TUE: USS Ranger - Flotsam/Jetsam

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Bry_Sinclair, May 23, 2020.

  1. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    U.S.S. Ranger NCC-2254
    On patrol route, Sector 16060

    Stardate: 2359.8 (May 12, 2325)



    Generally speaking, starships were relatively straight forward to put together. Yes, the technology was complex, the need to make it work was key, but get all the right pieces in the right way and it worked. The U.S.S. Ranger, despite having been mothballed for ten years, was already functioning as she was intended—the efforts of repair technicians from the surplus depot and Lieutenant Saygen were to be commended for doing such an excellent job in such a short space of time. What was trickier to get right was the officers and crew that manned starships, with putting together a new crew from scratch being the most difficult.

    When Taras had joined Starfleet, he had done so with the explicit desire to serve in the Border Service. Whilst his friends and peers had been transfixed of the tales from Starfleet, the great missions of exploration and battles to uphold the ideals of the Federation, he had always sought out the stories from the borders, where the crews never received much recognition or glory, but where they puts their lives at risk on an almost daily basis. Of course, the Border Service wasn’t known for attracting the best and brightest, often the low achievers of the fleet or reprobates on their last chance, all of which made pulling together a new crew all the harder.

    This was his first posting as Executive Officer, an opportunity he hadn’t expected for another year or two, but it was too good to turn down which was why he’d left a coveted place onboard an Albacore-Class cutter to join this untested crew. It was now his responsibility to oversee discipline, adherence to the regulations, ensure that orders were followed and work carried out. Though he was still unsure what set of regs he needed to uphold, those of the Border Service or Starfleet—the ship and most of her crew were the former, but his new CO was the latter.

    Once the Ranger had arrived at Star Station Bravo, and been officially folded into the Second Cutter Squadron, her first mission had been a standard four-week patrol of the Federations border with the Outland Expanse. They were three-quarters of the way through that assignment and, so far, all had been quiet. They had run scans, noted a number of ships in established shipping lanes, all of which were transmitting correct transponders, none were acting suspiciously, emitting unusual or dangerous emissions, nor asking for help—nothing that would warrant stop and search action. The uneventful weeks meant that the crew had time to gel together, figuring out how new colleagues worked and what their department heads expected of them, as well as tweaking shift rotations and working out training schedules.

    This also applied to figuring out the new CO. When he’d received the offer of his new position, he’d read up on Xanthe Palmer. A proper Fleeter, her scientific background was almost unheard of in the Service (Border Dogs worked for a living) but her actions onboard the U.S.S. Polaris, before and during the Dresleq incident, did give him pause. During her role as Second Officer she had made some tough choices, which worked out in her favour—she wasn’t one to back down. The fact that Vice Admiral Kirshner, the Border Service Commander herself, had personally recruited Palmer showed that she’d made some impression higher up the food chain. Of course, the admiral wouldn’t be the one serving beside her or trying to ensure that the Fleet and Service meshed well together onboard a small cutter on the fringes of one of the most dangerous regions of the quadrant.

    Taras let out a sigh. Maybe he was being a little too harsh with his perception of Palmer. In three weeks, she hadn’t done anything that might have rocked the boat. Yes, she wanted to be informed of everything that was happening aboard and taking a greater chunk of the administrative work than she really ought to have, but that could be chalked up to a new CO trying to keep on top of everything, not used to delegating tasks, and wanting to make the right impression on their new crew. She covered her watch dutifully, wasn’t throwing her weight around, and was spending every free moment she had studying the Ranger—every good skipper needed to know just what their ship could do. Until someone dropped the ball there was no way to really know just how well she’d manage, but it was his responsibility to make sure that when that moment came the crew were ready.

    The wardroom doors hissed open, pulling him from his thoughts as he looked up to see Lieutenant Rafael De Souza enter. He was about to ask what the second officer was doing, since he was meant to be on watch, when he noticed the chronometer and realised it was already fifteen minutes into alpha shift. He’d completely lost track of time, the mug of dree’la leaf tea he’d been nursing was cold in his large hands.

    “Morning Lieutenant,” he greeted the human.

    De Souza gave him a nod and a muttered ‘hi’, before making a beeline to the sideboard where the beverage dispenser was located. Taras watched him with a mindful eye. The ship’s second officer was one of those people that didn’t help with the perception of the Border Service to the wider fleet, having a few disciplinaries to his name and a reputation for being quite vocal with his opinions and thumbing his nose at protocol—all facts that made his appointment to such a senior position onboard baffling.

    As the second officer worked with the drinks machine the doors opened again, and Oka Saygen strolled in. Unconsciously, he sat up a little straighter.

    “Good morning, XO,” she said cheerfully, pulling out the chair opposite him and flopping into it with a comfortable sigh.

    “Hello Lieutenant.” He’d noticed that she hadn’t brought in a tray from the mess hall, nor any PADDs and had bypassed De Souza and the dispenser. “Are you not eating?”

    “There’s always a rush on after the shift comes off, so I’ll wait and sneak in when no one’s looking.”

    “Very wise, you definitely don’t want to get between hungry Border Dogs and chow, that’s how you lose fingers.”

    She flashed him a grin, showing off her sharp canines. “Believe me, XO, they wouldn’t break flesh before they regretted their actions.”

    From the opposite side of the room they heard a scoff that drew their attention. De Souza took his mug and left the wardroom, not making eye contact with the chief engineer. When the doors closed behind him, Saygen looked back at Taras.

    “Was it something I said?”

    “I wouldn’t take it personally; he seems to take time to warm up to others—at least I hope that’s the case.”

    She let out a single humourless laugh. “I work gamma shift with him, but never hear anything from him. On the two occasions he has needed something, he sends through a text only message. A third time and I may start taking it personally.”

    “I’ll speak with him,” he started but Saygen waved him off.

    “That’s alright, I’m a big girl I can handle it.”

    “I’m sure you can, Lieutenant.”

    Though the two lieutenants looked nothing alike (he was over two meters tall, with a dense musculature and cobalt blue skin, whilst she lean and lithe with a very pale complexion, jade hair and a long tail) both of their species were new to the Federation, as such there were very few Pandrilite or Alkarian serving in Starfleet—he was the only officer in the Border Service and she was the ranking female across the Fleet, Service or Marine Corps. Outside of the usual staff meetings, this was the first time he’d had the opportunity to speak with her.

