A Near, Perfect Transcendence

A Near, Perfect Transcendence

 

The hull of the U.S.S Integrity lit up in an array of explosions, each one signifying a chain reaction of yellow and red fire, which contrasted against the blue hue of Voronus IV. The Integrity was finished, a victim of Jem’ Hadar firepower which tore through its shields and lit up its bridge, saucer, and nacelles, making the Constellation-class vessel yet another Federation casualty of the ongoing Dominion War.

“Captain,” Commander Data said from the helm of the Enterprise-E, “the Jem’ Hadar warbirds are in full retreat. Shall we pursue, Sir?”

“Negative, Mr. Data,” Picard answered, his somber tone matched the mood of his bridge crew, knowing they arrived a half-hour too late. “Mr. Landoss, scan for lifesigns, as well as any functionality on that vessel. I’m not convinced all is lost on the Integrity just yet.” Picard turned to Deanna Troi on his left, “Counsellor, can you sense anything?”

“There is panic, terror…faint…in the lower corner of the hull…it isn’t good, Captain.” Troi said.

“Captain, I’m getting two lifesigns in that area,” Landoss said. “Life support is functioning, though not for long. An emergency medical hologram is active in that section.”

“Number one.” Picard said, motioning to his first officer.

“Riker to Dr. Crusher,” Commander William Riker bolted to the turbolift. “Have your best medical team meet me at Transporter Room One right away. We’ve detected two life signs in the cargo bay at the ship’s stern.”

“The best team I have is me, Will,” Crusher responded. “I’ll be right there.”

“Dr. Crusher, I need you here!” Picard interrupted, watching Riker enter the turbolift. “The Integrity’s hull has been breached – the away team will have to perform an immediate emergency medical transport to sick bay. You can stay here and await the incoming wounded.”

“All the more reason for me to prep them for transport, Captain,” Crusher’s voice had that ‘I’m not budging tone,’ – one of the few people in Starfleet who talk that way to Picard.

“Beverly, that won’t be necessary!” Picard sharpened his tone. “There is an active EMH on board tending to the injured now-”

“Oh wonderful,” Crusher couldn’t hide the sarcasm from her voice. “All the more reason for me to prep them, Captain.”

Riker looked at Picard and shrugged his shoulders as the turbolift doors closed.

“Very well,” Picard muttered. He turned back to assess the damage on the viewscreen.

 

***

“Please state the nature of the medical emergency.” The Emergency Medical Hologram greeted the pair as they materialized before its’ eyes. Smoke could be seen and smelt inside the Integrity’s cargo bay.

“Take me to the injured,” Crusher said through her oxygen mask. She was used to this particular program – the Mark I Zimmerman replica – whom she had taken somewhat of a toleration for, even though this was a completely different version onboard the Integrity.

“Certainly, Doctor,” The EMH said, recognizing Crusher’s medical rank. “Two injured – an engineer, Lieutenant Braum Holmen, approximately 42 years old, and his son David, age 10. An explosion through the port side bulkhead struck Lieutenant Holmen in the head. The impact of the blast, together with the flying shrapnel, have caused substantial cranial damage. I have placed a cortical stimulator on his forehead – I’ve been able to resuscitate brain function in spite of the extensive internal bleeding. He is in critical condition.”

“And the son?” Crusher said, taking out her medical tricorder. Through the haze, she could see the outline of Lieutenant Holmen lying on the ground, and a boy kneeling over top of him.

“Superficial cuts and scrapes,” the EMH stated. “The father shielded him from the blast. The onset of shock in the boy is imminent, but he refuses to leave his father’s side.”

That’s where I come in, Crusher thought, running over to the father and son. The boy was sobbing.

“Hello David,” Crusher said. “We’re here to help your Dad.”

“I’m not leaving him!” David said.

“I know, sweetheart, and you don’t have to. But we need to quickly prep your Dad for transport to our medical bay, where we can take care of him, okay? You can stay with us the entire time.”

