USS Nightingale, Chief Medical Officers Office
Rachel sat in her chair staring at the blank bulkhead. Its dark grey colour was faded into a wash of miss match patterns as tears practically blinded her. She had no idea how long she had been sat in her quarters, motionless. She was sure it was hours, it might even have been longer. Time will heal all wounds
, she could hear her grandmother say in her ear. But it was a lie. Time does not heal wounds, time may make the feelings loosen, may even make the mind forget. But she knew deep down that time did not heal any wounds.
She remembered the first time that she met Dan, sitting across the table from her on the Starship Soval. Both she and the commander were being assigned to their first department head positions. During their four years on the ship, a friendship that was driven by professional collaboration turned into a whirlwind romance. It was during an unavoidable refit that Rachel had been at Starfleet Medical, shielding herself from the falling debris caused by the devastating Breen attack.
In the hours that followed the attack she had her work, and the hope that Dan was still alive that kept her going. Now she knew, Dan was dead and she could do nothing to stop it.
Another tear stung her left eye and painfully dripped down her cheek onto the desk in front of her. Closing her eyes for a second, she could see his smiling face behind them, painfully watching her. Rachel knew she had work to do, she had a team of people depending on her. But so had Dan and she had let him down.
The first chirp of the door, she ignored out right. The second chirp she shouted out for the person, whoever they were, to go away; her strained voice showed the stress of her depressed state. There was no third chirp of the door; instead she heard the door open up, with the Captain stood in the doorway.
"Captain," Rachel said, wiping a tear from her eye, "I believe this is my office sir, you shouldn't come in here without my permission."
Captain Wilcox fully entered the room, allowing for the door to close behind him. Throwing down a padd onto the desk in front of Rachel, he gave her a look that made her want to cry some more, but she tried to hold it together. "I think you'll find this is my ship," the Captain replied, "I will go where I want if I think it is necessary." The stern look in his eyes, reminded her of her father when she was being told off. "You should have told me when I first offered you the post," he continued.
"Informed you sir?"
"About your engagement to Commander Walker," Wilcox continued.
"We weren't engaged when we were both assigned to your ship," Rachel stated, "I broke it off just after the Breen entered the war." She paused, remembering the letter she sent to him a couple of days after the attacks.
"Why did you break it off?" the Captain asked her, his voice now changed to that like her father's when he was trying to soothe her. Her head ached from the change in tone.
"I was scared," she replied meekly, losing that vital composure in front of the captain for a second. She gulped down some of the build up of the saliva and regained her feigned professional stance, "I was scared I was going to lose him," she continued, "In combat, during a silly rescue mission, from an accident in engineering."
The Captain went round the desk and perched himself on her desk, facing her. "People die in Starfleet," he added bluntly, "That is the nature of the service. We are after all the Federation's defence force."
She nodded, she knew it was all true, but she had never thought she would lose someone so close to her, someone she loved. "How did you find out about our engagement," she asked, another tear forming in the corner of her eye, blurring more of the room around her.
"In letters that Dan sent me," the Captain added in a bland voice, "While I was other assignments."
"He said he wouldn't tell anyone," Rachel said.
"Oh he didn't mention you by name," Wilcox replied with a smile on his face, "The one thing that Dan was good at was giving hints but not revealing everything until he was ready to."
Rachel remembered that about Dan. He had once planned a big meal to celebrate some anniversary or birthday and spent an enormous amount of energy into goading her that he had forgotten the event. She remembered being angry with him, but at the same time, so in love. For the first time in a while, she smiled. To her surprise, the Captain smiled back at her.
"You've got to hold on to those happy memories Doctor," he said softly, "Just after his passing I wanted to do silly things," he paused for a second, taking in a deep breath. Rachel noticed that something was obviously troubling him deep down, something that he was not going to reveal, at least not to her. "But the truth is, the best way we can remember him is by the times that we had that were good and by getting on with the work that he loved so much."
Rachel nodded, what the Captain said made sense, and his admission that he felt the pain of his loss made it seem more manageable. "What's on the padd?" she asked as she wiped her face from the tears.
"They are letters from Dan," the Captain replied, "Some of them mention you in some detail," he paused again to smile at her. "When I was sad at the passing of my Granddad, I read every letter he sent me. It was as if I was able to say goodbye to him."
Rachel nodded, she was about to say something when a chirp came from her office door. The Captain immediately answered it by allowing the person on the other side to enter her small office.
"Sorry to disturb you sir," Doctor Castello said, "But the bridge have sent someone down Captain," he paused for a second; Rachel noted the attention he was giving her, probably making judgement at what she was doing. "They say they need you up there sir," Castello finished in his professionally posh voice.
"Tell them I will be there in a minute," the Captain replied. Castello nodded and walked out of the room, having the door shut following his exit. After that, Rachel felt the attention was fully on her again, "Read some letters, get yourself cleaned up and then I want you to report to your station Doctor."
Rachel felt a little better from the conversation and replied in the only way that was appropriate for such an order. "Yes sir."
USS Nightingale, Bridge
Hans stood at ease behind the desk of the chief science officer, Paul Williams. "How many?" he enquired. A few moments ago the short range sensors, the only ones actually working, had picked up some feint signals very close to the ship. Williams had spent the last few minutes trying to work out what they were, but Hans thought that the man was way out of his depth as a chief science officer. Hans had seen it many times with smaller ships in Starfleet. It wasn't the young man's fault. A few years ago, he would have been given a low priority role on a larger ship, with a more experienced science officer being assigned to the Nightingale.