    “I hope everything else is going smoothly for you.”

    “No mutiny’s so far. In all honesty though, I think my staff are still trying to figure out how to handle someone from the Fleet being their new boss,” she told him, her amber eyes looking him over for a few seconds. “I’m guessing you’re in the same boat.”

    “I guess you could say that. Usually when we get someone from the Fleet its because they’ve done something serious, and assignment to the Border Service is their last chance. To have people willingly choose to make the switch is rare—for one of those to become a cutter captain is unheard of to the best of my knowledge.”

    Saygen chuckled. “I thought she was crazy to take the offer, especially with all the others she had to choose from, but if there’s one thing I can tell you about Xanthe Palmer its that she doesn’t make rash choices. She may take chances, but before she commits to them she’ll have crunched the numbers and go for the option that is most likely to succeed.”

    He nodded thoughtfully. He’d never thought about trying to get a better picture of Commander Palmer from the one person onboard who knew her best. “Thank you, Lieutenant, that’s very good to know.”

    “Don’t mention it, XO. And, you can call me Oka.”

    “Taras.”

    She grinned at him again, an expression that suited her angular face. Before he could say anything more, his wristcom chirped. “Go ahead.”

    “Chief Lien here, Lieutenant. You are still remembering about our meeting, right?”

    He quickly looked at the chronometer and realised he’d once again lost track of time. “Of course, Chief. I’m on my way.” He quickly rose from the table.

    “Duty calls.”

    “Indeed. Thank you again, Oka.”

    “Anytime Taras.”

    As he headed for the exit, he found himself grinning as all thoughts and worries about the new crew working well together dispersed. Before the door closed behind him, he cast a wayward glance back over his shoulder at the chief engineer.

    * * * * *
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
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  2. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Great to see this crew beginning to gel. Heavens knows they'll be put into a crucible soon enough, given the Border Service's calling, and the more they can learn to trust each other now, the better off they'll be when crisis inevitably strikes.

    Great stuff!
     
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  3. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Putting a ship together is critical. Her crew, equally so. Now that the Ranger seems to be operating well, here's hoping the crew (particularly senior officers) come together. Lt. De Souza seems to have an attitude problem. If he doesn't straighten out, the XO may have to step in, hard and fast!
     
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  4. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    S.S. Astral Pioneer NBT-F807
    Delmon Freight Route, Sector 16060



    Aside from the thrum of the warp engines, hiss of the environmental processors, and ping of the sensors all was quiet on the bridge of the Astral Pioneer. The old Monarch-Class freighter was well past her heyday, but the reliability of the design saw her just keep on trundling along. Of course, jobs like their most recent one helped keep the old girl going—not many were willing to take on cargo runs near the Outland Expanse, which was why it paid so well.

    Brilis Zott smiled to himself. The credits they made from this run would allow them to update their ancient duotronic computer core, which he suspected hadn’t been touched since the ship was built. After paying the crew, covering expenses and fuel, every credit that Zott made went back into the ship.

    He patted the control console affectionately. The Astral Pioneer was most definitely a labour of love.

    “Don’t you ever sleep?” Ursula Kollen, his first mate, asked as she entered the small bridge. “You always seem to be in here at all hours of the day,” she added as she slipped into the chair beside him.

    “What can I say? My lady needs me.”

    “You did not just call the Pioneer a ‘lady’.”

    He rested a hand on the consoles colourful display. “Don’t listen to the mean human, she’s just jealous of what we have.”

    “You know its creepy when you talk to the ship like that, right?”

    “You should see what I do when you’re not here.”

    Kollen visibly shivered. “Don’t. Ever. Tell. Me.”

    Zott chuckled. “A gentleman never kisses and tells.”

    She spun her chair around one-eighty and stood up. “Right, that’s it. I quit. Bye!” she proclaimed as she headed for the exit.

    The Bolian freighter captain burst out laughing and looked back at his long-suffering friend.

    Suddenly the ship lurched, slamming him against the helm and knocking the wind from him. The freighters aged hull cracked and groaned as every alarm blared. As he coughed and tried to suck in air, he blinked the bleariness from his eyes and forced himself to focus on the displays. Every readout crackled and blinked off and on, none of them showing what had happened to the ship or just how bad it was.

    He hit the emergency stop controls, dropping them out of warp. The ship’s hull quietened once they reached sublight speed, though all the alerts still beckoned for attention. Underneath the din from right under his nose he heard a faint whimper from behind. He spun around to see Kollen lying on the deck, her head worryingly close to the bulkhead, though she was twitching.

    “Ursula!” he exclaimed, spinning round and rising to see to her. As soon as he got out of his seat he wheezed in pain and stumbled, gripping the back of his chair to keep himself from crumpling to the deck, his chest was on fire and his ribs ached.

    He took a slow, pained breath and shuffled over to where she lay, crouching beside her and cradling her head. There was a nasty cut above her right eye, with a dark bruise already starting to flare up around her orbital socket.

    “Ursula, can you hear me?”

    She murmured something that he couldn’t make out, her eyes fluttering open for a second before closing again.

    “Bridge? What the hell just happened?” asked Dalton Hayes from the engine room.

    Zott didn’t want to leave his friend, but he needed to get her help and also try to figure out what the hell just happened to them.

    Gritting his teeth, he got back to his feet and staggered back to his station once again. Collapsing into his chair he took a moment for the pain in his torso to subside, before he hit the companel. “Unclear, I’ve got next to nothing in the way of controls here. Get me a full damage report, ASAP.” He closed the channel and ship-wide comm. “All crew report in. Whoever is near a medkit get up here, Ursula’s been hurt, bad.”

    As he worked to regain some sort of control over his ship, a flurry of voices came over the intercom as his crew made contact. He employed ten men and women onboard the Astral Pioneer, a fairly standard complement for a Monarch-Class, but after a few minutes he realised he hadn’t heard from two of them.

    “Chuurt? Li? Respond please.”

    The bridge doors opened and Saalov stepped through, carrying a first aid kit. The Vulcan took a second to assess the room before kneeling beside the first mate.

    “Saalov, do you know where Chuurt and Li are?”

    “They were going to be looking at the gravity fluctuations in the port hold,” he explained, not looking up from the scanner he ran over Kollen’s discoloured, bloody face.

