“Sure is an ugly looking thing,” Chief Miguel Ortiz said as he looked at the thing Seaman Tony Piccolo was buying.
Tony glanced at him as he put the rest of his money away. “It is not!”
Miguel suppressed a smile as he picked the ceramic garden gnome off the store counter. “Yeah, it is. Why are you giving something like this to Lucas for Christmas?”
“Because Lucas likes these sort of things,” Tony answered as he snatched it back. He handed the gnome to the sales clerk, who put it into a bag.
Miguel laughed. “He does, does he? Since when?” He placed down his purchases, and smiled sweetly at the clerk. “Do you take UEO creds?”
The sales clerk smiled back at him. “We do, sir,” she said.
Tony rolled his eyes, and looked in his bag at the gnome. “Pay no attention to him ‘Gnommie’, he has no taste.”
Lieutenant James Brody frowned as he tried to wrap the gift he had bought. He put some tap on the paper, then sighed as his fingers got stuck underneath. “Who’s dumb idea was it anyway that we draw names and exchange gifts?” he groused to no one in particular.
“I do believe that it was your idea,” Miguel said, and tried not to laugh. “Need a hand?”
Brody looked at him. “My idea??” He pulled his fingers out from under the tape. “What the hell was I thinking that day?”
Lonnie Henderson sat at the table, took the gift from Brody, and wrapped it neatly in a matter of seconds. Brody stared at her in amazement.
Lonnie smiled. “Christmases are a big thing in my family.” She paused. “I can’t believe that the UEO has us doing patrols this Christmas!”
“Well, that’s pirates for ya Lonnie,” Miguel said as he leaned back on the recreation room couch. “No consideration what-so-ever for us hard working navy folks.”
“Hey, Miguel?” Tony asked as he walked in carrying the gnome. “Can I leave this in your quarters ‘til Xmas?”
“Cause Lucas won’t stop snooping around our room, lookin’ for it.” Tony plunked the gnome on the table.
“What is that?!” Brody asked and poked it.
“A garden gnome,” Lonnie answered. She picked it up and looked at it. “Cute little guy.”
“Cute?” Brody said. “I think you need glasses.” He faced Tony. “I thought garden gnomes were haunted?”
“Wha??” Tony took a step back. “Seriously?”
“Jim!” Lonnie admonished. “He’s joking, Tony. That’s just an old fairy tale.”
Tony sighed in relief. “So, how ‘bout it Miguel?”
“Yeah, sure,” Miguel said. “I’ll hold onto the homely little thing for ya.”
Miguel rolled over in his sleep, and pulled the blankets up higher. He felt something cold on his arm, and tried to brush it away. He felt it again, and cracked his eyes to see what it was. His eyes flew completely open as he saw the garden gnome standing beside his bed.
“You think I’m homely, do you?” the gnome asked, and reached out for him.
Miguel yelled, and pushed himself back on his bunk. He looked in amazement when the gnome was back in it’s spot in the corner.
Lieutenant Tim O’Neill jumped out of his bed, slapped on the lights, and hurried over. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
Miguel looked at him briefly, before returning his gaze to the gnome. “Nothing,” he said. “I’m fine.”
O’Neill looked at his best friend with worry. “You didn’t sound fine.”
“I just had a nightmare, that’s all.” Yeah…a nightmare. That’s gotta be it! “Sorry that I woke you.” He looked at the gnome again, then his eyes grew wide.
Tim looked around. “What?!”
“That…that…” He pointed at the gnome. “It winked at me!”
Tim looked at the gnome, then approached it. “It what?” He picked it up.
Miguel jumped out of his bed. “Don’t touch that thing!” he hissed.
“Miguel…it’s only a garden gnome,” Tim said and turned with it. “It’s ceramic…see?” He tapped his hand on the head. He put it down, then faced his friend. “You imagined it.”
Miguel stared at the gnome, and started to feel a little foolish. “Yeah, maybe I did.” He went back to his bed.
Tim put the gnome back down, turned off the lights, and also went back to bed. “You okay?” “Yes, Timothy,” Miguel said. He stared at the ceiling for a long time, trying to sleep. “I can’t sleep…I’m going for some coffee.”
