USS Nightingale, Sickbay
John opened his eyes slowly, surprised to find himself looking up at a bright white light. He knew about the rumours about the afterlife, but he never imagined them that they were like this, this looked more like the ceiling of a Starfleet vessel. Surely he had not chosen to spend eternity in a Starfleet vessel. He felt no disembodiment or floating that other people had stated what lay beyond this existence. He decided to test what he was seeing by reaching up to touch it. He could not; next he attempted to pinch himself.
"Ouch," he screamed. 'Good job John, you just hurt yourself'.
Realising that this was in fact reality he decided to sit up and see where he was. Adjusting his eyes from the blurring of the light from above, he realised he was in sickbay. Doctor Castello approached him smiling. "Hello Sir," he paused for a second grabbing a medical tricorder and ran the detachable probe over him, "can you tell me your name and rank please?"
"Captain John Wilcox, commander of the USS Nightingale, my date of birth is 7th March," John replied, his voice seemed bored, "I got stunned?"
"Commander Hans said it was an accident sir," Castello paused, "He shot you when you attempted to fight the Gorn that was trying to escape."
"The Gorn that was trying to escape?" John asked moving his head downwards and forward. John's memory of the whole incident was clear in his head, he knew the Gorn never attempted an escape, even when he did the unthinkable for a Starfleet captain.
"Yes, the three prisoners, they attempted an escape while you were trying to get information out of them," Castello told John, John took notes of the events that were suppose to have taken place, "They attempted an escape and you went to stop them, but Hans had already fired his phaser, hitting you first."
John thought for a moment what was going on, before it dawned on him that Lieutenant Commander Hans was covering his back. "That's exactly what happened," John felt the lie weigh heavily on his mind. His emotional state was irrational and erratic before, now that he had been unconscious for an unknown amount of time, his mind had seemed to reset itself. The death of his closest friend was still a tragedy that he felt saddened by, but the pit of anger demanding revenge no longer burnt in his stomach.
"What happened after I was hit?"
"Mr Hans reported that he stunned the other three Gorn and resumed their incarceration," the Doctor replied steadily, "And Lieutenant Commander Hans restricted himself to his quarters for shooting you."
"He believed that it could constitute an act of mutiny," Castello added.
The irony of the situation did not escape John, Hans was portraying himself as a mutineer, when John felt that he was the traitor to everything that he signed up for and held close to his heart.
"I need to speak to him," stated John, "Am I clear to leave sickbay?"
Castello nodded to him, "As long you pop by later sir," Castello added, "We need some help with Doctor Burton."
John stood up and picked up his tunic, now with a black phaser burn on the front of the shirt, why no-one had noticed it was not on the back, as Hans' story would indicate John did not know. "What's wrong with her?"
"She hasn't left her office since Commander Hawke," Castello didn't finish the sentence, instead looked sheepish, "We can't get through to her, it has been hours."
"Has she never lost a patient before?" John asked.
"There are rumours sir," Castello added, keeping his sheepish demeanour on him.
"What rumours?" John asked, he never really liked to get involved in idle gossip, but when it affected a crew member's performance and ship operations, he had no choice.
"There was a rumour that the Doctor and Commander Hawke were involved sir," Castello said.
"It isn't a rumour sir," that was a nurse across the room, "It's the truth, I overheard an argument between before."
"Nurse Williams," Castello composed himself slightly, "I've told you before, what you heard could mean anything."
"Let her speak Lieutenant," John said quietly. John knew that Williams and Burton had developed a strong working relationship, over the past few days John had seen the two sharing many meals together. This probably allowed Williams to gleam more information that Castello did not know was there or was not able to.
"I was coming onto shift one day, and overheard the Commanders talking sir from the corridor," she started; she looked at the Captain and contemplated what to say next, "I overheard Burton say that their relationship was over. That she wouldn't be able to cope if anything happened to him."
"Then I walked in on them sir," she paused, "It was getting really bad sir, I thought it was best if I did."
John nodded; he understood what the nurse was saying. Sometimes in love rifts, an intrusion is better than the argument heating up. John pondered for a moment on what he could do, but found the noises of the beeping room disturbing his train of thoughts. "I'll be back in a bit then Doctor," John eventually said, "I think I know a way to sort this out," John paused biting his lips, he had a plan formulating in his head, but he needed something from his quarters which he thought would help. "There is something I need and I need to see Commander Hans first."