“Make that super-quick, Doctor!” Riker said through his own mask, holding his tricorder up to the opposite wall of the bay. A loud din of explosions can be heard on the other side. “There’s a mass of superheated air accumulating behind that bulkhead – one more set of explosions and there will be a giant fireball busting through that wall, straight onto our laps!”

Crusher assessed the father, ignoring Riker’s warning. The crusted blood on the outside of Lieutenant Holmen’s head looked bad, but the damage inside was far worse. Oh God. She thought. This is the same injury that killed Jack. My husband.

“Doctor?!” Riker called out, his voice panicky, staring at the tricorder. “How long do you need here?!”

“I’m removing the cortical stimulator!” Crusher shouted.

“Excuse me?” The EMH asked, expressing as much shock as his matrix would allow. “That stimulator is the only thing keeping his brain functioning!”

“If I don’t stop his brain from bleeding, neural activity isn’t going to make any difference!”

“But Doctor,” the EMH said, “standard protocol suggests –”

“Computer, Override Command 1 – EMH Integrity, End Program!” Crusher said. The hologram dissolved into the air.

“Is my dad going to die?” David asked. Shock was setting in.

“No, David,” Crusher said, looking at the boy’s terrified eyes. Her own son was five when he lost his father. “Not on my watch.”

“Beverly!” Riker shouted.

“Crusher to Enterprise,” the doctor hit her comm badge, “four to beam up – Commander Riker to the transporter room, but send myself and my two patients to surgical bay three, Emergency Transport!”

The transporter beam took them, just as the far bulkhead detonated, flooding the cargo bay with exploding shrapnel and flame.

***

 

“Hello, Beautiful Doctor,” Jack Crusher swept in behind his wife and gave her a peck on the cheek. “In case you didn’t notice, you’re in the middle of pristine wilderness, with a gorgeous sunset hovering over the lake, and a little boy dying to show his Mommy something…”

Beverly looked up from the wooden, picnic table – a rather quaint and uncomfortable sitting area from the 20th Century. The table’s surface area was large, but slatted – her stylus rolled through the boards, distracting her. Thank goodness she had her tablet screen for her medical journals. As it was, she found it difficult to read. Jack had a point – they really were in paradise.

“I’m sorry,” Beverly said. “It’s just so hard to find time to get caught up when you’re not around. Now that you’re here on shore leave, I can actually sit down and read about these new procedures without getting interrupted for potty breaks, snack time, or temper tantrums.”

“Hey, it’s okay, I get it.” Jack gave her arm a squeeze. “I knew what I was getting into marrying the most dedicated physician since Leonard McCoy. Besides, you married me and have to tolerate my gallivanting across the galaxy with ‘Captain Jean-Luc Pick-ard’ of the U.S.S Staaaaaargazer.”

Jack’s exaggerated Picard impersonations always gave Beverly a chuckle. She shut her tablet off.

“You’re right.” She stood up. “This is Balfour Lake – our little hideaway, and I don’t need to be hiding away in medical research while my family is having fun.”

“Mommy,” Little Wesley bellowed, charging towards her in excited hops. “Come look what I can do.”

She held Jack’s hand as they walked to the lake. Jack had built a campfire on the beach, which was littered with broken sticks and dry, brown Manta leaves from the dying, autumn trees. Wesley raced over to the fire and scooped up a handful of leaves.

“Wesley, what are you doing with those?” Beverly asked. She had worried that it was too late in the season to go camping, but Jack convinced her otherwise.

“It’s okay, Hon,” Jack said, smiling. “I built the fire to cook roast marshmallows with our son, but look what he wants to do instead.”

“Watch this mom!” Wesley said, as he threw the crackly leaves into the fire. Right away, she heard them burst in a series of short, popping sounds.

“Just like popcorn!” He picked up another handful and threw them into the fire.

Beverly laughed at her four-year-old son. Wesley was so much happier when Jack was around.   So was she, come to think of it.