But the Nightingale was not a science vessel. It had good sensors, some of the best in the fleet, but it was built for one, specific reason - search and rescue. There was going to be no missions on this ship that would require it to study gaseous anomalies or bend the fabric of space in some wacked out experiment. Their missions would be purposeful, productive and honourable; or so Hans thought. The first mission of the USS Nightingale was hardly any of those things. Hans contemplated for a second as he read sensor telemetry on the state of the mission. Eight crewmembers dead, others serious injured; weapons off line and several other systems compromised. And they were no closer to finding the Brave and more likely to be added to the missing list. It would take quick thinking by the command staff, which he was now part of, to get them out of this mess.
"Ensign," Hans stated, "Please, complete your analysis in a quick and accurate manner, the Captain will wanting our report when he arrives on the bridge."
To his credit, the young science officer did not seem to get flustered by the continued pressure that Hans was piling on him. In fact Hans was admiring the effort and resourcefulness he was adding to investigation. "Yes sir," Paul replied.
Hans moved to the centre of the bridge, "Lieutenant Visitor," he announced, the young girl at the helm turned her head in response, "please be prepared to move the ship. The Gorn may have entered the nebula and found us." She nodded in response and began to work the console like she was playing an instrument.
Hans walked around the room; he had personally attempted to get more control on the room. Before hand the bridge had seemed like a mess. The senior officers were not complying to regulations, there was little structure and to Hans it had seemed like a load of first year cadets had been let loose on the Bridge. Some of the people on the ship were suppose to be seasoned veterans. Shrak should have been taking command while he and the Captain were trying to sort out the rest of the ship and not having a social with the helmsman. They weren't exactly given the harder tasks. V'ras and the engineering crew had a tough assignment, Doctor Burton and her medical team were under undue stress and even the security teams had more work than usual with limited staff numbers. But all his hard work over the last couple of hours was starting to pay off. The bridge was beginning to look right again.
USS Nightingale, Turbo lift 1
John felt the up motion of the turbo lift. It turned his stomach as it lurched its way from deck 6 to deck one, on the bridge. He had just been informed his presence was requested on the bridge, but for what he did not know. He had taken the opportunity to get an update on his injured chief of operations. Torlik was still unconscious, not having come around since his time in the imagery chamber, which repaired most of his plasma burns. However, Doctor Castello had reported that he had taken a knock to the head, which seemed more serious than they had originally thought. They had done all they could for him - but he was expected to make a full recovery.
An engineering report had promptly arrived in sickbay as he was about to leave and he quickly read it before entering the turbo lift. Essentially, despite his Vulcan chief engineer giving as good as he could, there was little improvement. Warp eight was the best that they could manage and they had only fifty five per cent shield capacity. The imagery chamber had served its purpose and was now part of the starboard torpedo launcher. Though the re-fire rate was painfully slow and John thought it was practically useless, it at least allowed them to fire back should the need arise. And it was a sure bet that they would certainly be met by at least one Gorn vessel, if not a couple by now.
He at least knew now what had happened to the Brave. The commander of the Gorn vessel, Slov, had admitted to attacking the Brave. However he had not admitted to the destruction of the vessel. And the debris field did not contain any large hull fragments from a Federation vessel, though they didn't have enough time to see if there was any small part of the Brave in the debris field. There was still a chance that the Brave was somewhere, intact, maybe damaged, but still functioning with crew to save.
USS Nightingale, Bridge
John walked onto the bridge of the Nightingale and was amazed at the difference that he saw. When he left the bridge last, he thought of it as a broken area of the ship, in terms of personnel and in equipment. Now it seemed as if the personnel had changed, into being a professional force. Hans was in the centre of the bridge, he seemed to orchestrating the whole bridge like a conductor in a band. John smiled to himself for a moment; Hans seemed to be a good command officer.
"Report Commander," John bellowed at the top of his voice, walking towards the centre of the bridge. He noticed how a couple of the other officers, Shrak and Williams, stood to attention. Lieutenant Visitor sat up more rigidly; she could hardly stand to attention as she was sitting down at the helm.
"Captain," Hans responded confidently, "We've picked up several small objects that are slowly closing in on our position."
John postulated for a moment. Several smaller objects would be unlikely to be Gorn. "Speculation Commander?" John asked; his mind frustratingly full of possibilities. He needed someone else's opinion before he made up his mind on what to do.
"It is unlikely to be Gorn," Hans replied, "It is not within their normal operating procedures and they have the capability to find us from outside the nebula. "Perhaps they are Geckonian," he continued.
"Captain," Ensign Williams shouted from across the bridge seeming pleased with himself, "I think that I have identified the objects."
John moved himself over to the science station where the eager Ensign was smiling from ear to ear. "What have you got Ensign," he asked positively.
"The hull of the objects, they are a Duranium alloy, with a Neosorium component signature," Williams smiled and looked at John. John felt like he should know what all this meant but he had no clue.
"What does that tell us Ensign," Hans replied, being blunt.
"Neosorium sir," Williams replied turning to face the Commander briefly settling back on the Captain. Suddenly it dawned on John what the significance of the find was.
"Only Federation ships have Neosorium," he added, "we use it in hull and equipment." John looked at the readings, "Could they be hull fragments from the USS Brave?" John suddenly felt a rush of excitement; he might be able to complete his original mission. Even finding the resting place of the Brave would be something. It would allow closure for the families for those on board.
"No sir," replied Williams, "They have active power signatures," Williams continued, his smile gaining space on his face, "The objects are escape pods, twelve of them."
John almost fell backwards with the news. He had no idea that it was possible that he would eventually find anything of the Brave, let alone the possibility for him to find survivors. He looked at Hans, "Begin rescue operations immediately Commander."
Hans nodded back to him and walked off the bridge. John sat in his command chair looking at the view screen. He couldn't help but smile to himself.