Premiered June 24, 2003
Sorrenson sat waiting in the control room console chair. Occasionally he would glance up at Thomas who was working with the Intrepid's computer. Then Max would look off again, his mind still churning from the previous day's events. When the Captain entered control Max quickly got to his feet.
"Commander Thomas, you're in charge!" Thomas looked up, acknowledging the already established plan. Michaels continued, "Commander Sorrenson and I will be with the priests, trying to patch up any of yesterday's indiscretions. Ryerson and Stevens are off on their project and won't be back before nightfall. That leaves you, Moltz, Van Lantz and Woodward here at home."
"Yes sir, I understand."
Michaels looked at her for a moment. Then with a heavier emphasis, "Woodward is still restricted to ship. He is not to leave for any reason. Moltz and Van Lantz should also remain aboard until Commander Sorrenson and I return."
"Yes sir. Commander Woodward will be here when you return."
"See that he is."
With that he turned and started out of control. Sorrenson left with him with only a glance at Thomas. Thomas watched the various monitors as she tracked the two senior officers off of the Intrepid and away from the surrounding area. From reflex, she reinstituted the security wrap which kept outsiders out and insiders in. No one was going one way or the other without Marie’s okay.
Turning to another monitor she checked on Woodward. Expectedly he was still in the engineering spaces doing routine checks. Absently she noted the fact he was utilizing the computer extensively. For just a moment she eavesdropped on his efforts. Not surprisingly he was again monitoring many of the normal ship's functions, essentially the same work he had done just a few days ago. Then with a third monitor, she checked on the location of Van Lantz and Moltz. Everything was normal.
Going back to Woodward, she began to study his expression. His face was absolutely deadpan, running through mental exercises without any apparent conscious thought. More like a zombie than an engineer. He had steadfastly avoided all contact with any of the other crewmembers, staying at the engineering terminal most of his waking hours, and taking his meals in his stateroom. It was apparent he was trying to keep busy while the wounds healed.
For just a moment Thomas wondered if they would ever heal, if in fact she might somehow help them heal. But she had no idea of how. Marie's experience was that of a lone individual battling the entire world. Aiding and comforting another human being was not among her developed talents.
Abruptly Moltz walked into control, disturbing Thomas. She should have noticed his approach to control. She said nothing, concerned she might somehow give away her emotions. Moltz, however, was a trained observer of emotions. Nonchalantly he asked, "How's Woody doing?"
For just a moment, Marie thought to feign ignorance, but then decided Moltz would know better. "Nothing’s new. He just sits there going through the motions."
Moltz watched Marie carefully, realizing that more than one person was suffering. "Don't begrudge him that point. Going through the motions is important for him right now. It's an integral part of his personality. With a little time, he'll work it out."
"I hope so." For a moment Marie looked intently at Moltz. Then she turned back to the monitor.
Woody had just completed one of the computer's major status routines. Everything was normal. For a moment he sat passively, considering what other routines he might run. He tilted his head slightly, and his hand came up to rub his chin, then sweep past his face, as if he had just been roused from a deep sleep. For several moments he just sat there, one arm resting heavily on the console table, the other massaging his face. Then the one arm dropped to his lap. Almost unthinking he remembered the sequence code marker in his pocket. Quietly he reached into his pocket and pulled the small disc out. For several moments he simply stared at it. Then never really making a conscious decision, he inserted the disc into the computer console, in order to review Thomas' tape of the Day of Renewal.
The first pictures showed the temple and the surrounding areas with the first of the Riwanians arriving at the site. The sun was midway between rising and noon. Nevertheless there was still a sense of early morning. Thomas’ voice disturbed the initial stillness. She began making observations on the various activities, the tone of her voice flat and matter-of-fact. Woody reached up and quickly eliminated the audio, not wanting to hear another's thoughts. He had his own thoughts with which to deal.
Obliquely he realized he was the first person to ever review the tape. Thomas had kept her promise. And the others were apparently willing to allow him this minor privacy. But for what reason, Woody could not tell. The events recorded herein were facts and data, coldly presented, without hope, without any compassion. Woody had no good reason to even continue to watch the events unfold. There was no thought the fundamental fact of yesterday could ever be changed, no matter how often he might have relived it in his mind.
When Dawn appeared, Woody's heart leapt. She was some distance away, approaching the temple area, but there was no doubt as to her identity. The Riwanians were clearing the way for her in an informal but highly respectful manner. As the camera zoomed in on her figure, Woody shuddered at the sight of her graceful stride, slowly and evenly carrying her to the temple and death.
