Star Trek: USS Samaritan

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by admiralelm11, Jan 5, 2022.

  1. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I was going through my old works lately and I found this story that I wrote over ten years ago. I'm rewriting it and I hope people enjoy it. It takes place during the Dominion War aboard a hospital ship.



    Star Trek: USS Samaritan
    “Healer’s Song”
    By Jack D. Elmlinger


    PART ONE


    CHAPTER ONE: Anticlimax



    Ensign Jared Parker was bored. For the umpteenth time that day, he set his course to intercept the small hospital ship and pulled the runabout McCoy away from the convoy. He looked at the line of warships that he was leaving behind and sighed. The Federation gray of their hulls were blackened in some places where Jem’Hadar disruptors had scorched the paint. This was the closest that he would get to the war.


    * * * *


    In the runabout’s modified cargo hold, Sovek was annoyed. Or he would be if Vulcans allowed themselves to feel emotion. He would prefer that the non-Vulcan medical staff would keep their conversations on the task at hand. At the moment, that job was in the converted cargo hold of the runabout, attending to the injured Starfleet personnel that they had just taken from the USS Tacoma. Unfortunately, the male nurse assisting him insisted on going on with his useless prattle.

    “It really is an honor to be working with you, sir,” the nurse told him, like every other doctor and nurse said to the preeminent Vulcan doctor. “Your papers on Tellarite physiology were brilliant. I can’t believe that you left the Medical Research Center on Vulcan to be a battlefield doctor.”

    “My presence should be evidence enough to quell your disbelief,” Sovek replied as he administered a painkiller to a badly burned patient. “My skills were needed here so I came here. It was logical.” As a rule, Vulcans didn’t lie but deep down he knew that he wasn’t telling the whole truth.


    * * * *


    “How do you say it again?,” Crewman Mazik asked Doctor Flores as he fished out the wire that he was looking for behind the dead computer console.

    “Amanecer,” she said the word slowly and over enunciated it. A day earlier and the word would have echoed down the massive Sickbay but today, it had been steadily filling with the wounded from the convoy.

    “Are you sure that’s the name of a Human colony?,” the technician asked her, his voice muffled while he squirmed underneath the console.

    Flores let out a small laugh. “I’m from there. The name is Spanish. It means Sunrise.”

    “I didn’t even know you were Human when I first saw you, Doctor Flores.”

    “You can call me Krissy, and I get that a lot. It’s the skin and hair.” Her skin had a very deep tan and her hair was a sun-bleached blonde. “Our star is much closer to Amanecer than the Sun is to Earth.”

    “I never knew that,” the Benzite said, closing up the console. When he did, it flickered back to life. “There you go, Krissy. Now let’s hope that the other ninety-nine intensive care stations in this Sickbay weren’t wired as badly as this one.”

    “Or the five hundred extended care quarters,” Krissy joked back.

    As the technician sauntered off to his new job, Flores stepped up to the computer console. She pulled up a list of ships in the convoy and her smile disappeared. What she was looking for wasn’t there.


    * * * *


    The Samaritan was now very large through the windows of the runabout. Jared thought it looked like a box with warp nacelles. The main hull was a kind of cylinder cut in half, lengthwise. The flat side of the half cylinder was the dorsal side of the ship. Sprouting out of the four corners of the dorsal hull were struts supporting the port and starboard warp nacelles. The nacelles were long, matching the length of the main hull. Stuck on the front of the ship, almost as an afterthought, was the semi-ellipse that held the Bridge and gave away the Samaritan as a Federation starship. It was function over form for the small Hippocrates-class hospital ship.


    Opening a communications channel, Jared repeated the words that he had been uttering all day. “USS Samaritan, this is the runabout McCoy, requesting docking clearance.”

    “Runabout McCoy, this is the Samaritan. Request received and granted,” replied the curt voice of Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei, just as crisp and precise as the Efrosian Executive Officer always mannered himself. Jared could nearly see his perpetually ironed uniform and the fresh shine on his gleaming boots. The XO reeked of professionalism from head to toe. He had the suspicion that Ra-Gorvalei yearned to be on the frontlines as much as he did. If he did, he would never say.

    The runabout was now heading directly towards the Samaritan’s stern section where the shuttle bay was nestled between the ship’s twin impulse engines. The windows briefly glowed as the runabout breached the force field that separated the artificial atmosphere of the Samaritan from the vacuum of space. There was a creek and a hiss as the runabout settled down onto the deck of the shuttle bay and the pressure equalized between both ships.


    * * * *


    Ensign Shane Bulloch stole a glimpse of the underside of the runabout as it touched down on the deck of the Samaritan’s shuttle bay. The glow of the nacelles of the main engines faded as power was reduced and Bulloch waved the waiting doctors and nurses in. The doors of the McCoy’s modified cargo hold opened and the patients began pouring out under Sovek’s direction.

    “Is the runabout okay?,” a voice from behind asked Bulloch.

    “Yeah, I’m just checking it over,” he replied, turning to meet the voice. He snapped to attention when he saw the gray-haired man who asked him. “I mean, yes, sir, Commander Kingsley.”

    Dominic Kingsley smiled. He was amused by the military honors afforded to him. “At ease, Ensign Bulloch. And it’s only Lieutenant Commander.” Kingsley tapped at the rank pips on the collar of his uniform.

    “Of course, sir.” Bulloch relaxed his posture but not by too much.

    “And the uh… transporter… When is it going to be repaired?”

    “Our transporter is at one hundred percent, Skipper, but the convoy ships are pretty beat up from their last battle. Fluctuations in their power systems could corrupt the matter stream during transport. It’s unlikely to happen but using the runabouts eliminates that risk.”

    Kingsley nodded. “Keep up the good work then.” He patted Bulloch on the shoulder and moved away from the technician conversation that was far over his head.

    He strolled over to Doctor Sovek. “How is the latest batch of patients?”

    “Stable,” replied the Vulcan,” but some of them will require much of our attention to regain their optimal health.”

    “They’ll have it. After all, that’s what we’re here for.”

    Sovek’s eyes focused on Kingsley’s collar. “I find it curious that your uniform has a blue collar. I am not entirely familiar with Starfleet’s regulations, but I do believe that the Captain of a starship traditionally wears red.”

    “Traditionally, yes. However, I’m also the Chief Medical Officer, in addition to being the Captain. I believe on a hospital ship that my duty as a doctor comes first. Our battlefield is in that Sickbay.” Kingsley motioned to the mammoth space directly forward of the shuttle bay. “It’s not like I’ll be ordering anybody to fire phasers.”


    * * * *


    Jared hopped out of the runabout from the cockpit hatch. He noticed the slight shift in gravity as he crossed the threshold. Although all Starfleet gravity generators were normally set to the Federation’s gravitational reference, there were slight variations in the control calibrations between the runabout and the Samaritan which caused a small gravitational deviation that went unnoticed to anyone who wasn’t anticipating it. The sensation was much more pronounced when stepping out onto a planet where there were no artificial gravity generators and rarely did any planet’s mass correlate to the gravitational reference. But he didn’t consider any of this. He simply noted that sensation.

    Bulloch met Jared at the base of the runabout. “Hey, Jared, is McCoy all powered down?”

    “Hey, Bull. I can’t power down until Sovek is finished with the medical equipment. Not all of the patients have been unloaded yet,” Jared replied. “I just had to stretch my legs. I’ve been in that cockpit for eight hours.”

    “Well, that was the last run. Chief Shaw is bringing in the final load of patients from the convoy.” The two friends strolled towards the shuttle bay force field. The Phlox, the Samaritan’s other resident runabout, was still too far away to be differentiated from the long line of ships in the convoy.

    Jared was envious. “Look at them, Bull. All of them are going to war. And where are we going?”

    “We’re going to take these people to a Starbase. Then we’ll meet up with another convoy.”

    “And I’ll be flying a runabout, ferrying another load of patients back here, safe and sound, and all my actions are inconsequential to the war.” Parker crossed his arms and looked down at the deck.

    “Hey, the sick and injured need treatment. If you don’t fly them here, they don’t get that treatment.” Bull patted his friend on the back.

    “It’s easy for you. You’re an Ensign and already a Chief Engineer.”

    “Jared, that runabout has a more complex warp drive system than this ship. Main Engineering is nearly as small as our quarters are. Yes, I’m in charge of those engines but the Samaritan is more like a gloried shuttle than a full-blown starship.”

    “But you’re still doing what you’re trained to do. You’re doing what you want to do.” Jared sighed. “I’m a bus driver, only with a runabout or this glorified shuttle instead of a bus. Anyone could be doing my job. I want to be part of this fight. I want to be out there, making a difference.”

    The two Ensigns looked up simultaneously at the flash of a ship coming out of warp. A moment later, Parker was contacted by the Bridge. “Lieutenant Burns to Ensign Parker.”

    “Parker here. Go ahead, Lieutenant Junior Grade Burns.” He thought that Burns was much more impressed with his position as Operations Officer than anyone else aboard.

    “Has the McCoy been powered down?,” asked Burns.

    “No,” Jared told him, unsure about what was coming next.

    “Good.” Burns’ voice had a perverse joy in it. “The USS Pegasus has just arrived with wounded.”

    Jared rolled his eyes. He had been counting on a break but it looked like one more ride to the convoy that would inevitably leave him behind.

    “Understood,” was all that he could say before heading back aboard the McCoy.


    * * * *


    Flores was taking the vitals of one of the new arrivals when the PADD in her coat pocket chirped, indicating that the ship’s computer had updated the list of convoy ships. She pulled the PADD out of her pocket but she didn’t look down at it. Did she really want to be disappointed again? If it wasn't him this time, could she bear it? She had to know. She shut her eyes and raised the PADD level with her face. She took a deep breath and looked at the list.


    * * * *


    Sovek had finished unloading the patients and secured the medical hold for departure. Jared Parker was standing at the cockpit hatch and he was about to touch the button that would close it when he saw Doctor Flores rush out of the large opening to Sickbay. He thought that she was beautiful.

    With Burns as his superior, Jared’s on-duty time was rarely gratifying. The Samaritan had no holodeck, no low-gravity gymnasium, or any recreational facilities of any kind so his off-duty time was often less than entertaining. However, being assigned to the Samaritan didn’t seem as bad as when he was with Krissy.

    “Jared, thanks for holding the door. Got room for one more?,” Flores asked him, a little out of breath.

    Jared realized that he was staring and quickly pulled himself together. “Sure,” he said with a smile,” but all that I can promise you in a mundane trip out and back to that Galaxy-class starship that just warped in.”

    “That will do,” Krissy answered as Jared helped her up into the cockpit.

    The McCoy lifted up off the deck and backed out of the shuttle bay before gracefully turning towards the convoy. As the runabout increased speed towards its destination, Chief Shaw came over the intercom. “McCoy, this is Phlox. Request port to port.”

    Phlox, this is McCoy. Copy that, port to port,” Parker replied.

    “Parker, if you need me when you get back, I’ll be in my rack,” the Chief said before closing the communications channel.

    Flores gave him a quizzical look. “What was that all about?”

    “Oh, the Chief is just bragging about how he’ll be in bed a lot sooner than me,” Jared explained to her.

    “Bragging about being in bed?”

    “We’re heading into hour nine of this operation. I’ve spent a lot of time in this chair today,” he said, fishing for sympathy.

    Krissy willingly took the bait. “Nine hours? Without a break? You poor thing.”

    “Well, it’s a lot easier on this run since I have someone to talk to.” Jared was rewarded with a broad smile from her. It lifted up his spirits so much that he momentarily thought that there might be a problem with the gravity generators.

    The rest of the trip to the Pegasus flew by quickly. Jared wasn’t sure why Krissy had wanted to come along on this trip. He knowingly deluded himself, deciding that it had to be his charming company.


    * * * *


    As far as support craft went, a runabout was large. Even so, the McCoy was dwarfed by the USS Pegasus. With docking clearance received, Jordan maneuvered the ship between the larger ship’s warp nacelles. The doors of the main shuttle bay on the starship’s saucer section began to open as the runabout commenced its final approach. He felt a small thrill. This is what he imagined that his first assignment would be like. He fantasized that he was returning to his ship, a starship, rather than just stopping by to pick up patients. As the runabout touched down on the deck, he and Flores could see that their passengers were already being prepared for their trip.

    “Look at all of them. This is going to be a full boat,” Jared said, watching the stretchers begin to flow towards the medical hold.

    Flores said nothing. She just stood up and leaned forward over the console to see better out the window. Scanning the deck of the shuttle bay, her eyes finally found what they were searching for. Her mouth curled into a broad smile and pointed out the window.

    “That’s him!,” she exclaimed.

    “Who?,” Jared asked as Krissy quickly crossed the cockpit and opened the hatch. He rose from his seat and followed her, completely mystified as to what was going on.

    Jared was dodging anti-gravity stretchers and medical equipment as he followed Flores across the bay. With the crowd of patients, doctors, and nurses, he would have quickly lost track of her if it was not for her unique appearance, courtesy of her Amanecer heritage. She came to a stop in front of a Human male. He slowed his jog to a walk as he continued to close on the pair. Jared stopped and just almost fell over himself when he saw Flores wrap her arms around the man and kiss him passionately.

    After a few long moments, Krissy and the man parted lips. Several more minutes passed by as she and the man exchanged sweet words in whispered tones. She finally noticed the gaping Ensign Parker and called him over. “Jared, come here. I want you to meet my fiancé.”

    Jared took stick of the man, noting his red collar and the rank pips of a Lieutenant pinned upon it. Feeling very awkward, he stepped forward and extended his hand. “Jared Parker.”

    “Jacob Muller,” Krissy’s fiance said, shaking his hand.

    “Jacob’s a pilot too,” Krissy interposed.

    The conversation continued and Jared was finding it harder and harder to continue smiling and acting as though he was enjoying himself. Jacob had been assigned to the Pegasus straight out of the Academy. He had been at the helm of the ship as it covered the retreat of this very convoy and then heroically escaped themselves. And to top it all off, Jacob had Krissy.

    “Well, I’ll leave both of you alone, and let you catch up. Pleasure to meet you, Jacob.” Jared excused himself and retreated to his runabout.

