Enter Ron and Jessica...
En route to the nebula
Authors: Captain Alenis Meru, Lieutenant Brad Silverton, Ensign Ronald Roberts, Ensign Jessica White (played by Ronald Roberts), Nurse Maria Hill (played by Alenis Meru)
En route to the nebula, Captain Alenis was on the bridge, dividing her attention between status reports and the PADD she was reading. She wanted to know everything she could about the dark energy reactor, and giving the senior staff some time to rest and study, she had brought the B-team aboard -- junior officers and enlisted crewmen -- to run the ship while en route.
"Captain, I'm detecting a faint distress signal, two six three mark seventeen," called out one of the operations crewmen. "Federation in origin, looks to be from a shuttlecraft."
"Let's hear it," replied Alenis, putting down her PADD.
The signal was automated, the broadcasters having given up days ago on actually having interaction with any other vessel. With the odds calculated at millions to one of ever hailing another ship they had put together a quick recording and left it to broadcast on it's own. They certainly had more important matters to attend to on the shuttle than running a radio station. A female voice spoke as follows: “This is ensigns Jessica White and Ronald Roberts of the USS Forefront. Our ship was attacked along with the Nova Europa colony by the Borg. We are all that is left of the crew. If you find us dead, get those bastards.” A quick blip of the screen and then: “This is ensigns...” The signal repeated itself.
Ensign Sulek, who was manning the Tactical Station, took a look at the readings of the domm signal, "Captain, it is an automated distress beacon. It is strongly advised that if we must approach, we raise our shields and prepare for a trap," he said with the famous Vulcan charm.
"It's not like the Borg to engage in that sort of trickery," replied Alenis. "But those are appropriate precautions regardless. How long will it take to divert course and pick them up?" asked Alenis. Their mission was important, but she also couldn't leave a ship in distress floating around in space.
The Vulcan tactical officer took a look at the signal and mentally calculated a course. "Captain, it would take ten minutes at maximum warp to reach the distress beacon from our current location."
"Alter course," replied Alenis.
"Aye, ma'am, altering course to intercept." Ensign Holloway replied from the helm station in her rich Yorkshire accent.
Meanwhile, on a shuttle adrift in space with no hope whatsoever of ever being found...
“Ow,” Ron shouted as he grasped his shoulder tightly, nursing it after the surprisingly powerful punch he had just received from Jessica.
“Don't you ever say something like that again, Ron. Ever.” Jess glared at Ron in a way she had never done before. He could tell she was genuinely hurt.
He sighed as he peered out of the shuttle's viewport towards no particular point. “Sorry, deah.” It certainly may not have been the best of timing but Ron had thought it to be a moment of honesty when he said that the Borg where rather beautiful to him. It was his first time they had actually encountered them, and though they had barely escaped with their lives, losing the rest of the crew and the ship as they escaped, Ron couldn't help but comment on the conjured emotions he felt when he first laid eyes on the Borg sphere that had no doubt come to have them join the collective.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence Jessica broke it with a humorous comment, trying to lighten up what could be there last moments together. “Should have grabbed the beers,” she said with a playful grin.
“Dead and gone,” he said about their precious beverages. “Just like everyone else,” Ron replied before turning his sights back to Jess. “Just like us.”
“Don't make me hit you again, Ron,” she continued in her upbeat tone. “We're going to be fine.”
“I don't know what you mean by 'fine' but life support is sputtering out and most of our systems are non-functional. We'll be lucky if our distress beacon even reaches anyone's ears and the dilithium reserve is just about gone. No, Jess. We're screwed.”
Jess's face saddened a bit. She knew he was right. “Dying cold and stranded in the darkness of space. Just like the song,” she said with a half-hearted smirk. “I always thought we'd go out with a bang,” she spoke, trailing off towards the end as a mischievous grin crossed her face. “Maybe we can, though. You know. Go out with a bang?”
“What do you mean,” Ron questioned as he tried to read her expression. “Go out with a,” he grinned widely at her with sudden realization. “Bang.”