Doctor Wendy Smith tossed on her bed in a disturbed sleep. She inhaled sharply, sat up and looked around her quarters.
Wendy got out of bed, went to her desk and turned on the small light, the psychic in her concentrating on just what it was that had woken her.
Something had invaded her dreams, causing her to see all sorts of disturbing, graphic images. She closed her eyes, and carefully brought up the images. Visions of caverns, gold, and evil laughter filtered into her mind. She sorted through them professionally until she was confident that it had indeed been an evil mind that she had sensed.
Wendy opened her eyes, and knew that she had to report her ‘dreams’ to Captain Bridger. He never really accepted her psychic talent, but this time he would have to because in one image, the one that had woken her, she was positive that she had seen the face of Miguel Ortiz.
Miguel leaned back in the mess hall chair and closed his eyes. He heard a noise beside him, opened his eyes, and jumped out of his chair in fear as the face of the garden gnome glared at him.
Miguel backed up and looked around the empty mess hall. “What do you want?”
The gnome jumped off the table and approached. Miguel backed away from it. “I want you!” the gnome said.
“Why?” Miguel bumped into a table, moved around it, and kept backing up.
“You have something I need,” the gnome said. “I want it!”
“What would….” Miguel never finished the thought, and yelled as the gnome jumped for him. Miguel threw himself out of the way, stumbled over a chair, and crashed to the deck. He pulled himself to his feet and looked around wildly.
“Can’t get away from me!” The gnome rushed out from under a table, tackled Miguel around the knees and knocked him to the floor. His hands went around Miguel’s neck.
“Get off me!!” Miguel yelled in a panic. He could feel the ice-cold ceramic hands closing tighter, blocking off his air. This is a dream!!! WAKE UP!!!!!! Miguel struggled, but he could not get out of the grip of the statuette.
“Help!!…Wendy.” he whispered, then everything went black.
Wendy screamed as Miguel’s fear entered her mind. I’m coming!! she thought back as she ran out of her quarters and sprinted down the hall.
She stumbled, and grabbed onto the wall for support as the hall in front of her faded slightly. Hang on, Miguel! I’m almost there!!
Tim O’Neill slapped off his alarm clock, got out of bed and grabbed a few things for the shower. He glanced at Miguel’s sleeping body, sighed, and walked over to his bunkmate.
“Time to get up,” he announced. He leaned forward, and shook Miguel by the shoulder. “Hey? Rise and shine!” When Miguel didn’t move, Tim shook harder.
“Miguel?…Miguel!” Tim was starting to get worried. He rolled Miguel over onto his back, and froze momentarily at the sight. He turned as the door opened.
“Wendy!” he yelled. “Something’s wrong with Miguel!”
Wendy pushed her way past him, and knelt by the bed. She quickly checked Miguel’s airways and, satisfied that he was breathing normally, turned her attention to the bruise that encircled his neck.
“What happened to him?” Tim asked as he knotted his hands together in worry.
Wendy looked at him. “Contact med.-bay, tell them to bring a stretcher and meet me here…now!” She turned back to Miguel as Tim did as he was ordered. Wendy took Miguel’s hand in hers and squeezed it reassuringly. “Sorry I didn’t get here in time,” she whispered.
“They’re on the way,” Tim said.
Wendy looked up at him and nodded. A figure in the corner caught her attention. “What is that?!”
Tim looked. “Tony’s garden gnome.”
Wendy stared at it as the same feelings she had experienced before washed over her. So, that’s what you are.
Captain Nathan Bridger turned from the figure of Miguel on the bed and faced Wendy. “What happened to him?”
Wendy sighed lightly. “I really don’t know. I sensed he was in trouble…scared…but I couldn’t get to him in time.”
“That bruise around his neck?”
“Something evil is on this sub, Captain…and I think it attacked Ortiz in his sleep.”
Bridger looked at Miguel. “In his sleep? Why didn’t O’Neill hear anything?”
“Not while he was sleeping, but in his sleep,” Wendy said. “In his dreams.”
“Excuse me?” Bridger stared at her. “Are you trying to tell me that something attacked Miguel, while he was dreaming, left that bruise, and no one heard anything? That’s ridiculous.”