    Easing back into the chair that he had spent the majority of the day in, Jared felt more frustration with his assignment than ever. Through the forward window of the runabout, he could see his life as he wished it was. He wished that he had Jacob’s life.

    Less than an hour had passed by but it might as well have been a week when Sovek reported that the medical hold was ready for departure. Shortly after that announcement, he heard Krissy and Jacob fawning over each other, just outside the cockpit hatch before they said goodbye. Krissy popped into the cockpit, all smiles as she took her seat. Jared found her joy to be all the more depressing.

    The McCoy departed the Pegasus and headed away from the convoy one last time. The line of ships tightened up their formation with the USS Pegasus moving into the lead position. Jared looked at Krissy and then at the convoy. The formation of ships began to warp away as did all of his hopes and dreams.


    * * * *
     
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  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    CHAPTER TWO: What You Wish For


    Jared woke up to the sound of an alarm. He reached to the small control console on the side of his bunk to turn off the sound. There was no way that it was time for his next watch. He must have set the alarm too early. His hand finally found the console and he pushed the control that should have turned off the annoying sound. It continued. He pressed the button a second time but still the sound persisted.

    All of a sudden something grabbed him and shook him. He ripped back the small curtain that covered the opening in the wall to his bunk. He saw his roommate, Shane Bulloch, half-dressed and obviously excited.

    “Jared, wake up,” he yelled. “Wake up now!”

    “Bull! Would you get your hands off of me?! What’s wrong?” Parker slapped Bulloch’s hand away from him.

    “Don’t you hear the damned alarm? We’re at Red Alert!” Bulloch zipped up his uniform jacket and went looking for his boots. Parker rolled out of his bunk and grabbed his own uniform.

    “What’s going on? We can’t be under attack. We’re too far from the line”

    “I don’t know, Jared. I’ve got to get to Engineering.” Bull dashed out of the room.

    “I guess I’d better start preflight on the McCoy,” Jared said to himself before heading off to the shuttle bay.


    * * * *


    Jared saw that the runabout Phlox had already been powered up. He climbed in through the open cockpit hatch where he found Chief Shaw finishing up his preflight procedures.

    “Do you have any idea what this is all about, Chief?”

    “Ensign Parker, you’re in the wrong runabout. As for the Red Alert, we’re going to extract injured personnel from MN-1375. Some barely Class-M rock that Starfleet installed a monitoring post on. Apparently, the Dominion had discovered it.”

    “Why can’t we just extract them with our transporters?”

    “Some genius of a ground commander deployed transport inhibitors all over the surface so that the Jem’Hadar couldn’t beam down reinforcements,” Shaw explained to him. “You should get the McCoy up and running. We’ve got another long day ahead of us.”


    * * * *


    Lieutenant Junior Grade Burns was at the helm of the Samaritan as it shot through space at warp speed. The Bridge was diamond-shaped with a door at one point and a chair and console recessed into a pit at the other three corners. The most forward pit was the Helm where he sat. The other two pits to port and starboard contained consoles that could be configured for Engineering, Tactical or Systems Control. Centered in the diamond, on level with the deck, was the command chair which had its own console that could be configured to control any of the ship’s functions. The Samaritan’s systems were simple in comparison to other ships.

    Even now at Red Alert, only the command chair and the helm were manned. Most of the Starfleet personnel aboard found this to be a professional annoyance but there were simply not enough of them to keep all of the Bridge stations manned.

    Burns was constantly conscious of Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei who sat, looking over the Bridge. He checked the status of the runabouts, ensuring that the support craft were being attended to. It would show Ra-Gorvalei his concern for his position as Operations Officer, even though the men that he commanded resisted his authority.

    “Lieutenant Burns to Ensign Parker. Why haven’t you completed preflighting the McCoy?,” Burns said loud enough that the XO had to have heard him.

    “I’m bringing her online now, JG,” Jared’s voice came across the intercom. Burns hoped that Ra-Gorvalei heard the utter insolence that Parker took with him.

    “Well, make sure that it’s ready before we arrive at MN-1375,” Burns instructed him.

    “It’ll be ready faster without further interruption. Parker out.” Burns considered contacting Chief Shaw as well but the Chief was even worse than Ensign Parker.


    * * * *


    The McCoy had been ready to lift off for twenty minutes by the time that the Samaritan arrived at MN-1375. Jared had made sure that he made Burns aware of it as soon as he had finished the checklist. Then he updated the status of his runabout at five-minute intervals.

    “JG Burns, this is the McCoy. Still prepared for flight operations.”

    Burns found the updates to be somewhat less than helpful.

    MN-1375 itself was somewhat less than impressive as Class-M planets went. The conflict between the Federation and the Dominion was regulated to the northern and southern regions of the planet. From the equator to about thirty degrees of latitude of either side of the great circle, the surface of the planetoid was too hot for even the Jem’Hadar, a race genetically bred for war and survival. The monitoring post had been sacked and disabled. Federation forces were falling back to the poles of the planetoid. The only saving grace to the Federation troops on the ground was that two Excelsior-class starships had arrived in the system to defend against the possibility of Dominion ships reinforcing the Jem’Hadar. They had fended off six Jem’Hadar assault ships so far but the Dominion continued to send reinforcements. The plan was for the Samaritan to extract the injured before the rest of the Federation ground troops retreated to the two starships defending the space above the planet.

    MN-1375 had been lost.

    There was no use in sacrificing further lives.


    * * * *


    The doors of the McCoy’s medical hold opened. Doctors Sovek and Flores led twenty nurses out onto the flat piece of land where the injured had been gathered. Krissy winced at the smell of burned flesh charred from weapons fire. The energy bolts from the weapons carried by the Jem’Hadar tore through flesh like a meat cleaver.

    Flores dropped to a knee next to the first victim that she came to. She scanned him quickly with her tricorder and then she began to stabilize the patient for transport.

    Krissy turned when she felt a hand on her shoulder. It was Lieutenant Commander Kingsley. He had come down on the Phlox. He squatted down behind her and whispered some advice into her ear.

    “Don’t just treat the first patient that you come to. This is triage. We help the ones with the best chance of survival first.” He patted her on the shoulder before he headed off to get to work himself.

    The man that lay before Krissy was fading out. His uniform was shiny with blood and his complexion was pale. The man looked at her, his mouth moving as if he was trying to speak. Then the bleeding stopped but not due to Flores’ efforts. The man was dead.

    Elsewhere among the wounded, another man lay bleeding from a shot in the leg as Sovek attempted to stabilize him. The bleeding officer groaned and shifted in pain. On the screen of his medical tricorder, the Vulcan saw the artery in the man’s right leg began to retract towards the abdomen. His hand shot down towards the open wound. He shoved his finger into the flesh and caught the artery between his thumb and fore-finger. The man cried out in pain.

    “Be as still as possible,” Sovek instructed his patient. He needed a medkit. His own was out of his reach. “Nurse,” he called out loudly, scanning his surroundings for anyone who could simply pick up the kit and place it into his free hand. As he turned his head from side to side, he noticed that just below the foot of the man that he had his hand inside was a Vulcan officer craning his neck to look at Sovek.

    “Sir.” The ailing Vulcan forced the words out of his mouth.

    “I will be with you in a minute. Please hold on,” Sovek said, assuring the Vulcan who was growing paler with each passing moment.

    “I shall use all of my strength.” The Vulcan did not take his eyes off of Sovek.

    “Nurse!” Sovek’s voice momentarily lost the emotionless monotone typical of his race while never breaking eye contact with the other Vulcan.

    After what seemed to feel like an eternity, a nurse arrived to help him. The doctor averted his eyes from the injured Vulcan and concentrated on securing the artery that he held. When Sovek looked back at the other Vulcan, the will for survival in his eyes had been replaced with the glazed over look of a corpse. The Vulcan doctor scrambled towards the corpse and placed his hands on his face while closing his eyes. The mind was as dead as the body.

    Sovek stared back at the nurse. After several moments, he finally spoke. “This one is dead. We should move on.”


    Sitting in the cockpit of the McCoy, Jared watched as another personnel carrier dropped off new wounded from the battle that raged on another part of the planetoid. In the space above the planet, two starships continued to repel intensifying waves of Jem’Hadar assault ships.

    Jared was there. He was at the front, but the helm that he sat behind was that of a runabout sitting on the ground. His orders were to sit with it. Sit and wait until the medical hold was full. Then, after ferrying the patients to the Samaritan, he would return the runabout to this very spot and wait again.

    People were dying. Jared could see that happening before his eyes but he couldn’t do anything about it. He wasn’t making a difference.

    “Nurse Haas to Ensign Parker,” a voice came over the intercom.

    “Parker here,” Jared replied.

    “The first load of patients is secured for transport,” the nurse explained. Jared checked and saw that the medical hold doors were closed. He opened a channel to the Phlox.

    “I’ve got a full boat here, Chief.”

    “Roger that, McCoy. Don’t be too long. I might get lonely,” Chief Shaw answered him in his usual sarcasm.

    The McCoy lifted off of the ground and headed back to the Samaritan. Once clear of MN-1375’s atmosphere, the McCoy picked up the three Federation starships in orbit. For a moment, the sensors registered a Dominion vessel as well. Soon, it was just debris, thanks to a well-placed torpedo from the USS Tacoma, one of the Excelsior-class ships. Along with the USS Mayweather, the Tacoma had sustained a fair amount of damage but they were holding the line solidly.

    The Samaritan was unscathed and as pristine as any other Federation ship had been during peacetime.

    In the hospital ship’s shuttle bay, the medical staff stood ready to unload the McCoy’s patients as quickly as possible. The moment that the runabout set down, the nurses and doctors began moving to the doors of the medical hold to offload the patients, and Jared waited.


    * * * *


    It was hard.

    It broke her heart but Flores was taking Kingsley’s advice. She passed by those that would die, regardless of her help. She passed by those who would take up too much of her time with helping. She passed by pleading looks and pained faces. Those who had the best chance for survival got treatment and a free ride on a runabout to the Samaritan, but many of them didn’t.

    Flores turned to see a runabout landing yet again. It might have been Jared’s, the McCoy, if she wasn’t mistaken. She had lost count as to how many times that the runabouts had taken off and returned. It had been a long day and it was only getting longer. She pulled her tricorder out once again to find her next patient.

    Walking across the field of bodies, she felt a hand on her ankle. She looked down to see a man of a species that she had never encountered before, covered in blood. The alien’s skin color might have been flesh toned under the brilliant red pool of blood. He didn’t look like he was going to make it.

    “Help me, Doctor,” the man said through heavy breathing.

    “Someone will be with you shortly,” Flores said as she began to turn to find something that she could help. The man grabbed her ankle once more.

    “A convenient lie but I assure you that I’m not as injured as I appear.” His voice was forceful. Krissy could see the will to live and the need to live in his eyes. “I am a Nelvian. I will not die from blood loss. My body will not allow it. However, I fear that my third stomach may have ruptured. If you do not help me, I will digest my own organs.”

    Krissy scanned the Nelvian. He was right. His bone marrow was producing new blood at an incredible rate and he wouldn’t die from bleeding out. It took a moment to figure out which organs were inside of this new species. The Nelvian was right again. His third stomach had a small rupture and it was leaking a highly acidic fluid into its lower abdomen. She pulled a tissue regenerator out of her medkit and went to work. The rupture sealed quickly. She put away her instruments and looked down at her patient.

    "You’re going to be just fine,” she told him. “That was a really good self-diagnosis. Are you a doctor?”

    “No, I’m with Starfleet Intelligence. Thank you, Doctor. I owe you my life.” He lay back with a content look on his face. Krissy called a stretched over for him before she continued on to her next patient.


    * * * *


    Chief Shaw was piloting the Phlox back to the Samaritan with another full load of the battle-tattered Starfleet personnel from the landing zone. However, this time, the skipper himself, watched over them in the medical hold. For a moment, the runabout’s sensors registered an extreme spike in radiation and then it was gone. The Phlox was still in the atmosphere of MN-1375, and sometimes, the ionosphere of a planet could play tricks on sensors but he doubted that this planetoid was capable of generating interference of this scale. He checked his sensors again. Something was wrong and it wasn’t with the sensors.

    Samaritan, this is the runabout Phlox. I’m not picking up the Mayweather on sensors, and I doubt that she’s hiding behind any bushes.”

    “Runabout Phlox, this is Samaritan.” Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei’s voice came across the intercom. “The Mayweather has been lost. Lieutenant Commander Kingsley is aboard your runabout, isn’t he?”

    “Down in the slaughterhouse.”

    “Colorful description, Chief. Please patch me through to the CO.”

    “Aye, sir.” Shaw had seen his fair share of officers throughout his career and he recognized that Ra-Gorvalei’s skills were being wasted aboard the Samaritan. The Efrosian was a warrior, through and through, highlighted by the calmness that he exuded while one of only two starships that protected the all but defenseless hospital ship, was destroyed.

    In the medical hold, Kingsley did little to keep the patients stable. His doctors and nurses had performed well in their triage duties, resulting in virtually no problems while transporting the patients through space. This is what the Samaritan was all about, saving lives. Even though his position authorized him to wear the command red shirt of a commanding officer, he opted to wear the blue shirt of a doctor in an effort to emphasize his ship’s mission.

    “Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei to Lieutenant Commander Kingsley.”

    “Yes, Mister Ra-Gorvalei?”

    Kingsley had always found him to be a bit trying. The Efrosian was no militant but he knew how to get the ship from one place to another, so he served his function as Executive Officer well.

    “Sir, one of our escorts, the USS Mayweather, has been destroyed,” Ra-Gorvalei said, matter-of-factly.

    Kingley contemplated the ramifications of the loss. “What about the other one?”

    “The USS Tacoma has taken damage. As of now, her shields are holding at fifty percent and her captain assures us that he will continue to provide protection for the Samaritan.”

    “Fifty percent? We should probably leave, shouldn’t we?”

    “There are still Starfleet personnel on the planetoid’s surface that need our help.”

    “Who will help us if the remaining escort is destroyed? We should leave. Recall the other runabout. Kingsley out.” They had worked so hard to get their patients to the Samaritan. He didn’t want to risk having them all killed by disruptor fire ripping through his small ship in the cold of space.