Castello nodded before John walked out of the room.
USS Nightingale, Deck 2, Lieutenant Commander Han's Quarters
Hans sat on his tree bark contemplating the last few days. The dark room made it easier for him to concentrate. It was only a week ago that he had been doing fleet manoeuvres for the third fleet, organising the two new defiant class vessels assigned to the fleet into local patrols. His post as Strategic Operations Officer was one in which he found boring. Even though he knew Starfleet entailed a lot of paperwork, the amount he had to fill in as Strategic Operations Officer was ludicrous. Hans thought of this assignment as a way to stretch his legs and get off the routine of station life. Now it seemed that his career was over.
Hans thought for a second, he was only twenty four and had a long life in front of him, maybe another three hundred years if he was lucky. Yet for a moment, Hans could not think of what he could do for that time. He had devoted so much time and energy to his Starfleet career over the past twelve years since he graduated; it was hard to think about adjusting to another way of life.
He could return to his life on Geckonia. He had on several occasions as part of rituals that he would feel obliged to partake in, however he found the experiences very uncomfortable. Like some of the other Geckonians who had joined Starfleet, their own brother and sisters on the homeworld did not consider them part of the Geckonian family. It was a sad moment for some of them, who was completely cut off. Hans on the other hand had an advantage. He was a war hero and despite joining Starfleet and distancing himself from the time he in the Geckonian military, he still served as a political weapon from time to time.
Hans felt his skin start to itch on the bark as his body rubbed against the rough surface. It was nearly the time that he would have to shed his outer layer. A biological process he hated. It normally meant that he had to spend a day alone in his quarters, soaking himself in a misty shower in order to make the process quicker. At least this time he was unlikely to have to rearrange his duty shifts to make the process more private.
Hans stretched on the log for a second, feeling his old skin start to winkle and the new one toughen underneath. He closed his eyes and continued to think of things he could possibly do once the Captain had dismissed him from the service.
Hans was not expecting that the door would chime. Hans ordered that computer lowered the temperature by ten degrees, sufficient enough not kill the person knocking on the door but not too much to ensure he didn't require his heat suit. "Enter," he said in a crisp voice.
Hans looked at the door as Captain Wilcox entered. The light from the outside of his quarters stung his eyes. It was the last person that Hans had expected to see in his room.
"This room is hot," Wilcox said in a off remark.
"This room is cold to me sir," Hans replied, "I reduced the temperature by ten degrees before you entered. Otherwise it would be too hot for you." Hans gave a slight smile, though it had been commented that the Geckonian natural face had an upturned face giving an impression that they were always smiling.
"It's interesting to see a log in a Starfleet Officer's quarters," Wilcox continued, trying to fake a reassuring smile. Hans could tell that the Captain was not exactly comfortable, "Is that what you sleep on?"
"My species sleep on logs, rocks or in sand pits, depending on what we like," Hans replied. He knew the Captain wanted more than trivial knowledge of his species and although he hated small talk himself, the Captain seemed to be relaxing more with the little chit chat.
"A little dark in here isn't it?" Wilcox said.
Hans barely noticed the lights not being on. Being a subterranean species, the Geckonians rarely saw sunlight and so were accustomed to the dark. Humans on the other hand, Hans remembered, had little visual ability in such conditions.
"We live in dark caves on my home world Captain, my eyes are adjusted to these light levels," he paused for a second, "while on duty I wear a pair of transparent contact lenses to protect my eyes."
The Captain sighed, he seemed uncomfortably pensive.
"Is there something I can do for you Captain?" Hans came out and asked, feeling that the silence could go on no longer.
"We have a problem Commander," John said, "I was wrong in what I attempted to do." Hans nodded in agreement, but did not want to interrupt him completely. "You did good in stopping me, however I would prefer if next time you would use a lower setting of stun."
"Is there going to be a next time?" Hans could not help asking at the end of the Captain's inappropriate use of bad humour.
"I'm not a saint Commander, I do make mistakes, just like everyone else," Wilcox responded.
"I meant for me sir," Hans replied quietly, "Are you not reporting me for insubordination?"
