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JP: LtJG Core and Lt Rahman: Person, Place, and Time

Sedrin Belasi

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((Intensive Care Unit, Medical Starbase 358, Four Years Ago - Late 2387))

::Silence. Pure silence.::

::Silence, of which was deafening. Though it’d been a few days without thoughts other than his own invading his privacy, it’d been excruciating. He’d only felt like this when he was a child, growing up in the world of extremely quiet minds. It was difficult to get into a Rodulan’s head, so leaving the home planet for Starfleet had been overwhelming. He’d dealt with that. Gotten used to it, even used it to his advantage. But now?::

::Not even a whisper.::

::Tristam glanced around his room, glaring at the beeping monitor, of which (he presumed) kept track of his heart rate. Hadn’t 24th century technology gotten past the need for sound confirmation? With the absence of something proper to listen in to, he could hear his heart beating in his ears. Loud thumps. Sometimes a millisecond slower or faster, the beeping was getting on his nerves. It *had* been getting on his nerves, for the last few days.::

::His mind was so foggy that he couldn’t even keep track of how many days it’d actually been. What a disaster. No telepathy, no mental ability, no physical ability . . . he might as well have been a vegetable.::

::Out of nowhere, a new sound, rivalling that of the annoying and incessant beeping of the monitor, found its way into his ears. Footsteps, on the hard floor in the corridor. It was, at least, something to distract him, compared to the lack of activities he had to actually engage himself with. Whether or not it was just a passer-byer was his main question, one which was answered quickly.::

Sampi: Good morning, lieutenant.

::Doctor Charles Sampi stepped into the room, pleased to see that Tristam was awake. The junior doctor of the Pioneer had elected to stay with the engineer on the medical starbase while he was still in a coma following the accident. For the first couple of weeks, there were some precarious nights, but gradually, the Rodulan’s brain function seemed to be improving. Whether he’d actually be able to return to duty though was still too early to say.::

Sampi: Did you get a good night’s rest?

::The Rodulan took a breath in, holding it for a few seconds before he replied.::

Core: I don’t know.

::He hadn’t even been aware that it was morning until the doctor’s mention of it. Days blurred together. He’d close his eyes one second, open them to what might have been a new day the next second. Tristam looked down, fingers doing their best to motion towards the monitor.::

Core: Sound. ::he gave a slight sigh.:: Turned on again.

Sampi: Yes. After the scare you gave us two nights ago, we felt it better to keep you on 24-hour telemetry. But if you’d like them muted…

Core: The tone could be changed. The sound it puts out. It’s . . . emitting a frequency. And it’s irritating. I-I would like it turned off . . .

::The young doctor nodded and went over to silence the monitors.::

Sampi: Of course. Unfortunately, it’s one of the cruelest ironies that it’s difficult to get proper rest in a hospital.

Core:::mumbling:: Unconscious and sleeping are two different things.

Sampi: Now, lieutenant, the nurses tell me you haven’t really been eating much.

Core: ‘M not hungry.

Sampi: Understandable, but it’s important that you continue to get proper nutrition, especially while you’re bedbound. We really don’t want you to lose too much of your muscle mass.

::Muscle mass. It’d never been important to him, never came up at any point in his life except for now. Sure, he required muscles to lift things - lifting all sorts of things - but keeping a mass whilst bed-ridden? Wasn’t exercise required for that? He didn’t even know how bad his knee was, hadn’t been willing to test it and the doctors and nurses hadn’t been willing to make him stand - assisted or on his own - let alone move that leg.::

Core: My knee. Reconstructed . . . should be moved, shouldn’t it? Therapy of some kind?

Sampi: Yes, but we have to make sure it’s safe for you to do so first. It’s only been a week since you’ve regained consciousness.

Core: It aches. All of it.

::Tristam was an engineer. He wasn’t built to deal with injuries like this - he wasn’t even fully aware of the whole list of injuries he’d received, but he knew it was bad. He was lucky to be awake right now, let alone speaking, being about to nod, move his fingers - he could probably move both his legs, he’d just been too frightened to try.::

Sampi: I can increase your pain medication if it’s still bothering you after the nurses administer your current dosages. How does that sound?