They were the best of buds and where they to describe it in an honest (and obviously cheesy) way 'love' would be one of the first words to come to mind. They were practically inseparable as friends but had never been able to synch up emotionally beyond that, at least not in Ron's eyes. Their physical interfaces, however, were very compatible.
“Well, it has been a while. I suppose if we've got the time,” Ron spoke in jest as he pretended to look around for more pressing matters. “I don't suppose there'll be any interruptions...”
A private and exhilarating ten minutes later...
As the Portland dropped out of warp, a severely damaged shuttle appeared on screen. Alenis stared at it for a second, examining the damage. Plasma beam burns, gashes in the external plating, and a sputtering plasma leak made her wonder if anyone could have survived in the tumbling shuttlecraft for so long. "Hail them," she called out.
The Vulcan at Tactical attempted to hail the damaged shuttles, to no response. "Captain, there is no response. I have been broadcasting in all known languages."
"Scan for lifesigns," added Alenis, hoping that there was someone still alive. She didn't want to have diverted course for a simple repeating distress beacon.
Sulek activated the sensors from his tactical console and scanned the ship. "Captain, I am reading two lifeforms aboard the shuttle."
"Signal the good doctor; prepare to bring them aboard." Alenis paused for a moment. "Beam them directly to sickbay and then resume our previous course. Ensign Sulek, you have the conn. I'm going down to sickbay to welcome our guests aboard."
The Vulcan nodded as another junior officer replaced him at tactical. Sulek calmly sat in the Captain's chair, then pressed the comm button on the armrest. In a voice that was meant to be matter-of-fact but came out more condescending, Sulek said, "Bridge to Sickbay, make preparations for two sentients who will be arriving soon."
Sickbay, USS Portland
Brad responded to the bridge's hail. "Understood captain. We're ready."
As the two castaways began to materialize in the sickbay of the USS Portland their caught-off-guard conversation began to form along with their bodies. “Well that feels different... Wait! What's?”
Two bare bodies laying on the pristine floor of a ship's sickbay. It was certainly not an unheard of event, but these two were laid out in a way that would make a Deltan blush. They both quickly scrambled to their feet and spared no time in an attempting modesty, covering the questionable portions of their bodies as these new onlookers stood before them.
Surprise and excitement quickly formed on their faces as Starfleet attire and equipment filled their eyes. Ron wasted no time in addressing the most important request that had instantly come to his mind. “I'm gonna need my arm, if that's not too much trouble!” It was immediately obvious what he meant. Where a right appendage would have been there was a large section of the shoulder missing with an implanted apparatus to attach his mechanical arm.
Brad was trying to balance patience with understanding and urgency with the surprised patients in his sickbay. "We'll get your prosthesis back in place once we've examined you. You two have been on minimal failing life support and we need to make sure there is no damage." Brad was attempting to attend to Ron while Nurse Maria Hill was attending to Jess.
“Right, probably not a bad idea,” Ron answered with a nod. “Just make sure your transporter operator grabs that arm. The rest of the ship may be junked, but that thing is gold.” It would have seemed strange, but the arm in question seemed more important to Ron than the more immediate issues he was facing; Spending multiple days with a puncture wound to the chest and a failed lung. And those damn rations! Those where probably the worst thing of all for his and Jessica's well being.
Jessica, on the other hand, was being more than cooperative and obviously understood that their health should be their primary concern. Most of all she was relieved to finally have another person to talk to after all the death they had just experienced and the frustrations to follow with Ron. “You don't know how glad I am to see you,” she said to the nurse tending to her as if she had known the woman for years.
"I can imagine," replied Maria as she scanned Jessica, making sure there was nothing more serious than a few scrapes and bruises. "Whatever you went through, you're safe now, in the sickbay of the USS Portland."
Brad motioned Ron over to the emergency biobed centered in the room. "It doesn't look critical but I don't want to take chances. Tell me what happened."
