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Erich Jaenke

Unhinged Part 1

Unhinged, Part 1


Keb paused at the threshold of Erich’s quarters. Erich was crouched on the floor, pen in hand and paper on the ground. Sketches littered the entire room, drawings were pinned to the walls. There was not a single spot to sit in, except at his left. “Erich…” she said, a note of fear and warning in her voice. “What--what are you trying to do?” She swallowed and knelt on the floor next to him, putting a gentle hand on his back.


"Mapping possibilities and roads not taken. I have to save us all. I need to save the ship. I can't..." His voice faded as he made notations on the sheet he was writing on. His notes were a mix of languages and eqiations. His fingers pressed into the paper with additional force. The lead of the pencil broke. "Oh damn. I forget how fragile these are." He placed the broken instrument in a pile of other discarded tools, then grabbed a freshly sharpened one from a dented cup.


Keb bit her lip with concern. “Erich...the ship’s fine. I saw the diagnostics this morning. Whatever the Utah found...doesn’t mean anything’s going to happen to us. We’re light years away from there now.” She sighed, hovering over his paper. “Maybe I can help?”


Erich shook his head from side to side slowly. "This has happened before and this will happen again. I lay out what is happening to me, you don't believe...like the others. They think I'm 'Fraenke Jaenke.'" He swallowed hard as another memory passed from neuron to neuron, then from pen to paper. "I-it helps me remember...each time I tell you. Will you listen?"


She nodded, trying hard not to think up possible explanations--the medication, bad dreams, a stress reaction to the images. “Of course.”


"NO!" He shouted, grabbing her hand. "The medication is working. The dreams...are bad, and I-I've opened up to the reality of my own death." He was losing control, and her own concerned emotions equally strong. His eyes watered up. A single drop fell to the paper below his latest scribble. "I'm so sorry, Keb. Each time you think of the possibilities and each time I lash out at you."


I’m sorry. I’m scared, too, she thought at him. She was scared of losing him--either to whatever calamity he feared or to this strange madness she didn’t understand. “I’ll listen. I want to believe you...but I don’t want it to be true.” She pulled the pencil out of his hand and twined her fingers between his.


Having his instrument taken from his hand, he looked at her. "This is bigger than me Keb. Bigger than you. They hail about my padd, they later find my body, we offload our supplies, the hail us again in trouble, we race there, and something bad happens when we get there, then BOOM!" He clapped his hands together along with hers, causing her to jump. "Then we are back to where we began. Over and over. Never to end." He brought her hand up to his cheek. "Each time it's nearly the same, the actions, the thoughts. I can't stop it, Keb. I just can't go on living like this."


“Maybe if we changed something…” she said aloud, but inside she was wondering if her thoughts could be the same, over and over.


"I don't think there is a 'we' in this. It's all about me. You," he waved his other arm indicating the ship. "You all go on as if nothing is wrong. Just a cheery day. Another day," he perked up. "Another dead Chief Engineer. The key is to remember." He pointed at his head as he looked into her pained eyes. He must have stared into them for hundreds of hours by now, all with the same worried expression therein. He bent in and kissed her, realising talk of their demise did nothing to help matters. Erich released her lips. He waited for her reaction to subside. "Don't worry, we all come back to life each time."


But not back to normal? she thought before she could stop it.


He leaned into her and placed his head on her shoulder. "If I was Vulcan I would simply meld with you to show you. I can't risk any kind of Betazoid attempt."


“Why not?” she asked. “If--if it would help…?”


"What? Are you serious?" Erich asked, surprised at her willingness. "Come on." He took her hand and stood up. The bed was in the other room, also covered in papers. With a single swipe of his arm, they scattered on the floor. "Lie down and relax. You'll need to clear your mind."


Though she was nervous, Keb settled onto his bed and closed her eyes, trying to silence her thoughts and fears. I need to understand.

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