“Is it?” Wendy sat on the corner of a bed. “There are a lot of things that you do not understand, Nathan.”
“What did this, then?”
“I think the garden gnome Tony bought did it,” Wendy said, and tensed for his reaction.
“A garden gnome???” He stared at Wendy, turned, and walked out. “Contact me immediately when Mr. Ortiz wakes up.”
James Brody squirmed in his seat as he listened to what the captain was saying. His mind drifted slightly, and he blinked as he tried to concentrate. Damn double shifts he thought as he stifled a yawn. Third one in a row. I’m waaaay too tired.
“Someone attacked Chief Ortiz, and until he is found, I want security on full alert,” Bridger said.
“Yes, sir,” Brody replied. His mind started to drift again as Bridger went on to the other parts of the meeting. Damn, Miguel…not a good way to spend the holidays…Hope he’s going to be all right…I mean, I went out and bought him a present and everything. Brody blinked at that thought, the meeting totally forgotten. Nice attitude, Jimmy…agghh…I need sleep!
Brody closed his eyes momentarily, then snapped them open. He looked at the captain, then stood when he saw a figure behind him. He tried to call out a warning, but found that he could not. He watched, slightly fascinated as the figure approached him.
“You think I’m ugly too, don’t ya?” the little garden gnome said. “I don’t like that.”
Brody tried to move out of the way as the gnome lunged for him, but he was not fast enough. He yelled as the gnome’s hands went around his neck.
Captain Bridger looked at his sleeping third in command in annoyance. “Wake him up!”
Commander Jonathan Ford leaned toward Brody, then stopped. “My God!” He stood quickly, grabbed Brody’s body, and lowered him gently to the floor.
“Medical emergency in ward room!” Bridger announced into his PAL before he hurried over. He knelt on the floor and looked at Brody’s neck.
The exact same bruise was there.
Wendy checked the monitors above her patients, then faced the group that surrounded her. “They are still the same.”
“What happened to them??” Lonnie asked, her face showing signs of recent crying.
“I don’t know.” Wendy looked at O’Neill. “Did anything unusual happen last night?”
“Miguel had a nightmare,” Tim answered as he looked at his friend’s still form.
“I think it was about the gnome,” Tim said. “He woke up screaming, then he said that it winked at him.” He paused. “Then he went back to sleep.”
Wendy nodded thoughtfully. “And Jim fell asleep during the meeting.”
“What does that have to do with this?” Lucas Wolenczek asked.
“Maybe nothing, maybe everything.” Wendy went back to her patients. “Would everyone please leave?” She waited until all had gone before she put a hand on Miguel’s arm, and one on Brody’s. She closed her eyes and concentrated.
Brody moaned as he opened his eyes and tried to sit up. He sucked in his breath as a nauseous feeling washed over him.
“Breathe slowly,” someone beside him ordered as a pair of hands helped him to his feet.
Brody pulled away and looked at the person. “Miguel?”
“Wish I could say that I’m happy to see you Jim,” Miguel said solemnly. “You all right?”
Brody nodded as he tried to quell his stomach. “Where are we?”
Miguel shrugged. “Dunno…hell?”
“No…last I saw you, you were in med.-bay.” Brody looked around in the semi-darkness. “So, if you’re still alive, then I’m still alive.”
“Did…did that creepy little gnome of Tony’s…uh…” Miguel stopped.
“Yeah, he did.” Brody sat on the ground. “How the hell are we going to get out of here?” He glanced up at Miguel, who was staring at the wall. “You all right?”
“Wendy?” Miguel whispered.
Brody looked around. “Oh, don’t let him have gotten her too!”
“Wendy’s not here, Miguel.” Brody started to get nervous, then it hit him. “She’s got you in a psychic…mind link! Tell her where we are!”
Miguel? Wendy’s soothing voice reached out.
Wendy! Help us!
Wendy sighed in relief. Where are you?
I don’t know…it’s dark…cold. Miguel thought as tried to fight the fear he was feeling. So cold.
I’ll find you and Jim Wendy promised. Remember that I am here.
I’m scared, Wendy.
