Abbie sat the science station on the bridge, fingers rapidly flying over the interface as she tried to comb through the data of the various shuttles. Kincaid hovered over her shoulder while Greg paced behind her, unable to watch. Nothing could be heard except the soft response tones of the computer.
Leone watched the chronometer in her armrest with a sinking heart as forty-eight hours from the ensign's disappearance elapsed. She closed her eyes briefly, taking a breath and then announced, "That's time. Anything out there?"
Abbie shook her head, her shoulders slumping. "No, sir. Nothing to indicate where Ensign O'Day might be." Kincaid put a hand on her shoulder to comfort her.
The announcement of the deadline by the captain caused Greg to let out a held breath loudly. His eyes watered and he felt his legs weaken. He reached up to place his hand against the bulkhead, but missed its location by nearly a half-meter. As he threw his entire weight against his hand, his body fell to the deck with a loud thud. Before anyone could move to assist him, he informed them, "I'm all right. I'm fine."
Leone rose from her seat immediately at the sound of Greg's voice. Though he gave her a sheepish grin at the misstep, she was not buying his assurances. "How long have you been up?"
Greg shook his head in a denial but Abbie spoke before he could, "Closing in on forty hours, sir." She ignored Greg's glare in reply.
"Lieutenant Aspinall, you're relieved. Report to sickbay and check in with a doctor. Until they clear you for duty, you're not to set foot on my bridge," Leone said sharply.
In spite of his bloodshot eyes and his apparent inability to stay upright without leaning on the nearest bulkhead, Greg protested, "Sir, I'm fine. We should keep on this search for as long as we have to." Unfortunately for him, every third or fourth word was slurred.
"No one's calling off the search, Lieutenant," Kincaid answered, stepping forward to reach out and steady the younger man.
Greg slapped away the proffered support from the executive officer and lurched forward slightly toward Leone. His fatigued-laced anger caused a sudden redness to his expression. He opened his mouth to raise his voice, "Krys-"
Once again, Abbie interrupted. "Captain, with your permission, I'd like to go to sickbay with the lieutenant. I only got a couple hours myself and I'm feeling somewhat lightheaded," she explained, moving quickly to Greg's side and taking one of his arms to pull him towards the turbolift.
Leone narrowed her eyes toward Greg briefly, then shared a look with Kincaid. "I think that's a very good idea. For the both of you. Commander Kincaid, will you call for replacements, please?"
Kincaid nodded. "Aye, Captain." He gave Abbie a thin smile as he tapped his commbadge to pass the word over the intercom.
Abbie had Greg practically in the turbolift before he could formulate a coherent reply, if one wanted to generous. "I'm not... bla... tired," he insisted as the doors closed.
Leone looked at her XO and noted, "She's a good officer."
Kincaid nodded his agreement. "The best, sir. I'm going to have her replacement continue to go over the data but otherwise, start calling in the shuttles out there whose crews have been on for more than nine hours. We should try to avoid that hyper-fatigue situation in others."
"Very well," Leone replied with a succinct nod. "See to it, Jesse."
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
Sovera reviewed the findings on the medical tricorder as she angled the scanner over Greg. He had flat out refused to lie down and so was seated on the edge of a biobed. He would list to one side every so often, but Abbie stood nearby to help him steady himself.
"Your muscles are undergoing microspasms," began the doctor. "I also see that you are partially dehydrated. Combined with your vertigo and slurred speech, you are experiencing extreme fatigue, Lieutenant. You should eat food, drink some water and sleep for at least twelve hours." She set down the scanner and added, "I will prepare a sedative for you, to help you get to sleep faster once you are in your quarters."
"I..I'm not.. We have to find him, I gotta find him. I'm not...sleep," Greg retorted firmly.
"Lieutenant, you may rest assured that there is nothing further that you can do for your friend. You should not push yourself into exhaustion in order to recover his remains."
"He's not dead!" he screamed at Sovera. His vocal tone dropped significantly due to the combination of fatigue and anxiety. Greg's arm pushed Abbie away as he got to his feet. He wagged his finger at the doctor, "You give me whatever you need to give me so I can go back out there and find him!"
