SIM:JP: Dr. Del Vedova & LtCmdr Rahman: Secret Admirer

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Roshanara Rahman SIMs
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Other SIMs by Rich

Author's Note: A compilation of several sims (a month's worth!) to make one scene. Poor Del. He thought he was being so clever with that suit. Cruel woman indeed.


The events in this SIM take place on stardate 239005.08-239006.06.


((Del's Temporary Quarters, DSX))

:: As quarters went, the temporary ones DSX had to offer weren't bad. Not very homey, and certainly not standard issue, but he could get used to the odd depressions in the floor, even if he didn't know what they were for. But it was no matter, really; Del wasn't there to stay in the quarters, he was there ... well, he was there as a friend and as a physician. Which she didn't even know yet so, he supposed, it was time to fix that. ::

DEL VEDOVA: =^= Del Vedova to Rahman.


((Docking Terminal, DSX))

::As Roshanara watched the Mercury drift away from the docking port, she thought about friends, old and new. Appropriate really, as just then her combadge chirped.::

RAHMAN: =^= Yes, Del? What's up? Can you see me waving to you?

DEL VEDOVA: =^= No, I didn't go with them -- and, I notice, you didn't either.

RAHMAN: =^= Wait... are you stalking me?

DEL VEDOVA: =^= You could say that. You are my patient, after all, and I promised I'd keep an eye on you and listen to you post-surgery. So, here I am. How about that meet-up?


((Del's Temporary Quarters, DSX))

RAHMAN: =^= Just so you know, that's kind of creepy.

:: He grinned, though no one was there to see him. It had been worth getting left behind just for this. ::

DEL VEDOVA: =^= Oh, I know.

RAHMAN: =^= I bet. Anyway, yeah, we can meet up, but you better be prepared to tag along again with me while I start my work around the station. I have no intention of just lying on a couch for the next few weeks spilling out my problems to you while Mr. Walker works up a sweat. He deserves better than that.

DEL VEDOVA: =^= Uh-huh. Sure. Yes, let us assume that Mr. Walker is at the top of your list.

RAHMAN: =^= Ha... I'm going to unpack my things. See you at service junction delta in half an hour. No sooner. If I see you in my quarters, I'm going to shoot you, or at the very least, chuck a coil spanner at your skull.

DEL VEDOVA: =^= I value my skull too much to risk such a thing. Over and out.

:: Service junction delta? Where in the name of the Planck epoch was that? It sounded nasty, wherever it was -- and while Del's mind wanted to jump immediately to those spiders, he imagined instead something less frightening and more fun. Again he grinned: She was going to love this. ::


(( Service Junction Delta ))

:: Service junction delta, like most of the areas outside of the station's command center and main commercial hub, was still poorly lit, with cluttered debris and what looked like massive cobwebs left behind by the station's army of cybernetic spiders that had served as living maintenance bots. ::

:: Roshanara arrived and, seeing no signs of Del, knelt down to begin setting up her equipment, connecting a tangle of wires to tap into the station's power systems that she would monitor through a free standing console she had brought along. ::

:: While she was figuring out how to make the proper connections, a pair of cortical monitors attached to her temples flickered under her bangs with brief flashes of light. Though Dr. Ven had originally planned for her to wear the monitors for only a few days after her operation, the surgeon had noted that the nanite activity readings were inconclusive. As the monitors didn't really bother her that much, she had agreed to continue wearing them until at least the Mercury returned for the Bajoran doctor to review the extended logs. ::

:: A few minutes later, as she continued working, she heard the clunky footsteps of someone approaching her. She turned and looked up to see a man in a suit of armor waddle his way towards her. ::

RAHMAN: Oh. My. Goodness.

:: He was a bit late, though this was not surprising given that he was stumping around the station in a full environmental suit, complete with extra air tanks, magnetic boots -- the works. He turned off the helmet lamp as he approached her; he didn't want to blind her, after all. Well, not with the light. Maybe with his wit. ::

DEL VEDOVA: ::innocently:: What? I never know with you, so I wanted to be prepared for anything.

:: The engineer stood up and peered through the oversized helmet's visor, like a kid checking out a goldfish bowl. The lights of the cortical monitors flashed a bit more quickly through the strands of her hair as she studied him closely. ::

RAHMAN: Where did you even find that?