    He was about to put another call through for the two deckhands, or to see if anyone could check on the portside cargo bays for them, when the ships internal sensor display suddenly came back to life. The flashing red screen made his stomach sink. Two major breaches in their port ventral hull, exposing the entire cargo bay to space. Something must’ve hit them whilst at warp—they were lucky the entire ship hadn’t been ripped apart—but he was at a loss as to what it might’ve been, the sensors hadn’t alerted him of anything in their path.

    Kollen moaned, drawing his attention away from his ship once again. “How is she?”

    “An orbital fracture and a concussion, though fortunately no neurological or spinal damage,” Saalov informed him, giving Zott a reason to breathe easy—which made him wince, which didn’t go unnoticed. “Captain, you are also injured.”

    “I think I just bruised a couple of ribs, take care of Ursula.”

    As the Vulcan opened his mouth to object, the doors parted and Jenny Constanza entered. “Cap, I thought you could use a hand up here.”

    “Jenny, see if you can bring up the sensor and navigation readouts up until the impact,” he instructed turning back to his controls. “Saalov, take care of Ursula.”

    Constanza paused a moment, looking between the two men, no doubt sensing the tension between them, before she slipped past the Vulcan deckhand and took the empty station Kollen had been sitting at minutes earlier. With no further words, Saalov scooped the first mate up and carried her off the bridge.

    “What did we hit?” their resident electrical technician and computer expert asked.

    “I have no idea,” he admitted.

    “Bridge, engine room,” Hayes’ voice crackled through the intercom. “Zott, I don’t know what happened to us but we’re very lucky to still be here.

    “Structural integrity is barely holding at eight percent, if you hadn’t dropped us out of warp when you did we would’ve been shredded to pieces—to make matters worse the generator took damage and I can’t even begin to give you an estimate on how long that will take to fix. Main life support is also offline, but the backups are fully functional. The entire port hold is depressurised and emergency containment forcefields are out, I’m also showing signs of hull microfractures across other sections.”


    “Warp drive?”

    “Still operational, but in this state, Cap, we’re not going anywhere.” The mechanic hesitated a moment, almost audibly swallowing a bitter pill. “We’re going to need help to even get up to limping.”

    “Understood. See what you can get done with structural integrity. I’ll see if there are any friendlies nearby would be willing to lend a hand.”

    “Let’s just hope the wrong sort don’t find us first. Hayes out.”

    That was always the worry when working neat the Outland Expanse, even on the Federation side of the border, it was still a dangerous place to break down. They were on one of the less frequently travelled shipping lanes, but there was every chance another freighter or transport could be on the same route and be able to lend a hand, not to mention the Border Service, whose job was to help out ships in their sort of predicament.

    “Cap,” Constanza began, sounding confused, “I can’t see anything.”

    “Were the sensors malfunctioning or have the records been damaged?”

    “Neither.” She looked at him, her brow tightly furrowed. “The sensors were functioning normally, but there was nothing out there up to and including the moment of impact.”

    “How the frell is that possible?” he pondered, before shaking his head. “We can worry about that later, get down below and give Hayes a hand with the SIF generator.”

    “Sure thing.”

    As the young tech headed for the exit, he toggled the communications controls. “This is the Astral Pioneer, currently point-two light-years past the sigma-four marker on the Delmon lane. We have sustained heavy damage, cause unknown, and request assistance. If anyone can hear me, please help us.”

    He set his message to repeat, gave a silent prayer, and tapped the transmit stud. As his distress call entered the vast empty blackness he rested a loving hand on the control panel once more.

    * * * * *
     
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  5. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Damn, tough break for that freighter crew. Here's hoping this wasn't an ambush, and that Ranger's close enough to pick up their distress call.
     
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  6. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Blood in the water . . . here's hoping there are no sharks nearby to catch the scent. I'm curious as to what they could have struck while at warp. They are decidedly lucky to be in one piece, albeit with damage to ship and crew. Unfortunately, it seems two of the crew are missing, presumed dead.
    The Outland Expanse is bad enough to traverse with an intact vessel. It's a dangerous place to lie wounded.
     
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  7. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    It sounds like a void or some kind of subspace bubble. I like the crew complement. Zott seems like a good skipper.
     
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  8. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    U.S.S. Ranger NCC-2254
    On patrol route, Sector 16060



    Despite trying not to, Lieutenant (j.g.) Narr glasch Aal found himself casting wary glances over his shoulder feeling as though a pair of eyes were boring into him. All he ever saw was the rest of the bridge crew going about their assigned duties, a few having quiet discussions, though on the whole most of them didn’t pay him the slightest bit of attention—even the focus of his frequent checks.

    Lieutenant Commander Xanthe Palmer sat in the command chair, her legs crossed and with a thoughtful expression on her face as she read over the duty logs for the last two shifts. The Ranger was a lot of firsts for him, including his first starship posting and first time as a department head, but the one thing that did unnerve him more than anything else was this was the first time he was on watch with his commanding officer. On Star Station Alpha he’d worked in the computer control centre, whilst at the Tragan Surplus Depot he’d been on gamma shift and rarely saw anyone other than the few other techs he worked with, so being in the same room as his new captain was unsettling.

    Though he’d never seen her watching him, he always felt as though he was under scrutiny—after all he was only four years out of the Academy and hadn’t exactly had a stellar career so far. There was also the fact he wasn’t her first choice for the position of Ops Manager, that was initially intended for a full lieutenant with twice his time in service, though he’d decided to take early retirement to raise a family—Aal had merely been in the right place at the right time, so he was under no illusions that his current posting was only a temporary one.

    The urgent chirp of the communications panel brought his full focus back to his controls. He punched up the alert and quickly assessed what he was dealing with, before calling over his shoulder, “Captain, we’re picking up a distress call.”

    “Is there visual?”

    “Yes sir.”

    “On screen.”

    He transferred the communication to the main viewscreen and turned towards it. The streaking starfield switched to a haggard looking Bolian male in his early thirties, his left arm across his chest and clutching his right side. As the message played, he turned back to his console and on one monitor brought up the data the records held on the Astral Pioneer, then brought up the long-range sensor display and narrowed in on the Delmon trade route and pinpointed an immobile sensor contact, though they were still too far to identify it as the stricken freighter.

