TO: Mister Arthur Cromwell, patient #41568, Elysium penal colony
FROM: Doctor Leon Cromwell, Chief Medical Officer, USS Republic
CLASSIFICATION: Personal, Low Priority, Standard Encryption
I'm sorry that my messages have been so few lately, but I've been very busy. As you've probably seen on the news feeds, the declaration of war on the Gorns has completely eclipsed Republic's recent rise to fame during the Sutter's Moon Crisis. Starfleet has transitioned from a peacetime fleet to a war footing almost overnight, and all science operations have either been suspended or cancelled. While Republic usually hosts a handful of civilian family members during our deep space missions, they've all been dropped off at Starbase Thirty-Nine Sierra and replaced with a contingent of Starfleet ground forces. You know: the kind that jump out of hoppers and shoot anything that shimmers like a Jem Hadar cloaking field.
Their leader is one Lieutenant Commander Hendrix. He's from a little place back on Earth named Texas, and prides himself on being a descendant from some sort of unique family of shepherds called “bull boys”, or something like that. Hendrix should've been a Starfleet Marine, but I get the impression he's not a fan of the Corps, so he stayed in the military operations branch, becoming a hazard trooper for most of his career. What he is now, no one really knows, and they're not telling me.
He's got a pair of ensigns under him assigned as team leads for two separate squads of about eight enlisted troopers each. They're all infantry, through and through; not your typical security guards. They've been training together for a long time and are pretty tight-knit. They don't really socialize with the rest of the crew. Every single one of them is human, assigned either by chance or design – I don't know which. Republic is supposed to be a diverse crew by Starfleet orders, but these guys have a bond that doesn't leave much room for anyone who's not like “them”, and wouldn't you know it? I'm the ONE person on the ship who's been assigned to work with them.
Hendrix isn't happy about it, which is probably why I've been given a temporary grade reduction to lieutenant for this detached duty. Even at that rank, a small team like this wouldn't need much more than an enlisted medic. But for some reason, headquarters sees it necessary for me to be ready to hit the trenches with the rest of these grunts. Ever since Captain Roth-Dorian handed me these orders, it's been non-stop training, training, and more training. I've had to re-learn a lot of my basic infantry skills from my own enlistment courses almost two decades ago. It didn't take me long to remind myself why I went into medicine…
“Let's GO mediCO!” came the angry shout following a crackle of thunder in the sky.
It was nighttime, and the rain was coming down in sheets, soaking Leon's black tactical jumpsuit as he lay face down in the mud.
Leon fished his phasor rifle out of the puddle in front of him as the squad of troopers ran past, their boots splashing water in his face with each step.
“C'mon, Cromwell! Yer puttin' us behind schedule!” echoed the angry Texan voice as it moved away from him with the troopers. “That looks VERY bad on my report!”
It took Leon a few more seconds to shake the excess mud off his weapon and check for its operability by tilting it on its side and analyzing the readouts. He really didn't have to, since Starfleet hand weaponry were designed to handle the most brutal conditions, but his decades-old training on the older Type 3 rifles in the 2260s told him to double check. As he could hear Hendrix's gruff diatribe to the hazard team down the path, Leon was hesitant to move on before slogging himself out of the muck. After a moment, he clumsily trotted up to the assembled troopers, taking his place near one of the ensigns who formed the lead end of a squad formation.
“That was PITIFUL!” shouted Hendrix angrily, walking back and forth in front of the line of soldiers standing at attention. “Absolutely PITIFUL!” The rain did not let up, and as it collected on the commander's wide-brimmed ranchers hat, it poured off the back in a steady current while he whipped his head from side to side, glaring at each trooper in front of him. “Yer approach to the bunker was slow, yer battle wedge formation was broken up in three places, and some idiot blew up the wrong cave! Who WAS that? Johnson?” he targeted one of the troops. “Was it you YOU? Were YOU the one who tossed that photon grenade in the wrong direction??”
“No sir!” the nervous youth shouted back. The burly young man was hardly in his late teens, but bore a stolid demeanor.
Hendrix didn't buy it. He knew these kids were desperately afraid of him, and would lie before admitting a mistake. While the fear is something he strived to maintain for discipline purposes, lying to his face was something he could not tolerate, and the knowledge made his anger burn like an inferno inside his chest. He walked up to the youth and shouted at him at mere millimeters from his face.
“You pull a stunt like that again and I'll throw you in a hole so deep it'll take someone a MONTH to reach you! DISMISSED!”
Nervously, the assembled soldiers came to attention and began filing out of the holosuite in a column of twos. As they left, the lieutenant commander turned to the doctor.
