The captain gave the order to leave the Rift so that they could establish communications with Starfleet. No sooner had the order been given than he had been lifted into the air, struggling as if to breathe. In a moment it had ended; he was dropped to the ground, dead. The doctor had reported all neural activity had ceased instantly. More reports of similar incidents occurred around the ship, and with alarming speed.

And then, the ship had stopped.

Tosek felt as if something was breathing down his neck. He turned quickly, raising his phaser and pointing it at the empty air behind him.

Despite everything his senses were telling him, the facts were all there to be seen; logically, something was killing the crew.

The air shifted again with the lights, and Tosek came face to face with a gaping mouth. He shouted in surprise as he felt himself lift off the deck. As he kicked and swung to free himself, he felt time seem to stretch as his body felt distant and his mind slipped away.


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