    “Mr Aal, can you get a fix on them?” Palmer asked, stepping away from her chair and approaching the operations console.

    “I’ve got something in the right location, sir, approximately three light-years away. Going by the size, it looks like a Monarch-Class cargo ship.”

    Palmer looked from his sensor data to the library information he’d retrieved. She nodded and glanced at the joint flight control stations. “Chiang, projected ETA at maximum warp?”

    “Seventeen-point-three hours, sir,” replied the non-commissioned navigator.

    “Set course and speed. Jolex, engage when ready.”

    “Aye Captain,” both petty officers replied in unison.

    “Ensign Threpp, keep a close eye on both sides of the boundary, I want to know the second you see anyone else heading towards that ship.”

    “Aye sir,” the Denobulan tactical officer confirmed.

    Aal watched in silent awe at how quickly she issued orders, if he hadn’t known better he would’ve thought that she had been doing so for years and not just weeks. Someday he hoped to have even a fraction of her self-assuredness.

    Palmer focused back on him. “Do we have two-way communications?”

    “Um,” he murmured as he checked, kicking himself for not thinking to do so. “Yes sir, they’re receiver appears to be functional.”

    “Open a channel and put it through here,” she instructed, pointing at one of his free screens.

    He entered the commands and established a commlink. There was a brief pause for the signal to cross the light-years between them and for the crew on the other end to pick up. After a few seconds, the image of the Bolian, Captain Brilis Zott according to the ships manifest, appeared on the screen.

    Astral Pioneer, I’m Captain Palmer of the Border Service ship Ranger. We’ve received your distress call and are underway to assist.”

    The look of relief on the freighter masters blue face was clear. “Bless the First Ones!” he exclaimed, then winced and wheezed. “Captain, you have no idea how good it is to hear that.”

    “We’re a little over seventeen hours out, can you hold out that long?”

    “Yes, our backup life support can keep us going pretty much indefinitely. We do have injured, though none are life threatening.”

    “I’m relieved to hear that. Can I ask what’s the extent of your damage? Or any further information on what caused it?”

    “Our hull badly damaged and structural integrity is severely compromised. We can’t risk going to warp in this state, not is we want to stay in one piece. As for what caused it, we’re at a loss. Sensors showed nothing, and I mean nothing, that could’ve done this to us.”

    Aal scowled as he watched the screen. Hulls didn’t get breached without some cause, though given the age of the Astral Pioneer it was highly likely her sensors were antiquated and could easily have missed something.

    “Captain, could you transmit your sensor records to us for review—”

    “Do you think we can’t read sensor telemetry?” Zott bristled, the sudden flare of emotion making him cough and grit his teeth.

    “Of course not, sir, but if there is some sort of navigational hazard in the region we need to be prepared for it—to ensure we can reach you without suffering the same fate.”

    “Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense,” he conceded, breathing a little easier. He looked to the side and flipped a few switches. “I’m sending the data through to you now.”

    Aal watched as the freighter transferred a data file to the Ranger. He logged it in a secure processor, which scanned for any corrupted data or viruses, and once given the all clear the information appeared on the monitor beside the communications screen.

    “That’s appreciated, Captain. If you need anything else, we’ll keep this channel clear for you and keep you updated on our arrival time.”

    “Thank you, Captain. We look forward to your arrival. Astral Pioneer out.”

    The small screen returned to displaying diagnostics reports. As soon as Zott’s face disappeared, Palmer was studying the sensor information he’d sent through. Aal had already made a start on reviewing the logs and had to admit he saw nothing, certainly nothing that could explain the sudden and severe damage the freighter had taken.

    “That’s one tough ship,” he thought aloud.

    “You’re not wrong, Lieutenant. I don’t think the Ranger could’ve survived that impact.”

    Palmer’s hand instinctively reached for his controls then stopped, her fingers curling into her palm before she lowered her arm. “Lieutenant, begin running a multi-spectral scan of the region and carry out a similar analysis on the logs from the freighter. Then try a series quantum resonance sweeps and subspace probes.”

    “Um, right,” he replied instantly and reached for the panel she had stopped herself from using. He paused and looked up at her. “Captain, what am I looking for?”

    She turned to him. “Whatever caused the damage to that ship, Mr Aal.”

    “Ah, ok.”

    “I want to see the full results as soon as you have them.”

    “Yes sir.”

    As he sprung to action, utilising every sensor and analysis programme the Ranger was equipped with, Palmer returned to her chair. This time, she forewent the ships duty logs and did keep a close eye on just what Aal was doing, though he was too preoccupied to notice.

    * * * * *
     
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  9. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    Loved this segment! Nice job by Palmer of stopping herself from doing it and delegating it to Aal. Also, she demonstrated excellent interpersonal-skills in dealing with a rather frantic freighter captain.

    I can't appreciate Aal's self-esteem issues, given his service history. Here's hoping he can grow to trust in his own abilities.

    The captain of the Ranger appears to be settling into her spot nicely.
     
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  10. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
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    Shetland
    An element of Mr Aal's backstory has just clicked into place, fully formed in my head that tells me just why he is how he is, which will definitely be something worth exploring in stories to come--the poor kid.
     
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  11. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Great chapter! I've no doubt that Captain Zott was relieved to know help was en route. You've created an interesting mystery - when nothing shows up on sensor logs to explain the collision, where else can you look?
    Eagerly anticipating more.
     
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  12. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    “Takeda is saying its some sort of new long-range torpedo, but then again he is the torpedo control specialist, so of course he’ll think that,” said Petty Officer Second Class Karyme Hamid sitting on one of the biobeds. Corpsman Kenara Vaal listened with only half a pointed ear as he ran his scanner wand around her head.

    Almost as soon as the distress call had come through word of it spread throughout the ship, unsurprising given the three weeks of uneventful patrol. There was a mixture of excitement, curiosity and trepidation among the crew with everyone having a theory about what was the cause of the freighters damage. For his part, Vaal had left the guess work to someone else, he had more practical things to focus on. The Astral Pioneer had sent through her casualty reports, so he familiarised himself with what he might have to deal with upon their arrival: mostly bumps, bruises and scrapes, though one concussion and one badly broken and dislocated arm would require further attention—he also noted that there was no medical scan of the freighters captain.