    * * * *


    Jared was tired. He hadn’t had a full night’s sleep and as the hours of this operation dragged on, consciousness was something that was becoming hard to maintain. Finally succumbing to the overwhelming weight of his eyelids, his eyes closed and drifted off to sleep.

    “Samaritan to McCoy. Ensign Parker, respond!” Ra-Gorvalei’s voice over the intercom startled him awake.

    “Sir, yes, sir!,” he said, shooting up out of his chair and coming to full attention.

    “Recall the triage unit. All personnel are to return to the Samaritan as soon as possible. One of our escorts has been destroyed and we’re leaving the system as soon as you return,” the XO instructed.

    Regaining his bearings, Jared realized that what he had heard was the intercom and not Ra-Gorvalei himself. He relaxed his posture and took note of the runabout’s status. “Lieutenant, the medical hold isn’t even half full yet. There are still people out there who require treatment.”

    “You have ten minutes to get that runabout off of the ground. You know what you have to do.” The channel closed.

    Jared ran to the hatch and leapt down onto the planetoid’s surface. The shift from the runabout’s artificial gravity to MN-1375’s lesser attractive force caused him to tumble forward as soon as he hit the ground. Pushing himself up, he went running towards the first person from the Samaritan that he saw.


    * * * *


    At the helm of the Samaritan, Lieutenant Junior Grade Burns grew more anxious. The sensor readouts showed that the USS Tacoma’s shields were at thirty percent and dropping. Without the protection of their escorts, the Samaritan would be a sitting duck, and he had no desire to find out just how much more maneuverable a Jem’Hadar attack ship was in comparison to the Samaritan. It hardly seemed worth the effort all that the Dominion was throwing at this monitoring station.

    “The Dominion sure wants this rock badly,” Burns speculated. “It must have some strategic importance.”

    “The monitoring station has been destroyed, and the planetoid has no useful resources. It’s barely habitable and I don’t think that it’s MN-1375 that they want. It’s something else, but what?,” Ra-Gorvalei said, trying to figure out what the interest was.


    * * * *


    Krissy had finished stabilizing another patient and she was moving on when she came across Sovek. It was the first time that she had seen him since they left the runabout together.

    “Sovek, it’s incredible, isn’t it? That two societies that are so advanced could cause all of this death. I feel… I don’t know how to feel about it.

    “That society wields advanced technology and does not guarantee that the society is governed by a similarly advanced morality,” Sovek explained. Then he added, “This experience is… new for me as well.”

    Both doctors heard shouting and turned to see what it was coming from. Jared was running in their direction. He seemed to be hollering at nurses and wounded alike as he ran but Krissy could not make out what it was. Whatever it was, it seemed to make the nurses work fast and the wounded to try to stand on their own.

    “What do you think he’s saying?,” Krissy asked Sovek.

    “He is saying, ‘Get to the runabout. We’re leaving in ten minutes.’” Sovek’s Vulcan ears could hear Parker quite clearly.

    Jared recognized the two doctors ahead of him and increased his pace. Out of breath, he stopped in front of them. Though heaving breaths, he said,” We have less than ten minutes. You two have to get to the runabout.”

    “That’s unacceptable,” Krissy protected. “There are still a lot of people here in need of our help.”

    “One of our escorts has been destroyed. The other one isn’t doing well,” Jared urged them. “The Samaritan has to leave or it will be destroyed.”

    “The logical course of action would be to withdraw,” Sovek agreed with him.

    “But all of these people,” Krissy pleaded with them. “We can’t do anything for them.”

    Jared thought for a moment before stooping over and throwing a wonder man near his feet over his shoulders. “Get as many of them as you can but we’re leaving in ten minutes.”

    Flores and Sovek follow suit. It wasn’t the best way to move injured people, but ultimately it would increase their chance of survival. Soon the nurses were also abandoning any type of treatment in order to get any many bodies as possible onto the McCoy. Even some of the wounded, those of them strong enough to walk, were picking up their comrades and helping them to the runabout.
     
  3. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    * * * *


    Ra-Gorvalei was growing impatient.

    The McCoy was still on the surface and the Tacoma’s shields were down to sixteen percent. As a secondary concern, he had been informed that the Samaritan didn’t have enough space for the number of patients that they had taken on. The medical staff had moved all of those that they could into their patient quarters but a good deal of them were still waiting for treatment and they had been placed on stretchers on the deck of Sickbay. However, finding space for the patients was not a top priority right now. Priority number one was getting out of this system with the ship still intact.

    “Samaritan, this is Tacoma. Get out of here. We can’t hold them off for much longer.” The message was garbled but its intent was perfectly clear.

    “Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei to Ensign Parker. Get your runabout off that rock. I have no great desire to leave you behind!” He was insistent but he still hadn’t lost his cool.


    * * * *


    Jared awkwardly tapped his combadge. It was a difficult task while carrying an unconscious Denobulan on his back. “Parker here. Understood. I’ll be there.” He didn’t even try to get the injured Denobulan into the cargo bay. He threw him into the cockpit as he himself stepped up into it. He got behind the controls and engaged the thrusters on their lowest setting.

    Outside, the runabout’s thrusters had the desired effect. Kicking up dust and producing the unmistakable sound of a ship preparing for departure, the Samaritan personnel began flocking to the small ship. Carrying an injured Trill, Flores went to the runabout’s cockpit and heaved the Trill in next to the Denobulan. Then she entered the cockpit and glared at Jared.

    “There are still people out there, Jared,” Krissy insisted. “We need more time.”

    Already working on completing the preflight sequence, Parker looked back at her and then at the Denobulan who was beginning to hyperventilate. “He needs help,” he said, pointing at the Denobulan. He left his chair and hopped out of the cockpit again. Nurse Haas came running up to him.

    “Sir, the medical hold is full. We don’t have any room for these people,” the nurse said with a desperate look on her face.

    “Make room for them,” Jared ordered.

    “Where?”

    “The cockpit, the passageway, the refresher, anywhere that you can find room,” he said. Nurse Haas returned to the back of the runabout to carry out his orders. Jared jogged off to the nearest wounded person and heaved them over his shoulders.

    Now carrying a Bajoran, he was stopped by Sovek on his way back to the McCoy. “Ensign, it would be prudent to expedite our efforts.” The Vulcan pointed off into the distance. Jared squinted, trying to see what he wanted him to see. He saw a dark line of people on foot in the distance.

    “Can you see who it is?,” he asked the doctor, fearing for the worse.

    “I have never seen one in person before, but they do match the description of Jem’Hadar soldiers.”

    “I’ll get the McCoy ready. You make sure that everyone still alive gets aboard.”

    “It is illogical for us to risk the runabout to help the few that are not yet aboard.”

    “We aren’t risking the runabout. I am. And I won’t leave until we get those people aboard. Logically, it would be beneficial if you do what I say.” He was almost yelling.

    “I shall contact you when it is done. No one will be left behind.”


    * * * *


    Flores screamed when the body of a Bajoran literally flew into the cockpit. Shortly afterward, Jared heaved himself inside, putting his hand on the groaning Bajoran’s shoulder.

    “Sorry,” he said before heading for his chair and preparing the runabout for launch. He checked how much time had passed since he was ordered to leave. Just twenty minutes have passed by.

    Krissy finished stabilizing the three patients in the cockpit before she turned towards Jared. “Thank you, Jared. You’ve helped a lot of people today.”

    “You can save your thanks. I didn’t stay because of you,” he retorted back at her. This was the second time that she had been in the McCoy’s cockpit, but this time, it had not been her that he had held the hatch open for.

    “What is that supposed to mean?,” Flores asked him, confused as to why his personality seemed to have shifted one hundred and eighty degrees.

    Becoming frustrated, Jared searched for a reply when Sovek’s voice came over the intercom. “Sovek to Ensign Parker. All personnel are accounted for, save for the exception of Doctor Flores.”

    “Thanks, Sovek. She’s up here.” The pilot turned and looked at Flores. “It means we’re leaving.” He turned back to the controls and powered the thrusters to full.


    * * * *


    In space, the Tacoma released a volley of photon torpedoes. The brilliant shimmering red objects flew through the ether, abruptly stopping when they impacted a Jem’Hadar assault ship in its ventral port bow. The explosions sent the small ship tumbling until the shattered vessel lost its warp containment and it was consumed by its own antimatter coming into contact with its inner hull. Another wave of Dominion ships had been stopped.

    “Samaritan, we won’t be able to stop another attack. You’ve got to leave now.” The message was very weak and thoroughly corrupted with static.

    Tacoma, our last support craft is returning now. Thank you for your protection. We are preparing to leave the system,” Ra-Gorvalei assured the Samaritan’s protector.


    * * * *


    “Samaritan, this is McCoy, requesting docking clearance.” Jared Parker was relieved to finally be able to ask that.

    “Get that runabout aboard, Parker! We’ll talk about your inability to follow orders later,” Burns’ voice hissed across the intercom.

    Flores, who had monitored her patients silently in the rear of the cockpit throughout the flight, was now leaning towards the side window. “What is that?,” she asked, finally breaking the silence.

    Jared quickly glanced back to the window, seeing the damaged form of the USS Tacoma. “That’s just our escort.”

    “Not that. That!” She moved her head away from the window and pointed. Jared had been paying too much attention to his approach to notice that three new ships had appeared on sensors.

    “Three more assault ships. No, it’s two assault ships and a battleship.” The battleship easily outclassed the Tacoma. Jared had a sinking feeling in his stomach. There was a flash of light from the window that Krissy was staring out intently. He looked at his sensor readout.

    The Tacoma was gone.

    “The starship… it’s… it’s…” Flores sat down in an empty chair. “I wonder how many people were aboard.”

    The runabout set down on the shuttle bay deck and Jared contacted the Bridge. “Bridge, this is McCoy. We’re docked. A little late but we’re docked.” The McCoy’s sensors lost all contacts. The planetoid, and the Dominion ships were all gone in an instant. The Samaritan had gone to warp.

    Jared opened the cockpit hatch and jumped out. He slipped and fell when his feet touched the deck. The smooth deck of the shuttle bay was covered by a slick film of blood in a path between Sickbay and the runabout’s berth. He helped Flores get the injured Trill, Denobulan, and Bajoran down to the deck. Nurses quickly came to the aid of the two wounded aliens. The ensign saw Bull standing at the end of the bay, watching the McCoy as it was unloaded. He walked over to his roommate and watched with him.

    “How’s the McCoy?,” Bull asked him. “Any problems?”

    “Nope,” Jared replied.

    “How about you, Jared? Any problems?”

    “I made it, Bull. I made it to the front.”

    “That you did. How does it feel?”

    Jared took a deep breath, considering his answer. “Frustrating. I couldn’t make a difference.”

    Bull patted him on the back and nodded towards the injured personnel who were being taken to Sickbay. “To those people, you made a difference.” Jared gave him a half-smile to his friend, appreciating what he was trying to do.

    Without any warning, a siren began to blare and all lighted surfaces flashed red. For the second time in the same day, the Samaritan was at Red Alert. Bulloch moved to a nearby console on the shuttle bay bulkhead and his jaw dropped at what he saw.

    “What is it?”

    With his mouth still gaping, Bull looked at Jared. “The Jem’Hadar battleship… She’s following us.”


    End of Part One
     
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  4. Cobalt Frost

    Cobalt Frost Captain Captain

    Joined:
    May 22, 2004
    Location:
    Cobalt Frost in Phineas & Ferb's backyard
    Most excellent! I wish I was half the wordsmith you are. Very much looking forward to more.
     
  5. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    You really are good with the words. I particularly liked the little details that add so much verisimilitude - e.g.
    Sweet cliffhanger.. Thanks!! rbs
     
  6. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Star Trek: USS Samaritan
    “Healer’s Hope”
    By Jack D. Elmlinger



    PART TWO

    Chapter Three: Those Who Fight and Run Away


    “Why are they chasing us?,” Lieutenant Junior Grade Carson Burns asked, more to fill the unbearable silence than to actually receive an answer. His anxiety became greater as the colossal Jem’Hadar battleship and two smaller assault ships quickly closed on the Samaritan. It was almost as if he could sense the distance between the two ships by the amount of fear that he felt in his stomach.

    “Either we have something that they want or destroying our escort ships didn’t quench their thirst for blood,” Ra-Gorvalei replied from the command chair.

    Those words from the XO didn’t ease Burns’ anxieties in the least. The junior officer watched on the ship’s sensors as Jem’Hadar ground soldiers quickly and efficiently pushed back the Federation lines. They were similarly relentless in space as assault ships had continued to appear in groups of two or three at a time. The Excelsior-class starships that had protected the Samaritan had fought well but they were eventually worn down by the constant attacks. That was to be expected from them, he reflected. They were a race that was genetically engineered as warriors. They weren’t capable of fear, retreat or even mercy.

    Ra-Gorvalei checked the readout on his arm console. The battleship was gaining down on them. The Samaritan’s maximum cruising speed of Warp Seven was nowhere near enough to outrun their pursuers. Pressing a button on the console, he said,” Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei to Engineering.”


    * * * *


    Main Engineering was located above and slightly forward of the Samaritan’s shuttle bay. Like most spaces that weren’t dedicated to medical services, Engineering was cramped. It had all of the standard equipment that could be found in any starship’s Main Engineering section, but in half the volume. In a departure from normal Federation starship design, the warp core of the Hippocrates-class hospital ship was mounted horizontally beneath the dorsal hull. The dilithium matrix, which was the heart of every warp core, the location of the matter/antimatter reaction, was located in the middle of the room’s overhead support girders.

    Whenever he was in Engineering, Shane Bullock thanked his parents for not passing any genes onto him that would have made him taller. At five feet and eleven inches, the access hatch to the dilithium crystal assembly was only seven inches above his head.

    “Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei to Engineering,” the XO’s voice came over the overhead speaker.

    “Ensign Bulloch here,” the chief engineer replied. “Go ahead, sir.”

    “I need more speed, Ensign.”

    “I can get you to Warp Seven-point-five, or point six, but that’s it.” He began adjusting the antimatter stream, fully dilating the injectors, forcing the maximum amount of antimatter into the core.

    “That Jem’Hadar battleship is making Warp Nine. We can’t outrun them at Warp Seven-point-Six.”

