<USS Banshee> "Sands from a Farther Shore" Chp. 3
- From: "Brad Ruder" <groundzero@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- To: ussbanshee@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 16:51:51 -0700
“Sands from a Farther Shore” – Chapter Three
by Lieutenant Commander Joshua Asper
His eyes opened slowly and the world around him hesitantly came into focus. His cheek was cold from the exposed deck plating below him and his body was twisted in a manner that only ancient contortionists could mimic. Searing pain ripped through his tattered limbs and a similar pain racked his head. Somehow he pulled himself to his knees, which was a feat all its own. Then he saw his superior officer laying in a corner, a large mass of flesh exposed on his chest with matching green blood to accent its gory nature.
“Medical emergency in science lab one,” Josh managed to call out as he attempted to crawl across the lab. Equipment was scattered everywhere. Exposed components sparked and sizzled in the darkened room offering nothing but flashes and microseconds of distorted vision. Nonetheless he pressed on across the floor.
The doors parted and several crew rushed in about the time Josh made it over to the mangled body of Vulcan security officer Avek. It was blatantly obvious that the man was dead – nobody’s head and neck could survive being twisted in that horrible fashion. Even in his slighted vision he could tell that the man had been shot, but by whom? It was the one solitary question that lingered in his mind as he felt the hands of the medical officers on him.
“Lieutenant Asper, can you hear me?” A blonde medical officer said as she ran a flashing wand of a tricorder over him. She said something else but all that Josh saw was her moving mouth and a mass of jumbled words.
To the answer of the one thing he’d heard from her: of course he could, but his ability to respond with anything more than grunts or groans was beyond him. The pain was almost overwhelming, but he’d accomplished what he’d wanted to accomplish. Avek had gotten medical attention albeit too later to really matter. With another blink his vision began to diminish again and he knew he was slipping from consciousness again.
This time, he let it come.
His body shook.
“Lieutenant Joshua Asper, wake up.”
A heavenly voice transcended the darkness he found himself in. His eyes fluttered open and he shot straight up in confusion. He didn’t where he was – all of the surroundings were completely new to him. From left to right his head went back and forth taking in the room and its contents. Tricorders, biobeds, random medical personnel, and vials of all shapes and colors were all that he saw. It was a bit much for his bruised body and his confused mind to take in.
“Calm down, Lieutenant, calm down. You’re in sickbay.”
He lay back down and his hand went instinctively to his head. “What the hell happened?” He felt a patch on his head where it was obvious that dermal regeneration had taken place. His other arm, which sat almost dead at his side, tingled with the sensation of recent osteo-stimulation. He had been through proverbial hell and back and he felt it.
“We were on a routine patrol of a nebula-like phenomena. It was ribbon in form, but it had the constant pockets of nebular gases and matter,” the medical officer said, she obvious knew her science and mission logs by heart, “and then it shifted in polarity and we were stuck with a mass of nebular matter.”
Josh smirked, “that would explain the mild
“Mild, yes,” she said as she chuckled slightly at his joke, “We spun out of control for a while until helm got the inertial dampers and the navigational stabilizers back online. Then we leveled out and moved away.” She closed her tricorder and sat it on the crash cart next to her and Josh watched a young nurse wheel it away to be restocked.
“How many casualties?”
“Who?” In a crew of twenty, four was twenty percent of the crew. The ship was designed to work with a set staff of only twelve, but four would definitely damage their productivity and morale was really going to suffer. “I’m assuming that Lieutenant Avek didn’t make it. I saw his body in the science lab before I blacked out and it was pretty bad.”
The blonde sat on the bed next to him. She had an awesome bedside manner and he wondered if it was going to include a date later or drinks in the ship’s sorry excuse for a lounge. “You’re correct, Lieutenant Avek didn’t make it. Either did Commander Caston. Engineering also lost two assistants, but they are managing given the loss.”
“How’d did the bridge do?”
“They turned out all right with the exception of Caston. He took a falling beam between the shoulder blades and that was that. No medical feat of ingenuity or marvel of modern day science could’ve saved him. I guess when it’s your time it’s your time, right?” She smiled again and put a hand on his leg, “I’ll let you rest and the Captain wishes to speak with you when you feel better.”
Josh smiled and nodded, “of course.”
“Ensign Valdes will escort you.”
He sat up and stared at his friend who wasn’t being friendly in the least. His gaze was steady and his phaser was holstered at his side. With his hands clasped behind his back Josh knew what was going on. Something wasn’t right. “Jorge? What’s going on?”
“Are you ready to go now?”
“Jorge, what the hell is going on?!”
“I can’t talk about it. My job is to escort you to the ready room where you are to speak with Captain Lavette about the occurrence in the science lab.” He stepped slightly to the left and motioned towards the doors of sickbay. This was serious and Jorge was going to follow his orders to the tee – Josh would’ve have done the same in his position. “Are you ready, Josh?”
It hit him. “They think I did it, don’t they?”