Wendy squeezed his arm lightly. Look around…try to show me where you are. Wendy could see the cave he was in, and sighed in relief when she saw Jim Brody sitting on the floor. She gasped as the connecting with Miguel was broken, and opened her eyes.
Miguel grunted as he fell to the dirt floor, exhausted by his conversation with Wendy. Brody eased him into a sitting position against the wall and tried to calm his own jittery nerves.
“Wendy said she’ll find us,” Miguel muttered softly. “She…will.”
“What’d she say?” Brody asked.
“That to remember that she’s with us, and that she will find us.” Miguel closed his eyes. “That has got to be the weirdest feeling in the world.”
“What has?” Brody asked, anxious to keep a dialogue going. He strongly disliked the place he was in, and needed to keep his mind occupied.
Miguel opened his eyes. “That…mind link…or whatever is was.” He tried to stand, got dizzy, and opted for leaning against the rock wall instead. He looked around. “I think this place could benefit from a few strings of Christmas lights…maybe even a tree.”
Brody stared at him. “What? Have you lost your mind?!?”
Miguel stared back. “Sorry…just trying to…”
“Lights??” Brody looked around. “Reality check, Miguel! Look around you! Where the heck are you gonna plug these lights in?”
Miguel’s eyes went wide, then he smiled slightly. “Funny. You had me going there.”
Brody looked around. “Still…the light idea was good. There must be an opening somewhere, since we do have light in here.”
“Over that way.” Miguel pointed. “I’ve been through this cave completely…its not overly impressive.”
“That way?” Brody started in the direction Miguel had pointed. “You coming?”
“No,” Miguel stated simply. “Only thing there is a hole…about half a foot in diameter.” He held up his hands. “I already tried to dig through it.”
For the first time, Brody noticed various cuts, scraps, and bruises along Miguel’s hands and arms. Brody sighed in annoyance and sat down hard on the ground. “So, we’re stuck here until someone figures out how to rescue us.”
“Sounds about right.”
Brody leaned his head back and banged it against the wall. “Damn it! I hate this!”
Lonnie Henderson wiped her eyes and leaned back on the bed. “Some Christmas,” she said out loud. “I can’t believe I thought that creepy little gnome was cute.”
Lonnie grabbed her stuffed animal, hugged it close, and tried to think happy thoughts about her ‘sick’ friends. She rolled onto her side, and shrieked as a set of evil eyes glared at her.
Tony stood at attention in front of Captain Bridger and Commander Ford. “Honest, sir, if I had known the thing was…evil…I never woulda bought it.”
“There was no way for you to know, Tony,” Bridger said. Tony had shown him the gnome earlier, and Bridger thought that it was rather harmless looking.
“But Brody said that gnomes were haunted.” Tony looked guilt stricken. “I shoulda dumped it then.”
“Don’t blame yourself,” Ford said. “Where did you buy it?”
“Uhh…an antique store…last time we were in port.”
Lucas looked up from the computer he was using. “Did you know that gnomes can steal a person in their sleep?”
“We’ve already figured that out, Lucas,” Bridger said.
“But do you know why?” Lucas glanced back at the screen. “It says here that they will steal souls until their treasure is returned.”
Bridger walked to the computer and looked down. “What treasure?” He read for a moment. “Gold?”
“I’ve never heard any fairy tales where gnomes stole souls,” Ford said.
“It’s right here on the internex,” Lucas pointed. “It also says that it will steal the souls of those who touched it, until the treasure is returned.”
Bridger looked at Tony. “Who has touched this gnome?…Besides me.”
“Me, Miguel…Jim, Lonnie…and Tim…I think.” He looked at Lucas in embarrassment. “Sorry to get you a haunted Xmas present.”
“It’s already taken Miguel and Jim…and Tony’s fine for now…” Ford said as he reached for his PAL. “Ford to Henderson.” He waited. “Lonnie?…Damn! Ford to O’Neill…” He started for the door. “Lucas, inform med-bay…Tony, you check on Tim… I’ll take Lonnie.”
“Yes, sir!” Tony said as he ran for the door.
Tim O’Neill groped his hand along the night table as he searched for his PAL. He had heard a call for him, but being half-asleep had not really recognized it. He froze as something cold touched his arm.
