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Old February 8 2013, 10:28 AM   #5
First Faster Than Light
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Re: Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead #5: "Eternal Midnight"

Act Four

When he felt his helmet tear away from his head, his hands flew around him with his eyes closed while he held his breath. It went against his training, he knew, but the panic within him overwhelmed his training without hesitation. In his panic, he neglected to realize that the freefall sensation no longer existed and someone else's hands were upon him.

"It's okay, calm down," he heard a man's voice. Wait, he knew that voice.

"Lieutenant?" he croaked out. He managed to open his eyes and saw the lighted interior of the shuttle around him.

Greg smiled down at him. "Good to see you, Senior Chief. We've found your signal while we were on our way back to the ship."

To his left, Lieutenant Atherton ran a medical tricorder over him. "For the most part, he's okay. His lungs are going to have to adjust, though."

Tallan waved her off, not caring about the diagnosis. There were more important matters to attend to. "Did you find Ensign O'Day?"

The two lieutenants shared a surprised expression. "He was with you?" asked Greg.

"I'm not sure if he made it off the shuttle," admitted Tallan. "We were taking massive damage because of the field, and the shield emitters overloaded. He rigged the escape transporter while I polarized the hull to give us a little more time to get out of there." He stopped talking to cough as his lungs began to take in a thicker atmosphere than the one he was breathing.

"Easy, Senior," said Atherton. She and Greg propped him up to lean against the couch as the Tallan hacked violently. "You were breathing more CO2 than air in that suit."

Greg pushed for more information, trying to keep the urgency out of his voice. "When was the last time you saw Tommy?"

His voice was ragged, but the coughing died down long enough to allow him to answer. "He beamed me out of the shuttle first. There wasn't enough power for both of us to go." Tallan resumed another coughing fit on the edge of his last word.

"We found you floating quite some distance away from the debris field," admitted Greg worriedly. "If his distress beacon was active, it would have been picked up on our sensors as we found yours."

"Don't you give up, Lieutenant," coughed Tallan. "Don't you dare." The Andorian pulled himself up from the floor of the shuttle and moved to sit at the co-pilot's console. "Maybe his transceiver was damaged in the transport. It's not outside the realm of possibility."

Greg frowned. "I wasn't saying we give up. Just saying we couldn't find his beacon, is all. I'm not going to give up on Tommy." He sat in the seat next to the senior chief and programmed in a flight pattern.

Atherton reached for the communications controls to the right side of Tallan and opened a channel to Farragut.

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

Isira shook her head. "I don't understand. What makes this the wrong assignment?"

Kincaid sighed. "This captain has a reputation. She's well-connected."

"I know."

"So, then you understand."

"Not yet, but keep talking."

He ran his hand along the edge of the desk. "I... want my own command, someday. Soon."

"Surprise, surprise."

"Are you going to let me talk, or what?"

She raised her hand and bade him continue. "Sorry."

"As I was saying, my intention is to seek a command of my own. I moved from ship to ship, to gain as much experience as I possibly could, and on each ship, I served under captains who recognized my potential and did what they could to give me every opportunity."

"And Captain Leone won't?"

"Well, I'm not sure. But I get the sense that I'm not wanted, here. I see how she and Commander Elannis work together, and I feel like I'm the jerk who took the commander's seat from her." Kincaid checked to see her expression. "At least, that's the impression I'm getting."

"You got all that from two days of service?"

"Actually, it took a lot less than that to figure it out. Plus, with Commander Hargreaves on board, my thinking is that there's more to this classified mission of theirs than they're letting on. I'm not sure I'd want my career to be tied to a captain that's about to be court-martialed."

Isira narrowed her eyes toward the executive officer. "So the answer was to act like an ass? I'm sorry, but I don't follow. I'm not saying you're wrong, mind you. Your response just shouldn't be to act like the jerk they might think you are."

Kincaid's head snapped up. "What?" He couldn't believe what he was hearing.

"I don't usually use psychobabble on patients. I speak plainly because it gets my point across more effectively. Whatever your reasons are for having accepted this assignment, you're here for the long haul. Because you and I both know that you don't have it in you to seek a transfer so soon after reporting in," she replied calmly.

He grudgingly agreed with a nod.

"So why do you think that Captain Leone is about to be court-martialed?"

"Because the IG officer told me so before I stepped aboard."

"So it's not your impression of the captain, but hers," Isira noted pointedly.

