Ever since she had earned the approval of the ship’s Captain, Nisha Kedam had pretty much regretted it. With Commander Travis aboard the Rhode Island with Doctor Carter, there was no one to lead the science team on Santa Fe so the responsibility had fallen to the Cardassian, but that meant the buck stopped with her on lots of the finer mission details. It had been her who had identified the life sign on the planet (along with her enlisted colleague of course). She had to put her feelings to the side, however, and focus on the fact that someone’s life was at risk.
In the time it had taken for Santa Fe staff to prepare a runabout, she’d worked out how long they would have to wait for a safe window in the radiation levels, so she’d had ‘her’ team prepare some slight adjustments to a number of EV suits which would allow them slightly longer exposure in the radiation-thick atmosphere. Now she stood in shuttlebay one, in her full suit, with her helmet tucked under her right arm, waiting for the rest of the away team to arrive.
Lieutenant Commander Zinn showed up first, walking as best he could within the confines of the EV suit onto the Flight Deck. Over his right shoulder his medical kit was slung, his new phaser holstered on his right hip and his EV helmet in his left hand. “Ensign Kedam.” He nodded in greeting. “Captain Farrell has put me in charge of the away mission, opting to stay behind. Are we the first to arrive for this party?”
“Yes sir,” Nisha nodded anxiously, her bob of black hair moving in time with her head, her eyes fixed on the doorway. With the Captain now remaining on the ship, she felt a little more at ease.
Entering moments after Zinn, Auru tugged at the EV suit, trying to make it sit more comfortably, helmet in her hand, hair hanging loosely down her back, as was her typical style. She would tie it back before she put on her helmet, but in the interim she liked the level of privacy that it afforded her. “If I’d been told EV suits would be part of this assignment I may have changed my mind about accepting it,” she said as she approached the group. “I don’t think we’ve met? Lieutenant Noli, relatively new girl.”
“Lieutenant Commander Zinn, Chief Medical Officer,” he motioned to himself with his right hand before motioning towards Kedam, “Ensign Kedam, Assistant Chief of Science. Welcome aboard.”
“Pleased to meet you both,” the Cardassian smiled as best she could, the nerves about the mission threatening to overwhelm her. “We’re just waiting on Lieutenant Rawlins,” she revealed, looking towards the Runabout she had requisitioned for the mission. “I’ve had the Perseus’s shields checked to make sure they will withstand the radiation in the atmosphere, but you might want to have a look, Lieutenant?” she suggested.
“I suppose it would be the prudent thing to do,” Auru smirked as she started moving toward the shuttle. “I usually like to wait until at least my second or third day on the job before I start going kamikaze and endangering the lives of those around me.” Her deadpan expression left it entirely unclear whether she was joking or not.
Whilst the tactical operations officer got to work preparing the Runabout for the flight to the surface, the Cardassian Ensign sheepishly made her way towards the Medical Chief, deciding now was the time to confess her sins. “Commander Zinn, sir, do you have a minute?”
“What can I do for you, Ensign?” Zinn asked. He’d never been comfortable around the Ensign for no reason other than she was a Cardassian, but she was a fellow officer, so he always worked to mask any discomfort he felt.
“I want to apologise,” she frowned as she looked down at the deck plating of the shuttlebay, pointing her toes and moving her foot from side to side as she spoke. It always worked with her father when she was a child, and she hoped it might here too. “I’m the reason you’re leading this away mission,” she revealed, before swiftly adding further information so that he couldn’t intervene until he had heard it all. “Given the nature of the mission, and the likely state of the survivor, if they are still alive, I thought it prudent to have you lead the team. So, I suggested as much to the Captain and… here we are.”
While he had assumed that he would be part of this mission, he was the senior physician onboard after all, his belief had been that it would be led by the XO, or the Vulcan second officer. He’d been confused, and a little dismayed, by the decision but there was little point in arguing against it. That the Cardassian Ensign had suggested he be the one to command the mission mattered little.