DEL VEDOVA: Supply closet.

:: At least that's what he'd *assumed *it was, given that it was stuffed full of old Starfleet equipment. But, now that he thought about it, perhaps the emphasis was on "old" -- he'd surely seen sleeker models of this particular suit. However, Rahman seemed to accept that answer, or at least take it in stride, as she nodded and tapped the visor with her knuckle to hear the satisfying clunk of condensed transparent aluminum. ::

:: He scowled. It may have been transparent aluminum, but it *felt *like there was nothing between him and...

And... well, it was really only her in the station environment right then, but there might be worse things to come. You never really knew. ::

RAHMAN: Well, feel free to ditch some of it if you start to get too hot in there.

:: Actually, though, Del might have had the right idea. A chilly rush of air ran through the maintenance corridors, rustling the cobwebs along the bulkheads. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Actually, I have it set at a very comfortable temperature. And, I mean, I know there are restaurants and such in that, what are they calling it, commercial quad-something, but you can never be *too *careful on this station.

:: She knew that too, of course, but down in the bowels of the station, the image of Bale's face and the massive wound caused by that unfriendly spider-bot kept flashing into Del's head. ::

RAHMAN: All right, well...

:: She leaned over and tapped a switch on the free standing console. Dim lights farther down in three directions around them began illuminating. She hoisted the strap of her engineering toolkit over her shoulder and held out a kit for Del to take as well. ::

::Though he was clumsy in the hanging, the weight was nothing to him at all. ::

RAHMAN: Shall we?

DEL VEDOVA: Happy to. Lead on, Doctor.


:: As they made their way down one of the corridors, Roshanara held a PADD with a rough map of the station's interiors in one hand and a tricorder in the other. The map was a crude schematic based on the Mercury's preliminary sensor readings of the station as the SCE team still hadn't figured out how to activate the station's entire internal sensor grid -- if it indeed had a complete grid to begin with -- and part of her task would be to update the map with her own detailed scans. ::

:: Meanwhile, Del focused his attention away from their walk and more onto his patient and his friend. He was determined not to be hyperaware of every potential idiosyncrasy, or rather he *wanted *to be aware of them, to note them, but not to conflate them into a detail useless diagnostically. In one way, he was the best person to monitor her, as he knew her better than most aboard the Mercury and certainly better than anyone in the sickbay; but on the other hand, this made him the worst person to monitor her, too. Well, he thought, at least she still knows how to read a map. ::

RAHMAN: So you really just stayed behind for me?

:: His head snapped around so quickly that it impacted the helmet's interior. He'd been feeling that for a few minutes. ::

DEL VEDOVA: I (beat) did. I mean, (beat) is that too outlandish?

RAHMAN: I'm not saying I don't believe you...

:: But she wouldn't meet his eye, and he was certainly trying to catch hers, which were locked on her tricorder, monitoring the readings. A useful notation? Likely not, but he marked it down anyway. ::

RAHMAN: Just that I've known quite a few doctors, some -- well, many, really -- "nicer" than you, but you'd be the first to actually take time out of your own schedule to look after me. I guess I just find that... surprising.

:: While he was preparing a retort, she looked up (at last!) and smiled. He was taken quite aback, as he realized that he had never seen this particular smile. He had seen her smile, certainly, but not with the full definition of the word that this particular expression entailed. ::

RAHMAN: A pleasant surprise nonetheless.

:: The retorts all came undone, and he was left without even the ability to note-take. He simply thought for a moment. ::

DEL VEDOVA: You're my friend. I care about what happens to you.

:: He spoke without his usual gruffness, simply, honestly. He wanted her to *know*. He couldn't have explained exactly why it was so important to him at that moment, but he knew there was nothing more important. ::

:: It was funny. They had never acknowledged their friendship explicitly like that before, choosing more often to instead play their games of repartee, but it was a genuine moment, and a nice one at that. ::

RAHMAN: ::nods:: I appreciate that.

DEL VEDOVA: And you may have known a lot of doctors, but you haven't been friends with many, I bet.

:: To that, she practically snorted with her laugh. ::

RAHMAN: No offense, Del, but... yes, I do tend to stay away from anyone wearing medical blue if I can help it.

