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Down the Rabbit Hole

Posted on Wed Nov 11th, 2020 @ 9:01pm by Lieutenant Commander Finnley Keating VII
Edited on on Wed Mar 23rd, 2022 @ 1:26pm

Mission: The Shadow of Arachne
Location: Deck 7
Timeline: MD-04 after "Lift the Veil"
1767 words - 3.5 OF Standard Post Measure

The ship had recently entered a type of fluidic space, but so far it hadn’t had a huge impact on anything and the major engineering systems were back in working order. Finnley left everything in Paxton’s hands for a bit and returned to her quarters for a much needed sonic shower and fresh change of uniform.

After stepping out of the shower she slowly pulled the new uniform up over her arm, careful to avoid the cuts that were still there from the conduit rupture a few days ago. She probably should’ve done something about them earlier, but there were too many higher priority tasks on the to do list so she had continued to ignore it.

Finnley looked in the mirror as she put up her hair. A black smudge vaguely resembling the outline of a human figure appeared in the corner. She looked at it curiously and then ran a towel over it to scrub it out, but when the towel was removed the figure only appeared more clearly. Startled, Finnley turned to look, but nothing was there and when she turned back to face the mirror, the smudge was gone. Sighing, she clung to the sink, calming her nerves for a moment. Once satisfied that it was just a fluke and she wasn’t going crazy, Finnley turned to head back to engineering only to be stopped short as the figure re-appeared, but this time it wasn't a vague reflection. This time she was faced with a human figure in tattered clothes, drenched in blood.

Her heart jumped out of her chest and she ran, with a new destination in mind. Although sickbay was her least favorite part of the ship, it was certainly better than whatever was causing her mind to play tricks on her. It must be some sort of delayed effect from being thrown back in that conduit explosion, she thought as she entered sickbay, slightly out of breath from running.

Doctor Noah Reed was seated in his office when Keating entered sickbay. He chuckled faintly to himself and rose from his chair, grasping the wine glass on his office table before strolling out to meet her. "Ah, how's my favorite department chief doing today?" He slowly let his gaze wander down her curvy figure before sliding back up to meet her gorgeous blue eyes.

Finnley raised an eyebrow as Reed walked out, “Wine already? Long day?” She asked with a half smile. Something seemed slightly off, but considering sickbay made her uncomfortable in general she shrugged off the feeling and moved on. "Can you fix this?" She asked, rolling up her sleeve to reveal the cuts from earlier, thinking it would be better to start with that than to go straight to talk of delusions.

Noah smirked confidently and drank the entire glass of the rich dark liquid. "Nothing like starting the day off right, eh Finn? And of course I can patch that up!" He pulled her gently to sit on a biobed and walked back to his office, returning with a refilled glass and a second one which he handed to her. "First order of business is to relax..."

What the hell...she thought, awkwardly accepting the glass. The wine did nothing but make her more apprehensive of the situation. Something was definitely off. Finnley slowly put the glass back down and casually slid off the biobed. “You know actually, I think I’m fine. Besides, I forgot that I left a test running in engineering and I should really go and attend to that,” she lied, trying to maintain a calm demeanor as to not raise any suspicion.

Reed gently grabbed her by the arm. "Woah there. You really should be checked out thoroughly before you start roaming around the ship, my dear," he replied with a chuckle. He slowly started to guide her back to the bio bed. "I've got something special planned to make you feel better."

“That’s definitely my cue to leave,” Finnley stated, feeling as though the situation had just gone from uncomfortable to downright disturbing. She pulled her arm from his grip and tore through the door, exiting into the hallway. Before turning the first corner she looked over her shoulder, still in a panic, checking to see if Reed had chosen to pursue. No one was there. The small sense of relief only lasted a second as she pummeled into someone rounding the same corner.

"Woah," Reed said as he rounded the corner and bumped right into Lieutenant Keating. "I'm so sorry, Finn. I didn't see you there."

Finnley’s eyes widened and her face twisted into an expression of fear and confusion as she realized the figure in front of her was the same as the one she had just run from in sickbay. “What?! But were just in sickbay…” She pointed a shaky finger in the direction she had just come from. Clearly she was going mental, she thought, slowly backing away from Reed until she ran into the hallway wall behind her.