Lonnie felt something on her arm, screamed, and lashed out with her fists. “Keep away from me!!!!” She kept her eyes closed, not wanting to look into those beady, evil eyes again, and feeling her hand connect with something, hoped that she had hurt it.
“Damn it, Lonnie!” Miguel yelled as she punched him in the face. “Calm down!!” He leaned back against the wall, put a hand to his nose, and sighed when he saw blood.
Lonnie stopped swinging as she recognized the voice and slowly opened her eyes. “Miguel!”
Miguel had a hand over his bloody nose. “And a Merry Christmas to you, too.”
Lonnie lunged forward to hug him, but Miguel scurried out of the way. “I just wanted to hug you.”
“Do it from over there,” Miguel said through his hand. He stopped at the hurt look on her face, and sighed. “Fine…hug away.”
Lonnie approached slowly, hugged him gratefully, and stepped back. “Sorry I hit you…Where’s Jim?”
“Checking out the cave,” Miguel answered. “Are you okay?”
Lonnie nodded slowly. “I think so…that gnome attacked me!…What does it want with us???” She sniffed slightly, and commanded herself not to cry.
“I don’t know…it—“ Miguel stopped as Brody came back to where they were. He hurried over when he saw Brody carrying something.
“I found him around the corner,” Brody said as Miguel helped him lower the still form of Tim O’Neill to the dirt floor. He stood up, and stared in shock at the other person. “Lonnie?”
Brody sighed in aggravation. “What are you doing here??”
“Same as you,” Lonnie said. “Where is here?”
“I don’t know.” Brody turned away slightly, angry at the fact that there were now two more ‘prisoners’ in the cave. He glanced at Miguel. “What happened to you?”
“You’ve got blood on your face.”
“Oh, that. Lonnie punched me while I was trying to help her,” Miguel said lightly. “For future reference, she’s got a nasty right hook.”
Tony sighed as he leaned against the wall of the shower stall. This is all my fault! He slowly sunk to the stall floor, and stared up at the running water. Oh, man…I better get up. Don’t want to fall asleep…damn, that water’s cold!
He looked up, annoyed as the lights went out. “Hey!! Turn ‘em back on!” He stood up and looked out at the empty room. “Come on! I ain’t in the mood for this!” He got out of the stall, wrapped a towel around his waist, and walked towards the door.
Tony whirled at the noise, and his eyes grew wide.
Wendy sat at her desk, staring at the little garden gnome. “What are you?” she whispered. “And what treasure do you need?” She leaned back, closed her eyes, and concentrated.
Who are you! came the reply.
I mean you no harm Wendy thought. I want to help you. She shivered against the unpleasant feelings she was receiving.
Evil laughter filled Wendy’s head, threatening to break off the contact, causing her to concentrate harder. Yes, help you. What do you want in return for my friends?
I want my treasure! I almost had it once, but it was stolen again!
What treasure? Wendy shifted uncomfortably in her chair.
My pendant!…Get it for me…and your friends will be free.
The image of a gold pendant with ancient writing, and a large opal in the middle popped into Wendy’s mind. She gasped, and the connection with the gnome was gone.
Wendy opened her eyes.
Captain Bridger sighed and turned away from the sight of five still figures in the medical lab. “Have you found a way to wake them?”
Wendy shook her head slowly. “The only thing I know is that the gnome will let them free once he gets his pendant. And I have no idea where it is.”
Bridger sighed in anger. "This is definately not one Christmas that I want to remember." He looked at the figures again. "Have you at least figured out how Ortiz got all the bruises on his hands and arms?"
"Not yet. It must be something that happened in his dream state." She paused. "Same with the nose bleed he had earlier today." She mention it, but when Miguel's nose had started to bleed, his medical monitor registered an increased heart rate.
Lucas spoke up for the first time. "Are you saying that if they get hurt in their dreams, they get hurt in here?"
"That's what I'm saying." Wendy moved to Lonnie and studied her monitor. "Somehow, we have to find that pendant."
“It must be somewhere on board,” Lucas put in. “That could be the reason he has taken them.”
