Literary Challenge #48 : The Long Road
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Join Date: Nov 2012
6 years ago...
08-20-2013, 07:49 PM
"Brace for impact!"
There was a brief pause after I cried that out...just long enough to hope that we'd avoid the collision.
But that hope disappeared a moment later as the deck heaved up and to the right. Metal groaned...screamed, more like it...as the rear bulkhead dissolved into a shower of blinding light.
The roar was deafening...but mercifully short. A cross between a crackle and a loud hum filled the air as the emergency force field covered the hole where the bridge's head used to be.
Sparks shot through the air from the overhead, from the edges of the bulkhead, from every computer system on the bridge. At least, I thought that's where they came from....I couldn't see clearly. I used my sleeve to wipe the sweat from my eyes...and the red command stripe near the hem doubled in width.
I looked up from the deck where I had landed, the center seat mocking me as the restraints chose that moment to deploy.
I bit down a curse, and instead croaked out, "Status?"
Sotek stood at the auxiliary engineering station. How the hell did he manage to keep upright after that collision, but still couldn't master a 3 foot swell? That Vulcan is going to drive me insane trying to figure him out...
"We have multiple hull breaches on decks 1 through 8. Port nacelle has suffered catastrophic damage... we will lose reactor containment if it backflows," Sotek calmly spoke. His hands played over the console like a master pianist, tapping controls with precision.
"God, no!" screamed Sara. "Where on 8? Damn it Sotek...is my lab in one piece?"
L'naa ran to her side, copper blood smeared across the left side of her face from a nasty gash over her eyebrow. She punched open a compartment on the bulkhead and grabbed a medkit. "Sara...hold still...you're burned...sweetie....please....hold still."
Sara didn't hear a word, and apparently felt no pain. She again screamed, "Sotek?
Sotek! My lab?!?! My lab????"
I got to my feet, wobbling a couple of times. "Casualties?"
Sotek was the master of multitasking. He looked over to ensure that Ensign Chang had manned the Secondary Damage Control station, and continued to work his console. "Captain...reports are still coming in...so far all good, but that nacelle." He frowned as he reviewed the system fault page. "There is an ninety-nine point seven percent chance we will lose containment if the plasma backflows. The backflow prevention safeguard is offline. The purge valve is damaged...." He continued to tap away. "Sara, primary life sciences lab is undamaged."
On hearing that, Sara dropped to her knees. She spent the last two months cooped up in that lab, running experiment after experiment on this odd microflora that bloomed in the Badlands. I know enough about science to know that I know *nothing* about *this* science. But she's the expert...and if she says that the last sixty days have been worth it to prevent some pathogen from spreading, or replicating, or whatever that pathogen did, I won't argue. At the very least...it's brought her and the Doc closer together.
The computer squealed when it usually would have chirped. "Bridge, Engineering. Don't cut the nacelle loose...give me some time."
Sotek studied the readings, closed his eyes, and shook his head. This was bad news.
The channel to engineering was already open, so I called out, "Arky...it's showing that we're close to a backflow. That would be bad. Cut the nacelle."
I heard the strain in his voice. "Captain...please. Just a minute. I need a minute."
"No. Cut it loose." We needed to stop the imminent threat, and I didn't want pride to get in the way. I didn't care if we had to have three tugs tow us home. I looked through the shimmering force field, amazed at how much plasma was venting from the ruptured nacelle. The green cloud was expanding fast, indicating just how much pressure was building up. "We don't have a minute...jettison it now."
"Thals is still in the port nacelle...he didn't get out of the Jefferies Tube."
I turned to L'naa, my mind going over everything we could do to delay cutting the nacelle before it would backflow. "Get Thals out of there."
Before she could respond, Ensign Chang's voice cut like a knife. "Sir...transporters are offline." He hesitated, his voice a whisper, "...and primary shuttlebay has suffered a major radiation leak. We can't get to the runabout to use it's transporter..."
The kid was sharp. I'd have to remember to ask him how he immediately came up with a solution that so many senior officers throughout Starfleet history have failed to think of when faced with a similar situation. If only we had somebody in the shuttlebay when not in an alert situation...
. I knew he was still trying to figure a way out of this horror...he and Thals played Dom-Jot every time they could snag the table away from Arky and Sara.
I gave Sotek a pleading look, hoping that he could alter the laws of nature and prevent what I had to do next. Again, he shook his head, and muttered, "Thirty seconds to backflow."
The computer squealed again. "Captain..." I could hear the desperation in Arky's voice. "Please. Give me time. Help me."
I wanted to scream out. "I can't. We...you know what has to be done."
"Damn it pinkskin...I'm begging you...just a little more time...
...do not do this!"
Sotek whispered, "Ten seconds to backflow."