Woody shook his head, not wanting to watch, yet not daring to interrupt the sequence. As she neared the temple, Woody punched the computer controls to further blow up the picture. Only her face was of importance, not the surroundings, not the events. Only Dawn could hold his attention.
In the enlarged version, the purple and blue bruise he had given her only days before was now in full color. It was a perfect face, marred with a perfect bruise. And yet she wore it with a certain pride, as if it were a badge of honor, a scarlet letter. No make up concealed it or diminished it. His stomach reacted as if hit with a blow. For Woody had put that bruise on his beloved, and she now carried the wound like the kiss of a God. His whole body winced at the sight of the injury.
All the events continued to unfold: Dawn’s becoming aware of his presence, turning to him, whispering her love to him. With the magnification of the camera, he could now make out the words on her lips: 'My love forever I give to you'. As she entered the temple, Woody could only drop his head in abject sorrow.
But only for a moment. Impatient for her return, Woody punched instructions to the computer and the video moved forward to where Dawn was coming out of the temple at the top. At first, the camera showed the whole scene, and again Woody quickly blew up the picture of Dawn alone.
His pain increased, as her movements and gestures seemed now so oblivious to his presence. For just a moment he wondered if it was part of the requirements of The Gods: that the Chosen divorce themselves from the temporal world they would soon leave in preparation for their sacrifice. The rational thought soon became irrelevant, as Woody searched for a sign that she still knew he was there, for some weakness she would display, telling the world she still loved him and must somehow show it.
But there was nothing, absolutely nothing. She was like a carven image of herself, her jaw firm and unflinching, and her apparent rejection of him complete. There was no longer the radiance of her love for him on her face; only the expression of one who was to take her own life.
When the flames arose, Woody dropped his head, no longer able to witness. The sense of abandonment he had received on the Day of Renewal was now confirmed. The close up camera had seen to that. There could no longer be any doubt she had laid down to her death without a thought for him. It had been the most callous rejection. With the video tape ended, and the computer passively requesting further instructions, Woody could only weep, his head dropped and resting in his hands. Then trying to regain control, he raised his head, while his hands continued to support it, even while they broke up the beads of tears cascading down his cheek.
For several moments he sat there, looking off into oblivion. Then a curious thing happened. The tears seemed to stop, His expression began to change slowly from grief to thought. His mind began to come alive, to reach for something not quite there. It was as if a thought was struggling in its effort to reach the forefront of his consciousness, and had already heralded its imminent arrival. Unobtrusive alarm bells began to sound, implying that something was amiss.
At first it was the shock of the warning bells, the abrupt realization of some illogical factor. The meat of the idea, the critical information, had not yet arrived. There was something wrong, but not identified. Grasping for a clearer definition, Woody looked hard at the console's display. It still requested further instructions. He began to punch out a sequence of commands.
The display faded to one of Dawn's approaching the temple. Woody watched the tape replay all of the movements, all of the gestures, all the sights. Eventually the flames rose once again and the tape ended. Only Woody was not grieving. His thoughts were still trying to grasp the illusive thought. He stared at the console with more intensity, the force of his concentration driving out the force of his emotions.
Then the thought crystallized within the mist. As his mind began to identify the elements, he swallowed hard, not quite ready to realize the potential truth. Stunned, but still unsure, Woody shook his head as a way to deny the possible. But the paradox insisted. And to it he responded. Quickly he punched out more computer instructions. Dawn's face appeared at the moment she wished her love to Woody. More furious commands and the picture shifted to one side of the console, while another view appeared. On the left, Dawn's face stared at him with all her love radiating; on the right, Dawn's face ignored the world as she reached for the wine goblet of poison at the top of the temple.
For several long moments he simply stared at the console. The evidence was irrefutable. Silently Woody gasped, "The bruise… It's gone!"
His mind working furiously, he repeated, at normal magnitude, the initial sequence as she approached the temple. In the process he realized that without the zoom lens of the camera, he could barely make out the bruise on Dawn's face. Likewise when Dawn was at the top of the temple the normal magnitude put her even further away, and there was no sign of the bruise. He then had the computer repeat the same sequences with close ups. Now the bruise was incredibly obvious. Until as she took the poison the bruise was utterly missing. Clearly her bruise had disappeared by the time she reached the top of the temple. Woody could only sit stunned, as he struggled with the revelation.