    He was relieved that there were no critical cases, so he and his two medtechs should be able to deal with the injured. One thing that did make him pause was the fact two of the crew still weren’t accounted for, though given they were reportedly in the section worst hit (by whatever it was) then there wasn’t much hope for them to be found alive. Everyone who chose to make space their life knew the risks that came with it.

    “Vaal?” Hamid asked, waving her hand in front of his face.

    He blinked and focused on the security team leader once more. “Sorry?”

    “Everything alright there, Doc? You spaced out on me—which I hope means my results are so normal that they’re boring.”

    “I’m sorry, just thinking about what I’ll be faced with when we reach the freighter.” He looked at the screen on the bulkhead at the head of the bed, all the scans showed everything was just as they were meant to be, all in line with her last physical.

    He switched off the scanner and set it back on the equipment tray. “All looks good, PO.”

    “Glad to hear it,” she stated and hopped off the bed. “So, what’s your theory?”

    “I’ve not really thought about it—some of us have work to be doing.”

    Hamid chuckled. “Well when we get in our first phaser fight I’ll remember you said that when you’re begging to be saved, Doc.”

    “Also remember if you get wounded, I’ll be the one that patches you up.”

    “Touché.”

    The door to the exam room opened and Chief Noah Lien entered with a purposeful stride. Both non-coms stood a little straighter. “Petty Officers,” he said by way of greeting.

    “Chief,” he replied, “something I can do for you?”

    “Corpsman, I just wanted to let you know you’ll be on the initial team with Lieutenants Taras, Saygen and myself, you can assess the injured in person and see what the state of their medbay is like.”

    Hamid stepped forward. “Request permission to join the team, Chief.”

    “This is a Federation ship in need of repairs, PO, we won’t be in need of a security escort.”

    “With all due respect, Chief, I was born and raised on a Monarch-Class I probably know more about those ugly brutes than anyone else on the ship. I also completed my B-level for EVA operations just before joining the Ranger.”

    Lien let out a chuckle. “I stand corrected then. I’ll get you added to the team, you can take a closer look at the damaged sections whilst the rest of us assess the rest of the ship and crew.”

    “Thank you, Chief.”

    He fixed her with a serious look. “No heroics, Hamid.”

    “No heroics, aye Chief,” she confirmed. Going by what Vaal had seen in her file, not to mention all the long list of injuries she’d sustained in the course of doing her duty, Petty Officer Hamid was one of those security guards who put themselves in harms way to keep everyone else safe. An admirable trait, though still far to reckless for his own liking.

    Lien nodded. “We’ll reach the Astral Pioneer at oh-six-twenty-three and will be beaming over at oh-six-thirty, make sure you’re both geared up and in transporter room one.”

    “Aye Chief,” they replied.

    * * * * *
     
  13. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Interesting bit of lower-decks interaction. It's reasonable to assume a new crew would be eager and also a bit apprehensive about their first rescue mission.Good character work, providing insight into Vaal's thought processes and Hamid's desire to be in the thick of things. Nice!
     
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  14. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    Since we didn't actually meet them in the last story, I thought it best to get them in here somewhere before things kick off.
     
  15. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    The levels of tension and anticipation onboard had steadily increased as the countdown had ticked by, though Petty Officer Second Class Aila always tried to respect the privacy of her shipmates there were times when a collective feeling was had to suppress—similar to the coitus frenzies that sprung up on her native Delta IV.

    It was understandable of course, this was the first time they’d be going into action as a crew, and for a few of the newbies onboard their first time responding to call. Luckily, it wasn’t her first rodeo and she’d learnt how to focus through the emotional miasma of those around her to stay on task—a combination of training she’d received back home, when she announced her intention to enlist into Starfleet, and instruction from a Vulcan bunkmate early on in her career.

    Though there were times the feelings of some individuals were too hard to keep out for long, especially in prolonged close contact. One such being Lieutenant De Souza, who was fairly unpleasant to sense at the best of times, but his prickliness, disdain and resentment were the highest she’d felt since they’d arrived on the Ranger.

    She cast a casual glance over her shoulder, spotting him at one of the MSD consoles that flanked the turbolift alcove, his own glower fixed solely on Lieutenant Commander Palmer, who occupied her chair in the middle if the bridge. De Souza had little love for his fellow Border Dogs though even less for those onboard who had come from the fleet, as such he was someone Aila intended to spend as little time around as possible.

    The chirp of her sensor board brought her attention back to the mission. “Captain, we’re approaching the co-ordinates of the Astral Pioneer.”

    “Thank you, Petty Officer. Helm, drop us out of warp and set approach at one-half impulse. Ensign Gauthier, initiate full scan.”

    From her panel, Aila watched as the cutter dropped down to sublight speed as she covered the last few thousand kilometres. Their sensors went active and began sweeping everything in range, looking for any other ships or any sign of what might have damaged the freighter. She’d read the reports from Lieutenant Aal, though every scan and analysis he’d made had come back negative which only made the situation more uneasy.

    “Other than the freighter, I’m detecting no ships in range, sir,” the young operations officer stated.

    Aila looked back at Palmer. “We’re in visual range.”

    “On screen.”

    She tapped the control stud and brought the Astral Pioneer up on the viewscreen, magnified to get a clearer look of the ship. The Monarch-Class merchantman wouldn’t win any awards for beauty; her bulky, rust-brown hull looked unfinished, with entire engine block looking as though the panelling had been removed, exposing supports and piping. Though when the damaged portside came into view, the rest of the hull looked immaculate by comparison. Two enormous shuttle-sized holes had been ripped into the dorsal hull, twisting metal into sharp claw-like protrusions as conduits sparked and leaking fluids crystallised in the freezing vacuum.

    “Damn!” Petty Officer zh’Theriel gasped from beside her.

    “Scans of the damage show no sign of weapons discharge, sir,” reported Lieutenant (j.g.) Bouwman, the gamma shift weapons officer.

    “Good. Gauthier, open a channel.”

    A moment later the image of the freighter was replaced with that of Bolian male, whose face looked pale and clammy, with heavy bags under his eyes.

    “Captain Palmer, it’s good to see you again.”

    “Likewise, Captain Zott. We’re making our approach and will be in transporter range in a few minutes, our scans show the area is clear of hostiles so if you can lower your shields it would be appreciated.”

    He nodded, reaching for a control and wincing as he did. “Of course, dropping shields.”

