USS Nightingale, Bridge
John stood on the bridge watching the view screen as if he was actually willing the ship forward. Lieutenant Visitor was straining under the stress of having to keep the Gorn vessel in pursuit of them from catching up to them. The sweat on her head was evident. Her last report gave the nebula in about six minutes. Wilcox hoped that it was earlier, the Gorn vessel was closing in on them, and six minutes would seem like an eternity in that time.
It wasn't the only problem that was flowing through his head. The damage to the ship during the battle had been extensive, damage to weapons, engines and power regulations would be difficult to repair with their limited resources this far away from safety and the casualties during the battle were higher than John had originally thought. Apart from the four in engineering, one had died on the bridge and two in other places on the ship. Seven other crewmembers were in a critical condition in sickbay, including Dan.
John was particularly worried about Dan. His initial prognosis was not good and for the past few hours he had been in surgery. John could do nothing to help his friend now, guilt gathered as they had not spoken nicely to each other the last time they had a conversation off the bridge. John, like everyone else in Starfleet, knew that his job wasn't the safest in the universe, but there wasn't many in space that were particularly safe. However, like so many others as well, John had the attitude that it bad things only ever happened to other people. Dan's injury brought the reality that it could happen to anyone closer to home.
The deaths and injuries, which included four others with less serious injuries but were still off duty for the next few days, meant that John, who was suppose to have a crew of sixty five now had a crew of just forty three. Engineering was the worst affected, it was suppose to have sixteen personnel to begin with, but left with only twelve. Now they only had only five crewmembers fit for duty. To add to the worry they had a lot of work to do and it was causing them problems.
But from the battle John could take some positives from it. The marines performed brilliant, he was amazed at their professionalism and skill, something that Hans and V'ras had also commented upon the marines skills in their quick situation reports.
Hans was down in the infirmary, apparently taking on a light wound, something that he had not mentioned to John, but Doctor Burton had insisted on checking out. Ensign Torlik was also injured, he had been on deck seven near some equipment that no one knew about. Ensign had burns across his face and was spending time in the Imaging Chamber. His assistant operations officer had looked at the device and determined that Torlik was working on it when fire from the Gorn vessel caused an overload.
The ensign also seemed to think that his superior was working on something that deflected unauthorised beam ins. Something that he was not authorised to do, but might have saved the ship. John had already determined that had the Gorn been able to beam in where ever they wanted that they wouldn't have been able to fight them and that casualties would have much higher if not total. Even if Torlik had not followed protocol, he might have just saved the ship.
John wanted answers from Ensign Torlik and had asked Doctor Burton to contact him as soon as he was awake and out of the imaging chamber. John also wanted to talk to Dan and Hans, who had valuable information on how the Gorn operated, very few Starfleet personnel had dealt in a fire fight with the Gorn and any intelligence that they could provide will be invaluable in future conflict.
"Captain, we are approaching the nebula," Chloe announced from the front of the damaged bridge. The beam that lay across the centre, obscured the view of the view screen from the Captain's chair, make John stand up to look at the purple and blue soup that lay in front of the vessel.
"Analysis Williams," John shouted from the centre of the deck.
"Class nine nebula sir, one by zero point five by zero point two light years in dimensions. Highly corrosive gases in it, but the shields even in their current state should keep us safe for a while," the Ensign reported back, "Sensors can't detect anything in there from the outside and you would have to be almost on top of the object on the inside to detect anything."
"So it's a damn good hiding place then," John replied, Williams only nodded back, "Take us in Helm."
John felt the shudder as the ship passed the outer layers to rest uncomfortably on the inside of the gas monster. It wouldn't be hard for the Gorn to realise where they had disappeared, but would they attempt to find them inside of the nebula, or would they wait on the outside for them to exit their refuge. He had information sources of course, Hans and the three Gorn prisoners they had, if they were to co-operate. So far his three 'guests' were not very talkative and had refused any medical treatment.
"I've taken up a position inside the nebula sir," Chloe remarked.
"Good job Lieutenant," replied John, "Every three minutes change our position, just in case they attempt to locate us." Chloe nodded at her orders and started working on the console, as if she was planning on the next few manoeuvres. John turned to Shrak, who was at her station trying to conduct some diagnostics of the weapon systems, in an attempt to get something back on. "Lieutenant Shrak, you have the bridge, I'm going down to see what is happening in engineering and sickbay, report in every half an hour."
Shrak twisted her antennas, something that John recognised as acknowledgement. John nodded to her and left the bridge in a purposeful walk.
USS Nightingale, Sickbay
John arrived in sickbay a couple of minutes later. The smell of blood was the first thing that hit him full force. John had not expected that on a modern space ship, but perhaps considering the role of the ship he had, it would be something that he should expect a lot in the future.
He gave a quick glance around, the tiny noises of instruments and equipment beeping from time to time gave the impression of calmness in what was probably a very busy room. Dan was in a bio bed on his own, looking peaceful, no signs of the trauma that he apparently suffered. Hans was sitting on a bio bed with a nurse going over some thinks with him. Torlik was nowhere to be seen, presumably still in the imaging chamber. John decided to talk to Hans.