“I'm not sure you'd believe me if I told you,” Ron spoke with a subdued tone as he sat on the biobed, thinking about the particular necessities of his method of escape. “But here it goes anyway. Long and the short of it is we were attacked by the Borg and they were going to make quick work of us, so I decided to do my best to convince them that their job had been done in record time. I busted my one flesh and blood lung and made myself unconscious for long enough to hopefully get the Borg off our backs. It seemed to work rather well. I,” he interrupted himself, a sullen look forming on his face. He'd let Jessica explain how he had helped her feign death. “We're just glad to be alive right now, I think.”
"Clever," replied Maria as she grabbed a vascular regenerator to take care of Jessica's bruises. "Faking death so the Borg wouldn't bother trying to assimilate your shuttle. But how did you stop them from detecting Jessica's lifesigns?"
“I... Well... You see, there wasn't much of a-”
“Ronnie aided me in a precisely timed constriction of my airwaves,” Jessica interrupted, her tone calm as though to defend his actions as she spoke them. It was still a sore subject, literally and figuratively for her, but she did not want to see her friend in any trouble. Not for saving their lives. “After that he resuscitated me and was sure to confirm I was in perfect working order. He didn't even check his wound until after I was revived,” she finished with a small smile of gratitude in Ron's direction.
The face that stared back at her did not respond in kind. It was sullen and quiet, as though to attempt to say 'sorry' in every way but verbally. Ron quietly awaited the verdict from the medical staff around him. He was certain his actions would be seen as brash and dangerous.
The room went quiet as Maria held a medical tricorder up to Jessica's neck for a moment. "There's no lasting damage to her airways, doctor."
"Everything I am seeing here isn't critical either." Brad looked up from his medical scanner and cleared his throat loudly. "Perhaps its best to let our patients get dressed. There is a replicator in the back room over there. Come out when you are ready and we'll do a more thorough exam."
“Where are our manners, Jessica,” Ron all but blurted out at the chance to change the subject. He hopped up off the biobed and made his way to the replicator. “I suppose now that our future is more certain we can make ourselves comfortable.”
“Right,” Jess exclaimed as she too jumped up with a bounce and headed straight for the replicator. It wasn't odd to be naked in a sickbay. In fact, the staff probably found it to be quite convenient that the disrobing had been done pre-arrival. However, it was probably best that the two of them redress themselves for modesty's sake if the examinations were to continue.
A few moments of shuffling and bumbling later and the two of them returned with fresh-pressed uniforms. “How do we look,” they questioned in unison. Even the pitch was perfect. It just had to be rehearsed.
"You look official." Brad said matter-of-factly. "You two seem to be in good shape all things considered. What with facing what you had to believe was the final hours of your lives." Brad spoke to them as he motioned his hand for them to return to the biobeds. "That sort of situation causes very understandable... choices to make that wouldn't normally be made. I don't think there is anything wrong with that at all. You'd be amazed at what people do when they believe their lives are about to end." It seemed rather obvious to Brad why they had been found naked and he attempted to put them at ease. He could just imagine what it would be like if he was in their situation.
The two caught-in-the-act ensigns sat back down on their assigned biobeds with a renewed vigor reserved for freshly replicated uniforms. It was certainly awkward, but the continuation of their lives had made the circumstances of their rescue seem less important. Drawing direct attention to the matter did seem to make Jess a bit bashful, however. “Well, ya know, friends do have different ways of comforting each other in their final hours I suppose,” she stated quietly making eye contact with no one.
“So what use would you have for two budding officers such as ourselves,” Ron questioned moments after Jess's response. The two had certainly given off awkward vibes but each of a different sort. Ron seemed somewhat more hurried to change the conversation as he asked for his new duties almost too eagerly.
"I'm sure the Captain will be able to find something for you to do," replied Maria as she handed Ron his arm, which had been recovered from the wrecked shuttle. "I hear Engineering could use a few hands..."
“Ha!” Ron snatched his arm eagerly and hastily attached it to the large empty portion where a shoulder would normally be. “I'd be more than happy to help. And thank goodness you got me my arm back or it would have been an odd number of hands in engineering. Not much good that would have done! Consider these hands lent!”
Capt. Alenis Meru