    Behind her, Aila heard Palmer rise from her seat and step forward. “Is everything alright, Captain?” she asked, the concern clear in her tone.

    “I’m fine,” he replied with a weak smile. “Just been a couple of long and stressful days.”

    “Understood,” was Palmer’s polite response, though clearly wasn’t buying it. “We’ll be sending over an initial team to carry out a quick assessment of damage and help with the injured. Once they’ve got a better idea of what will be needed we’ll be sending over a full repair team.”

    “Thank you again, Captain Palmer.”

    “Don’t mention it, Captain Zott, we’ve got you. Ranger out.”

    The Captain returned to her chair and tapped the intercom. “Palmer to Taras.”

    “Go ahead.”

    “We’ll be in range in a couple of minutes. Lieutenant, have Corpsman Vaal take a look at the Astral Pioneer’s master as soon as possible, he doesn’t look to be in a good way.”

    “Don’t worry, Skipper, I’ll make sure he submits for check-up.”

    “I’m sure you will, XO. Good luck to you. Palmer out.”

    Aila looked back at her new commanding officer once more and offered a supportive smile, which received an appreciative nod in return. She must’ve been in De Souza’s eyeline as, for the first time since Palmer entered the bridge, he shifted his gaze away from the lieutenant commander and scowled at her. Turning back to the viewscreen she rolled her eyes, whatever issue he had with Palmer was his problem, she wasn’t about to give credence to it by not trying to get on with her new Captain.

    * * * * *
     
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  16. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    Not sure what's eating De Souza, but his bad attitude is seriously in need of a major adjustment. Typically, that would be the XO's job, but he's busy at present. I wonder if Palmer has noticed or if she's giving him enough rope to hang himself?
    Glad the Ranger is on scene and able to assist the Astral Pioneer's crew. I hope Captain Zott will drop the pride and allow himself to receive medical treatment. He's no good to his ship or crew if he's incapacitate.
    And the mystery grows into the source of the freighter's collision. It seems they've ruled out energy weapons, so what else could it be?
    Good stuff, Bry!
     
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  17. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    S.S. Astral Pioneer NBT-F807
    Delmon Freight Route, Sector 16060



    The five-man team materialised on the freighter’s transporter platform, which was an alcove just off the corridor. The lingering chemical smell of fire suppressant lingered in the air, but everything else seemed normal—no dim or flickering lights, the temperature was normal, and gravity was stable. Karyme Hamid smiled to herself, Monarch-Class freighters weren’t much to look at, but a good crew would always take care of their ship, it was their home and they would work hard to keep it in good order.

    The team were alone in the alcove, giving them a moment to look around. Hamid was the only one partially dressed in an EVA suit, given her task on the team was to carryout assessment of the damage, whilst all the others had beamed in with repair kits and toolbelts in place of body armour and phaser carbines.

    “Hamid, where are we?” Taras asked.

    “Deck B.” She pointed down the corridor. “The common room will be back that way, and cargo bays to the front. The bridge and quarters will be above us, engineering sections below.”

    Standardised design was one of the selling features of the Monarch-Class, it would allow anyone familiar with the design to operate it within minutes of coming aboard, as well as making replacement parts cheap to source.

    From the direction of the common room, the sound of boots on metal deck grating resonated down the corridor, quickly followed by the appearance of a haggard and unhealthy looking Bolian. She could immediately see what Captain Palmer had meant about the freighter’s master; the man looked in a bad way. He stopped his eyes wide when Taras step forward—which was an understandable reaction, the sheer size of the first officer was an intimidating sight.

    “Lieutenant Taras, XO of the Ranger,” he began. “Lieutenant Saygen, Chief Lien, and Petty Officers Vaal and Hamid.”

    “Brilis Zott, welcome to the Astral Pioneer. Thank you for your help, Lieutenant.”

    “Just doing what the Border Service does best, Captain.” Taras looked back at the away team.

    “We’re glad to have you here. I’m afraid I don’t have anyone free to take you around.”

    “If you could show Vaal to your medbay, he can help with the injured, the rest of us can find our way.”

    Zott shook his head. “I need to get back to the bridge—”

    “Captain, with all due respect you look as though you’re about to collapse, please go with the corpsman, the last thing your crew needs is to have you pass out from exhaustion. I can keep an eye on the bridge.”

    The Bolian opened his mouth to object when he started to cough, gritting his teeth, and swaying on his feet, holding onto the bulkhead to keep him upright. He tried to draw a breath but grimaced and coughed again. Vaal was immediately by his side, slinging the clearly injured man’s arm over his shoulder and wrapping his own around his waist.

    “No objections, sir. I need to take a look at you. Now,” the medic stated, his tone making it clear he wouldn’t take ‘no’ as an answer.

    Weakly, Zott conceded. Vaal led him back down the corridor and up the stairs to the upper deck. Taras watched them go then looked back at the team.

    “Saygen, Lien, head for engineering and get started there. Hamid, finish getting suited up and head into the damaged sections. I’ll monitor everything from the bridge.”

    The team confirmed and started breaking off. Chief Lien stayed behind to double check her suit was secure, though she was rated for EVA operations, it was still standard procedure to have the equipment double checked by an external pair of eyes—just to make sure. She clicked the helmet into place and looked at the display on her forearm, all indicators were in the green.

    “I’m good to go, Chief.”

    “Keep a channel open and make sure to take full scans of all the damage.”

    “Got it.”

    “Good luck.”

    She gave him a thumbs up and headed for the airlock that led to the cargo holds, whilst he headed below. With how large the cargo bays were, it was common to cut power to the sections in order to reduce running costs, as well as the fact if freighters were attacked then raiders were usually after what they carried and had no qualms about cutting into the hull to get to it, as such all entry points were through airlocks—which would’ve been the thing that saved the rest of the crew when the Astral Pioneer was ripped open.

    The lights were out, but other than that all looked normal in the main hold. She checked her heavy field tricorder and noted that it still had air, gravity and pressure, the thick bulkheads of the ship had managed to limit the damage to only the portside. Turning to her left, she headed towards the affected area.

    Stepping into the next crew airlock, this one was far slower than the first, the mechanisms no doubt caused by the extreme cold of space that she was about to walk into. The second door ground open and she stepped through, her magnetised boots holding her on the deck.