    “It’s physically impossible to move this ship any faster,” Bullock explained. The increased plasma flow began to take effect, accelerating the ship and causing it to vibrate slightly as the warp field teetered on instability. “There… we’re at flank speed, sir. If we pump any more plasma into the nacelles, the warp field will destabilize.”


    * * * *


    Not knowing where else he could go and be of any use, Jared Parker went to the Bridge. As the doors opened with a swoosh, a wave of disillusionment momentarily washed over him. With a two-man Bridge crew, he had a hard time getting over the way that spacemanship seemed to be a forgotten stepchild on this ship. Although the Samaritan was designed around its medical mission, some design considerations seemed to be directed squarely against the Starfleet officers in charge of keeping the ship spaceworthy.

    “Ensign Parker, your inability to return the McCoy from the surface of MN-1375 in a timely manner almost cost us this ship. If we get out of this alive, the first thing that we’ll do is discuss your punishment.”

    Burns always had a way of putting things that made Jared want to punch him. He was sure that his slightly superior officer thought that this sort of belittling displayed a sense of professionalism and appreciation for the chain of command. If that was what was required of him to be a good junior officer, he hoped that he was a lousy one.

    “You weren’t there, JG. I did what I felt was right. Would you have let those people on the surface die?” Thinking about it now, Parker hadn’t made a choice. There was never any other option in his mind.

    “How many people died on the Tacoma so that one runabout full of people could live?,” Burns shot back at him. Jared could feel himself tensing up. He searched for the words but he knew that only his fists could talk for him at this point.

    “Mister Parker!,” Ra-Gorvalei yelled, surprising both of the young officers. “In the future, I expect you to dress more appropriately for Bridge duty.”

    Looking down at his uniform, Parker realized the amount of dirt and blood that he had become covered in while assisting the wounded personnel on MN-1375. “I suppose I can let it slide this time, considering the circumstances. Please take the port station and configure the console for tactical sensors.”

    “Aye, sir,” Jared replied, slipping into the nearby seat. He wondered if Ra-Gorvalei had been suppressing a smile… No, of course not… There was nothing that he could think of that could have possibly elevated the stoic Efrosian’s mood in their present situation.


    * * * *


    Lieutenant Commander Kingsley was in surgery as were the other seventy-nine members of the medical staff. The Samaritan could accommodate five hundred patients at a time. There were cabins for four hundred patients, plus one hundred operating and diagnostic tables in Sickbay. However, over six hundred people had been extracted from MN-1375. The overflow patients were placed on the deck between the operating beds. Some of them were even left in the runabouts’ medical holds. They were given stretchers to rest on and when those ran out, extra pillows and blankets were offered out of the medical staff’s own quarters. Kingsley was still proud of his ship but these extra patients needed to be off-loaded to a starbase as quickly as possible.

    “Laser scalpel,” he said, putting his hand out, palm up, to the side. Nurse Haas placed the requested instrument in the doctor’s hand immediately. Kingsley lowered the scalpel to the patient’s flesh but something in him hesitated as he was about to make the incision.

    An instant later, everything began to shake.

    “Kingsley to Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei,” the annoyed CO said up towards the air.

    “Ra-Gorvalei here,” replied the XO’s voice.

    “Why is the ship shaking, Mister Ra-Gorvalei? It’s extraordinarily risky to perform surgeries that our patients need under these conditions.” Kingsley didn’t even try to mask the irritation in his voice.

    “We’re being pursued by Dominion warships. The vibrations are coming from our engines being run at maximum warp.” The voice coming from the intercom, unlike that of the head surgeon’s, showed no emotion.

    “Is there any way that we could outrun them without endangering our patients?,” Kingsley asked, with the irritation leaving his voice. He had not been aware that the ship was under any threat.

    “We’re not outrunning them, sir. At our current speed, we’ll be overtaken in seventeen minutes.”

    Kingsley put the laser scalpel down and walked over to an information terminal set into the wall. “Maybe we could hide somewhere. I’ve heard of starships hiding in nebulas and stuff.” He called up a star chart of the sector and tried to make sure of the spectral phenomena depicted on the screen.

    “There is one possibility, sir, but it’s doubtful that it will provide a smoother ride.” Ra-Gorvalei hesitated for a moment. “Our current course will take us close to the Badlands.”

    “The Badlands,” Kingsley said.

    Even though he wasn’t an experienced spacefarer, the doctor knew how hazardous that area could be. Populated by unpredictable plasma storms, the Badlands had become the final destination of more ships than anyone cared to remember. Looking at the star chart, Kingsley could see no alternatives. He reasoned that the medical care being provided to his patients wouldn’t do them any good if the Dominion vessels were allowed to destroy the Samaritan.

    “Yes, that’s what we should do. Set course for the Badlands, Mister Ra-Gorvalei. I’ll warn the medical staff that operating conditions won’t improve.”


    * * * *


    “We might have more luck against the Jem’Hadar,” Jared muttered underneath his breath.

    “You have a comment, Mister Parker?,” Ra-Gorvalei asked him.

    Jared thought that it was incredible how the hushed remarks that people make to themselves so often end up being heard as if they were shouted. The ensign, his face turning red with embarrassment, turned to face the XO.

    “Sir, I was just considering the hazards associated with navigating the Badlands. Back at the Academy, we got a hold of a Badlands program for the Bridge simulator. No one that I know was able to successfully complete the simulation.”

    Burns looked back at Jared with an alarmed expression but he quickly turned back to his console.

    “I hadn’t had my primary flight class yet,” Jared added, trying to abate the apparent hopelessness of the situation that the ship was facing.

    “Trust in your training, Mister Burns. We’ll get through this,” Ra-Gorvalei assured the helmsman.


    * * * *


    The Samaritan dropped out of warp as the ship approached the edge of the Badlands. The mass of the glowing orangish pink plasma storms became more defined the closer that the ship approached them. The storms were formed in layers. Between them were the only navigable portions of the area. The calm sections of space between the layers were narrow and often, columns of plasma between one storm and another would form, relieving differing charges between the energy squalls. Only two types of starfarers ever dared to navigate the Badlands. Those who delight in facing death head on, and those who were so desperate to avoid death that they chance the plasma storms.


    * * * *


    Chief Shaw stepped into the cramped space that was allotted to Main Engineering. Inside, he saw Ensign Bulloch moving from panel to panel, checking and rechecking systems.

    “Stop looking for problems and relax while you can. I’m sure that every one of your consoles will be lighting up brighter than a nova star before long.” The Chief said things like that a lot, telling you to relax while also reminding you of the difficulties ahead.

    “I suppose you’re right,” Bulloch replied, returning the panel that he was standing at to its default configuration. “Is there anything I can do for you, Chief?”

    “I actually came up here to see if I could help you out. I saw that all of your techs have been commandeered as nurses.”

    “Chances are that I’d have to send them there, sooner or later. That medical equipment gets damaged pretty easily.”

    Shaw chuckled. “Most things do when they’re exposed to fields of plasma or disruptor fire.”

    “There’s a lot of that heading our way. Do you really think that we’ll make it, Chief?” Bulloch almost felt ashamed of his question. As a Starfleet officer, he was showing all of his uncertainty and doubt to someone that he supposedly outranked.

    The chief had seen the look in Bulloch’s eyes on the faces of many crewmen and officers before. It was the look of a young man who was realizing the dangers that space actually contained. He even remembered a time when the expression had probably crossed his own face.

    “There are some things that we can control and some things that we can’t. However, in the past months, you’ve kept this tub running and you’ve done it well. There is nothing on the ship today that you couldn’t have fixed yesterday. Remember your training and if this is our last underway, we won’t go down easy.”

    It wasn’t exactly the optimistic assurance of victory that Bulloch had been expecting. Somehow, the Chief’s words did provide some comfort. He knew the ship’s systems inside and out. He could practically build the ship from the keel up without ever looking at a blueprint and that gave him a degree of control of everything that was about to happen.

    A console indicator lit up and it began to chirp near him. He reached out and turned off the warning. “We’ve entered the Badlands.”


    * * * *


    Flores had been relieved to be back aboard the Samaritan. Back in Sickbay where she wouldn’t need to choose between patients, everyone got treated. The comfort and safety that she felt aboard the ship was short-lived. Doctor Kingsley had just informed the medical staff that the Dominion was chasing the Samaritan and that they would attempt to hide inside some turbulent area of space. Krissy didn’t understand celestial phenomena but she knew that her patients weren’t much safer than they had been.

    Regardless of how she felt, she tried to put a positive exterior. Her patients needed to believe that their doctor was confident in their survival and recuperation. Krissy’s fear of enemy ships and these Badlands was just something that she would have to keep to herself. Besides, this was a Federation starship with Starfleet officers. Surely, they knew exactly what to do in times like these.

    “Doctor,” a weak voice called from a stretcher on the ground. “Doctor, I hear people saying that the Jem’Hadar are following us. Is it true? Are we going to die?” The voice belonged to a very young and very frightened crewman. The body couldn’t have been more than seventeen years old by her estimate. She flipped open her medical tricorder and knelt down beside him.

    “I heard that the ship escaped. We’re hiding in some type of plasma field and the Jem’Hadar will pass right by us,” Krissy told her patient as she scanned him. “As a matter of fact, the Captain told me himself.”

    “Really? They’re gone?” The crewman laid back on the stretcher and stared up at the ceiling. “I thought that we were through this time.”

    “I’m going to give you something to help you relax. Try to sleep. You’re going to be just fine,” she said as she searched through a drawer of medication.

    “Here you are, Doctor,” a gray-skinned man said, holding a hypospray out to Flores. She took the instrument, noting that it contained the relaxant that she was searching for and it had been set to the appropriate dosage.

    “Thank you,” she said after administering the injection which quickly put the crewman to sleep. The gray-skinned man looked familiar but Krissy couldn’t recall ever seeing a member of his species before. “Do I know you?”

    “We met briefly while you were putting my stomach back together,” the man explained to her. “For which I am in your debt.”

    “The Nelvian?” Krissy held up the hypospray. “This is exactly what I was looking for, right down to the dosage. Are you sure that you’re with Intelligence and not Medical?”

    “I’m quite sure, but I did study biochemistry for a time. The knowledge comes in useful in my particular line of work. And please, call me Eskol.” Eskol smiled as if he was laughing at a private joke.

    “Doctor Flores,” Krissy said. She still felt that there was something different about Eskol from the first time that she had seen him. Besides the fact that he was now fully healed. Then it dawned on her. “I could have sworn that your skin was lighter.”

    “It was. I sometimes forget that dynamic pigmentation isn’t a trait that’s shared by many people outside of my race. When I don’t think about it, I usually take on the hue of my surroundings.” Eskol waved his hand in the direction of the bulkhead.

    “Dynamic pigmentation?”

    Before she finished her question, the Nelvian’s grayish skin, which was the color of Sickbay’s walls, warmed into a darkly tanned flesh that matched her own.

    “Does this hue fit your expectations better?”

    “You can will your skin to a desired color? You have far surpassed any expectations that I may have had.” Krissy was immensely interested in Eskol out of purely professional curiosity. “You’ll have to excuse me now. I must return to my patients.”


    * * * *
     
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  7. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    “Jem’Hadar assault ships are closing on our position,” Jared Parker reported.

    “The battleship?,” Ra-Gorvalei inquired.

    He shook his head. “Sensors aren’t so good in here, but it looks like the battleship is remaining outside the plasma storms.”

    Ra-Gorvalei’s gamble had worked to a degree. The Samaritan had no hope against a Jem’Hadar battleship. However, he now estimated that they could survive for, at least, two minutes after coming into weapons range of the assault ships. Two minutes plus whatever time that he could keep the ship ahead of their pursuers. That was the time afforded to him to figure out how a hospital ship could defeat two Dominion warships. At present, there was only one ineffectual course of action that came to his mind.

    “Mister Parker, charge phasers.”

    Only a few feet forward of the Efrosian, Lieutenant Junior Grade Burns was in disbelief at what he was doing. No one had ever described the Samaritan as graceful and the reasons for this lack of praise were utterly apparent to the JG at the helm. Plasma columns were forming at random intervals all around the ship. Even at half-impulse speed, it took all of his concentration to keep the ship clear of the volatile eruptions.

    “They’re closing fast. Burns, you have to increase speed to full impulse,” Jared urged from the port station.

    “The plasma columns are forming too fast. The ship can’t respond quickly enough at that speed!,” Burns protested.

    Parker studied the sensor readout before him. “Look, there’s a swirling in the plasma field before a column forms. Look for them and it’ll give you a little more time to respond.”

    Ra-Gorvalei consulted his console. Even at full impulse speed, the assault ships would overtake them but it would give them time, precious time.

    “Do it, Lieutenant. Engines to full.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    Burns hesitated for a moment with his hands over his console. He took a breath and increased the Samaritan’s velocity to full impulse. The speed didn’t come immediately but it grew rather gradually. As it did, the turbulence that the ship was experiencing grew with it. Every time that a differential charge was relieved from the formation of a plasma column, the energy disturbance surrounding the phenomena would hit the Samaritan’s shields and send tremors throughout the ship. He tried to give each column a wide berth but at full impulse, the ship was passing the disturbances with increasing frequency and decreasing distance.


    * * * *


    The tremors in Sickbay had increased significantly. Logic would indicate that one of two things had transpired. The ship had entered an area of more intense plasma storms or that the ship had increased its velocity. Sovek presumed the cause of the tremors to be the latter. It seemed that the more logical answer of the two considering the ship was being pursued.

    “Sublight engines are at full capacity,” commented his nurse, confirming the doctor’s suspicions. The engineering crewman who was attempting to lend a hand as medical assistant almost hindered him more than he helped. Crewman Anderson answered every request that Sovek had for an instrument with, “What does that look like?”, and even with an accurate description, the technician managed to provide the Vulcan with the wrong tool. He would have dismissed him entirely if not for the one advantage that he did bring. The medical systems integrated with the ship's power had already begun to periodically fail under the influence of the Badlands. However, Crewman Anderson’s intimate knowledge of the systems and his quick reaction to malfunctions had enabled Sovek to work nearly uninterrupted since he had returned from the surface of MN-1375.

    “Osteo-regenerator,” Sovek commanded the crewman.

    Anderson studied the tray of instruments while his hand hovered a short distance over the medical tools. He finally decided on one and put it into Sovek’s hand.