::There was a pause and a frown as he considered the doctor’s words.::

Core: I don’t like being foggy.

Sampi: All right, but let me know if you decide otherwise. Now, I’d like to go over a few questions with you, lieutenant. ::He offered a warm smile.:: I’m sure you’ve memorized them by now.

Core: Always nice to test me.

::It gave him something to do, to think about. Maybe even to come up with new creative ways to answer - though the questions were so bland, requiring the correct answer. It was difficult to come up with interesting ways to answer questions like this.::

Sampi: ::nods:: Can you tell me your name.

Core: Tristam Daniel Core.

Sampi: And where are you right now?

Core: Medical Starbase. No one’s told me the number - it’s never come up.

::He did hope, however, that the nurses had conveyed the proper information to his family. Last thing he really needed was for Gamighan to have a fit because of a nurse telling him his son had been in an accident without bothering to tell him where Tristam was now. Speaking of Gamighan, it’d be nice to have a family member around - Taywor or his dad. He’d even settle for Yanata, Taywor’s partner.::

::The doctor nodded again.::

Sampi: And what day is it?

::That was always the hard one. He glanced up at the doctor, suddenly working his mind more to come up with the correct answer to that one. When had their last conversation been? Yesterday, wasn’t it? No, because . . .

::He didn’t know. He wasn’t even aware that *weeks* had passed since . . . ::

((Three weeks earlier, Main Engineering, USS Pioneer))

::The Rodulan leaned in closer to Rahman to whisper to her, an amused smile on his face.::

Core: Remember that Admiral Kj-whatever is watching. Could definitely end our careers if we relax and all.

::It had been an attempt to lighten the “official” mood of the long awaited experiment. An Admiral - of whom Tristam had never been able to remember his name properly - had visited for a reason only the Artist knew. Something to do with this experiment being a part of the larger “quantum slip” project or whatnot. He didn’t really find it all that important and therefore didn’t pay it all that much attention.::

::After a brief inspection of the systems, of which were flawless as per usual, they had commenced. So far, it was going smoothly - except for the insane amount of tension in Engineering. If he had a knife, he could probably cut through it.::

::Roshanara was busy monitoring the increased plasma flow along the power transfer conduits.::

Rahman: Ahem. Would you behave? ::She shook her head slightly, although a smile of her own did escape as well.::

Core: Oh, I’m sorry. Am I being cheeky in front of the admirals again?

Rahman: You’re being something, all right… ::She tapped a few controls on her console to initiate the graviton particle actuators.:: How are we looking on our power levels?

Core: Steady. No fluctuations.

::She nodded. She was about to charge the gravitons when Admiral Kjær, head of Starfleet R&D, walked up behind them.::

Kjær: Everything looking all right, lieutenant?

Rahman: Yes, sir. Just about to begin the initiation.

::The admiral looked pleased as he took a glance around the room, calling the attention of the other engineers.::

Kjær: Remember this moment, people. Just another step towards a new era of starship design and exploration.

::Roshanara took a deep breath. No pressure at all…::

::She began the particle charge and as before, everything seemed to be going smoothly.::

Core:::nudging the Kriosian:: Seriously, you’re practically shouting your unease in my ear. *Relax*.

::She whispered back as the low whine of the particle actuators could be heard under the deck.::

Rahman: I’m sorry! It’s just… you remember the simulations. This is where it happens.

Core: Don’t jinx it.

::She stared at the screen, holding her breath. They had discovered the failure once the graviton charge had reached 70%. Not consistently enough for Starfleet to call off the entire demonstration, but enough for Roshanara to have lost sleep over it the past week.::

Rahman: Particle actuators at full power. Watch those leads.

Core: I know, I’ve got it covered. Calm down.

::On the screen, the charge slowly increased. 3%. 7%. 16%. It quickly picked up in pace, jumping several integers at a time. 31% 38%. 47%.::

::An alarm went off. Roshanara glanced at the marker and tapped her combadge.::

Rahman: =/\= Bradley, I’m reading a slight dip in the flow rate. =/\=

Bradley: =/\= Yes, ma’am. Just a little dirt in the mix. =/\=

Rahman: =/\= Keep it to above 15. =/\=

Bradley: =/\= Aye. =/\=

::Glancing back at her display, the charging process continued. 56%. 64%. 68%.::

::She took in another breath.::

::71%. 74%.::

::Tristam didn’t have to read the console to know they’d made it past the critical point. His smile was still on his face as he noted the change of tone in her thoughts - relief, from what he could gather.::

::She let out her breath.::

Core: Told you.