"That would mean the end of your career," John replied, "And mine." John emphasised the last part, Hans wondered why, was the Captain's career just as important to him as his was to himself, "I'm ashamed at what I tried to do, but according to Doctor Castello, I was accidently shot during a prisoner escape attempt."
"I thought it was best if I kept the events secret for the time being," Hans replied lowering himself from the log, his feet touching the smooth, soft carpet that wasn't able to be removed before they left Starbase. His feet itched at the feeling of it.
"You lied," John said in amazement, "I thought Geckonians didn't lie."
"I didn't lie," Hans responded softly, he carefully chose his words, "I misled and allowed them to come to their own conclusions." Hans paused and raised an eyebrow, "I don't believe I once mentioned the world prisoner escape."
John nodded, "I see."
Hans walked over and grabbed a glass of water from the table; he passed it over to the Captain and tried for another broad smile. He was impressed that the Captain had enough visual ability to see the glass enough to get a hold of it. "This ship needs a good captain, and that is you sir. You were not your usual self. I will not hold it against you." Hans paused for a second, he had known the Captain for such a limited time, yet he already thought he knew the person standing in front of him very well.
"This ship also needs a good executive officer," John replied, handing back the glass of water back to Hans after he had taking a few sips. Hans felt the coldness of the water on hands and instinctually put the glass down quickly.
"I agree," replied Hans.
"I think you would make a great first officer," John continued.
"Sir?" Hans, felt a little embarrassed, he had never considered that he would make it to such a high position in Starfleet. He felt a person from a species outside of the Federation would not be allowed to rise to such a rank that would be put into a position of conflict.
"What you did in the brig, standing up to me when I was wrong," John paused, "Despite the fact you shot me, was exactly what a good first officer needs to do. Give me other options, remind me of my place in the universe, but is yet good enough to know their own limits and does not undermine me."
Hans nodded his head slightly, "Thank you for your kind words Captain."
"Commander Hawke was a good officer and he was a good friend, but he was never going to be a good first officer," John paused, he looked glum, Hans assumed that the Captain was thinking he was betraying his old friend. "He didn't know when to support me in public and give me his thoughts in private. He was a typical engineer, not a command officer."
"He was a good man," Hans said compassionately, "He was a credit to the uniform."
"And that is how he will be remembered by us," John replied.
"What do we say about the incident in the brig?" Hans asked.
"We'll have to ignore it," Wilcox replied, his sombre voice displaying that he did in fact feel ashamed at what occurred, "I think it would be best if the events never left this room."
"What if the Gorn make some accusations?" Hans hadn't thought of this possibility when he first misled his fellow officers, but it now seemed like the most likely event that would occur.
"We'll deal with that if and when it comes about," John said smiling, "Are we in agreement Commander?"
John took on a serious look, "There is just one question I do have Hans," John said. Hans felt his stomach churn, "I know what you did give indications, but I need to know where your loyalties lie Commander; with Starfleet or Geckonia?"
Hans paused for a moment. He had never really considering the question before. He had never been in a position where the two had come into conflict. Sure there had been times when Geckonians may have done something different than what Starfleet had ordered. But at the end of the day, Hans had joined Starfleet, like the rest of the Geckonians had done, in a first step for Geckonia to join the Federation. Hans considered that he was therefore a person that had loyalties to both.
"Sir," Hans began, "With all due respect, I joined Starfleet in order to allow my people to see we can become part of the Federation." Hans paused for a second and leant against the log in his room, he thought about the six Geckonians who had given their lives for the Federation during the Dominion War, he had once thought that this would be enough for the Federation to consider the Geckonians committed enough to the Federation cause, but the Captain, like some others, were questioning his loyalties. "I guess you could say, that I am loyal to both. But as I want my people to join the Federation, I cannot go against the Federation wishes."
Hans noticed that the Captain smiled and gave a reassuring nod. "Shall we get to work then Commander?"
"Yes sir," replied Hans, a broader smile developing on his face, "But if you don't mind sir, I would need to get dressed."
Wilcox briefly stopped for a moment; Hans could see the cogs in his head working, "Are you naked Commander?"
"Yes Sir, I am."
"I'll wait outside," replied Wilcox, now seemingly very uncomfortable. Humans were so prude in such matters.