    “Osteo-regenerator,” he repeated.

    “Uh… Oh, yeah, this is the one.”

    The engineering technician took back the instrument that he had previously handed the Vulcan and replaced it with the correct one. With the osteo-regenerator in hand, Sovek returned to the procedure at hand.

    Behind the Vulcan, two nurses had just laid a new patient on the operating table. The doctor in charge of that particular operating space was busy elsewhere. The new patient reached for the nurses that were leaving to attend to their next patient.

    “No, don’t leave,” he cried out but the nurses didn’t hear him. His eyes darted around until they found Doctor Sovek. The man stretched out his arm and he was able to touch the Vulcan’s back. “Please, help me.”

    “Each patient has been evaluated and they are being attended to by their required needs,” he replied, not turning away from his work.

    The patient grasped the fabric of Sovek’s clothes. “I heard what they said. The Jem’Hadar, they’re after us. I have to get out of here. You need to make me better so I can get out of here.” The patient’s voice became more frantic with each word.

    Sovek paused in his work and turned towards the frightened patient. “Calm yourself. You will be treated, but you must wait while we attend to the higher priority requests.” The practice that he had run on Vulcan was always filled with much more orderly patients. The patients here were so… emotional.

    “I have to get out of here! You have to help me!” The man was becoming hysterical.

    As he looked down at the man, Sovek couldn’t help but think of the calm way in which the noble Vulcan had faced death on the surface of MN-1375. He raised his hand up, pressing his fingers together and making it flat. It came down hard across the man’s face. The smack sounded like a shot and all went silent.

    Everyone in the vicinity turned and stared, including the man who now rubbed his cheek and stared in disbelief.

    “Better men than you have died, waiting for treatment today and they did so silently!” Even Sovek was surprised at his tone. He collected himself and added,” I assure you that a doctor will be with you shortly.” The Vulcan returned to the patient that he was currently treating.

    “Hypospray,” Sovek said to Crewman Anderson, extending his hand to receive the instrument. He simply stared in bewilderment at the Vulcan doctor.

    “Hypospray,” he said again.

    Anderson shook his head and turned towards the instrument tray. He placed the hypospray in the doctor’s hand, still not saying anything.

    Sovek turned back to his patient. ‘It was logical,’ the Vulcan thought. ‘He needed to be silenced and he was. My actions were logical.’


    * * * *


    The Jem’Hadar assault ships drew even closer. As the distance between the Samaritan and its pursuers shrank, the lead Dominion vessel steadied its course before a blinding blue beam leapt forth from its forward disruptor and connected with the hospital ship’s starboard stern.

    “Shields down to eighty percent,” Jared reported to Ra-Gorvalei.

    ‘Two minutes,’ Ra-Gorvalei muttered to himself. Then the Efrosian commanded,” Return fire.”

    Parker confirmed the positive target lock and fired both the dorsal and ventral phaser banks located directly aft. His shots hit the center lead assault ship’s bow.

    “Direct hit. The lead ship’s shields are at ninety-eight percent.” Jared almost didn’t believe the number when he said it. They might as well be throwing rocks at the Jem’Hadar. It would do about the same amount of damage.

    “Mister Burns, maneuver the ship in as evasive a pattern as the plasma storms allow,” Ra-Gorvalei instructed aloud while he silently cursed the engineers who designed this ship without the capability to fire torpedoes. His private concerns were not only shared but voiced by the two junior officers on the Bridge.

    “If we only had a few photon torpedoes or something to force them to back off,” Burns complained from the helm.

    “The only antimatter that you’ll find on this ship is in the warp reactor,” Jared pointed out to him. “And we can’t fire that at them.”

    “That isn’t entirely accurate, Ensign Parker,” Ra-Gorvalei said as the ship rocked again from another disruptor blast.

    “Shields are down to sixty-seven percent,” Parker read from his console panel. Then he asked,” What isn’t accurate, sir?”

    Ra-Gorvalei didn’t answer him. He was considering something very carefully to himself. He tapped his combadge. “Ra-Gorvalei to Engineering.”


    * * * *


    Ensign Bulloch and Chief Shaw were rerouting what power that they could scrape together for the shields when the call came down from the Bridge. “Bulloch here,” the chief engineer responded to the call.

    “Ensign, is it possible to eject one of the antimatter pods?,” Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei’s voice asked from the overhead speakers.

    “We only have two, sir.”

    “I know how many pods we have, Ensign. I asked you if you could eject one into space.” The usual calm in Ra-Gorvalei’s voice was now laced with an urgent undercurrent.

    The slight change in the XO’s voice didn’t go unnoticed by the young Ensign. He quickly reviewed the procedure in his head before replying. “Yes, sir. All I have to do is disconnect them from the reactor and open the ventral service hatch.”

    “Then do it,” Ra-Gorvalei ordered.

    Bulloch looked at Chief Shaw uneasily. The chief smirked at him and said,” Mind if I tag along? I’ve never ejected an antimatter pod before.”


    * * * *


    The Bridge rocked again.

    “Shields are at fifty-three percent!,” Parker yelled. “Try not to get hit by every one of their shots, JG!”

    “Do you think you could do any better at dodging these plasma columns forming out of nowhere and the Jem’Hadar disruptors?!,” Burns spat back at him.

    Ra-Gorvalei intervened before Jared had a chance to respond. “Mister Parker, status of the Dominion ships.”

    Jared had to scan his console for the answer. He had been avoiding watching the numbers, telling himself that each shot from their phaser banks did some good. “The lead ship’s shields are at ninety-one percent. The other one is undamaged.” Hearing himself read aloud the advantage that their pursuers held over them made the Samaritan’s situation all the more menacing.

    ‘One minute,’ Ra-Gorvalei thought to himself before tapping his combadge. “Ra-Gorvalei to Ensign Bulloch. Where’s my antimatter pod?!”


    * * * *


    Bulloch was squinting down the service corridor beneath the shuttle bay. Following ten meters before him was the Chief when Ra-Gorvalei’s voice sounded over the intercom.

    “We’re working on it, sir!,” Bulloch hollered between heavy breaths. He half-slid and half-fell on top of the access hatch to the antimatter storage bay. He rotated the locking handle and pulled the hatch open in one fluid motion. The Chief Engineer was already climbing down the ladder when Shaw made it to the access hatch.

    “Now I remember why I’ve never ejected an antimatter pod before,” the Chief huffed as he started down the ladder. “I hate running.”

    The bottom rung was only five feet from the bay’s overhead. It left the climber on a small ledge just above the two large antimatter pods that held the fuel for the Samaritan’s main reactor. The bay was located directly along the ship’s keel. The antiquated term referred to the principal structural member of sea-going vessels. Almost without exception, this was also the part of the ship that sat the lowest in the water. Squatting on the ledge, Bulloch’s hands flew across the wall console as he prepared a pod for ejection.

    “What can I do?,” the Chief asked him, sitting on his haunches next to the Ensign. Both men were momentarily thrown off-balance when the ship suddenly shook as another disruptor blast hit the Samaritan.

    Bulloch didn’t take his eyes off of the wall console but dropped one hand to a small tool locker near the deck and pulled out a large auto-wrench. He handed it to the Chief and said,” When I tell you to, detach the port pod from the valve assembly.”

    Shaw shifted to a prone position on the ledge and fitted the auto-wrench around the collar of the pod. There was a thunk sound and a dim bluish glow came over the bottom of the bay beneath the pods as a force field was activated along the surface of the ventral service hatch. A moment later, the doors of the hatch spread open and the Chief was staring directly into the field of plasma beneath the ship.

    “Mister Bulloch, we need that pod now!,” Ra-Gorvalei shouted over his combadge.

    “It’s on its way,” Bulloch replied while opening a panel in the bulkhead to reveal two mechanical levers. He grasped at the port lever and turned to the Chief.

    “Now!,” he ordered.

    Chief Shaw squeezed the control on the handle of the auto-wrench and the tool’s head began to spin furiously. At the same time, Ensign Bulloch pulled down on the lever, disengaging the magnetic lock that sealed the pod to the valve assembly. The pod began to sink down and the glow of the force field at the bottom of the bay intensified as the container passed out of the ship and into open space.


    * * * *


    “Shields down to twenty-six percent,” Jared reported as the ship quaked again.

    “Never mind that now,” Ra-Gorvalei instructed him. “Keep your mind on the task at hand.”

    “Aye, sir. Targeting phasers.” Through the interference, he found the point that he had to hit. “Phasers locked.”

    “Don’t miss,” Burns muttered quickly.

    Ra-Gorvalei stared intently at his console, waiting for the right moment. The assault ships were almost on top of the pod now. He waited for half a minute before he barked the order,” Fire!”

    Jared pressed the phaser controls immediately, a glowing red beam blasted backwards towards the small pod. Even before the phaser beam was terminated, the antimatter in the pod began to annihilate the matter of its container, giving off the impression of a brilliant white flower with a long glowing red stem hanging off the stern of the hospital ship. An instant later, the whimsical image was gone, replaced by a display of antimatter’s true unbridled power. All sensors facing aft were blinded as energy at every frequency that they registered surged at them as non-annihilated antimatter found the hull of the lead Jem’Hadar ship.

    “The lead ship has been destroyed,” Jared reported when the sensors finally came back into focus. “The remaining ship’s shields are down to sixty-four percent. We did it, sir!”

    “We almost did it, Mister Parker. There is still one more ship to contend with,” Ra-Gorvalei clarified while he considered his next move.


    * * * *


    “Now that was something,” Chief Shaw said, getting up off of his stomach and squatting down next to Bulloch on the cramped ledge of the antimatter storage bay.

    “Yeah,” was all that Bulloch could think to say in reply. Looking at the empty space where the pod had been, moments before, the Chief Engineer reflected,” We just dropped a lot of antimatter. That pod had a supply that could have powered the ship for a year and a half.”

    “We still have half a tank,” the Chief said, letting a slight smile creep across his face.

    “Ra-Gorvalei to Ensign Bulloch,” the XO’s voice rang out around them once again.

    “Bulloch here,” answered the ensign.

    “Would we still be able to fire phasers if we ejected the other pod?”

    The question hung in the air for a few minutes before Bulloch even attempted to give him a reply. He could barely believe what he heard. Never in his short engineering career had he thought that he would be jettisoning a ship’s entire supply of antimatter.

    In his mind, the young engineer ran through the numbers. The injector reservoir would have about a five-minute supply of antimatter left in it once the pod was ejected. After that was consumed, the reactor would shut down and auxiliary power would kick in. that would maintain primary power anywhere from twenty to thirty minutes. After that, everything but the most vital systems like life-support and the impulse engines would lose power.

    “Yes,” he finally said,” but we’ll begin to lose non-essential systems about a half-hour after we eject the pod, including the majority of the medical equipment in Sickbay.”

    “Understood,” Ra-Gorvalei said. “Eject the pod.”
     
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  8. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    * * * *


    On the Bridge, Parker was readying himself to detonate the second pod when his console lit up with warnings. He had been monitoring the plasma storms on a secondary display. The Samaritan had just missed a forming plasma column by two hundred yards, which was only a hair in terms of stellar distances.

    “Hey! JG, you almost hit that last plasma discharge!”

    “The storms are getting denser. Those columns are forming faster.” Burns spoke fast. He was frantically trying to keep the ship out of danger. His skills were at their limit. That and a little bit of luck had kept the ship away from the dangerous plasma columns. The ship lurched again as the Samaritan’s stern was hit again by the disruptors of the pursuing assault ship.

    “Mister Parker, mind your post,” Ra-Gorvalei commanded. The Efrosian was watching the second pod drift free from the ship on his console.

    “Shields are at eighteen percent,” Jared read off of his screen. He accessed the targeting scanners and located the small pod drifting off into the ether. “Pod targeted and locked.”

    “Fire!”

    An instant after Ra-Gorvalei’s order was given, the sensors were once again blinded as the antimatter pod was detonated by the Samaritan’s phasers. And the Bridge crew seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief while the sensors were coming back into focus.

    The relief was short-lived. As the static gave way to a clear view, Jared’s targeting scanners immediately picked up the Jem’Hadar assault ship, totally intact.


    * * * *


    “The runabouts,” Chief Shaw stated. It was an odd thing to simply say, unsolicited, but it was an odd thought that struck the Chief.

    “What?,” Bulloch asked him, not able to draw any semblance of a logical thought from the non-commissioned officer’s statement. The two men were still in the antimatter storage bay. The ensign was closing the doors to the ventral service hatch while the Chief looked on.

    “The runabouts have matter/antimatter reactors,” the Chief elaborated, slightly.

    “Yes,” Bulloch replied, still not following the Chief’s train of thought.

    “Then they have to have antimatter pods that are smaller than the Samaritan’s, but they’re still enough to provide more than a half-hour of main power,” the Chief said, finally completing the train of thought that had motivated him to make his first odd statement.

    “Yes, yes! That’s right!,” Bulloch said with excitement. The ventral service hatch shut and the Chief Engineer started up the ladder. “Come on, Chief. I’ll need your help.”

    “I really should have gone to help out on the Bridge,” the Chief mused. “It would have been a lot less exercise.”


    * * * *


    The mood on the Bridge was one of despair. Everyone on the ship was relying on the Bridge crew to make the right decisions. Their success and their failures ruled the fate of all others. Jared, once again, felt like a spectator to the battle. He had no control over what was happening to the Samaritan. His phaser banks did inconsequential damage to the pursuing ship. As far as the ensign could see, there were no more antimatter pods and the ship was out of options. He was so concerned with his uselessness that he almost missed it.

    A swirl in the plasma field.

    “Burns! Plasma swirl off the port bow! Alter course to starboard!”

    The helmsman didn’t answer him. He was concentrating on other parts of the storms and he didn’t notice the indications of the impending column.

    “Burns!,” Jared said again, only louder. “Alter course to starboard now!”

    Ra-Gorvalei could see the swirl that Parker warned them of and it was gaining in strength. “Helm, hard to starboard!”

    Burns was shaken out of his tunnel vision and he was suddenly aware of the imminent danger. He threw the controls as far to starboard as possible. The ship responded, just in time, as the bow inched out of the plasma column’s reach.

    The rate of turn continued to increase and Parker sensed a new problem. “Hard to port. You’re going to swing the stern into the column!”