She scooped up a handful of leaves herself, and threw them into the fire, creating a cacophony of popping noises. Jack joined too, and little Wesley jumped around with glee, watching the leaves burst over the flame against the Mandarin orange horizon in front of them…

 

***

“Thank-you so much Doctor,” Yeoman Lucy Holmen said, tears welling in her eyes. “Thank-you for saving Braum’s life – I don’t know what to say.”

“Say no more.” Beverly squeezed the lady’s hand. “I’m just happy your family is safe from this horrible experience.”

“Most of our crew escaped by emergency beam-outs to the planet’s surface. Our vessel wasn’t a warship so there was no reason for the Dominion to attack us – it caught us all off guard.   My daughter and I escaped when they approached our ship, but we had no idea what happened to Braum and David.”

“We tried to escape via the Cargo Bay,” Braum muttered, still groggy from the surgery, but he was lucid, lying on his bed in the Enterprise sickbay. “Didn’t make it when that final Hadar volley tore apart our walls.”

“My God, that EMH on board the Integrity told our son that there was a 94% probability that Braum wouldn’t make it,” Lucy said, shaking her head. “I mean, what kind of doctor tells a ten-year-old boy whose father is bleeding on the ground that his dad is probably going to die?”

“A holographic one,” Beverly said.

“Oh, don’t fret about that, Lucy,” Braum said, “Bottom line is Dr. Crusher saved my life, and we are grateful for everything she did for us.”

“Of course.” Crusher said. “Now your job is to rest. And you,” she laid her hand on Lucy’s shoulder, “need to take care of those two beautiful children of yours.”

“I will, Dr. Crusher. Thank-you.”

Crusher left the unit and finished the schedule for the night-shift medical staff. The soft hiss of the doors signaled the entrance of her regular ‘escort’ back to her quarters.

Picard stood at the doorway and greeted her. “We’ve provided for the survivors of the Integrity. I also read your report. I believe a commendation is in order for your work today.”

“Defying Captain’s requests are never easy.” Beverly took his arm. “But I just don’t trust those damn holograms.”

“A risky maneuver,” Jean-Luc said. “And I’m not talking about defying your Captain, either. Removing a cortical stimulator in order to perform surgery on a bleeding cerebrum sounds an awful lot like rogue, swashbuckling medicine to me.”

Beverly chuckled, though more out of resilience than humor. “There was no way I was going to let that boy lose his father, Jean-Luc. Not like that, not with that injury.”

The two walked quietly down the hallway floor, rounding the corner and into the vast network of corridors that was the Enterprise-E.

Out of the empty air surrounding the corner that his mother and former Captain just walked past emerged 27-year-old Wesley Crusher, and his cosmic guide to universal knowledge, The Traveler. There was a somber expression on Wesley’s face.

“So my mother,” Wesley said, “saved that man’s life…because of me?”

“Is that really a question?” The Traveler asked, with his usual coy smile.

“She figured out how to save his life, because of me.” Wesley corrected himself. “She had been waiting for that opportunity ever since my father died.”

The Traveler put his hand on Wesley’s shoulder. “Since our journey together began, we have crossed many planes of existence, and I have watched you finally achieve what I knew you were capable of – perfect, unabated transcendence. And yet here you are, postulating over a plainly obvious fact of the avidity that drives your very own mother.”

“I guess,” Wesley said, swallowing, “I never really understood how much my father’s death impacted her. She was always so…strong about it, you know?”

“Indeed.” The Traveler answered. “And why do you think that was?”

Wesley turned to his cosmic mentor – knowing he didn’t need to answer the question – the Traveler, as he had all along, knew the answer.

“The real question, Wesley, is that after all we’ve achieved together, what do you do now?”

Wesley took a breath and closed his eyes. He had skirted across all four quadrants of known space, and ventured to alternate universes some members of the Q Continuum likely hadn’t been to yet. And in light of it all, the only thing he could think about was his mother, and how much he missed her.

“I know what I need to do,” Wesley said, opening his eyes. “I have to go home.”

 

 

 

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