I frowned, wondering what he was apologising for.
" I don't suppose you have anything to eat, do you?"
I scowled disapprovingly.
"No, and I didn't realise you were after a picnic."
He laughed, not altogether pleasantly.
"Of course, you've just arrived. You won't know the hunger."
"Yes. The Dancers are an energy based life form. They don't eat so there is no food here."
My mind wandered back to that first day in the cargo bay when T'Roc had told us of our mission. "Five life forms had materialised—three of them inside walls and bulkheads. The remaining two were alive, but not well. Emaciated and dehydrated, their minds were blank. They died within hours."
"So not only are their minds wiped, they starve too?"
"But you've been here a while. What have you been eating?"
"I came with rations, but they were taken from me. I've not eaten in five days."
I looked at those long, sharp, black teeth that seemed even longer and sharper now. He laughed again.
"I'm hungry ... but not that hungry. Now, let's find your friend," and he ambled over to a door on the far side.
"I assume you know you must be silent?"
"Well, I had more or less worked that out, but if we are temporally out of sync with them—"
"Oh! I thought we were. I thought that was why they couldn't see us?"
"Good grief, no! Our invisibility is because they don't see things the way we do. Animals have an entirely different method of visual perception to Dancers. We have taken advantage of that difference to elude them by manipulating their perceptions. They detect us through a combination of things including noise and the electrical impulses our bodies emit."
"Ah!" I exclaimed. Suddenly the penny had dropped. "Neural blocking! My telepathic cloaking device!"
"Ah, so you do know how you do it."
"Well, I do now ... sort of ... but that doesn't explain why you can see me and then you can't."
"You're a very complicated animal, Jenny. Your defences go up and down and with it your ability to block."
"So ... it could be that the Dancers can see me now, just as you do?"
I was alarmed at the thought.
"It could be. We'll find out soon enough," and with that, he opened the door and stepped through it. I followed, opening my mouth to say more, but he shushed me. Angry, but understanding the need for silence, I snapped my mouth shut but threw him an evil look that was wasted.
The room we entered was large and dimly lit by a single light that shone down on a bio-bed in the centre of it. It was very dramatic, the walls being quite featureless in the darkness; it drew all attention to the bed. I could see a figure silhouetted on it. My heart leapt into my mouth and nausea filled me. It was Luke. I knew it was Luke even though I couldn't see his face. His stature was unique.
I approached the bed and my fear peaked. It was, indeed, Luke. He lay perfectly still. Over him, an overly large piece of apparatus towered. From it, two bright white beams of light shone out. They pierced through the air like laser beams and struck his eyes. His face was ashen and his eyes red as though he had been crying, with tears encrusted around them. I couldn't see his pupils. The lights that shone into them were too bright. I wanted to retch and the back of my throat stung with acid. I swallowed it down hard. Hot tears began to burn in my eyes, the compulsion to cry almost overwhelming me. My bottom lip began to quiver. All I wanted to do was sweep Luke up into my arms and hold him, tell him everything would be okay.
"Turn it off," I said coldly.
"It wouldn't be—"
"TURN IT OFF!" I screamed no longer caring who heard me.
Troy sighed deeply and then silently walked around the bio-bed, reached up and tapped some instructions into the panel there. The beams were cut leaving just the dull glow from the illumination overhead to light the room.
Luke's pupils were dilated so wide, I could barely make out the iris at all. He just stared blankly up into space.
"Will ... will he be alright?" I finally managed to ask.
"It depends how far the process has gone."
"Help me get him off here," I commanded and took hold of Luke's arm. Troy's hand fell on top of mine. He looked at me coldly.
"And then what?"
Still fighting back tears, I answered.
"I don't know, but I have to get him off here."
"And take him where? He's catatonic. He can't walk. Where can he hide?"
"I don't know and I don't care!" I spat at Troy. "Now help me with him!"
Troy shook his head and stepped back.
"No. This isn't my mission and doing this will jeopardise it."
"Then GO!" I screamed at him angrily.
Troy studied me for a moment, and then turned and walked away.
My tears finally came. I didn't want them, but they ran down my cheeks unchecked as I pulled at Luke's arms and heaved him into a sitting position. His head flopped forward in his stupor, and I had to lunge forward to stop him from falling. Awkwardly, I manoeuvred myself under his body, preparing to heave him onto my shoulder. I began to lift but I hadn't realised how heavy deadweight could be. My knees buckled and I faltered under the strain, but I was determined. A few more awkward shuffles and I had Luke's body organised so that his centre of gravity wouldn't overbalance me and took a couple of steps forward. How could such a little guy be so heavy, I wondered and then I slipped.
I tumbled to the ground and Luke fell on top of me, pinning me there and now I did the one thing a Starfleet officer shouldn't do. I burst into hysterical tears. All the emotions I had been bottling up erupted: frustration, heartbreak, despondency and hopelessness—I just lay there and sobbed with Luke sprawled across my chest like an overweight rag doll.
And then the weight lifted.
Snivelling like a child, I wiped my eyes on the sleeve of my uniform and looked up to see Troy standing over me, Luke cradled in his arms like a child.
"When Helvetians cry, we cry blood."
I had no idea what relevance that had.
"Come on," he said, and turned and walked away.