    * * * *


    Bulloch and Shaw weren’t halfway down the service corridor when the ship shuddered and rocked so violently that both men were knocked off of their feet.

    “That felt like a hull breach,” said the Chief.

    Bulloch scrambled to his feet and accessed a wall console. “The port nacelle has been ruptured. There are plasma fires on multiple decks,” he said, reading from the display. Tapping his combadge, he ordered,” All engineering personnel, there are fires off our port stern. Execute damage control procedures.”

    “It looks like the antimatter will have to wait,” the Chief said to himself as he and the ensign started to head for the damaged areas of the ship as quickly as their legs could carry them.


    * * * *


    Burns was frozen.

    His nerves had been shattered along with the port warp nacelle. Ra-Gorvalei was barking out orders to turn the ship but he just stared ahead of him, unable to respond. He was responsible for the current damage to the ship and the weight of that responsibility made his hands too heavy to move.

    Jared saw that the ship was now heading directly towards another plasma column. He refused to be a spectator to his own death and the destruction of the Samaritan. He leapt out from his chair and he was at the helm in two steps. He grabbed Burns underneath each arm and ripped him out of his station. Then he assumed the post himself.

    “Permission to relieve the helm,” the ensign requested as he began manipulating the controls.

    “Granted,” Ra-Gorvalei replied but Jared had already begun to divert the ship’s course, dodging the plasma columns that could easily destroy the ship.


    * * * *


    “There, that should keep your systems online for a while,” Crewman Anderson said, closing the access panel. A lot of equipment had shut down in Sickbay when the hull was breached. He had immediately diverted power for Sovek’s equipment around the damaged areas. “I’ve got to go now.”

    “I appreciate your assistance,” Sovek commented, not looking up from his patient. Anderson hurried out of Sickbay and towards the damaged nacelle.

    As the crewman ran down the passageway, he noticed how it was beginning to fill with smoke. He came to a hatch to the Jefferies tubes and crawled into the small opening. Just inside the opening, he grabbed an oxygen-generating mask and a fire extinguisher. He began to crawl towards the thickest smoke, searching for the flames that produced it.


    * * * *


    The Chief Engineer was at the edge of the damaged area, directing his technicians to head off the worst of the fires. Chief Shaw stood next to him, offering him advice where he could. The smoke was thin enough to breathe through here but it was still thick enough to make it hard to see. It partially obscured their visibility and covered their uniforms in soot.

    “We don’t have enough people to contain this,” Shaw said. “The fires are spreading too fast. The heat could start knocking out other systems.”

    “Yeah, this conduit here provides power for half of Sickbay and it’s already beginning to overheat.” The Chief Engineer stared at the display, searching for a solution. “If we could isolate this section here,” he said, pointing at the display,” we could depressurize these spaces and suffocate the fire.”

    Shaw nodded in agreement and Bulloch began directing his technicians to their appropriate positions.


    * * * *


    Part of Jared Parker actually found it fun to be sailing through the plasma columns. He noted that the holographic simulation he had tried back at the Academy was a poor representation of the actual Badlands. It was easier out here in real space. There were the little things. Like the directional turbulence came from and its intensity which gave him cues as to where the next plasma column could form. He could feel the safest course in his body and he easily guided the Samaritan to it.

    Ra-Gorvalei had no levity whatsoever. Things had gone from bad to worse and he was out of options. They had ejected a three-year supply of antimatter. The ship was burning and to top it all off, one of his officers was sitting in a corner of the Bridge, holding his knees to his chest while staring blankly at the deck. Not exactly the finest hour for a Federation starship. He didn’t have much hope left for the ailing hospital ship, but that didn’t mean that others needed to share in his despondency.

    “Good work, Mister Parker. Keep it up. We'll still beat them.”

    It may have been Ra-Gorvalei’s words of encouragement or maybe the young ensign had just been emboldened from seizing control of the helm. In the absence of any other suggestions from his senior officer and no other alternatives, Jared saw one possible course of action and one chance for survival.


    * * * *


    Shaw was following Bulloch into the Jefferies tube. “I really should have gone to the Bridge instead,” the Chief muttered as he forced his protecting joints to continue crawling. “What is it that we’re doing again?”

    “When the plasma column ruptured the nacelle, it also severed a bunch of hydraulic lines so we can’t shut all of the isolation hatches remotely,” Bulloch explained to him.

    “So, before we let the air out of those spaces, we have to shut all of the doors,” the Chief came back with.

    “Exactly,” Bulloch replied.

    After a few more words, he and the Chief split up. Shaw headed further down the same Jefferies tube to that deck’s isolation hatch while Bulloch climbed up to the hatch on the deck above.

    Chief Shaw reached his assigned hatch and out of habit, he pressed the control panel that would have seen the hatch swooshing shut, had the hydraulics been in order. Grumbling, he removed the panel to reveal a large lever. In the tiny crawl space, it was difficult to get into a position that would allow him enough leverage to muscle the handle down but it wasn't impossible.

    With his back against one wall of the tube and his bent legs pressing his feet against the other, the Chief yanked the lever down, closing the doors a third of the way.

    “For the love of… You’d think that they’d help you out a little with these emergency systems.” The Chief cursed at the lever as he yanked twice more until the hatch was fully closed and sealed. Sitting back and wiping the sweat from his brow, Shaw tapped his combadge.

    “Shaw to Bulloch. All battened down here.”


    * * * *


    “Roger that, Chief,” Bulloch said from the deck above him. With the Chief reporting in, that left only one outstanding technician. “Anderson, what’s the hold up?!,” he hollered.


    * * * *


    The young technician was near the heart of the fires. He had battled small blazes all the way to his assigned hatch. The smoke was thick and it stung the crewman’s eyes. Luckily, the lit buttons allowed him to locate the control panel and remove it.

    “I’m there now, sir.”

    Anderson grasped the manual lever and pulled it down. The hatch doors didn’t move. Instead, a liquid erupted from the base of the handle and spilled out over his outstretched arm.


    * * * *


    “It’s no good, sir. The emergency hydraulic accumulator has ruptured. I just got a handful of hydraulic fluid,” Crewman Anderson said, his voice coming across the intercom.

    Bulloch slumped in the Jefferies tube. It would take time to seal off the entire section of that hatch. Too much time…


    * * * *


    Chief Shaw exited the Jefferies tube where he had entered it. He stretched and dusted off the soot that the smoky tube had left on him. Looking at the wall console that he and Bulloch had consulted earlier, he became uneasy.

    “Bulloch, that overheating power conduit is approaching critical temperatures.” He didn’t remind the Chief Engineer that ‘they had to get the fires out now’ or ‘if that conduit blows, you can kiss the ship goodbye’.

    The Chief recognized that this was no time to remind him of what he already knew. The ensign didn’t need to hear about the severity of their problems when he was looking for solutions.


    * * * *


    Sitting in the Jefferies tube, Bulloch knew how to close the hatch. He knew where the second emergency accumulator was, but he wasn’t sure if he could bear to give the order.


    * * * *


    The part of Jared that found dodging the plasma storms to be fun was now being overpowered by the reality of what a mistake could cause. Burns’ run-in with the plasma column could have caused a relatively small amount of damage to the ship compared to what could have happened. He didn’t doubt his ability to sail the ship around the columns and he knew that he wouldn’t have clipped the column like Burns had if he had been at the him. What the ensign had in mind now, would require all of his ability and perhaps more than he possessed. He checked his sensors and found what he had been waiting for. With a deep breath, he steadied the Samaritan’s course.

    Ra-Gorvalei’s mind was a ball of clay. He couldn’t think of anything. Absolutely nothing that Samaritan could do against the remaining assault ship. All he felt that was left for the ship was time and prayer. Staring at the viewscreen, the plasma storms held a terrible beauty. The unbridled energy danced around all around them and directly in front of them.

    Ra-Gorvalei saw it.

    “Plasma swirl! You’re heading right into it, Parker!,” he cried out, coming to his feet.

    “I know,” Jared replied. “I think we can make it.”

    And the Efrosian suddenly saw what Jared saw.

    A chance…


    * * * *


    “Do it, son. It’s the only way,” Chief Shaw said to himself, looking at the console. He could see how the last hatch could be closed now and he knew what it meant what Bulloch would have to do.


    * * * *


    Bulloch was close to tears. He liked Crewman Anderson. He was a good technician and he would do his duty if only he could do his. Steadying his shaking voice, he tapped his combadge. “Anderson, have you tried the other emergency lever?”

    “Sir, do you mean the one on the other side of the hatch?,” Anderson’s voice came through with an obviously confused tone. “Wouldn’t that close me in?”

    “Get that hatch closed, Mister Anderson.” Bulloch’s voice trembled as he spoke. “Get it closed or we’re all dead.”

    The crewman was silent for a moment before he responded. “Sir, if it’s not too much to ask,” he finally said. “After the fire is out, could you check on me? If you don’t hear from me? See if I’m all right?”

    “Of course,” was all that Bulloch could manage to say.

    “All hatches secure!,” the Chief announced from the wall console. “I’m depressurizing the section.”

    Bulloch closed his eyes and grit his teeth. The fires would go out now. The ship would be safe and there would only be one casualty.


    * * * *


    The Samaritan was directly above the swirl of plasma. Wisps of the orangish pink energy began to twist upward, reaching out for the small ship. Jared pushed the impulse engines to flank speed. This was going to be close. A plasma column began to form, shooting upward out of the swirl. As the ship strained its engines to inch out of the column’s range, the assault ship bore down on them.

    He heard that the Jem’Hadar were relentless in their pursuit of victory and they gave little heed to their own personal safety. He was now counting on the truth of that rumor. The column grew quickly, bolting upward at a vehement pace. It passed the stern of the Samaritan with only twenty meters to space. It was a small margin but it was large enough. The assault ship’s margin was approximately the same distance from the column on the opposite side but the distance was too small to alter course. The explosion gave the Samaritan one final rock, courtesy of the Jem’Hadar but only one.

    “Well done, Mister Parker!,” Ra-Gorvalei exclaimed and patted the helmsman on the back.

    “Just doing what I came here to do, sir,” Parker replied, smiling broadly. The ship was safe and his actions, his decisions, have made all the difference.


    * * * *


    The Chief met Bulloch as the ensign crawled his way out of the Jefferies tube. The engineer’s face was covered in soot, save for the three or four streaks cleaned by his own tears.

    “I killed someone, Chief,” he said, standing up.

    “I know,” the Chief replied quietly,” but you saved the ship.”

    “I have to go check on Anderson. I have to make sure. I promised him that I would.” Bulloch began to walk away but the Chief grabbed his arm.

    “I already did. He was blown out into space.” Shaw’s voice was firm now, almost commanding. “There are some things that we can control and some things that we can’t. You can’t do anything for Anderson, but we can get an antimatter pod from one of the runabouts before the auxiliary power runs out. The ship isn’t in the clear yet, not by a long shot.”
     
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  9. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    You've really outdone yourself. This is superb writing. Especially the trolly-problem moment. I'm hoping to see more about that in the upcoming segments. Kudos! Great story design and craftsmanship!

    Thanks!! rbs
     
  10. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I like to think that I outdo myself with all of my writing... when my Muse and I are in sync.
     
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  11. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Chapter Four: Command Confidence


    Lieutenant Commander Dominic Kingsley wiped his damp hands on the black trousers of his uniform as he walked towards the Bridge. He had just finished washing up from his last procedure of the day. Finally, there were fewer patients requiring surgery than there were surgeons. The day had been tiring. Not only had he set a new personal record for patients treated in one day and while all of this Dominion business was going on around him.

    The CO felt proud of his ship. The medical staff had performed better than he had expected, treating more patients than the ship’s capacity and Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei said that the ship had achieved some sort of victory over the Dominion. In any case, the XO had stopped the shaking in Sickbay and that was a welcome accomplishment.

    Kingsley came to the door of the Main Bridge and in an instant, both sides had swooshed back into the recesses of the bulkhead.

    “Captain on deck,” Ra-Gorvalei stated, standing as he did so. Parker remained attentively at the helm. While the Jem’Hadar were no longer an imminent threat, the violent plasma storms had not let up. Carson Burns had already accepted an invitation from the Efrosian to leave the Bridge.

    “I’m only a Lieutenant Commander, Mister Ra-Gorvalei. There’s no need for the fanfare. Are we ready to head back to Starbase?”

    Ra-Gorvaleu’s professionalism enraged and calmed him at the same time.. He was angry that the man didn’t know the condition of his own ship but he was the CO and he wouldn’t question any aspect of his command in front of junior officers.

    “No, sir. We won’t know the status of our warp capability until Ensign Bulloch and Chief Shaw restore an antimatter supply to the main reactor. Additionally, it would be imprudent to leave the Badlands until we ascertain, whether or not, the Jem’Hadar battleship is still waiting for us at the perimeter of the plasma storms.”

    Though it tried at his patience, Ra-Gorvalei answered the ensuing questions like ‘Why does the antimatter supply need restoring?’ and ‘you ejected a three-year supply of our fuel into space?’ He kept his demeanor calm and recounted events as they transpired on the Bridge since the Samaritan had left MN-1375.

    “Well, good work then, Mister Ra-Gorvalei,” the CO said upon hearing everything that had taken place. “And your skill as a pilot is to be commended, Ensign Parker. You’ve saved us all.” His voice seemed to slow down as if it was taking more of an effort to utter each word. The reality of the danger that the ship had faced was sinking in. More than that, the novelty of playing Captain was giving way to the burden of command.

    Jared didn’t notice any change in the CO. His attention was divided between navigating the plasma storms and attempting to suppress an ear-to-ear grin that had been creeping across his face since Kingsley accredited him with saving the ship. Unlike the ensign, Ra-Gorvalei noticed his change in mood and he was privately pleased that the man was realizing how desperate the situation had become. However, that would not solve the dilemma that they faced. The XO was certain that the safety of the ship was up to him.

    Almost before he finished his thought, Kingsley came out of his reflection and asked,” Can you show me a map?”

    “Excuse me?” Ra-Gorvalei hadn’t expected the CO’s request.

    “A map or a chart or whatever you call it, of the Badlands and the surrounding area,” Kingsley said, gesturing towards the viewscreen.