Bridger looked at him. “Could be,” he sighed. “Unfortunately, the only one’s who know are not exactly available to give us the information.”
Lonnie’s eyes grew wide as Tony Piccolo appeared on the ground in front of her. “Uhhh…guys?”
Brody looked up from his conversation with Miguel and Tim. “What?” Then he saw another figure on the ground. “Dammit!”
Miguel glanced at Tony, then went back to talking. “The only other thing…” He stopped at a strange look on Tim’s face. “What?”
Tim continued to stare in disbelief before he stood and walked over to Tony. “Is he all right?”
Lonnie looked up. “Seems to be.”
Tony moaned, and opened his eyes. He looked at the faces above him. “Hey! You guys are okay!”
Tim held out a hand to help him up. “Take small breaths,” he advised.
Brody took off his jacket and passed it to Tony. “Here, put this on.”
Tony looked down at his bare body, and snatched the jacket quickly. “Uhhh…Gnommie nabbed me in the shower.” He tied the jacket around his waist.
“Do you know what time it is?” Brody asked. “What the date is?”
Tony thought for a few moments. “Uhhh…today is the twenty-fourth.” He paused. “No idea on the time…’round 0700.”
The look on the other four faces said it all. “The twenty-fourth,” Tim repeated, and then sighed.
“What does it want from us?” Lonnie asked.
Tony leaned against the wall. “It wants it’s treasure…or so Lucas thinks.”
“Treasure?” Brody sat on the cold ground. “What treasure?”
Lonnie glanced at Miguel, and then looked again. “Migs?”
Brody looked, and then jumped to his feet. “Miguel?” he said as he stood in front of him. Miguel seemed to stare straight through him. “Wendy?” Brody whispered, then faced the others. “Wendy must have him in a psychic link again.”
Miguel inhaled sharply, blinked a few times, and looked around. “It wants a pendant,” he said as he leaned against the wall for support. “Ancient…gold…stone in the middle.” He ran his hands over his face and sighed. “Sounds like the present I picked up for Wendy.” He closed his eyes.
“The pendant you bought?!” Tony exclaimed.
Miguel opened his eyes. “Yeah! The pendant I bought is the one your gnome is after!”
“Are you sayin’ that this is my fault?” Tony demanded.
“Calm down you two,” Lonnie said. “Fighting isn’t going to get us anywhere.”
“Lonnie’s right,” Tim agreed. “We have to find a way out of here.”
Tony looked at them. “The only way out is for Miguel to cough up the pendant.”
Miguel took a step toward Tony. “I’d love to! Only problem is that I don’t have it with me at the moment!” He stopped, and turned away. He could feel a tightening in his chest, and was glad for it. At least it proves that I’m still alive. He turned back to the group.
“I’m sorry I got you all into this,” he said quietly.
Lonnie walked up to him. “This is not your fault, Miguel. No one is blaming you.” She took his arm and led him to a rock. “You’ve been here for three days…sit…rest.”
Miguel sat and looked at the ground. “I’ve been here so long, that I’m not even surprised when someone new pops in.”
Wendy checked a few readings above Miguel’s head, and picked up a needle from the table beside it.
“Will this work?” Bridger asked.
Wendy glanced at him. “I don’t really know.” She motioned to the readings. “I have to try though. These readings are getting critical. Miguel is on his way to a heart attack if I don’t try.”
Bridger nodded solemnly. “Do you think that…in this dream state…that they are in, they could die?”
Wendy shrugged helplessly. “I don’t know. It’s a possibility. We do know that they can be hurt in their dreams. ” She administered the drug into the I.V. line, and put the needle down. “Now all we can do is wait.”
Lonnie stretched out on the ground and closed her eyes. She was not tired, but there was nothing else to do while they waited and planned. Christmas Eve, she thought in dismay. And to think that I was upset that the UEO had us doing patrols.
“Can you contact Wendy and tell her where the pendant is?” Tim asked.
Miguel shrugged. “I don’t know. I might have to wait until she tries to contact me again.” He coughed lightly, and tried to breathe. “I can try.”
Tim put a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “If you can’t, it’s okay.”
Miguel nodded. He put a hand on his chest and inhaled.