His training slowly asserted itself. Carefully he repeated the first part of the sequence in thermo vision, with the various temperatures of the portions of the body glowing with different, bright colors. The bruise was painfully clear, fairly radiating energy. This he matched with the thermo vision of the one taken while she was at the top of the temple. Suddenly everything was changed! Woody had half expected to see a bruise covered over with make up. But no! The thermo vision was completely wrong! It was then the magnitude of the revelation hit him. The Dawn at the top of the temple was not flesh and blood. It was an android.
The logical steps began to assemble themselves in his mind. When Dawn entered the temple, she was a living, breathing being -- the thermo vision verified that fact. At the top of the temple, the figure of Dawn was not flesh and blood, but an android made to look like Dawn. Only someone forgot to add her recently acquired bruise.
The conclusions were even more staggering. Dawn did not take the poison, did not shun her love for Woody, did not ignore him, and did not die. Woody shuddered at the irrefutable truth. Dawn had not died! She was still alive. Dawn was still within the temple!
And suddenly Woody knew with incredible certainty, what he must now do.
The space within the communications pod was cramped, but adequate. Woody's slightly larger frame could find space to work comfortably, but found it generally difficult to move about with any ease or speed. In this case, however, he was only attempting to disable the pod, rather than checking all components. It would only require the simple substitution of a flawed computer chip with which to provide the real evidence of a malfunction. Once the flawed chip was in place, he pulled himself out through the hatch. For all practical purposes, there was no outward sign anything was amiss. Thinking back over his recent actions, Woody realized he was now ready.
Switching on the ship's intercom, he asked, "Larry, are you aboard?"
After a momentary delay, Larry answered, "Yes Woody. I'm in the computer room."
"Where's the replacement chips for the LC12 module?
There was a thoughtful pause. "They're in the bin."
"No they're not. Least ways I can't find them."
There was another pause before Larry answered. "Half a second and I'll come help you find them."
"Thanks." Woody smiled. That part had gone smooth enough.
When Larry arrived, he announced, "I brought an extra set of chips from the supply shack." Woody could only smile at Larry's concern and thoughtfulness. It might have been embarrassing to Woody for Larry to find the chips in their proper place, thereby suggesting Woody was not dealing with a full deck. Looking at Woody, Larry added, "What's wrong?"
Woody punched a few instructions to the local engineering console. "The LC12 in the communications pod is indicating a signal interruption."
Larry looked over Woody's shoulder at the screen, verifying the computer report. Then glancing down at Woody's defeated and dejected attitude, Larry offered, "No problem. I'll replace the chip right now."
Woody avoided smiling. All he said was, "Thanks."
He hardly acknowledged being aware of Larry's presence, as Van Lantz opened the hatch of the communications pod and started to crawl into the unit. When Larry was completely inside, Woody glanced around quickly to confirm they were alone. Quietly he moved to the hatch and shut it. He deftly locked the unit from the outside, checked to see the air supply was still going to the interior, and that the communication links were severed. Then he smiled briefly at the thought that Larry would wonder 'what the hell was going on’, and left the engineering spaces.
When he arrived at sick bay, he noted Moltz was nowhere around and walked in casually. Picking up several tranquilizer type drugs, he openly carried them back to his stateroom. If Thomas or Moltz were now monitoring his movements… So much the better.
Entering his stateroom, Woody set the bottles on the bedside table. Quickly and expertly he removed a mechanical linkage from the door mechanism, making it impossible to force the door from the inside by mechanical means. The linkage he pocketed. With his back to the room's monitor, he opened the bottles of tranquilizers and tossed the entire contents into the local trash disposal unit. Then checking again to ensure that everything was ready, he tossed the empty drug bottles onto the floor, knocked over a glass shattering it, and then loudly stumbled to his bed, groaning all the way. Then he was quiet. For a moment there was no sound of any kind. Until he heard Marie's voice over the intercom, "Woody?"
There was a significant pause. Marie asked again, with more emotion in her voice, "Woody? Please respond!" When there was still silence, Marie acted. "Rip! Meet me in Woody's stateroom! Pronto!"
Marie was there in less than a minute. Rip was slower to arrive. When he did, Marie had already seen the bottles and was attempting to get Woody off the bed and on to his feet. Rip guessed the situation immediately and rushed to help. Suddenly Woody came alive and shoved Marie hard into Rip, causing both of them to fall back against the far bulkhead. Before either had the slightest inkling of what had happened, Woody was out the door and had it shut. Quickly he pulled his hand laser and fired at the stateroom door's automatic door opening mechanism. With both the automatic system inoperative and the mechanical linkage dismantled, the door could no longer be opened.