"Well, honestly, I haven't seen anything that would warrant a court-martial from her though I'm the one who's supposed to lead the teams out there while she's the one who's supposed to stay on the bridge. I'm not sure why she's acting like the XO but it can't be because she wants me here."

Isira nodded in understanding. "You see a captain who is not used to being a captain, an officer who thought she was going to have your position but doesn't, and your response is not to talk to either officer but to snap at a fourth party. Do you see why I asked you to come in here?"

Again, Kincaid agreed with a resigned exhalation of breath. "Yeah."

"But, I think this is something you and I can work on. In addition to my recommendation that you speak to the captain when time permits to address this issue, I also want to recommend that you begin to see a counselor. I can set you up with a schedule and I'd like you to agree to it as your duties permit."

She didn't need her Betazoid abilities to see the look of surprise on his face. "What?"

"You know, I'm the ship's executive officer. I'm not sure it's a good idea-"

"Bridge to Commander Kincaid."

He did not hesitate. His hand reached up to open the channel, immediately. "Kincaid, here."

"Sir, incoming transmission from the shuttle Garrovick. Lieutenant Atherton is reporting the destruction of Komarov. They have Senior Chief Tallan aboard."

"Patch them through to the ready room, Lieutenant." He reached for the captain's desktop terminal and swivelled it around to face him. The screen powered up to show the Starfleet insignia before switching to Abbie's face. "Report."

"Sir, we found Senior Chief Tallan in an EVA suit floating away from the debris field. He's reported that his shuttle was destroyed by the combination of the bilitrium and trilithium resin. At this time, we do not have a location on Ensign O'Day, though the senior chief is unable to confirm whether or not the ensign made it out in time."

Isira moved from around the desk to look at the terminal screen, but remained out of view of the visual pickups.

Kincaid asked, "I assume you've begun search operations for the ensign?"

"Yes, sir. Lieutenant Aspinall and the senior chief have come up with a flight path that will make sure of our limited sensor range," replied Abbie. Her eyes kept drifting off-screen as she spoke.

"Something wrong, Lieutenant?"

"No, sir. We're just coming really close to the edge of the field, now," she told him, though the last three words of her sentence contained interference.

Kincaid's voice hardened. "Maintain a minimum safe distance from the field."

As Abbie made her reply, the visual image on the screen showed severe interference until the signal was lost altogether. The display now exhibited the same insignia as before and a note saying that the transmission ended at the source.

"Damn it," he spat. "Mister Nieves, I want to speak to Starbase 310."

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

"'Starship Rangers?'" repeated Iris. "I remember that show. I used to watch it as a little kid."

Yvonne nodded. "My parents wouldn't let me watch it. It was a little too violent for their liking, so I had to wait until I was older."

"Well," said the captain as she relaxed in her seat, "Ariel grew up on Starship Rangers and is a huge fan of the show. She's actually been to conventions when she has leave."

"I've been to fifty-two," Ariel said proudly. "I've met all the actors, and I have one of the original helmets with all of their autographs in storage back home."

Leone chuckled. "She's a nutty fangirl. Anyway, when we were both serving on Victory, she predicted I would make captain someday, and made me promise that when that happened, she would get to name one of the auxiliary craft after the ship."

Yvonne could not hold in her snort. "That's where you got the name Lydia? That's hilarious!"

Ariel smiled, showing off her teeth. "I've always wanted to serve on a ship named Lydia. It's the reason I joined Starfleet."

"No, it's not," retorted Leone. "Stop making shit up. She wanted Starfleet because she wanted to get away from her mother. She got denied an appointment to the Academy-"

"Hey!" said Ariel defensively.

"She got denied and joined as an enlisted, instead."

"Are we just going to spill out my entire life's history?"

Leone ignored her, "She got her degree by correspondence when she made third class petty officer and then applied to the officer candidate's school and got her commission."

Iris and Yvonne now looked at Ariel with more respect. "Wow," said Iris. "I'm not sure if I would have had the tenacity."

"You would if you had her mother."

Ariel frowned. "I really wanted to be an officer. No offense, Crewman."

McComas shook her head. "None taken, Commander. We in the enlisted ranks do not look down on the commissioned folk. We just know that they need a little more hand-holding than we do."

All eyes were on the captain. She wore a smirk on her lips and levied a pointed glare at Ariel. "Some more than others."

Everyone shared in a relaxed chuckle as a signal caught the attention of Ensign Colby. "Incoming transmission from Farragut, Captain," reported Yvonne.

"On screen."