“Lieutenant Cromwell,” Hendrix called over to Leon. “A moment please.”
With confusion, Leon turned to look between the departing columns and Hendrix a few times before walking towards the commander, who was already taking a leisurely swagger in his direction.
“I suppose yer wondering what this is all about,” he softened his tone as the holosuite doors groaned shut.
“Now that you mention it…” Leon replied leerily.
“I'm from the Ess-Oh-Gee,” he said quietly, crossing his muscular arms and holding a finger to his chin. His demeanor remained subdued even though the rain was still muffling their conversation and the rest of the troopers had already left the holosuite. Why he was acting so covertly remained a mystery.
“I don't understand,” Leon admitted, clearly at a loss. “What's the 'SOG'?”
“Studies and Observations Group,” the commander explained. “Your captain doesn't know. I told her I'm from the See-Oh-Eee.”
“Corps of Engineers?” Leon completed the acronym himself, causing Hendrix to offer a short nod in confirmation. “So, you told her you were with the combat engineers? Why would you do that? Most of the crew already thinks you're Starfleet Marines.”
“Agreed,” Hendrix replied slyly. “Which is exactly what I wanted. More importantly, it threw off Roth-Dorian and made her think I'm from the See-Eye-See.”
“The CIC?” Leon asked, even more dumfounded than before. “Fleet Admiral Kaito's command group to the president?”
Hendrix again confirmed with a subtle non of his head.
The doctor looked at the lieutenant commander with a deadpan expression, trying to study his face as the rain continued to fall upon them in sheets. After a moment, the doctor shook his head in a last desperate attempt to make sense of it all.
“Let me get this straight,” he tried to let the logic play aloud. “You're from the SOG, but you told the captain you're from the COE to throw her off and make her think you're from the CIC?”
“Commander,” Leon replied dubiously. “That's the craziest thing I've ever heard!”
“I've been watching you, Cromwell!” barked Hendrix, who pushed a finger firmly into Leon's shoulder. “You need to play ball! This is a COMBAT unit and I need to know you can be trusted! Don't speak a word of this to anyone; it'll compromise our security. It stays between YOU and ME. Got it?”
The doctor knew his share of blackshirts, but this particular one was sending tangles of fear throughout his nervous system, leaving a knot in his stomach that threw him back to when he was an impressionable late teen being yelled at by a drill instructor.
“Why are you telling me this?” he asked as he felt his pulse skip.
“Because we're about to enter a combat situation where some of us might not come back,” he warned ominously. “If I go down, one of us needs to report back to the correct chain of command. You're an unknown to the SOG, so they won't trust you right away. If anything goes wrong and I'm not around, reach out to Commander Meridian. She'll take care of things.”
The hair on the back of Leon's neck stood up at the sound of Meridian's name, and the thought that she was somehow responsible for his assignment to Hendrix's SOG team unnerved him. After Vic's recent escape from Republic, it wasn't clear to him what the “correct” chain of command was anymore, and the so-called “diplomatic officer” – an oxymoronic term that the more astute members of the crew have come to rename “political officer” – was an arch-nemesis of John Carter, which automatically earned Leon's distrust.
“Where ARE we going?” Leon responded in an even quieter tone than Hendrix was using, hoping glean a pearl of wisdom from the Texan's subterfuge.
“It's right up yer alley,” smiled Hendrix with a grin that bordered on toxic. A flash of lightning flickered across the sky and reflected off his teeth. “We're taking you home to Cestus Three, doc. We're taking the colony back from the Gorns.”
The registration of thunder rumbled across the holographic valley as a swelling of emotions roiled within Leon. Strangely, it didn't matter to him anymore that the invasion may have violated some sort of obscure interstellar law or Starfleet directive. What mattered to him was that he was finally going home… making everything that he had sacrificed up to now worth it.
Location: Chief Medical Officer's quarters, USS Republic (Luna Class)
Timeframe: Present day, stardate 62018.5
Maria Pakita paced Leon's quarters while the doctor remained collapsed in his recliner, exhausted from the day's training.
“Ensign Scuttlebutt says that the Chief made it to DS9,” she offered to the enervated physician, who simply replied with a moan of acknowledgement.
“Shouldn't you be in engineering?” Leon muttered, changing the subject.
“Ever since the Marshmallow Emergency, Devloch has been keeping me at arms-length”, Maria explained. “He blames Vehns and I for misplacing a 'piece of HIS ship', so I'm probably not going to get a decent efficiency rating this year.”