    “Uh, of course.” Ra-Gorvalei tapped several controls on the command chair’s side panel, replacing the view of the violent plasma storms with a star chart of the Badlands and the surrounding space. “There are the Badlands, Cardassia, Bajor, and Starbase 375,” he said, aloud as he pointed out the points of interest on the chart.

    “Where is the Demilitarized Zone?,” Kingsley asked, referring to an area of space that once constituted the border between the United Federation of Planets and the Cardassian Union.

    Ra-Gorvalei was astonished. How could the man not know? “There is no more Demilitarized Zone. The Cardassians are the Dominion’s chief ally in this quadrant. The Demilitarized Zone was gone the day that the war began.”

    “Well, where was it then? Can you pull that up on the chart?,” Kingsley asked him. Ra-Gorvalei touched a few more controls and the old Demilitarized Zone was superimposed over the chart. Kingsley smiled. “I remember now. There. Take us right there,” the CO commanded, pointing to an area of the Badlands that was intersected by the old Demilitarized Zone.

    Jared momentarily looked up at the chart and then he returned his attention to the helm. “Course laid in.”

    “I hope it’s still there,” Kingsley said, quietly to himself.

    “You hope that what’s still there, sir?,” Ra-Gorvalei asked him.


    * * * *


    “We were cutting it close to the wire there,” Chief Shaw commented, laying the auto-wrench on the ledge of the antimatter pod storage bay before heaving himself up.

    “Stream floor looks good. We’ll probably have to balance the matter-antimatter mix a little bit, but I can do that from Main Engineering.” Bulloch’s voice was distant as he monitored the flow readings.

    “Are you all right, sir?,” the Chief asked him.

    “I just have a lot on my mind,” Bulloch said. “A lot of work to do.”

    “You look tired. Engineering isn’t going anywhere. Why don’t you get some rack time?,” Shaw suggested.

    Bulloch shook his head. “No, I should finish my work. Everyone else has given so much to keep this ship together. Some gave everything.”

    “Listen, I’ve seen a lot in my time in Starfleet. A lot of good and a lot of bad.” The Chief paused, putting his thoughts into order. “When most people on this ship look back on today, they’ll see what you see, the bad. They’ll see the danger that we were in, the damage done to the ship, and they’ll grieve over those who died. That’s not just I’ll see. I’ll look back and see an officer who made the hard choices. An officer whose decisions allowed me and everyone else aboard this ship to live. Don’t punish yourself for doing the right thing.”

    Bulloch picked the auto-wrench up and put it away. He caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the wall console and quickly averted his eyes to the deck.

    “I didn’t even keep my promise to him,” the ensign said, almost inaudibly. He dragged himself up the ladder, leaving the Chief alone.


    * * * *


    Flores looked around the Mess Hall. The room could accommodate over a third of the Samaritan’s crew at a time but it always seemed packed. One reason might be because it was the closest thing to a recreational area. It was also the only place beside Sickbay that was equipped with replicators.

    Luckily for her, one of her friends or, at the very least, a colleague was sitting alone at a small table. “Sovek, can I join you?,” she asked him.

    “If it pleases you,” the Vulcan said without looking up. Flores laid her tray on the table and sat down.

    “Did all of your procedures go well?,” Krissy asked him.

    “Considering the conditions, I provided the best level of care that could be expected,” Sovek answered.

    “I never imagined that I’d be practicing medicine like this in the middle of battles. I thought that no one would attack hospital ships.” There was frustration in her voice. The stresses of the day were beginning to break down her usual good humor.

    “It is the Federation’s policy not to fire upon medical vessels, not the Dominion’s.” The answer was cold but accurate as Vulcans tended to be.

    “Why are they putting so much effort into chasing one ship? What kind of threat could we possibly pose to them?” She wasn’t expecting an answer. Her mind was somewhere else and with someone else.

    However, Sovek’s mind was in the present time and place. “You are attempting to apply reason where none exists. Wars are an abandonment of logic in favor of pure will. My race was extremely savage and warlike at one point in our history. When we turned to logic, war became obsolete.”

    The Vulcan’s words provided no comfort and Flores hoped that Jacob’s ship was doing better than her own. She said nothing but commiserate instead over her fiancé while she pushed food around on her plate without eating. Sovek was content that the conversation had reached completion and resumed consuming his own meal.

    “Am I intruding?,” Eskol asked, his skin was still the dark tanned hue that matched Flores’ own.

    “Not at all,” replied the female doctor. “Doctor Sovek, this is Eskol, our first patient to reach full recovery, and no less, from a ruptured stomach.”

    Sovek took stock of the newcomer as he took his seat. “I am not familiar with your species, Mister Eskol.”

    “Nelvian,” Eskol asked, picking up a brownish chip that crunched as he bit into it.

    “Excuse me,” Krissy interrupted him,” what are you eating? Is that… is that wood?”

    Eskol looked down at his tray. “Oak, elm,” the Nelvian pointed out the chips as he identified them,” and this is a guilty pleasure of mine, maple.”

    “Curious,” Sovek said, which drew looks from both Eskol and Flores. “All trees that are indigenous to Earth.”

    “I served there for quite some time, and I became partial to the local cuisine, so to speak,” Eskol explained, popping another wood chip into his mouth. “As Doctor Flores is aware, one of my stomachs produces highly corrosive enzymes that allow me to digest food like this.”

    Flores’ mind had temporarily forgotten her worries. At present, her curiosity for Nelvian physiology pushed all of her other concerns out of her head. “What is your homeworld like? Amanecer, my planet, is closer to its star than Earth is to Sol. To adapt, my people have deep tans to protect us from our star’s radiation. I can only imagine what conditions gave rise to your immune system, the dynamic pigmentation and your ability to digest wood.”

    “Those traits were developed by evolution, Doctor Flores, not adaptation,” Sovek pointed out.

    “Yes, but isn’t evolution just adaptation on the grandest scale?” Krissy reviled in this sort of conjecture.

    Eskol stepped in and ended the debate. “I have no homeworld,” he said flatly. “At least, I have never met a soul who could tell me where my race originated from.” The subject was obviously a source of pain to the Nelvian. A silence hung awkwardly over the table until he spoke again. “Doctors, could either of you arrange a meeting for me with someone from the command staff?”


    * * * *


    “Good day, Mister Burns. Some close calls that we had there,” a crewman said, greeting his superior officer.

    “What does that mean?,” Burns snapped. “It wasn’t my fault! What did you hear?!”

    Stunned and having no idea how he had offended the helmsman, the crewman’s jaw dropped and he was barely able to respond. “I didn’t hear anything, sir. Honestly, I was just trying to be friendly.” He was left alone with no explanation as Burns storms off to his quarters.

    Lieutenant Junior Grade Carson Burns was third-in-command of the Samaritan, right after Lieutenant Ra-Gorvalei. Even now, he was questioning if he still deserved the position. A day ago, an hour even, it had all made so much sense. He was the lead helmsman. He was the Operations Officer. And now, he was a failure.

    Sitting alone in his dark cabin, Burns relived the same moment, his moment of failure, over and over again. He didn’t understand. He had done everything right, hadn’t he? Graduating in the top third of his class at Starfleet Academy, all of that hard work, and the first two years of his career before being appointed to his position aboard Samaritan… All of that counted for something, didn’t it? Or did all of that just not matter after you put a hole in the side of your own ship?


    * * * *


    Jared Parker entered the large shuttle bay. On the starboard side of the bay, he saw his roommate standing behind the McCoy, staring at the bay door.

    “Hey, Bull, what are you up to?,” he said, walking towards him.

    “Some disruptor fire must have gotten through the shields,” Bull said, pointing towards a one square foot hole in the corner of the bay door and a scorch mark on the deck leading to the McCoy’s starboard warp nacelle. “It’s superficial. This door is the thinnest part of the hull.”

    “You know that you look like hell,” Jared said, noting the soot that covered his roommate’s face and uniform.

    “I look better than you,” Bulloch ribbed his friend, who still had dirt and dried blood caked all over him. Then, feigning annoyance, he asked,” Aren’t you supposed to be on the Bridge?”

    “The Chief relieved me, saying that I should come and check on you,” Jared explained. “Did you hear how I pulled Burns off the helm and outmaneuvered the second assault ship?”

    Bulloch smiled unconvincingly. “It sounds like the front suits you, Jared. Do you finally feel like you’re making a difference?”

    “Well, yeah, but you are too, Bull. Chief told us about you fighting the fires and all of that,” Parker said, not understanding the mood that his roommate was in.

    “Who did I make a difference to? To the crewman that I ordered to his death? To his family?” Bulloch’s voice grew quiet and distant.

    “To everyone else on this ship. To everyone else’s families. That’s who.” Jared’s words sounded familiar as if they had once been Bulloch’s own.

    “Maybe, but it still feels like one life short of a victory.” They left the conversation there as they were both distracted by the sound of approaching footsteps.

    “Jared,” Doctor Flores said, walking up to them. “Jared, could I ask you a question?”

    “You just did,” he said, turning towards her. His heart sank when he saw her face. She always seemed to be more beautiful than the last time that he saw her. But he couldn’t forget how… betrayed that he felt.

    “I guess I did.” Krissy laughed with a slight unease. She couldn’t tell if Jared was trying to be funny or rude. “I was wondering if you were okay. A crewman said that something happened on the Bridge. That other officer was upset about something. Benson, is it?”

    “Burns, actually.” He didn’t know what to make of her. It was hard keeping up a grudge with someone who was checking to see if he was all right.

    “That’s right,” Flores said.

    “So that’s what you wanted to know? If I was all right?” It was the perfect end to his day. He almost forgot that she was engaged to be married. “I’m fine. Great, even. Thanks for asking, Krissy.”

    “That’s good. I’m glad.” Krissy felt relieved. This was the Jared that she had met, several weeks ago, nice and polite. He reminded her a lot of Jacob. She figured it would be safe to ask him. “Hey, there’s this Nelvian, Eskol. He’s an Intelligence officer and a patient of mine. He was wondering if anyone on the command staff would talk to him. He thinks that he could help.”

    Jared’s high spirits plummeted. “A favor. That’s what you came here for.” He shook his head. “Excuse me. I really need a shower.” He stormed off to his cabin.

    “Jared! What did I…” She called after him. “What did I say?,” she asked, quietly to herself.

    “It’s not you,” Bulloch said from behind her. “It’s Jared. By the way, I’m Shane.” He extended his hand towards her.

    “Flores,” she said, shaking his outstretched hand. “I just thought that it was important. Eskol made it sound important.”

    “I’ll let someone know,” Bulloch assured her. “And don’t worry about Jared. I’ve known him for four years and, well, there are some things that he hasn’t quite figured out yet.” He sighed. “He’ll come around. Just give him time to get over himself.”


    * * * *
     
  12. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Hours later, the Samaritan had reached the area that Kingsley had indicated. “Odd,” Ra-Gorvalei said from the port station. “There’s a divergence in the storm’s energy field. It looks like an area of calm space.”

    “Eye of the storm?,” Chief Shaw speculated.

    “No. That’s it. That’s where we’re going,” Kingsley said from the command chair.

    The Samaritan approached the unusual area of energy divergence. It wasn’t until the ship was quite close that the object causing the divergence revealed itself. There, hanging between the plasma fields, completely unmolested by the violent energy columns, was a rogue asteroid. Sprouting out of it in all directions were pointed metal towers.

    “Those towers are bleeding energy charges off of the asteroid,” Ra-Gorvalei said, monitoring the sensor readings. “They’re stopping any formation of plasma columns in the immediate vicinity.”

    “Like lightning rods,” the Chief commented.

    “I think we should be safe from the Dominion here. At least, for the time being.” Kingsley was feeling quite pleased with himself.

    “We might be able to scavenge parts from that thing to help us with repairs,” Shaw suggested.

    The Samaritan was close enough for Ra-Gorvalei to conduct a more detailed scan of the asteroid. “There’s an artificial oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere inside the asteroid. I’ll put together an away team to investigate.”

    Kingsley smiled and nodded at Ra-Gorvalei and the XO had to admit that the skipper had come through. At the same time, he had questions and he feared what the answers would be.


    * * * *


    Steadying his shaking voice, Bulloch tapped his combadge. “Anderson, have you tried the other emergency lever?”

    “Sir, do you mean the one on the other side of the hatch?,” Anderson’s voice came through with an obviously confused tone. “Wouldn’t that close me in?”

    “Get that hatch closed, Mister Anderson,” Bulloch’s voice trembled as he spoke. “Get it closed or we’re all dead.”

    The crewman was silent for a moment before responding. “Sir, if it’s not too much to ask…” His voice finally came. “After the fire is out, could you check if you don’t hear from me? See if I’m all right?”

    Bulloch felt something hit his shoulder and Jared’s familiar voice saying,” Bull, wake up.” He was pulled back into consciousness, dropping his PADD as he did so.

    Jared bent down and recovered the PADD for his friend. “Here you go.”

    “I ran into Lieutenant Commander Kingsley,” Bulloch said, lethargically,” and told him about the Nelvian.”

    “Who?”

    “Eskol, the Nelvian that Flores told us about.”

    “Yeah, whatever,” Jared said, rolling his eyes. “Pull yourself together. Ra-Gorvalei is heading this way.”

    “Have you compiled a list of materials that Engineering is lacking in their repairs?,” the Efrosian asked as he approached the two ensigns.

    “Yes, sir,” Bulloch said, offering his PADD to the XO.

    Ra-Gorvalei glanced over the items on the PADD and then looked over the Chief Engineer. “Mister Bulloch, when was the last time that you slept?”

    “I’ll be fine, sir.”

    “That’s not what I asked. Get some sleep. Mister Parker and I will be able to locate the items on your list, assuming that they’re there,” he instructed, handing the PADD to Jared.

    Bulloch didn’t want to sleep. He needed to keep his mind occupied so it didn’t wander back to the Jefferies tube and his order. “Sir, I would really rather – “

    “I don’t care what you would rather do, Ensign Bulloch. I am ordering you to sleep. Is that understood?”

    Bulloch nodded and dejectedly left Sickbay.

    Ra-Gorvalei walked over to a console that was built into the forward most bulkhead of the large room. It was the transporter control console. Another feature that set the Samaritan apart from other Federation starships was that the transport system was integrated into the deck and part of the medical facility. This feature reduced the energy consumed in transporting new patients requiring treatment directly to Sickbay.

