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Snapping awake with a painful groan, Lt. Cmdr. Geoffrey Teller tried to re-orientate himself inside the darkened runabout. With no internal illumination and only faint starlight filtering through the viewports, the scene slowly resolved as he tried, and failed, to stand. The runabouts emergency restraints had engaged at some point and, he realized as a loose padd drifted past in zero g and clattered against a dead console, were the only things keeping him from floating freely around the cabin. Something had gone terribly wrong. With a deep breath of air that was already tasting stale, Geoff tried to clear his throat but ended up setting off a series of wracking coughs. “Report...Tomlinson...J’shon…” his words came out as a rasp and elicited no answer. After a few moments, it became clear why. Both officers, strapped to their chairs and still at their stations, weren’t moving. From where he was, Teller couldn’t tell if they were unconscious or...something worse. “Oh, Geoffrey. Did you hurt yourself playing again?” A woman's warm, lilting voice seemed to fill the cabin. Teller’s eyes went wide as they focused on the impossible sight on the viewscreen. Too shocked to be afraid and too confused for anything cogent, he only managed to croak out a single word. “M...mom?” For a moment, he was again seven years old, having skinned his knee after failing to climb the large oak tree near their home. It had been a childish bet with his older sister, whose longer limbs and superior coordination meant she had been climbing the tree successfully for several years already. Never one to back down from a challenge, even at that age, Geoff had made it halfway up before losing his grip and sliding back down, painfully scraping his skin. His mother had been watching the proceedings from a nearby picnic blanket and had rushed over with kind words and a small civilian dermal regenerator. That had been more than twenty years ago, before he’d joined Starfleet, and before his parents had been lost. Somehow, that thought helped ground his thinking. The face on the screen remained placid and calm, the picture of maternal compassion. “But...you died. Years ago….your ship…” He was cut off by a very familiar and very maternal clucking. “Oh, don’t worry yourself about that, Geoffy,” The voice, and the face, were perfect. Every inflection, every mannerism, even the way she brushed her hair to one side were exactly as his mother, June, had behaved. “I’m here now, don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” Teller felt himself slump back in the runabouts chair as globes of moisture floated away from his eyes. Nothing about this made sense and, in the back of his mind, Geoff began giving serious consideration to the possibility that he was critically injured and just imagining the whole thing. He tried to turn his attention back to the inert console in front of him. There had to be a way to get some power back on. After several failed attempts to bring systems online, Teller thumped his fist against the uncaring composite as the voice gently chided him. “Geoffrey, what did I tell you about letting your frustrations distract you?” His mother had crossed her arms and pursed her lips. She was clearly expecting him to respond. “You’re not real...you’re not real...this is just some kind of...weird brain injury...I need to get back to the ship…” Teller tried to ignore the voice as he struggled with the seat restraints. “Oh, Geoffy, I wouldn’t do….” The warning came a moment too late as he successfully released the restraints and was nearly catapulted into the ceiling. He flailed without purchase for a few moments before colliding with the roof of the cabin. “...that.” “Well if I didn’t have a head wound before…” Teller rubbed his skull and inspected the cabin as his mother's face looked on, concerned. Finding a grip, he rotated and pushed off towards the inert form of Lt. Tomlinson, their helmsman. Without a tricorder he couldn’t tell much, but at least she was still breathing. He pulled the emergency aid kit from beneath a console but found the equipment inside as inert as the rest of the runabout. Whatever hit them seemed to have a devastating effect on all their technology. Geoff spoke aloud, mostly so he could hear something other than his own breathing in the increasingly claustrophobic interior. “That’s alright, Tomlinson...you just take it easy...I’ll get us sorted….That’s a Good Job Guarantee…” Geoff tried to work some hope or vigor into his voice but found it lacked for both. His assurance didn’t impress his other audience either. “Are you still using that ridiculous catchphrase, Geoffrey?” With a smirk, his mother seemed to be needling him slightly, as she so often did when she was alive. Teller ground his teeth in irritation. “Look, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but if you can help, now’s the time. I’ve got two injured crewmen here. I’m not sure how long we were out, but the air recyclers aren’t running and what’s in the compartment won’t last. If you can’t help, kindly shut up and go haunt someone else, I’m busy.” “Geoffrey John Teller, that is no way to speak to your mother!” The image on the screen looked genuinely hurt and, on some emotional level, Teller felt a very real pang of guilt. He turned, sheepishly, to face it. “Uh...sorry…it’s just...I’m not sure what to do right now. I’m not sure what you want...hell, I’m not even sure any of this is real. For all I know, you could be a symptom of hypoxia and I’m just blathering to myself in a broken ship.” Oddly, this admission actually helped Teller calm his racing mind slightly. On screen, his mother was the very picture of maternal concern. “It’s alright, Geoffrey, it’s alright. I’m here for the same reason as always - my son needed me. Now,” the woman clapped her hands before interlacing her fingers and cracking her knuckles loudly, a habit that had always turned young Teller’s stomach, “you, young man, have to start thinking. I bet you can find something in that spaceship of yours to take apart. Just like you took apart everything in the house. Hopefully