::She looked over at him and finally gave out a genuine smile today.::

Rahman: I suppose so. All right, get ready to begin the graviton transfer on my-

::The deck underneath them suddenly jostled, nearly sending her falling into him. A new alarm began sounding as her fingers flew over her console. The flow rate had dipped again below the threshold.::

Rahman: We need more power to the actuators.

Core: I’m already rerouting.

::[...] it, it wasn’t working. She called Bradley again.::

Rahman: =/\= Ensign, I need that rate increased now. =/\=

Bradley: =/\= Working on it, lieutenant. Having trouble stabilizing the EPS- =/\=

::His voice was cut off by the thunder of an explosion as the ship shook again violently.::

Rahman: =/\= Bradley? Are you all right? =/\=

::There was no answer.::

Rahman: oO [...] it. Oo

::The admiral along with the Pioneer’s chief engineer, a gruff Zaldan lieutenant commander named Meran, returned from farther up Main Engineering.::

Meran: What’s going on, Rahman?

Rahman: We’ve had a loss of power in one of the actuators. It’s causing an imbalance in the system. ::But her change in tone emphasized her greater concern over the failed experiment.:: Sir, it sounds like Bradley might be hurt. We have to abort.

::The admiral seemed not too keen on that suggestion, his voice showing some frustration.::

Kjaer: Now, now, lieutenant, let’s not be too hasty. Surely you can find a work around?

::Tristam, having taken off immediately, was already in action and putting out fires on the upper deck, when he called out.::

Core: With all due respect, sir, the system is about to come down on our heads.

::The chief engineer nodded.::

Meran: I’m inclined to agree. History will just have to wait a little longer, admiral. ::He turned to Roshanara.:: Shut her down.

::Roshanara nodded and initiated the shutdown. It was frustrating to have it end this way, but they had little choice.::

Rahman: I’m deactivating the actuators now. Once I get the system fully disengaged, I’ll prepare a level 2 diagnostic to-

::Again, the ship rocked hard, this time knocking several crewmen off their feet. The admiral went over to help some of them as Roshanara looked over her panel to find out what was going on. Meran stepped up beside her, surveying the system schematics.::

Meran: One of the flow regulators isn’t responding! It’s still feeding an actuator.

Rahman: It’s Bradley, sir. There must be something wrong down there. I’ll get down there and shut it down manually.

::She was about to head to the ladder when the chief stopped her.::

Meran: Negative, lieutenant. I need *you* up here finishing the shutdown. I’ll go. You can walk me through it.

Rahman: Sir, respectfully, it’s not as simple as flipping a switch.

::The chief didn’t hide his annoyance, perhaps because of her use of courtesy or the implication that it was out of his grasp - or both.::

Meran: I may not hold a doctorate, Rahman, but I assure you I do know a thing or two about engineering.

Rahman: Commander, I didn’t mean-

Core: For Artists’ sake, by the time you two are done bickering we won’t *have* any flow regulators or actuators to shut down! ::He climbed down a ladder, passing the two.:: Rahman, do what you do best - Meran, not your project.

Meran: Wait!

::But Tristam had already descended to the lower level. Meran turned back to Roshanara.::

Meran: Is *he* qualified to do this?

::To reassure him, she answered in the only way the Zaldan would understand and respect.::

Rahman: To be frank, sir, even more than you.