Noah's face contorted into one of great confusion as he witnessed her run into the wall. He slowly walked up to her and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, are you alright? What are you talking about? I'm going to sickbay but I'm coming from the mess hall. Why do you look so pale?"

She instinctively shirked away from his touch and side stepped along the wall. “I... I was just in sickbay, but you were there. How... how did you get here, if you were in there?!”

Noah Reed frowned at her. "Well, obviously I wasn't in sickbay. You just saw me come from the other direction." He noticed her fearful reaction which led him to believe that she experienced something very traumatic and she was having a hard time coping. "Why don't we walk to sickbay and check it out together?"

Calm down, think it through, she thought. He was right, he had just come from the opposite direction. That meant she was either going crazy or there was an extra Reed on the ship. Nonetheless, she should probably figure out what was going on. Finnley let out a resigned sigh and nodded at Reed.

The doors to sickbay opened and she cautiously entered behind Noah. The wine glasses were gone and there were no other instances of Reed to be seen. “I swear I was just in here and you were here. We had a whole conversation. This... this isn’t possible. What’s happening?!” Finnley tried to remain as calm as possible, but her heart was beating a mile a minute as the realization hit her that she must be going insane.

Reed waved a had at the exam table. "Why don't we do a quick scan just to see how you're doing? It's painless." He walked over to a crash cart and picked up his tricorder, which had seen plenty of use in the last few days. "Just sit down. I promise that if you feel uncomfortable, you can leave any time."

Finnley kept a wary eye on Reed as she took a seat. She worked to focus, calm down, and think through all of the events leading up to this moment. Racking her brain for an explanation as Reed collected the tricorder. She recalled having seen something, a hallucination perhaps, in her quarters earlier. That was the reason for traversing to sickbay in the first place, she had wondered if it was some sort of delayed effect from the prior conduit eruption.

Was it possible that the Reed she interacted with before was also a hallucination? It felt so real that it was hard to believe, even though the interaction itself was far outside of the realm of what she would have expected from the doctor. “Am I actually going crazy?” She asked as Reed scanned, still on her guard. She couldn’t be sure if this Reed was the genuine article, but at least he wasn’t as unsettling as the last one.

Doctor Reed kept his eyes on the tricorder as he waved the handheld scanner over her entire body before popping it back into the front of the tricorder. "Aside from an elevated heartrate you appear to be fine physically. I don't believe you're having a mental breakdown, based on my current observations." He frowned as he pondered the issue. "It's a big galaxy. Maybe what you saw was real, or perceived to be real? There was a documented case aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise some years ago when they were briefly in galaxy M-Thirty-Three. The crew experienced altered perceptions of reality based on how they were feeling." He took a step closer to her and looked into those deep eyes. "This area might have similar effects. That's not my department but I'd bet that's the case. I think you'll be alright as long as you take a deep breath and force your mind to think of something else when you encounter anything unusual."

“I feel like this belongs in the easier said than done category.” Finnley nervously chuckled, “but I guess if there’s nothing wrong then I’m free to go?” she asked, anxious to get out of sickbay and return to engineering. It was difficult to tell what was real and what wasn’t, but engineering was the most comforting place on the ship in her opinion. Diving back into work might settle her nerves and clear her mind.

Noah's eyes slid down and to the side as he tried to stamp out her work aspirations in a gentle way. "Actually, yes, with the condition that you go get some rest in your quarters. Put on some meditative music, light some candles, perhaps. I'm concerned what might happen if you have another episode while in main engineering, Finn."

Finnley let out a notable sigh of annoyance at not being allowed to immediately return to engineering and considered, for a moment, arguing the terms. However, she realized that ‘some rest’ left the conditions open ended. ‘Some’ could mean ten minutes or ten hours.

“Fine,” she replied as she hopped up. The annoyance in her voice only tempered by the fact that she was able to determine her own resting timeline. She turned to look at Reed and smiled. “Thanks by the way. It’s nice to know that I’m not actually going insane.” With that, she made for the exit and her quarters.


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