The face of Commander Kincaid appeared. "Captain."

She recognized the interior of her ready room, but decided not to say anything about it. "Jesse, what's up?"

"Sir, Lieutenant Atherton is reporting the loss of the shuttle Komarov. They were able to retrieve Senior Chief Tallan, but Ensign O'Day is still missing."

"And they're not equipped for a search and rescue. Contact Starbase 310-"

"I already have, sir."

Leone grinned. "Good. What did the admiral tell you?"

"They're dispatching Excalibur and Sutherland to assist us. They will arrive shortly."

"We've only finished deploying about a quarter of the hazard buoys, but we can lend a hand as soon as we're done," she said, adjusting her seated position. "Ensign Colby, deploy this next buoy."

"Aye, sir. Buoy is away."

Kincaid added, "I've ordered five of the other shuttles to converge on the Garrovick's present location to aid in the search. That should allow you to finish dropping buoys. Maybe we'll have found him by then."

"I can only hope so, Jesse. Keep us apprised of their efforts, and let us know if they find him."

"Aye, sir."

"Thank you. Lydia, out."

Ariel had the presence of mind to speak after the transmission ended. "Our new XO takes the initiative, doesn't he?"

The captain grinned. "It's only fair. I left him in command of the ship, while we're out here sifting the debris. Let's get this done and then join the search."

"Aye, Captain. Coming about."

=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=

"Where could he be?" wondered Greg as he brought the shuttle's nose around for a third pass of the same search pattern. It had been over two hours since they brought the senior chief aboard. In that time, they covered the range a suit could make adrift without any thrust. "He couldn't have drifted off too far away from you."

Tallan pushed his lips together with concern while his hands continued to work the console in front of him. "I've done what I can with the shuttle's sensors, sir. But, we might have to face the fact that he did not make it off the shuttle in time."

Greg turn on him, and in a sharp tone, he told him, "You don't know that! His suit could have been damaged."

"If that's true," said Abbie, "then it's possible he's already dead. It's also just as likely that he was beamed to a different location because the transporter was damaged mid-transport." She did not elaborate on all of the injuries such an issue could cause.

Clearly, Greg did not want to admit that. The expression on his face betrayed the thin layer of composure he was struggling to maintain. "I'm not going to give up on him. Not until I see the body. I say we expand the search pattern a bit more."

Tallan nodded. "Agreed."

Greg's hand moved quickly to enter in the new ranges into the flight controls. "I'm expanding the range another fifty kilometers."

Abbie asserted herself, "I'm the senior officer, here."

Both men turned to look up at her in askance.

"I am," she assured them.

Tallan glanced over to Greg briefly before returning his gaze to her. "I don't doubt it, it's just... you're a science officer."

"And a department head, Senior Chief."

Greg blew a puff of air toward his forehead. "So, what're you saying? We give up?"

"No, I didn't say that. I just mean, there's a protocol to carrying out orders."

"Fine," Greg replied, throwing his hands up. "What are your orders, Lieutenant, sir?"

"We need to do more than just expand the size of the search parameters, we need to change the search pattern to focus on the most likely transport areas." Abbie tapped a new pattern into the console in front of her. "This one is going allow us to cover more area in a shorter amount of time while also..."

Tallan interrupted her. "We have some incoming ships showing up on long-range sensors, sir."

"Identify them," said Abbie.

"One moment, Lieutenant," replied the senior chief. "Ah, they're ours. I'm reading the shuttles Pythagoras and Scobee on approach."

Greg sighed with relief. "The more, the merrier."

Even Abbie managed a smile. "Assign each shuttle a piece of the pattern and let's get to work. First person to find Ensign O'Day gets a corned-beef sandwich."

Tallan wrinkled his nose. "A what?"

Greg chuckled. "It's an expression. A small prize for completing the task. It gives you incentive."

"Yes, but couldn't you just get one from the replicator?"

"I suppose, yes, you could... but..." Greg's voice trailed off as gazed back at Abbie for assistance. When she offered none, he shrugged. "To be honest, it's from before my time."

When the senior chief shot a glance at Abbie, she offered no help, either. "Don't look at me; it's something my father used to say all the time."

Tallan scoffed. With a shake of his head, he addressed the console, "Stupid Terran expressions. If you're going to offer me some incentive, get me a date with the dabo girl on Starbase 310."
Michael D. Garcia
Head Writer, Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead (United Trek)

Visit my writing blog or my fanfic profile at Ad Astra.
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