A momentary pang of regret crossed his mind as Woody looked at the immovable door. He regretted he had had to deceive Marie and Rip, but he also knew he would never convince either of them to help him get away from the ship. And it was clearly now or never, while the others were away. The thought of speed once again entered his mind. He had been surprised at Marie's strength when she had tried to pick him up. He knew she was a resourceful woman, and he couldn’t afford to underestimate her. Abruptly he turned and bolted for control.
Rip groaned, more shocked than hurt, still trying to grasp what had happened. But Marie was quicker. She was on her feet and at the door in seconds. It took no great investigation to realize it was jammed shut. Reaching for the intercom, she yelled, "Van Lantz! Woody's loose! Don't let him off the ship! If you have to, SHOOT THE BASTARD!!"
As Rip got to his feet, slowly realizing what was happening, Thomas fairly tore off the cover for the manual control to open the door. "Damn!" she cursed. "He took the manual controls apart!" For just a split second she looked at the dismantled mechanics, ready to spit. Then she turned back to the door, just as Rip was starting to try it. "Move out of the way!" she yelled.
Rip quickly stepped aside as he saw her draw a heavy laser side gun. He was instantly amazed. "Do you always carry one of those?"
"Always!" she answered. Then she began to burn the door. As the smoke started to fill the compartment, she began cursing. Rip had never seen Thomas as outraged and furious as he was now witnessing, and for just a moment it scared him.
When Woody reached control, he deactivated the security system, opened the main lock, and gave the instructions to the computer to release the weapons cabinet. Quickly he grabbed another side arm and a heavy duty laser rifle, and headed for the main lock. Over the intercom, he could hear Thomas. "Woody! Don't be stupid!" Then after a slight pause, "Please!"
At the hatch, Woody stopped for just a second. Over the intercom he replied. "Sorry, Marie; It's just something, I have to do." Then before she could reply, he added, "Larry's locked in the communication pod. You'll want to get him out as soon as you can."
Dashing through the main hatch, he did not hear Marie's reply.
Rip continued to watch Marie, as she continued to burn a large circle on the stateroom door. They both knew Woody was off the ship already. As the smoke continued to accumulate in the stateroom, Rip wondered momentarily if Marie was aware they could be overcome with smoke before they could cut the door open. Then she gave it a determined kick, and the size of the opening increased. The air quality improved slightly, and Marie continued burning the door.
For almost fifteen minutes they worked on the door, until finally the small circular cut out fell onto the outside passageway. Marie was down immediately and crawling through the hole. As she scrambled to her feet, Rip quickly followed her. Starting for control she ordered, "Get Van Lantz and report to control!" Then she was gone.
At control she immediately activated the security screens, and opened all scanners in an effort to spot Woody. No sign of him. "Damn!" she yelled to no one in particular. She hit the recall signal. It would be the 'sensitive-emergency' recall. Hopefully Michaels and Sorrenson would call back as soon as they could, and just maybe they were in a position to intercept Woody.
Instead only Stevens responded. She and Shari Ryerson were some distance from the temple, perhaps as far as the Intrepid. Still, they might have a slim chance to head Woody off.
"Stevens," Marie ordered, "This is a direct order! Head for the Temple of Renewal. If you see Woody, stop him by any means! Gun him down, if you have to, but stop him!"
Steven's voice was incredulous, "Are you kidding?"
"No! Now do it!"
Marie had no real hope the order would be carried out; was not even sure if there would be a chance for Stevens or Shari to act upon it. Her best hope was still the Captain and Max.
But when there was no immediate response from either of the two senior officers, Thomas guessed they were still with the Riwanians and could not discreetly answer her recall -- at least not immediately. Between 'damns' Thomas railed at Woody. 'If he had just asked! But this way? I’m gonna kill him!'
As Rip and Van Lantz entered control and before either could speak, Thomas ordered, "Get the tranquilizer guns and go after Woody. Gun him down on sight! No questions, no explanations, no reasoning. Shoot the bastard! Stop him no matter what!"
As Rip ran back for the guns, Van Lantz asked, "Do we know where he's gone?"
Thomas glared back at him. "To the temple, you idiot!"
As Van Lantz left to join Rip, Thomas sat back heavily into the command control chair. Tears welled in her eyes, as she thought of Woody. But she knew she would stay at her post as befitted the command, waiting for others to get the job done and report back. Still muttering curses, she waited for the Captain to call in. They would still have the best chance to stop Woody.
Finally she gave up waiting, and called the Captain direct. Riwanians, or no Riwanians, he had to know.
Copyright 1983, 1996, 2003 Dan Sewell Ward
Chapter Twelve -- The Day of Renewal
Chapter Fourteen -- The Rescue
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]