Abbie rushed to put herself between the doctor and patient. "Greg, she's not going to do that, and you know it. You need to get some sleep because you couldn't find a battlecruiser if it was in front of a viewport right now." To focus his attention on her, she pushed his face with her hand to make sure he was looking at her and not the Vulcan. "You know we're still looking for him, no one's given up. But if you want to help him, you gotta get some sleep first."
He gave no signs of listening to anything Abbie told him. His tirade appeared to exhaust the last remaining bit of energy left within him, and without warning leaned forward sharply toward her.
With a quick motion, Abbie caught him and kept him upright as he leaned against her. "I don't think that sedative's going to be necessary, Doctor," she mentioned. "Let me get him back to his quarters so he can get that sleep," she continued, already starting to lead him away. He offered no resistance.
"Do you require any assistance, Lieutenant?"
"I think I'll be okay. He's still mobile, more or less." Abbie paused before adding, "You know how exhaustion can play with the mind of any species, Doctor. I'm sure you'll be discrete about any side-effects of his condition."
"Indeed. If you do require anything further, please notify sickbay and we will assist you presently."
"Thanks, Doctor," Abbie acknowledged without bothering to smile as she guided Greg towards the doors.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
"Chicken broth, lukewarm, in a mug, please," Abbie ordered from the replicator inside of Greg's quarters. They were the first words he understood as he roused himself somewhat. He found himself in a chair at the small table and he blinked blearily. "Where's the doctor?" he asked, somewhat clearly.
"In sickbay," Abbie replied as she set the cup in front of him and then took the other seat. "I want you to drink that and then you're going to bed, Greg."
"Cut the crap. You're dead on your feet and you just blew up at the doctor, not that you probably remember, your brain is so fried."
Greg sat sullenly for a moment, then reached out to wrap his hand around the mug slowly. It felt like moving through water. "I'm a little tired," he finally acknowledged.
Abbie nodded shallowly and slumped back in the chair, her arms coming up to lay on the armrests. "You can't do that again, Greg. I know you're upset about Tommy, that you're beyond tired, but you can't blow up at people. Hell, you almost disobeyed a direct order from the captain."
"Used to babysit me," Greg defended himself in a mumble as he focused his attention on bringing the mug up to his mouth.
"I don't care if she wiped the poop from your ass once upon a time, you're a Starfleet officer now. We cannot allow our grief to take over that like that," she insisted.
"Tommy thinks you've got a nice ass," Greg added, seizing upon only a few words.
"Well, I'm glad he got a kick out of it, I guess," Abbie replied, expelling a breath afterwards. "Didn't they teach you at the Academy about dealing with loss in the line of the duty?" she tried a gentler tack. "They've got that Kobayashi Maru
scenario everyone takes part in?"
Greg sighed heavily and took another sip from the mug. "That scenario is not the end-all be-all of loss. It's... more about how you deal with maintaining a balance between the loss of civilian life over the protection of governmental policy. Hardly a test of dealing with personal loss, I think." He took some more of the broth into his mouth and swallowed. "That's really good."
"And you've never lost someone before?" she asked tentatively.
"No. And I don't intend to, today or tomorrow."
Abbie looked at one of the windows, tracking the path of one of the incoming shuttlecraft with her gaze. "It's a part of life in general, and Starfleet in particular, you know. I was in my third month of service when I lost friends on a ship. We give up the ability to rage publicly at death when we sign on. And one day.." She turned to face him again. "You will too, no matter what you do. And you can't react the way you did today and expect to keep wearing that uniform."
Greg stopped drinking and put the nearly-empty mug down. "I'll make my apologies later," he promised, staring down at the remains of the broth rather than at her.
"It's not about apologies, Greg. It's about facing bad circumstances like an adult and an officer. And I'll admit, you don't know really know you can until you're facing it." She appeared to struggle with herself for a moment, then nodded as if deciding something.
"I'm not going to talk about this again, so hopefully you remember this. I had joined up during the Tzenkathi War. I'd been thinking about joining the reserves, to try to get into the exploratory service beforehand, but with the war, I thought it was the right time.