    Containers and tools floated in the air, a few still propelled by the inertia of the impact, though having bounced around the remains of the cargo bay were at a fraction of their initial speed. The two gashes in the freighter were hard to miss, one had torn open a long section of the ceiling almost the full length of the port hold, whilst the other was straight through the opposite bulkhead.

    The field tricorder, a holdover from the previous century, hung from her shoulder and chirped away as is scanned, whilst the visual sensors in her helmet picked up on everything she looked at. As her instruments gathered data, she moved towards the far wall, to get a closer look.

    She tapped the communications control on her wrist. “This is Hamid. I’m in the portside hold. It’s a mess in here.”

    As she reached the gaping maw in the side of the cargo ship she resisted the urge to touch the twisted metal, the last thing she needed was a rip in her suit. Instead, she gripped the handle of her tricorder and aimed it at the damage.

    “Would you say its fixable, PO?” Saygen asked.

    She looked at the results of her scan. “The superstructure is overall stable, though a few supports may need to be replaced once they put in at dry-dock, most of the damage seems to be to the hull plating. Though it does look like most of the SIF nodes in this section were either destroyed or badly damaged.”

    “We should have enough spare panelling to patch up the holes, it won’t be pretty but it would do the job,” stated Lien.

    “The structural integrity field nodes should be an easy enough swap over, it’s all Federation tech, though Starfleet issue would mean they’d only need two or three to meet safety standards.”

    Hamid only listened with half an ear to the chief engineer as she turned back towards the interior. From where she stood, in line with the hull breach, she tried to work out the angles of impact. The lights from her helmet cut through the darkness, casting shadows as crates and barrels floated by, but after a few seconds she spotted what she was looking for.

    She started towards it. “I think I’ve got something.”

    “What is it, Hamid?” asked Taras.

    “Standby,” she replied as she got closer, aiming her scanner and checking the results. The tricorder screen registered nothing.

    “Petty Officer?”

    “Sorry, Lieutenant, I needed to get closer for a better look. Going by the angles of impact, one was a glancing blow but the other was full force so, going by the gouges in the deck and bulkheads, something had to crash into the ship.”

    “Have you found what did it?”

    “Yes sir, though according to my tricorder I’m not looking at anything.”

    She stepped up to the container, easily half the size of a standard shuttlecraft, and rested a gloved hand on its pitch-black surface. It was definitely real, but it just refused to be scanned.

    “Lieutenant, I think the Astral Pioneer literally stumbled into a very elaborate, and quite brilliant, smugglers drop.”

    * * * * *
     
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  18. Tim Walker

    Tim Walker Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2014
    I find it interesting that, as with the Orion, we see people who are not the best and brightest. This can be a refreshing change.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2020 at 5:34 PM
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  19. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    A cloaked container? That would be an excellent way to hide contraband and allow for smugglers to drop off/pick up at pre-selected coordinates. Too bad that the Astral Pioneer ran across it, quite literally.
    I wonder who will come searching for it?
     
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  20. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Shetland
    U.S.S. Ranger NCC-2254
    Delmon Freight Route, Sector 16060



    “What am I looking at, Hamid?” Xanthe Palmer asked from the bridge of the Ranger, her hands on her hips as she stared at the feed from her security team leaders’ optical sensors.

    “Proof of a rumour, Captain,” she replied over the commlink. “It’s a cargo container designed to be impervious to all scans—I suspect due to the material it’s made of, though can’t say with any certainty seeing as how my tricorder doesn’t register a thing.”

    “Nothing at all?”

    Hamid lowered her head and showed the readout of the scanner. “I’ve run all the scans I can on this, but none of them have detected it. I’m not even getting a proximity alert.” She demonstrated by holding the tricorder just centimetres from the container, it continued to hum and whir as though nothing was there.

    “Fascinating,” Palmer muttered to herself. “I’ll get a set of pattern enhancers sent over with the repair team, I’d prefer to have that in our hold before we begin any sort of examination.”

    “Are we really wasting time with rumours?” spat out De Souza, speaking up for the first time since she’d come to the bridge.

    She fixed him with a look, taking a calming breath and counting to ten in her head, reminding herself that she’d made the choice of trying to help out another officer, give him the chance and opportunity similar to the one she’d been given. De Souza however wasn’t making that easy, she was beginning to see why there were so many black marks against his service record.

    “Let’s just hear it out, then we can see if there’s any merit to them,” she counselled him, her tone patient. He crossed his arms and snorted, reminding her of an annoyed teenager.

    “Hamid, care to explain how this is linked to smuggling?” she said into the open channel.

    “Of course, sir. If cutters pick up two ships stopped on or near shipping lanes, or in systems they have no need to be in, our first instinct would be they were passing smuggled, black market, or other illegal goods. One way around that is to set up dead drops, where one party leaves their cargo on a planet, moon or asteroid, for someone else to come along and pick it up later—though this again could be detected due to unusual ship movements.”

    “But if they leave containers no one can detect floating in space then we’d be none the wiser,” she concluded.

    “Exactly. Rumours about these sort of smuggling methods have been doing the rounds for a few years, though I’ve never heard of any container ever being found—since they’re sensor reflective, don’t have a power source and send out no sort of EM or subspace emissions, then we have no way to track them.”

    “A low-tech version of a cloaking device.”

    “Essentially.”

    “I’m impressed, Petty Officer.”

    “Thank you, sir. I know a number of security chief’s who’ve been trying to find any evidence of these ‘ghost containers’ for a while now.”

    “Sounds like you’re going to be very popular in select circles for this discovery.”

    Hamid chuckled. “I already am, Captain.”

    Palmer smiled to herself. “I don’t doubt it. Finish up your damage assessments. Once the pattern enhancers arrive, I want you to see about transferring that container to the Ranger.”

    “Understood.”

    She tapped a control to mute her transmission and turned to operations. “Ensign Gauthier make sure the repair team have a set of pattern enhancers with them,” she instructed before locking eyes with De Souza again. “Lieutenant, I need to speak with you in private. Mr Bouwman, you can the con.”

    “Aye sir,” the tactical officer replied.

    She stepped into the lift and waited for the second officer to join her, which took a few seconds longer than she would’ve expected, then ordered it down a level. The silence between them was oppressive. Stepping off the lift, she crossed the corridor and stepped into the compact space that was her ready room. She forewent the desk and chairs, opting to stay standing as De Souza entered behind her and the doors closed, giving them some privacy.