“You feel guilty because your suggestion has led to me being placed in command of this mission?” Zinn asked.
“Yes sir,” the Cardassian nodded slowly, “I wasn’t thinking about whether or not you would want to lead an away mission like this, sorry sir.”
Zinn smiled. “This is not your fault, Ensign.” He hesitated before patting the young officer on the arm. “Let me impart a little wisdom on your ass cause you’re young and, well, stupid.” He didn’t wait for the Ensign to object. “You may have planted the seed in the Skipper’s mind, but it was she who made the decision. Besides, while I would have preferred the XO to lead this mission, this is not my first rodeo. I’ll be fine. Nothing for you to feel guilty about.”
Nisha’s face lit up a little as some of the tension lifted and the cloud of gloom above her seemed to dissipate quite quickly. “Oh… well… that’s good to know, sir. Thank you.”
“Right, let’s get onboard and see where we are with pre-flight.” Zinn suggested, motioning for the Ensign to lead the way.
“Aye sir,” Kedam smiled, happily taking the few steps into the runabout and towards the cockpit. “Still waiting on Lieutenant Rawlins,” she spoke to no one in particular as she took an aft seat and began configuring the display for standard science procedures.
Zinn bit back a sarcastic reply to the Ensign’s statement of the obvious and instead moved to where Lieutenant Noli was working in the co-pilot’s chair. “Where are we, Lieutenant?”
“Without knowing where we’re going, what we’re doing or what we’re going to encounter, I’m gonna hazard a guess and say we’re golden. I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve got my EV suit packed in case of emergency,” she looked toward Zinn and winked.
Zinn snorted and smiled. “As good a report as I’ve ever received, thanks.” He moved to the free secondary console seat and sat down, waiting for Lieutenant Rawlins to arrive.
As if by magic, the sound of the shuttlebay doors opening drifted to the cockpit of the Runabout, but instead of the expected Lieutenant, one of his junior pilots arrived. Ensign Asrem Madux made his way into the craft and pressed the door controls, sealing the occupants inside. “Apologies for the delay Commander,” the Betazoid spoke as he reported to the Chief Medical Officer. “Lieutenant Rawlins sends his regards, but issues elsewhere mean he has sent me. I hope that is ok?”
“As long as you can get us there and back, I don’t much care who’s in the pilot’s seat.” He stood and moved to stand behind the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seats. “Let’s get moving.”
Asrem nodded and took his position at the helm of the Runabout, activating the LCARS control interface and taking a moment to adjust the settings to his preferred configuration for piloting. “Anything I need to know?” he queried, looking around the different officers in the group. It was quite an eclectic mix of personnel, he noticed. No command officer leading the team, no engineer, not even an operations officer. That was going to make things interesting. Just the way he liked it.
“The EV suits have been modified to allow us more time in the radiation down there but I’ll be keeping an eye on everyone’s levels and the moment I pull us back to the Runabout, you follow that order. Other than that, standard away team protocols apply.” Zinn told him in his most commanding tone, developed during his time with the Corps.
Asrem cracked his neck to the left and then the right before doing the same with his fingers. “Let’s get this show on the road…” he grinned, looking at the Lieutenant with a nod, and then back to his controls. “Automated door opening procedures commenced,” he reported, watching out of the cockpit window. Two hulking doors in front of them parted like the proverbial Red Sea of Earth, the gap widening enough so that he could take the craft out of the Shuttlebay at last.
“Engaging thrusters,” the Ensign declared, this time to no one in particular as he eased the craft up and off of the deck plating before it sped out and into open space. Once out there, he couldn’t help but smile at the beautiful Intrepid-class ship that sat just a few hundred yards off of the Santa Fe’s bow. Whilst the two starships engaged in a mission of importance, Lieutenant Commander Zinn would lead this mission. If only the runabouts occupants had anticipated the significance of the mission they were about to embark upon…