As soon as John reached him across the room the nurse left the two of them alone to talk. "You okay Commander?"
"It was nothing more than a flesh wound sir," the Geckonian replied in his trademark coldness, "I did tell the Doctor, but she insisted on seeing me."
"Doctor's prerogative," John replied, "What can you tell me about the Gorn from their tactics in this instance?"
"They are serious sir," Hans replied, "They certainly wanted to make sure that you were destroyed," he continued in a cold detached voice, "They are trying to hide their actions here, they don't want the Federation interfering with what they are doing?"
"And that is?"
"The extermination of the Geckonian people," Hans said. John couldn't believe his calmness considering he was discussing the genocide of his own people.
"They picked the perfect time to launch their invasion. Starfleet low on man power and equipment, with what little resources spread out across Federation space and as part of the Alliance Occupational Force of Cardassia," John stated, biting his lower lip, "Even if we could get word to Command, there is little we could do."
Hans shook his head, "If they were not worried of what Starfleet could do, they would not be going to such lengths to hide their actions."
John paused for moment, Hans was right, if the Gorn were not worried, they would not be trying so hard to hide the attack. It got him thinking about the Gorn fleet, and the state of it. Last John had heard, the Gorn had a large fleet of weak vessels. The one that attacked them might not have been a standard Gorn vessel, it certainly wasn't in the database. This could mean Starfleet could interfere, could do something, if he could figure a way of communication with Command.
John's thoughts and analysis of scenarios were interrupted by a beeping in the room. He leapt up in fright from his leaning position next to the Geckonian mission advisor sat next to him. Scanning the room John searched for the location, but Doctors Burton and Castello with Nurses Williams and Traelex were already there, already at the side of Dan.
"His heat beat has increased to one hundred and eighty per minute and rising," Nurse Williams screamed as she read the console out, John had no idea what all the words meant, but her voice was enough to convey it was serious. "No, no, no. Blood pressure is two ten over one fifty, he's going into a seizure."
Doctor Burton ran her hands through the hair, "Okay give him two hundred CC's of lectrazine, that should stabilise the heart," she paused for a second as a nurse administered the drug into the neck of Dan.
"No effect," Nurse Williams announced, "Heart rate is still climbing."
"Give him three hundred," Burton ordered sharply.
"Doctor that could stop his heart," Castello exclaimed.
"It will stop at this rate anyway so do as I say," screamed Burton in a panicked rush as she ran around the bed to the other side of Dan. The Trill nurse administered the dose in the same place.
Costello put his hand over Dan's mouth and nose, "he's stopped breathing."
Nurse Williams shook her head, "the heart is stopping, but it's not the drug that is doing it, we need to resuscitate him now."
Burton pushed Williams out of the way of the screen and took a look at the readings herself, John could feel the stress they were all going through from across the room.
"Nurse administer three hundred of Cortolin and prepare the cardiostimulator," one of the nurses nodded.
"The Gorn weapon blast has caused a lot of neurological damage doctor," Castello said looking at another screen which looked like it was the brain of Commander Hawke, "We might not be able to revive him."
Burton looked at the screen from behind Castello as the nurse administered another hypospray to Hawke, "Look here," Castello pointed, "the area where the brain manages basic functions has taken significant damage."
"We could try neurological repairs on it," Burton replied hastily.
"No time," Castello quickly replied, "We have to hope there is enough there to help him operate."
"What about life support?" Burton seemed as if she was scared.
"It would more than likely make his condition worse."
"Doctor," that was Nurse Williams, "Cortolin has had no effect and we've lost his pulse"
"Prepare the stimulator," she announced grabbing the device from nurse sharply, "Clear the bed." Her crisp clear order sent everyone a couple of feet away from the bed. As she activated the device John noticed a small tear develop in one of her eyes. The body of Dan quickly jumped into the air a few centimetres before resting again on the bed.
"No effect, no pulse no heart beat," Williams announced clearly.
"Clear," Burton announced again quickly. Again everyone on the medical team stepped backwards. Dan's body levitated again as if by magic, but the glum look on Williams' face was more than enough to tell the story of what was going on.
"Clear," Burton shouted again, now tears more evident on her face. The rest of the medical team were now staring at her, disbelief written all over their faces.
"Doctor, he's gone." Castello softly said.
"I said clear, damn it," she shouted as she activated the device on Dan another time, his body rising slightly, "Come on Dan," she screamed, "Breath damn you."
Nurse Williams put her hand on Burton's shoulder, Burton now in floods of tears, the room seemed to come to a perfect silence, not even the one beeping machines made a noise.
"Doctor, he's gone, there's nothing we can do for him," Williams whispered quietly, but in the current atmosphere it was as loud as a shout.
Burton took in a deep breath and looked at the nurse. John wanted to intervene, but found himself powerless to do so. Grief had already struck him hard.
"Record the time of death please nurse," Burton said, attempting calm, but her shaky voice expressed her true feelings in the matter, "I'll be in my office." With that she walked into her office and left the deathly silence behind.
John looked around at everyone; no one was quite sure what to do; nor was he.