((Lower Engineering Level, USS Pioneer))

::It was an unexpected mess. Tristam waved as much smoke away as he could, coughing through it as he rushed past plasma fires. The other engineers around him were working like ants, containing the fires the best they could. By the time he’d reached the flow regulators, he’d spotted Bradley - now he understood why the man hadn’t responded to Rahman’s last call. The last explosion hadn’t just fused a regulator, but knocked Bradley out cold as well.::

::This wasn’t supposed to happen. It was just an experiment, for some new propulsion drive, and not even the entire drive - just one part of the drive. Nothing deadly. They weren’t testing a weapon. Yet here he was, dragging a Terran away to safety - and away from where Tristam needed to be.::

::Once that was done, Tristam returned to the regulator. If he didn’t get this done in time, Bradley would have been the least of his concerns. A manual shut down on the flow regulator, when it was running this hard, was risky. If he brought down the power flow to the actuator too slowly, he wouldn’t be any help at all. And if he did it too quickly, the system could destabilize. Wiping away sweat on his brow, he started to work on the regulator.::

::As much as he had given Rahman a hard time about being nervous earlier, he found himself a little apprehensive. He tried to remember from all the long nights spent in that lab what she had been talking about. Fortunately, while Tristam didn’t care much for propulsionists and their theories, he was good when it came to remembering the little details.::

::And so, sure enough, as he watched over the regulator’s control panel, he realized that he actually did know what he was doing. He didn’t even have to call her as he gently guided the plasma flow downwards. The actuator overhead slowly came to a halt as it sipped its last drop of power.::

((Back on Main Engineering))

Rahman: Actuators fully powered down. ::She looked up from the panel back at Meran and the admiral.:: He did it.

::The chief returned a sharp nod.::

Meran: We’ve still got EPS surges across half the system.

::As Meran went off to direct the other engineers in the room, Roshanara tapped her combadge. She couldn’t suppress her smile.::

Rahman: =/\= Rahman to Core. =/\=

Core: =/\= We’re still in one piece, I see. =/\=

Rahman: =/\= Thanks to you! Great work. =/\=

Core: =/\= Yeah, well, it’s not over yet. =/\=

Rahman: =/\= Trust me, when this is all done, you’ll have all the swuit sticks you could ever want. =/\=

Core: =/\= That better include your company. =/\=

Rahman: =/\= Hmmph. All right, lieutenant. I think you earned it. =/\=

Core: =/\= Agreed. I am the best Rodulan engineer ever. =/\=

::Her smile faded as she saw one of the EPS monitors light up on her panel. She tried to stop the oncoming plasma surge, but more warning lights lit up along the EPS grid as the surge continued its cascade down the conduit towards him.::

Rahman: oO No, no, no! Oo

((Lower engineering level))

::Normally, the Rodulan wouldn’t have been able to listen to one set of thoughts in a crowd of many - the amount of engineers scurrying around him meant he wasn’t only listening to the sounds around him, but to the thoughts of at least thirty, maybe forty other people as well. He was lucky he was able to sort through thoughts at all, considering he’d only been off planet for around six years. Rodul was a place of silence, meaning no thoughts could be heard unless you deliberately tried to read someone elses thoughts - though this was to your own peril, and the only one in his family capable of reading another Rodulan was his brother, though not without consequences.::

::The sudden loud thoughts of one Roshanara Rahman, however, somehow managed to push through the blockade of the other random thoughts around him. The tone, the volume, and the fact that it was thought rather frantically usually meant something was up.::

Core: =/\= Roshanara? What’s- =/\=

::Her voice called out to him desperately through his combadge.::

Rahman: =/\= Tristam, get out of there now! =/\=

::Despite Roshanara’s warning, he hadn’t been given enough time. He’d barely registered what she’d said before it’d happened.::

::It wasn’t a loud “bang” - it was worse than that. It was the sound of his ear drums bursting at what he would only later presume to have been the plasma conduit rupturing off to his side. He’d managed to clear the relay only a miniscule period of time before it blew as well. He knew that burns from an EPS relay, although painful, wouldn’t be life threatening. What he hadn’t counted on, however, was the sheer force of the explosion. He was light enough to be thrown into the bulkhead on his left.::

::It was all very hazy after that, but despite his ears already ringing, he heard *another* explosion, close to him - whether or not it was above or next to him, he’d never know - as it caused the deck plating to tear apart. His last glimpse was of a massive bulkhead coming down on top of him. It was at that point everything went black.::

::Silence. Pure silence.::


Lieutenant JG Tristam Core

Engineer, USS Pioneer


Lieutenant Roshanara Rahman

R&D Engineer, USS Pioneer

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