“Are you all right?” Tim asked in a worried voice.
Miguel looked at him. “I don’t know.” He gasped as pain shot through his chest. “Lonnie!”
Lonnie jumped to her feet and hurried over. She crouched in front of him. “What’s wrong?” she asked as she put a hand on his forehead.
“I can’t breathe,” Miguel gasped. “My chest hurts.” He closed his eyes, and everything went black.
“Miguel!?” Lonnie yelled. She grabbed him as he started to fall off of the rock, and eased his to the dirt floor. She checked him over quickly.
Brody knelt on the other side of Miguel. “What’s wrong?!”
“He’s not breathing,” Lonnie said as she moved to his head and lowered her mouth to his. “Check for a pulse,” she ordered as she started CPR.
Brody checked Miguel’s wrist, then neck. “No pulse.”
“Start chest compressions,” Lonnie said. “On my count.”
Wendy grabbed another needle, checked the dosage, and pressed it against Miguel’s neck. She quickly glanced at the medical monitor, and then went back to work.
Bridger looked in shock and dismay as the monitor continued to sound its ominous flat-line beep. He watched Wendy administer another drug.
“Come on, Miguel,” she ordered. “Stay with me!” She looked as the monitor beeped once, then twice, then registered a steady, but weak heart beat.
Bridger sighed in relief and leaned against a table. He had been awake for the past two days, and this newest threat made him positive that he did not want to even attempt to sleep. He was the last person to have touched the gnome, and he knew that he may one of the only people who had a chance to save his crewmembers.
Wendy exhaled as she stepped back from the bed. “He’s going to be okay…for now. I don’t know if it will happen again though.”
Lonnie breathed into Miguel’s mouth, paused as Brody did chest compressions, then breathed again. Suddenly, the body under her disappeared. Brody fell into the dirt where Miguel had been just moments before.
Tim stared wide-eyed at the ground. “What happened to him?!”
Brody picked himself up. “I…I…” He sat back on the ground and put his head in his hands. “He had no pulse,” he mumbled. “He wasn’t breathing.”
Lonnie leaned against the wall. “Maybe he woke up,” she said in a flat voice, willing herself to believe it.
Tim looked at them both. “What are you trying to say?” He swallowed hard. “You don’t think Miguel…I mean, he can’t be…” He trailed off.
Brody sighed. “Miguel was here for three days. No telling what that would do to a body.”
“Ya mean that we might die, too?” Tony asked quietly.
Tim glared at him. “You don’t know that Miguel is…” He stopped. “Maybe Lonnie’s right, and he woke up!”
Wendy brushed some hair from Miguel’s forehead. “We almost lost you,” she said in a quiet voice. “But you’re okay now.” She looked at the monitor, and then back Miguel. She smiled softly, and turned away. Her biggest fear was that she would lose him on Christmas, and that his family would have to be notified. No family should ever have to think of Christmas as the day their son died.
Wendy stopped and turned back quickly. She once again checked the monitor. I Must have imagined that. She jumped back, surprised as Miguel’s eyes popped open.
“Wendy?” The voice was horse, and tired, but it was the best thing that Dr. Smith had heard in days.
Miguel sighed as Wendy ran yet another test. “Could you stop it with the poking for a few minutes?” Miguel asked. “I have to get the pendant and get them back.”
Wendy shone a light in his eyes. “Commander Ford is getting the pendant from your quarters,” she informed him.
“How am I going to give it to the gnome?”
Wendy looked at him. “I guess you could hang it around his neck.”
“It’s not that easy,” a voice said from the doorway.
Lucas walked in, and smiled at Miguel. “I’m glad you’re back.”
“You and me both,” Miguel said. “Now, why won’t it be that easy?”
“According to the internex, someone has to give it to the gnome on his home turf…so to speak.”
Miguel frowned. “So, I have to go back to sleep, let that nasty little bastard nab me again, and then give it to him?”
“Something like that,” Lucas nodded.
Tony peered through the small opening in the cave and sighed. “This ain’t gonna be easy.”
Tim leaned against the wall. “Now why doesn’t that surprise me.” He ran a hand over his face and tried not to think about what fate Miguel had met.