“Don't worry about Devloch,” Leon tried to reassure her with a wave of his hand. “He won't be going up in rank anytime soon. Roth blamed him for Vic's escape as well, and I suspect retirement is in his near future.”
With the idealogical split in the crew becoming more pronounced, the divisions were beginning to form between the mostly human “pro-Roth” faction, and the “anti-Roth” faction composed of mostly non-humanoid crew and Galaxy-class Republic veterans like Pakita and Cromwell. However, the recent declaration of war on the Gorns seemed to inflame these tensions, as legal experts and some of the newsfeeds were questioning the legitimacy of the war, and whether President Kostya truly had the authority to wage such aggression. Truth be told, the “anti-Roth” faction was actually an “anti-Kostya” faction, especially considering that Roth seemed to be taking Kostya's side in recent months. So, what was currently most vexing to a number of the anti-Roth faction, was why one of their own seemed to be having a change of heart.
“Leon, why are you doing this?” Pakita addressed the eight-hundred pound Mugato in the room. “Why are you bothering to work with Roth-Dorian and Hendrix? Even Hawk doesn't trust them.”
With an exasperated sigh, the doctor let his head fall back into the headrest of his chair.
“I TOLD you Maria, I'm not doing this for MYSELF,” Leon looked at her with irritation. “I want to bring my dad home… I'm doing it for HIM.”
“At some point,” warned the Republic's ACE soberly. “They're going to betray you. Trust me… It WILL happen…”
“Maria,” pleaded Leon. “Please don't make me choose…”
Without warning, the ship's alert klaxon blared to life.
“Red Alert. All hands to battle stations. Repeat: Red Alert. All hands, battle stations.”
“Looks like the fleet's getting underway,” Maria changed the subject, heading to the door. “Think about what I said, Leon. We need you. The crew NEEDS you…”
As the door slid shut, Leon stretched his aching muscles to get himself out of his chair with intensions to head to sickbay and help with battle preparations. Unfortunately, fate had other plans for him.
“Ragnar to Cromwell” the comm system beeped to life.
“Cromwell here, lieutenant,” the doctor tapped his combadge. “Go ahead.”
“Commander Hendrix needs you geared up and in transporter room three in five minutes.”
Location: Elysium penal colony medical center
Medical monitoring alerts were sounding all throughout the room as a hover-gurney was hastily pulled into the infirmary's Intensive Care Unit. Three nurses hovered around a blanketed patient with tubes and electronic gear strapped all around his body while a pair of doctors were hurriedly gowning up for an emergency procedure.
“The patient's name is Arthur Cromwell,” a fourth nurse read from a PADD as she entered the room with the gurney. Like the others in the room, she wore the same style red mask and hairnet that complimented a similarly-colored set of scrubs. “An elderly inmate admitted three years ago with intrinsic cardiomyopathy complicated by past coronary pre-thrombosis.”
“Prepare cardio-stimulators for cardiac induction,” one of the doctors ordered.
“How advanced is his condition?” the other doctor asked the nurse with the PADD.
“His cardiovascular system underwent arterial protein-polysaccharide regeneration a number of years ago that sustained him through a series of pre-thrombitic occlusions. However, the regeneration appears to be in the early stages of depolarization.”
“Why wasn't he scheduled for another regeneration procedure?” exclaimed the first doctor as he donned a pair of surgical gloves.
“Unknown,” the nurse admitted. “It was on his charts, but there must have been a glitch in the records monitoring algorithm. No new procedure was ever scheduled by the computer when he arrived here , and he's been refusing physical exams ever since, so there was no way to update his record.”
“Damn it!” the doctor cursed. “This is no occlusion!” he announced while watching the life readouts cascade from mostly yellow readouts to an increasing number of blinking red. “He's going into full coronary thrombosis complicated by multiple myocardial infarction. Begin hemolytic infusions!”
Nurses scrambled to reconfigure the life support modules to the specified parameters that the doctor ordered.
“Do we have a regen option?” asked the other doctor.
“Negative,” said the primary physician. “His system is too weak now. We don't even have a cardiac implant option anymore.”
“An hour, maybe,” he replied with defeat. “Maybe minutes…”
“Nurse!” shouted the assisting doctor. “Contact the next of kin! We need to know if they want a stasis option!”
“We've been trying doctor,” she exclaimed. “But his son is in Starfleet and at the Gorn battlefront. His ship just went into communications blackout. It could be hours before we can contact him.”
“He hasn't got hours!”
LTCR Leon Cromwell, MD, PhD
Chief Medical Officer
USS Republic, NCC-81371