"I was an ensign, fresh out of OCS, when I was assigned to Zhukov
, one of the Ambassador class vessels. We were on the front line and most of what I was doing was scanning, analyzing sensor data, things like that. Once in awhile, I got bridge duty and I got a kick out of it. Made friends with this guy in Ops, and this girl from New Athens who was in security, Nika Halkiopoulos. Nika was just coming onto the bridge this one day, and Mendel was at the Ops station when we were engaged by a Tzenkathi vessel.
"We had been in skirmishes before but I had never been in on the bridge when it happened. I was..scared out of my mind, honestly, but also...excited, really. And then we took a hit. A really bad one, practically straight at the bridge. One moment everyone's doing their job, calling out, and then there's this big flash and explosion and I'm pulling myself up from the deck. I'm looking through the haze and only one other person seems to be moving, and meanwhile the Tzenkathi cruiser is coming around for another pass and no one's at tactical and I just run over there while the other person runs to the helm.
"The body of the person at security was slumped over the console and I had to move it to get to the controls. And I just half pick it up and let it drop, I don't have time to be gentle or anything. And I see that it's Nika. She was a full lieutenant, you know. Her eyes are open, and she looks surprised. There's a piece of the bulkhead sticking in her chest. And I don't have time to close her eyes or anything, I'm just frantically trying to remember what they said in school about targeting, and meanwhile she's just staring up at me the whole time.
"Between the captain and me, we managed to return fire. We figured something out, and we took out the cruiser, avenged our dead, saved the ship and all that. But I only ever really remember Nika looking at me while I stood at her post. But if I had freaked out then like I freaked out later about that, how I still sometimes freak out about that, we wouldn't made it. So I get what you're feeling. And if you want to freak out about it, okay, but do it here, or do it in my quarters, or the holodeck. You can't do it on duty, you can't do it in public, all right, Greg?"
When Abbie looked back at Greg for his response, he had his eyes closed. His posture was hunched over his legs as sleep returned to claimed him. She watched him for a moment, her mouth pulled to one side in thought, then levered herself out of the chair. After some effort and minimal assistance from Greg, she got him onto the bed.
"Computer, dim the lights," she said right before she left his quarters to resume her shift.
=/\= =/\= =/\= =/\= =/\=
Abbie stepped onto the bridge. When she caught the captain's eye, she reported, "He's asleep in his quarters, sir. The doctor thinks he'll be fine after some food and rest." At the captain's nod, she resumed her post, getting an update from the other officer there on the data review.
Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Reynolds spoke from the tactical station, "Captain, incoming transmission from Starbase 310. Admiral T'Cirya is requesting to speak with you."
Leone got to her feet and walked toward her ready room. "I'll take it in here, thank you." Once inside, she activated the desktop terminal to see the insignia of Starfleet Command awaiting her.
The screen blinked and T'Cirya greeted her with a nod. "Captain."
"Admiral," replied Leone. "How may I help you?"
"I require an update on the current situation."
She settled into the seat behind her desk and sighed. "I'm afraid that we've been unable to locate Ensign O'Day thus far, sir."
"And the deadline has already passed at this point, has it not?"
"Yes, sir, but that does not necessarily mean that all hope is lost. I'm confident that the Ensign will be found," Leone replied in earnest. "I'm not willing to write him off, yet."
"Unfortunately, you will need to report back to port and hand off both the investigation and the search to Captains Estrada and Wilder. Farragut
was originally expected to return from Deep Space Four in twelve hours from now."
Leone looked at the small chronometer at the bottom of the transmission screen. "I understand, however, I would like to request some latitude in handling this situation. We have an enormous amount of data to hand off, and a large number of shuttles currently on search duty. If I could possibly receive some more time to make sure all is well in hand before leaving...?"
T'Cirya glanced off-screen briefly. "Captain, out of... understanding
, I am willing to grant you no more than eight hours' reprieve before getting underway. I will advise Captain Maxwell. Will that suffice?"
"Could I ask for twelve?"
"You may ask, but I will not grant it."
Leone cleared her throat. "Eight hours it is, sir. Thank you."
"T'Cirya, out." The screen blinked once more to show the logo before blanking entirely.