I reached over Sotek's arm and punched the jettison button for the port nacelle.
!!!!!" came the rage filled scream over the intercom.
Tripler Starfleet Medical Center, Oahu.
The common room felt a bit too stuffy, and I motioned to L'naa that we should take a walk. I opened the double door and stepped outside into the Memorial Garden. The sun was setting, making the walls glow a peaceful pink. I could see off in the distance as the waves and the wind conspired to make a series of beautiful sweeping swells. L'naa and I walked over to a stone bench, sat down, and watched in silence as the skies darkened.
The click of the double doors opening made me glance over to see who was disturbing our quiet moment. It was Sotek, carefully balancing three containers on one hand.
"I thought you would be tired of the stuff they try to pass off as food ...so I took the long way here and made a few stops. Oh...and Waimea pumpin, brah."
My friend knew what buttons to push to get a grin...and what food to get that, even if I wasn't hungry, the smell of which would make me want to dig in. Shrimp from Giovanni's, Loco Moco from Tropics, and malasadas from Leonard's.
I hadn't eaten in the four days that we've been home.
But it still hurt so much that I couldn't bear to eat a single bite.
The sun was now fully set, and again the click of the double doors got our attention. Sara limped over to us, supported by Doctor Irve, sporting bandages across half her small frame, various monitors stuck to her temples and spine. Turns out that the Badlands microflora we were exposed to affected our systems, and we'd be here at the Medical Center for quite some time while we healed up. I never realized how dependent we had become on dermal regenerators...now we had to let nature heal our wounds without modern medicine.
"Mmmm....smells yummy!" Sara chirped, popping down with a wince.
Doctor Irve gave one of his patented dirty looks to Sotek for bringing in contraband food. "Look here, youngun....I've said that they're on nutritional supplement 3 Alpha until the initial wounds are closed...do you have any idea of the stress that junk is going to put on their digestive systems!" Sotek just shot him a
, knowing that it enraged the doctor. Doc tried to hide his anger, and motioned towards Sara, "Here... give me that..." he said, trying to close the container before Sara's hand grabbed another shrimp.
She scowled at him, "Mine, you! No ack!"
Before Doc could say anything else, we heard a cough from the garden entrance. Arky tried to walk normally, but the loss of his right antenna meant the loss of his normal gait until it grew back. If it could, given the problems the microflora has been causing. He didn't say a single word, but just glowered at us while he sat next to Sara.
She gave him her best smile. "Hey, blue boo. Wanna shrimpy?"
The tension went up an order of magnitude as he suddenly got up and squared off towards me. He hadn't said a word in a week...nothing while we waiting for recovery in the Badlands, nothing on the way home, and nothing since we checked into Tripler.
?," he spat out.
I couldn't look at him in the eyes. There was so much pain there.
Doc Irve came to my rescue. "You know damn well why. You know what space is. What it does. That it is *not* a forgiving place . That it is a harsh place to make a living."
"Living?!?", Arky howled. "Is that some kind of pinkskin joke? What next...are you going to tell me that 'everything is going to be alright' as well?"
Sara tried to stand, but couldn't. "Blue boo...no...c'mon..."
Arky continued, a tear running down his cheek, "Because everything is not going to be alright. I asked you for help. Begged you. Begged, damn it. And you flushed my nephew out into vacuum." He pulled a PADD from a pocket on his robe. "Here is my final report,
He threw the PADD down on the ground at my feet.
"And consider this my resignation from Starfleet," he said, grabbing his communicator and ripping it off his robe. He threw it down on the PADD with such force it cracked the surface.
He glared at Sotek, Doc, and me. Hard. "Let this be the last time I ever see any of you."
He limped off faster than he should have been able to.
Sara looked at us, mouth agape. She didn't know what to say.
L'naa took Sara's arm, helping her up. "Come on. We'll be ok. Your husband needs you."
Tears were streaming from Sara's eyes. She whispered, "Things
gonna be all right, aren't they cap'n?"
I looked down. I didn't know what to say.
A muffled tone squeaked from the speaker, indicating a priority message that automatically overwrote what was on screen.
The words were still visible through the cracked surface of the PADD:
From: Starfleet Command - Medical Division - Commander L. Varstok, Department of Disease Control
To: All hands,
Subject: Multiphasic Prion Inhibitor - Initial Success
! It appears that your hard work has paid off...the first actual trials of the inhibitor have saved the lives of at least seven very grateful patients! We can now boldly go into any area like the Badlands without fearing contagion! We will be sending the replicator patterns for this "Thalsonite" as soon as the Admiralty approves it.
This is a great day for Starfleet Medical, and it wouldn't be possible without the crew of the
Drinks are on us next time you're in port!
Last edited by masopw; 08-20-2013 at
. Reason: Typo correction, punctuation corrections.