this time there won’t be as many parts left over when you put it back together.” Geoff was again transported back to childhood, sitting on a kitchen stool and being scolded by his mother for his antics while behind her, his father painstakingly reassembled the home replicator while trying not to grin too openly. “The replicator…” With a flash of inspiration, Teller pushed off the console and floated towards the runabouts small replicator. Like everything else aboard the system was dormant, but Teller was unconcerned. The model on the runabout had a small shielded power cell for emergencies, and while it seemed like the rest of the system's delicate electronics had been destroyed, the power cell itself appeared intact. There was no external indicator and no way to check the remaining charge but it was something. He hoped. “Oh, and what do you intend to do with that, Geoffrey?” By the gentle, suggestive tone in her voice, Teller realized it wasn’t really a question. It was as if an infant had just brought her a light pen, and she was encouraging them to find something to draw upon. There was something obvious he was missing, and his head was beginning to throb. The cabin's air was growing worryingly thin as he exerted himself. He considered the questionable power cell, and the small metal tube he was trapped inside. There were dozens of redundancies, backups, failsafes and emergency systems, but somehow nearly all of them had been rendered useless by this calamity. He wasn’t going to repair the ship with what he had on hand...or with the time he had left. “Remember, Geoffrey, it’s always ok to ask for help when you need it.” Once again, his mother seemed to be prompting him, but it was getting harder and harder to concentrate. The cabin, already darkened, was growing more clouded by the minute. Tugging at the collar of his uniform tunic, his hand brushed against his comm badge and the edge of an idea pushed in against the haze. Removing the communicator from his tunic and disassembling it with shaking hands, Teller could see that whatever had damaged the ship had wrought its destruction on the fragile components inside the communicator. The only element that still seemed intact was the micro-crystalline subspace antenna, a hearty mesh fused with the outer casing of the communicator itself. “That’s my clever boy...but you’ll have to hurry. We don’t have much time left.” There was an unmistakable tone of urgency in her voice and, as the air continued to sour, Teller was certain why. At best he had minutes until he blacked out. Teller let the useless bits of the comm badge drift away in the cabin as he gripped the precious antenna in his teeth. He needed both hands to pry the end cap off his reclaimed power cell, leaving only the exposed power leads. If he was quick, he could tap the housing with the antenna against the leads without destroying it, giving him a brief and very weak subspace pulse. On his first attempt, he forgot the basics of electricity and shocked himself badly, eliciting a loud and colorful expletive. “Geoffrey, language! You’d think I raised a klingon with that mouth of yours!” His mother's chastisement was entirely genuine and he felt his cheeks flush in embarrassment. “Sorry mom.” He no longer cared who or what was on the screen, too fixated on what he was doing to give it another moment's thought. Pulling off his uniform jacket, he wrapped the sleeve around his hand several times to provide whatever insulation it could, and then began laboriously tapping the comm badge against the leads. He could see a small electrical arc lighting up the cabin, which gave him some hope that his call was going out. Short Tap short tap short tap….oO Please hear me. Oo Long Tap. Long Tap. Long Tap. oO I need help. Oo Short Tap short tap short tap...oO Or we’re so screwed. Oo “See Geoffrey, I told you everything would be alright. Now just you rest for a bit and when you wake up, I promise everything will be ok.” The voice was dreamy and far away, but Geoff felt reassured and calmed, as he always had when his mother tucked him in. She began gently humming a wordless lullaby from the furthest corners of his memory, filling his chest with warmth even as the rest of him grew cold. His eyes grew heavier and heavier. His hands still worked, continuing the sequence of taps against the leads, not even noticing the electrical arcs had all but disappeared. Eventually, his hands stopped and his eyes closed, and Geoffrey Teller drifted towards the darkness, comfortably aloft on the sound of his mother's voice. === “Sir...sir! Sir are you alright? Commander Teller, sir, can you hear me?” Snapping awake with a painful groan, Lt. Cmdr. Geoffrey Teller tried to re-orientate himself, expecting to find the inside of a darkened runabout. Instead, he was nearly blinded by bright searchlights directed at him. His mind felt sluggish and confused, but he could fill his lungs again and the air had rarely tasted sweeter. “Mom…?” Squinting against the harsh light, Teller’s eyes were able to focus on the startled officer inside the environmental suit. It took him an overlong moment to work out that they were being rescued. It had worked. “He’s alive! They’re all alive, sir. Advise sickbay to standby for emergency transport.” As the officer passed along an update back to the Thor, Teller blinked and turned his attention back towards the view screen. It was blank and inert, like everything else aboard the runabout, but Teller could see the bits of communicator he had cannibalized floating nearby, bouncing harmlessly off the display. “God damn sir, I don’t know how you pulled this one off….we barely picked up your signal…” Teller blinked again and realized the lieutenant was speaking to him. A warm, kind voice echoed in his mind and he croaked out a response. “Language, Lieutenant.” Geoff smiled and closed his eyes once more before the transporter beam took hold and brought him home. The wordless lullaby went with him. [End] =============================== Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Teller Executive Officer USS Thor Fleet Captain A. Kells, Commanding V239509GT0