“Shuttle Kerguelen, this is shuttle Saint-Hilaire” Sheridan called.
“Kerguelen here. Standby for landing coordinates,” came the terse reply.
Shortly after, the shuttles were all parked in a circle in the footprint of a blast pattern. Inside Kerguelen, the leadership assembled. Sergeant Gerensky, Second Lieutenant Bartelli, Boatswain’s Mate Second Class Driscoll,
Ensign Sheridan, and Bosun Caswell filled the cramped interior.
Bosun briskly started the session “Now that we’re all here, we can scan the area for the Klingons”
“Sir, could you hold off on that? The Lieutenant here had an idea on the way over” Gerensky interrupted, to Bartelli’s astonishment. “I - ?” he bit off.
“Sir, remember when you asked about the ice?”
“uh, yes, yes I did” Bartelli played along.
“and I told you we parked here because it’s the blast point furthest from downed shuttle?”
“yeeeesss” Bartelli still wasn’t quite sure what ‘his’ idea had been.
“Spit it out, Lieutenant” interrupted Bosun.
“Well, sir, it’s like this, um”
“Sir” cut in Gerensky “there’s only two places without ice here, except
for the blast points”
“Yes, yes, it’s the condensed atmosphere of the planet. What of it?”
“Well, sir, the lieutenant
thought the shuttle might’ve melted the ice it landed on. But in that case, …”
“In that case, what melted the other dry patch!” Bartelli finally caught on.
And that’s maneuvering a senior officer for you
, thought Sheridan.
Bosun gave Gerensky a flat stare that told the NCO he hadn’t been fooled, but if the sergeant wanted his officer to get the credit, he wouldn’t call him out over it publicly.
“Alright, sergeant, lieutenant, why shouldn’t I scan?”
“Because, sir, it’ll tip them off that we know where they are” Gerensky began
“And if we go in on foot through the other patch, we can be at their door before they know it!” Bartelli finished.
“look, here, at the map – that’s a river canyon where the shuttle went down, and it dead ends here” he pointed at the first dry spot “and starts up again here” pointing at the second dry spot “and that means…”
“that means the river had to go underground through that rock between them and cut a cave!” Sheridan realized “that’s got to be where they are!”
Bosun smiled indulgently, “Ok, sergeant. I see what you’re saying. I should send you in, then take off and start scanning a search circle from low orbit, as if I had no idea where to look. Alright. We’ll do that. Ensign, you and your pilots go aloft in the other shuttles, leaving your ratings with Boats here” pointing at Driscoll “to block the cave entrance by the other shuttle.”
“Bosun, I’m just a warm body on the shuttles. Another person dirtside might make more of a difference.” Sheridan put in.
“BM2 doesn’t need to babysit a greenhorn if he might be fighting Klingon warriors, ensign”
“I’ve fought pirates, Bosun, and I grew up in the mountains. I’ve been spelunking often.”
“This is your first ship, ensign, you haven’t had the opportunity to fight yet, “ Bosun clearly disbelieved.
“When we moved back to Terra, our ship was boarded. I was 13, but I got one of the bastards!” Sheridan flushed at the memory of hate bubbling inside.
Caswell looked again, reevaluating the boy. No, not a boy. “Look, son, I know that your friend is in there. I don’t want you to take the wrong chance and get killed or get him killed.”
“I won’t. I already lost my - well I lost someone because I was too stupid and hotheaded”
“Boats, if, in your opinion
, ensign Sheridan is endangering the mission, you have my direct
order to stun him and take command. Now, everybody clear out, we’ve got work to!” Bosun stared Sheridan down, daring him to object. Sheridan did his best to stare back without smiling or jumping.
On the walk back to the shuttles, Bartelli bumped into Sheridan and touched helmets to talk without communicators “Damn, that was ballsy!”
“You really think so?” Sheridan was startled at the idea.
“If either of us mess this first outing up, we’re gonna be busted to enlisted, and you had to ask for a bigger chance to foul up. Yeah, that was ballsy!” Bartelli replied fervently.
“Just trying to do the most good I can. Rory’s in there with the Klingons. And Roberts, too” Sheridan didn’t wish ill on the j.g, but none of the probationary ensigns had warmed up to him yet, largely because Roberts hadn’t warmed up to them yet. “I’d kinda wondered if you were probationary, too, or if that was just captain Sawyer’s treatment of fleet ensigns”
“Where d’you think he got the idea? Sam Fed’s Misguided Children have done it that way for decades!”
“We need to jet, see you when we get back!” did I just make a friend?
, he wondered.