    The Efrosian entered the coordinates. “Energizing,” he warned Parker who stood up straight and slightly braced himself as most people did before enduring the dematerialization process.

    The room began to shimmer and when the effect died away, the room changed from the spacious Sickbay to a small passageway with bare rock walls. The two officers walked a short distance down to a large door with a keypad next to it.

    “This looks like Federation technology,” Jared said, pointing to the door’s keypad. Ra-Gorvalei touched a control and the door opened. The ensign immediately put a hand over his mouth and nose. “What is that smell?”

    Ra-Gorvalei didn’t react to the stench. He stepped into the enormous room on the other side of the door, taking in everything that he saw. Lifeless bodies were all around, sitting at tables, lying on cots, collapsed in front of computer consoles, and even strewn around the floor as if they had fallen dead right in that spot.

    “Find out what species they are,” he commanded.

    Jared pulled a tricorder from its holster on his belt. Flipping it open, he made a quick survey of the corpses near him. “Humans. There’s a Tellarite, and several Bajorans.”

    “All Federation races,” Ra-Gorvalei observed. “See if you can find anything from Ensign Bulloch’s list.” his questions were beginning to be answered but all of the evidence was pointing to the answer that he feared the most.


    * * * *


    “It’s such an easily correctable flaw. We can exploit it only when necessary,” Eskol said as he modified the sensors from the port Bridge console. “At impulse speeds, the warp nacelles of Jem’Hadar ships vent small amounts of trilithium.”

    “That’ll let us locate the battleship from anywhere inside the Badlands,” Chief Shaw commented from the helm.

    “Then we can just slip out the other side,” Kingsley said, smiling. “Good work, Mister Eskol.”

    “That should do it.” Eskol tapped a few more controls and then he turned towards the main viewscreen. When the sensor display appeared on the viewer, the jaws of all three men dropped to the floor.

    The Bridge was silent, save for Chief Shaw uttering two words,” Oh, my God.” Nothing else was said for some time. All of them just stared.

    “It’s my fault,” Eskol said, quietly.

    Kingsley looked at the Nelvian whose complexion had paled to a whitish-gray. “You’re only the messenger, Mister Eskol.” He sighed as if he had just taken a large weight upon him. As he left the Bridge, all he said was,” I’ll be in my quarters.”


    * * * *


    Jared carefully stepped around the lifeless bodies on the station as he navigated his way back through the large main room. Earlier, he had accidentally backed into one and let out an audible yelp as he backed away, kicking at it. He felt foolish for assaulting a corpse but he had no desire to inadvertently come into contact with another. He breathed a sigh of relief as he exited the room to the empty hall that he and Ra-Gorvalei had originally beamed into. He walked down to the other end which terminated in a similar door.

    “Find anything that we can use?,” Ra-Gorvalei asked him as the ensign walked through the door. The XO was standing at a computer terminal, sharing it with the dead body of a man that had collapsed into a chair in front of the console. To the Efrosian’s back was a railing. Beyond it was a cavern that housed a large piece of machinery with thick cables feeding into it from all directions.

    “Some, but not much. We can scavenge from their hydraulic systems, computer hardware, and maybe take some things apart for scrap metal, but their power systems are really weird. I can’t figure out what’s feeding energy into them. There’s no antimatter or fusion reactors. This place doesn’t seem to have a single plasma conduit. There’s nothing that will help us repair Samaritan’s port warp nacelle.” As he delivered his report, Parker never took his eyes off of the strange apparatus suspended in the center of the cavern.

    “What is that thing?,” he finally asked, not able to fathom its purpose.

    “That is why you haven’t been able to find any parts compatible with our power systems. Look at this,” Ra-Gorvalei said, calling up something on the computer.

    Jared took a few tentative steps towards the terminal, trying to peer around the dead body without getting close to it. Ra-Gorvalei looked back at the ensign before shoving the corpse onto the floor and taking a seat in the chair that it had occupied. Jared stepped around the body and he stood, looking over the XO’s shoulder.

    The computer displayed a cross-section of the asteroid, showing the spires and the station hidden inside of it. “It’s brilliant. Those spires don’t just protect the asteroid from the plasma columns. They use the charge differential between the plasma fields to power the station. As a result, the station’s power signature is identical to that of the plasma fields.”

    “That would make it really hard to detect this place on long-range sensors,” Jared observed.

    “It makes the station invisible. Samaritan didn’t detect anything until we were almost on top of it,” Ra-Gorvalei corrected him.

    “Why would the Federation build something like this?,” Parker asked him.

    “It wasn’t the Federation.”

    “But this is all Federation technology, and all of these dead people are from Federation races. Who else could it be?”

    “The Maquis.”

    “You mean the Federation citizens that lived inside the old Demilitarized Zone?”

    “They gave up their citizenship by refusing to be relocated when the Demilitarized Zone was established. They took up arms against Starfleet, Ensign. They’re terrorists.” Ra-Gorvalei called up a new set of files on the computer monitor. “This station was known as ‘Haven’. It’s all here in their logs. Haven was the last holdout for the Maquis.”

    “What happened? Did the Dominion kill these people like they did to the rest of the Maquis?,” Jared asked him.

    “Indirectly,” Ra-Gorvalei explained. “They were waiting for a supply ship when the war began. It never came. They began to starve. Eventually, that man on the floor released a poisonous agent into the air to stop their suffering. Luckily for you and I, the atmospheric filters have, since then, removed the agent from the air.”

    Jared thought hard. It didn’t make sense to him. “Sir, if this place was designed to stay hidden, then how did the skipper know where it was?”

    “Good question,” Ra-Gorvalei replied.


    * * * *


    “Surrender,” Sovek suggested.

    “Surrender?” Kingsley hadn’t expected the Vulcan’s recommendation. He had asked to consult with him for two reasons. Vulcans were renowned for their ability to use reason in the most unreasonable of situations and Sovek was a fellow physician. He understood him far better than he understood the Starfleet personnel aboard the ship. “Do you really think that’s the best?”

    Sovek laid out his argument. “You have told me that there are ten Dominion vessels searching the Badlands, presumably for us, and you doubt that we can slip out of the area undetected. We are severely damaged and even if we make full repairs, the Samaritan couldn’t outrun any of the enemy ships. Logic dictates that surrender is the best hope for survival.”

    Kingsley stood up and looked out of his cabin window. The plasma storms were both wonderfully beautiful and horribly dangerous. They were like command. Such a wonderful honor and a horrible burden. So much relief on his next decision.

    He sighed and turned back towards the Vulcan. “Perhaps you’re right.”


    * * * *


    Upon returning to the Samaritan, Ra-Gorvalei headed straight to his quarters. He needed some time to think. There was no doubt in his mind now. Lieutenant Commander Kingsley’s knowledge of this station couldn’t be explained away. Nor could it be justified in his mind. All of his questions had been answered except for one.

    What to do about it?

    The door chimes rang. He considered not answering it but he couldn’t ignore his duty, even if he expected that another did.

    “Enter,” he said, prompting his door to open.

    Carson Burns stepped through the door and came to attention. “Sir.” He had planned on asking for forgiveness. Beg, if it was needed. However, standing there in front of the XO, his resolve abandoned him.

    Ra-Gorvalei was still lost in his own thoughts, hardly noticing the long moments of silence that passed between them. “What is the penalty for failing one’s duty?,” he finally asked him.

    The question hit Burns like a blow to the stomach. It took some effort to respond. “I suppose that it would depend on the failing, sir.”

    “I’m trying to understand it all,” Ra-Gorvalei said, talking to himself more than the JG. “Should the person’s intentions be considered or are the results of their actions all that matter?”

    Burns felt himself being torn down. Was his failure unforgivable? It was only a mistake but it was one that could have destroyed the ship. He forced himself to speak,” Sir, about my performance on the Bridge…”

    “What?,” Ra-Gorvalei asked, pulling himself out of his own deliberations.

    “When I…” Burns inhaled deeply. “When I hit the plasma column, sir, I would like to express just how…”

    Ra-Gorvalei cut the JG off. “You will not resume your helmsman duties until we leave the Badlands. In the meantime, you will assist Ensign Bulloch in coordinating the repairs.” He handed the junior officer a PADD. “You can start by organizing some of the engineering technicians to scavenge the items off that list from Haven Station.”

    Burns was surprised. He thought that he would be punished severely. He thought that he may have ended his career, especially after what the XO had said about duty. “Aye, sir,” he said before turning to leave.

    Ra-Gorvalei sensed his subordinate’s confusion and stopped him before he left. “Mister Burns, I wasn’t speaking of you earlier. I was just thinking out loud. You performed as well as anyone could, considering what we were up against. I won’t hold a simple mistake against you.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Burns said, his confidence coming back to him.

    “You have duties to attend to,” the XO responded. “Dismissed.”

    Burns nodded and left. Ra-Gorvalei had made up his mind and he also had duties to attend to.


    * * * *


    “How do I break this to the crew?,” Kingsley asked. “It won’t be easy.”

    “You are searching for a way to save people’s emotions. I do not have any emotions and I cannot offer counsel in this matter,” Sovek replied.

    Before Kingsley could speak again, the door chimes rang. “Yes?,” he called out. Ra-Gorvalei stepped into the room. “Ah, Mister Ra-Gorvalei, I wanted to speak with you.”

    Ra-Gorvalei noticed the Vulcan doctor. “May we speak in private, sir?”

    “It’s not necessary. Doctor Sovek is fully aware of our current situation,” the CO replied.

    “Our situation?,” asked the Efrosian.

    Kingsley was taken aback. The XO seemed to know all things about the ship at all times. “We’re surrounded,” he explained. “A patient helped us modify the sensors. Ten Dominion ships are searching the Badlands for us. We’re beaten. We have to surrender.”

    “Surrender? Never. We have to run,” Ra-Gorvalei retorted. “We have to fight!”

    “Run, and they will catch us. Fight, and they will destroy us. Surrendering is the only logical course of action,” Sovek said.

    “Two Excelsior-class starships, each with a crew of over five hundred souls, were destroyed so that we could survive. The patients aboard this ship fought the Jem’Hadar on MN-1375 until they were physically unable to, and you want to surrender? Where is the logical in that?!,” Ra-Gorvalei yelled at the Vulcan. He turned towards his commanding officer. “And you! You’re a traitor!”

    “Because I won’t throw away the six hundred lives on this ship in an impossible fight? Because I’m considering surrender?,” Kingsley asked, standing as he spoke.

    “Because you’re a member of the Maquis!,” Ra-Gorvalei hollered.

    “Could you please excuse us, Doctor Sovek?” Kingsley asked the Vulcan.

    “As you wish,” Sovek responded, leaving the room.

    “I am not a member of the Maquis, Mister Ra-Gorvalei.”

    “Then how did you know about the location of their secret base?,” Ra-Gorvalei pressed him.

    “Before this assignment, I was the administrator of Federation Medical Services on Alpha Centauri. I’m not a political man. I never have been. I didn’t really follow the situation in the Demilitarized Zone. It was light-years away. I didn’t think that it would ever affect me.” Kingsley took a couple of steps to a large painting of the Samaritan which was prominently displayed on the wall. “However, my sister got swept up in all of this Maquis business. I stopped hearing from her, one day, and I never got a reason. I figured that she was busy on her starship, somewhere off in the cosmos. Then one day, out of the blue, she showed up at my doorstep on Alpha Centauri. She tells me of the people who are suffering and are in need of treatment. She asked me for help and I agreed. She took me here to this station. I treated the sick and injured and I left. Does that make me a terrorist, Lieutenant?”

    “How many of the people that you healed went on to kill again?,” Ra-Gorvalei demanded to know. “Did you know that the Maquis used chemical weapons against Cardassian worlds? They made them uninhabitable. I wonder if anyone that you treated was involved in those attacks.”

    “I’ve never thought of it that way,” Kingsley said quietly, running his hand across the inscription in the frame of the portrait. It read, ‘Do No Harm.’ “As a doctor, a life in jeopardy is placed in front of you and you save it. That is all I know.”

    Ra-Gorvalei realized that the man had no grasp of what he had gotten himself into with the Maquis. “Maybe you aren’t a terrorist,” he conceded,” but you’re a fool and unfit for command.”

    “I’m reluctant to argue with you. I was set to retire before I was offered this assignment. I only accepted it because Bill Ross was my roommate at the Academy. He said it would be a favor to him.”

    “Bill Ross? As in Admiral William Ross, commander of all Starfleet forces in this sector?” Ra-Gorvalei was astonished that Kingsley and Ross had anything in common.

    “He is that, and a good friend.” Kingsley sighed. “I’m trying to do the right thing. I don’t want anyone to come to harm. Surrender sounds like the answer.”

    “Why do you suppose the Dominion is putting so much effort into hunting us down?,” Ra-Gorvalei asked him. “A hospital ship is not something that they would normally put this much energy into finding. We have something that they want, and surrender will be freely turning it over to them.”

    “What could we possibly have?”

    “Probably something that they didn’t find on MN-1375. One of the patients or something that they have, I’m not sure, but I know we can’t give it to them. And we can’t just turn all of these people over to the Jem’Hadar. Do the right thing,” Ra-Gorvalei urged him,” and give me command of the Samaritan.”

    Kingsley turned towards the Efrosian and looked him directly in the eyes. “It’s true that I know little about commanding ships, but as a doctor, I’ve learned a few things about people. Almost everyone aboard has questionable confidence in our ability to make it out of the Badlands alive. Stepping down as Commanding Officer will do nothing to make that confidence grow. I’ll make a deal with you. If we ever make it back to Federation space, I’ll turn myself in as a Maquis collaborator. Until that time, you help me do this job. Teach me what you know.”

    Ra-Gorvalei considered the offer carefully. “You say that there are ten ships looking for us?”

    “That’s right.”

    Ra-Gorvalei put his hand on the Commanding Officer’s shoulder. “Lesson Number One: You are a Starfleet officer. You never surrender, no matter what the odds are.”
     
  13. Robert Bruce Scott

    Robert Bruce Scott Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2021
    Really nice character design with Ra-Gorvalei and character development with Kingsley.

    Thanks!! rbs