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Part of Starbase Bravo: Q3 2400

Burdens of Command

Crash site of USS Fairbanks
June 2400
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Even the basic remedy from the medkit had done wonders, Callahan thought as he swam a little back into conscious thought. It hadn’t simply taken away the worst of the pain in his leg and his ribs, but was making everything quieter, more peaceful. The hint of light cascading through the cockpit canopy from in between the trees could dance now, dust motes drifting across like gold dust, and if they settled on him then maybe they could heal him –

He stopped. Frowned. And realised that maybe the painkillers were not bringing him to conscious thought as much as he’d believed. Blinking hard to try to get back his senses, he gingerly tilted his head from where he was propped up on the deck – the bulkhead? – to take in the wreckage and the quiet.

“Oh,” he groaned as he spotted Connolly nearby, not out of disapproval to see him but because his throat felt like a cheese grater. “You look like shit.”

Connolly didn’t look round from what he was doing. “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” He finally met Callahan’s gaze and gave him a wan smile. “How are you feeling?”

“Like the runabout fell on me.” Callahan winced and rested his head back. “Where are the kids?”

Removing another isolinear chip, Connolly found it burned out, like many of the others. He tossed it to the deck. “Minaai and Parza are down below checking on our guests.” The next chip was still intact, so he replaced it in the panel. “Hargreaves and Horin are scouting the area.”

Callahan ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth. His teeth felt fuzzy. That was, he hoped, the painkillers affecting his senses. “Okay,” he said at length, then paused for a moment. He should have had something more insightful to say. “Okay. How screwed are we?”

“Very screwed.” Connolly replied grimly. “The runabout’ll never fly again so we’re gonna need to sit tight and wait to be rescued.” He pulled another chip and, finding it still intact, moved it to a different slot. “We didn’t manage to get a distress call off before we crashed so I’m trying to get what little power we have left to the emergency transmitter.”

“So nobody knows we’re here,” Callahan groaned. “In the middle of nowhere, when we deviated from our flight route, while the fleet’s distracted with a quadrant-wide calamity.” He raised a hand out of instinct to his forehead, and felt the sluggish response of his body. Again he hesitated, and this time he glanced about the runabout to be sure none of the cadets were nearby before he croaked, apprehension audible, “…how bad am I actually looking?”

Connolly was so focused on his work that he missed the tone of Callahan’s words. “I wouldn’t plan to go dancing for the next week or two.” He replied glibly with a crooked smile on his face. That smile fell when he glanced over at Callahan. Fear was etched across his features. “You’ll be fine.” Connolly modulated his tone so that it was, hopefully, reassuring. “You’ve dinged yourself up pretty good, but nothing life-threatening or life-altering.” The crooked smile made a reappearance on Connolly’s face. “You’ll still be able to give me a run for my money on the springball court.”

A croak of a chuckle escaped Callahan’s throat as he slumped back down. It wasn’t that he strictly believed his friend, but reassurance could work on many levels. Whether or not Connolly knew what the medical future could even possibly hold, a joke at least reinforced his presence – made Callahan less alone, for just a moment. “If we’ve ended up in a complete mess and the cadets save our asses,” he said, sounding a little bit more jocular, forced though it was, “we’re never gonna live that down, are we.”

“Oh god.” Connolly groaned. “That’s the sort of incident that will follow us around for our entire careers.” His voice deepened as he mimicked some theoretical former Admiral. “Congratulations on being given command of this Odyssey-class starship, Captain Callahan. You’ve come a long way from the young officer whose rump was pulled out of the fire by a bunch of cadets. We’ll make sure you always have a few assigned to your ship, just in case.”

Again Callahan laughed, more sincerely this time, then brought a hand to his chest as it turned to a groan. “They’ll do alright,” he decided after a moment. “I remember being a cadet. I thought I was invincible. That can’t possibly go wrong in an actual crisis.”

Whatever Connolly was going to say was drowned out by the high-pitched whine of a transporter beam. A pair of Starfleet officers materialised and immediately moved to check the two junior officers out. Connolly assured them he was fine and that their focus should be on Callahan, but he was gently rebuffed and a shot of pain through his wrist reminded him that he was in worse shape than he liked to let on. Their questions as to the fate of the cadets were responded to with assurances that they were alive. As the officers worked to prepare them for transport, Connolly and Callahan shared relieved smiles.

They were going home.