    “Lieutenant, I need to know what the problem is.”

    “No problem, Lieutenant Commander.”

    “Really, because every time I step onto the bridge you can’t wait to get out of there, and comments like that aren’t productive for junior officers or non-coms to hear. So I need to know, right now, if there is any issue that we can resolve to help with the smooth running of this ship.”

    De Souza scoffed and shook his head. “You really believe that?”

    Palmer felt her hackles rise but refused to take the bait. “I do.”

    “No wonder you abandoned the Fleet, with prattle like that they’d never let you command a starship.”

    “You are on very thin ice, Lieutenant.”

    “My apologies, Lieutenant Commander,” he said in the least apologetic tone she’d heard.

    “Mr De Souza, I took a chance with even having you on this ship, let alone as her second officer, but if you cannot conduct yourself in a manner befitting that position then you won’t last for very long.”

    “Suits me just fine.”

    She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Where most other officers would have stepped up and welcomed the opportunity, she’d chosen a man who didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Shooting himself in the foot like this would make it highly unlikely (if not downright impossible) for him to be anything more than a lieutenant, bounced from posting to posting when his shipmates had had enough of him. Her attempt to do some good seemed to have failed before it had even gotten off the ground.

    “Lieutenant, effective immediately I am relieving you of duty. Dismissed.”

    He gave a mock salute. “Aye-aye Lieutenant Commander.”

    She watched his storm out. As soon as she was alone she slumped onto the edge of her desk, her head lulling forward as she massaged the tight muscles at the base of her skull. Who would’ve guessed I’d have so royally screwed things up even before I set a foot on this ship? she berated herself.

    “Bridge to Palmer.”

    “What have I screwed up now?” she asked the empty room before hitting the intercom. “Go ahead.”

    “Sir, Corpsman Vaal is beaming to sickbay with Captain Zott.”

    Her head snapped up and she pushed herself off the desk. “What’s happened?”

    “Vaal reported the freighter captain was suffering from possible cracked ribs and a collapsed lung.”

    “Understood. Keep me apprised of any further developments from the away team, I’m heading to sickbay.”

    Leaving her spartan office, she crossed back to the turbolift and rode it down two more levels, emerging onto deck four she hurried towards the medical section. Though she didn’t want anything to happen to Zott, she was glad to have something else to focus her attention on instead of dwelling on De Souza.

    Entering sickbay she stopped just inside the doorway, not wanting to get in the way. Zott was lying on the biobed in the middle of the ward as Vaal and medtech Chandra worked on the distressed looking Bolian.

    “Detecting three cracked ribs on his right side and a definite pneumothorax,” Chandra stated as she ran the tricorder over the patient. “No other internal injuries.”

    “You’re very lucky, Captain Zott, much longer and this would be far worse,” Vaal said, in the tone of disapproval only medical professionals seemed to be capable of. He looked at his assistant. “Get him ready.”

    As Chandra opened up Zott’s coveralls and cut open his t-shirt underneath, Vaal nipped into the equipment store and returned a moment later with an additional tray of items. Palmer watched in quiet fascination as he set the tray down and picked up a long needle whilst the technician applied an antiseptic numbing agent to the right side of Zott’s chest.

    “I’m afraid, this has to be done the old-fashioned way, Captain, once I’ve relived the pressure on your lung you should start to feel a lot better.”

    Zott’s eyes were wide as he looked at the needle, his already unhealthy pallor becoming even paler.

    “Just relax, this will be all done in a few seconds,” reassured the corpsman.

    He placed his fingers on Zott’s chest and began to feel for the man’s ribs, applying enough pressure to identify them though not enough to cause any further damage to his cracked ribcage. He found the point he was looking for and held the needle above it. In one quick, smooth motion, he plunged the thin piece of archaic apparatus into the freighter captain’s chest, going in a few centimetres. The result was almost immediate, with Zott wincing and drawing a breath, this time without any coughing.

    No one looked more surprised than the patient himself. He stared at the needle in his chest and then up at the Rigellian. “Much better,” he wheezed with a weak smile.

    “I did tell you, Captain,” he replied with a grin. “Chandra, get a full chest imaging scan.”

    As the medic nodded, Vaal glanced over at Palmer. He stepped away from the biobed and over to her. “Captain,” he greeted her.

    “Nicely done, Corpsman.”

    “There are some things where the hands-on approach works best.”

    “His prognosis?”

    “He should be fine, so long as his rids aren’t too badly damaged. I don’t think he’ll need surgery; we can stimulate faster bone growth and provide him with painkillers, but anything more than that and he’ll need a proper doctor and a star station infirmary.”

    She let out a sigh. “I’m sure he’ll be just fine under your care, Mr Vaal.”

    “Thank you, sir.”

    “Can I just check on him for a second?”

    “Sure, just don’t get him riled up.”

    Palmer nodded and moved over to the bed, where Chandra was setting up a scanning cradle over the Bolian’s torso. He saw her approach and smiled, which she returned.

    “Captain Palmer, it’s good to finally meet you in person.”

    “Likewise, Captain Zott.” She looked at her medical staff then back down at him. “Now, you just listen to the experts and when you’re back on your feet then we might have a few answers for you.”

    “From what I’ve seen so far, I’m sure you and your crew will. Thank you.”

    She patted his shoulder, before stepped away from the bed and leaving Vaal and Chandra to work. Retracing her steps, she left sickbay and headed back for the turbolift, her head spinning. Before she was out of view of the sickbay entrance, she stopped and looked back at the double doors.

    How could I choose someone so wrong one moment and someone so right the next? she asked herself. When she’d selected her senior medic, she’d gone with her gut, something she had found herself relying on for most of her crew choices—all of whom seemed to be paying off so far—but De Souza had been more of a conscious effort. She’d been misguided enough to think that she could help someone with more issues than she clearly knew how to deal with. Granted, she hadn’t been able to spend a lot of time with the second officer, partly due to the new burdens that came with command taking up more time than she’d expected, but also due to the fact that the man practically ran away from her anytime she drew near.

    She shook her head to clear her thoughts. Right now, they had more immediate issues to focus on: get the Astral Pioneer repaired and unravel an illegal operation that, up until now, was nothing but a rumour. Her own failings could wait.

    * * * * *
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2020 at 7:26 AM
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