“They think that I went to the security lab and killed Lieutenant Avek! That’s what the Captain thinks! What the hell?! I’ve been involved with the crew for how long, Jorge?” Asper swung his feet over the side of the bed and stood up. “How long, Jorge?”
Jorge sighed in defeat, “since we launched, Josh, since we launched.”
Josh smiled through his anger, his eyes narrowing on Jorge. He was determined to make his point and show the faults of the arguments against him, “and in that time, Jorge, how many times have I been disruptive, insubordinate, rude, mean, prejudice, whatever. How many times has my integrity been called into question?”
“That doesn’t matter, Josh, the Captain wants to talk to you and I can’t do anything. Now, you follow me there or we’ll take you to the brig and the Captain can make the trip there. However, for your ‘integrity’s’ sake I would suggest just coming with me.” Again, Jorge made a gesture towards the room’s exit.
Running a hand through his disheveled hair, Josh nodded and slid off the bed. Without another word, Josh walked into the corridor and down towards the turbolift that was all of three paces away. As a matter of specifics, sickbay was the only thing on the deck. Within moments Josh found himself trudging across the small bridge to the even smaller ready room. If a music was playing it would’ve been somber and something along the lines of ‘dead man walking’. Nervously, he tapped the chime.
“Come on,” the woman’s voice almost cooed. She was standing poised behind her desk with a cup of something in her hand – Josh assumed tea of some sort. Her eyes were locked on him and a somber _expression_ crossed her face. This wasn’t going to pleasant for her or for him. “Please sit, Lieutenant.”
“Captain, I didn’t…”
“Sit down,” her words were harsher than his were with Jorge, “Lieutenant.”
This time he did what she asked without contradiction. His hands shook unsteadily and his knee, upon reflex, bounced up and down with his labored breathing. He was scared out of his mind about his career. He’d been in Starfleet for less than a year. Somehow he felt sick to his stomach at the possibility of losing his career and, subsequently, his mind.
“What happened, Lieutenant?”
Josh launched into the story of the training simulation, the red alert, and then reporting to the security offices. Conveying the exact details of when Avek left the bridge was a bit difficult as the rest of the story had happened so fast from that point – a likely story as far as the Captain was concerned, he was sure. “I walked into the science lab, as ordered, and he was laying in a heap on the deck with a phaser wound. Shortly thereafter, before I had a chance to reach him, the ship went to hell and I blacked out.”
Tandia Lavette nodded absently as if she hadn’t been paying attention. In Josh’s eyes she’d already made up her mind, but the standard procedures had to be followed. “We found your phaser in the science lab…”
“Of course it was! I was there, remember?”
“…and while it hadn’t been fired your hand had been on it. I was under the impression you were in hand-to-hand combat with Ensign Valdes and weren’t required of a weapon, is that correct?” She leaned forward on her desk trying to look intimidating, but Josh had seen her in too many non-threatening positions.
He was stumped. Josh tried to grapple with an answer; a plausible answer didn’t seem to come to him. For the most part he didn’t remember holstering his weapon upon returning to the security offices, but he might have considering it was standard procedure for security officers during the heightened stature of the ship. He must have retrieved it from the armory and forgotten about it. “It’s standard procedure, Captain, but if it wasn’t fired…”
The Captain cut him off, “there was plenty enough time for someone to reset the power back and dispose of the evidence. Surprisingly, your power pack was absent. Avek was a capable officer and a hell of an advisor. His loss is a detriment to this ship as well as Starfleet in general. You were the last one to have contact with him before he left the bridge. Combined with the fact of your weapon’s status I have no option but to place you in solitary confinement for the remainder of our mission.”
He bolted to his feet, “That’s eight months!”
“You leave me no choice, Lieutenant, you’re a danger to this crew.”
“Like hell I am! I was the one who called for medical assistance! I was the one who tried everything to save him! What makes you think I’m even capable of killing him? In addition, what’s my motive?” Josh was enraged and his whitening knuckles on the desk’s surface was an obvious sign of it.
Lavette nodded to Jorge, “Solitary, Ensign.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
Jorge grabbed him from behind and pulled his arms back so they weren’t a threat to anyone. Josh struggled with him and fought, but Valdes had a better physique and muscular build than Josh. Speed, he cursed himself, couldn’t get him out of every situation. “Come on, Josh, let’s go. I’m sorry about this, but it’s for the good of the crew.”
“We’ll save the court-martial until we return to Earth, Lieutenant.”
The most embarrassing moment was being dragged across the bridge in disgrace. People looked up from their console and he could see their internal monologues running rampant about him. What he’d done, where’d he’d gotten the idea, and just how he perfected his master plan. It wasn’t him. It wasn’t who he was, but that didn’t stop them from speculating about it. Getting shoved into the turbolift he looked at the tactical console.
Their eyes met.
The doors shut on Josh’s career. The doors shut on his life as a free man. His life as a security officer ended with the swishing doors. An ultimate dread settled upon him as Valdes called out the deck number and the turbolift shuddered to life. Sliding against the wall to a seated position, Josh cradled his head in his hands and tried to take in what was going on.
Lieutenant Matthew Kennemer just shook his head and smiled.
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