“There’s no way outta here,” Tony said as they started to walk back to the main area.
“Miguel found a way,” Tim reminded him.
“Yeah,” Tony muttered. “Three days might be the limit in here…which means that I’m the last one ta go.”
Miguel stared at the ceiling as he held the pendant tightly in his hand. Come on!! Sleep!! He sat up and sighed. “I can’t sleep.”
Wendy sat on the corner of the bed. “I’ll give you something to put you out.” She stood, and paused. “You know that this is a big risk you’re taking.”
“I know,” Miguel said. “But it’s the only way.”
“You could suffer another heart attack.”
Miguel sighed. “I know.” He looked at the pendant. “Would two heart attacks affect my career?”
“Maybe,” Wendy said.
Miguel bit his lip. “Get the medication to put me out. It’s worth the risk.” And I got a little score to settle with that ceramic creep.
Miguel looked around med bay in anticipation. “Hey, gnommie?!” He called out. “Great... that annoying little creep is never around when you need him.”
“What do you want?!” a voice demanded.
Miguel whipped around and stared at the mean looking gnome. “I have something for you.” He held up the pendant.
“My treasure!” The gnome lunged for it, but Miguel easily sidestepped him.
“Not so fast, short stuff. I want my friends released first.”
The gnome made a move to the pendant again. "It's mine!!"
Miguel held the pendant out of the gnome's reach. "Don't be so grabby!" He paused. "You're starting to seriously piss me off, ya know that?"
“Give me my treasure!”
“Give me my friends!” Miguel demanded. "Or I break the pendant, and you lose your treasure."
The gnome sighed in anger and waved his hand. “They will be here shortly.”
"Then you will get your treasure shortly,” Miguel informed him. He turned as he heard a noise behind him, and smiled as four figures appeared.
Tim looked around, confused. “What happened?” He spotted Miguel, and let out a yell.
The others looked, and then ran to their friend, relieved that he was still alive.
“Ah...it’s nice to be missed,” Miguel said. He turned to the gnome. “Here ya go…Merry Christmas.”
The gnome grabbed the pendant and started to walk away.
“Hold on there, pal,” Miguel said. “Wake us from your dream world.”
“Maybe,” the gnome said, and laughed evilly. “Or I might just keep you all.”
Tony made a move to the gnome, but Miguel stopped him. “I thought you might say something like that,” Miguel said. “If we are not awake in the next two minutes, then your cold little ceramic body will be crushed into pieces.”
The gnome glared at him. “You wouldn’t dare!”
“Itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, microscopic pieces,” Miguel continued. “I did a little reading, and it says that only someone who has touched a gnome can destroy a gnome...Captain Bridger said that he would gladly do it himself.” He smiled coldly at the gnome. “In other words, your ass is ceramic dust.”
“Grrrrrr,” the gnome snarled at him.
“Hey! Luke!!! Wake up!!!”
Lucas rolled over and stared in shock at Tony’s face. “What? How?” He sat up in his bed.
“It’s Xmas!!!” Tony exclaimed as he bounced on the balls of his feet. “Ready to go to the ward room and open your present??”
“Yeah,” Lucas said slowly. Man, what a dream! He got out of bed, got dressed, and followed Tony down the hall. It seemed so real!
Lucas laughed with the others as they opened their presents, his mind still partly on the realism of his dream. Since they had decided to go by alphabetical order, his gift was last.
Wendy opened her gift, and whistled softly at the contents. “Oh…Miguel…It’s beautiful!” She looked at him, then back at the gift.
Miguel shrugged, slightly embarrassed. “Well, I know you like that sort of thing…and when I saw it—“
Wendy took the present out of the box, and put it on. She faced the others. “Well?”
“Nice,” Lonnie said.
Lucas stared at the gold pendant, with the ancient writing and a large opal, hanging around Wendy’s neck. No! It can’t be!
Brody looked at Lucas. “Your turn.”
Lucas took the large box from Tony, opened it hesitantly, and stared at the small, harmless looking garden gnome.
“Merry Xmas!” Tony crowed.
Lucas looked up, forced a smile onto his face, and then looked back at the gnome. It had been a dream…Hadn’t it?