:: She shrugged. ::

RAHMAN: I suppose I'm prejudiced. But then again, I wouldn't say many tried to reach out to me either. After all, there are certain professional boundaries a doctor should observe with his patient, yes?

:: She was reminded about a particular junior doctor aboard the Pioneer that had managed to fall head over heels for her friend Lidia like a sick puppy. ::

:: For his part, Del seemed to understand. ::

DEL VEDOVA: It's not like you're my project, or my pet, or even my patient. Not really. I mean, I know you are my patient, and I can be detached if I need to be, but it helps to have a reason to be. I mean, I can detach myself more easily from you because I care about you and I know that my detachment will help you.

:: He paused again, frowning at himself. ::

DEL VEDOVA: That sounds very strange.

RAHMAN: No, not really. You're just blathering now, though, I think.

DEL VEDOVA: Well, I think it's still pretty weird.

:: They had stopped walking at some point, though her tricorder continued to chirp merrily at its findings. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Anyway. We're supposed to do this thing, so let's do it. I'm not going to get a fair observation and you're not going to do whatever in the Architect's name you're doing if we stand here chatting all afternoon.

:: She put her hands up in mock surrender, and he frowned -- not at her, but at himself. ::

RAHMAN: All right, all right! Sheesh. Didn't realize I was speaking to Captain Del now.

:: He transformed the frown into a semi-sickly grin. ::

DEL VEDOVA: What, you didn't notice my promotion come through? I'll show you the pips as soon as I have this suit off.

:: But of course he made no motion to do so, and she nodded half-heartedly as they began walking again. ::

RAHMAN: Uh-huh.


(( Later... ))

:: Clunk, clunk. Clunk, clunk. ::

:: So it had gone for the journey so far that had taken them about two levels down from the service junction. Roshanara was tempted to just tell Del to turn off the damn magnetic locks on his boots, but then she noticed the blip among her readings. ::

RAHMAN: Here we go.

DEL VEDOVA: Here we go -- *what*?

:: She pointed him away from where he was standing, and after he'd moved, she knelt down to pry off the maintenance hatch he'd been on. With a groan, she managed to drag the grated cover off of the machinery below. ::

:: He hadn't even seen it, and he covered up for this oversight by speaking quickly and loudly. ::

DEL VEDOVA: What is it? What's down there?

:: She wiped a bit of sweat off her brow and gestured to the various components below with her index finger. ::

RAHMAN: If I'm reading this correctly, this is the EPS flow regulator for the rest of this section of the station. It's not exactly the same as the ones we use on the Mercury, but you can see the same basic components: primary plasma feeds, core regulator assembly, auxiliary plasma feeds, power taps here and here, and finally an outflow conduit at the bottom.

:: He blinked for a moment, then shook his head. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Maybe *you *see that. I see machines with little blinky lights.

:: She glanced at him over her shoulder, and he intuited that it was taking an enormous effort for her not to roll her eyes. ::

RAHMAN: You know what a circuit breaker is? Kind of like that.

DEL VEDOVA: Oh. Oh, yes, of course.

RAHMAN: Anyway, this one needs to be reset, as you can tell by the fact that we're in the dark right now despite continuous power still flowing to the unit from the station's fusion reactor.

DEL VEDOVA: I *was *wondering about that. But I didn't know it would be as easy as just flipping a switch.

:: She looked back down and studied the flow regulator a bit more carefully, her cortical monitor LEDs flashing rapidly in conjunction. She pried off another panel and uttered a curse under her breath when she saw the problem. ::

:: When he heard her swear, he winced. ::

DEL VEDOVA: I mean, it *will *be that easy, or close to, won't it? And what's *that *thing?

RAHMAN: It's the core assembly. The plasma microconduits within it are completely fried, and that's the one component we can't substitute with Starfleet parts.

DEL VEDOVA: Bummer. What are you going to do?

:: She leaned back against the wall and tilted her chin upwards in defeat. ::

RAHMAN: Well, I suppose I could always study the station's power systems for the next several years and devise a way to adapt a standard issue regulator, but somehow I doubt Commander Herodion will be pleased with that suggestion.

:: Who? And then he remembered, of course, that she was (or at least she must've been) the station's CO. He'd heard her name once, maybe twice. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Probably not, if she's anything like the medical directors I've worked with.

:: Again they stood in silence. Del felt worse than useless; he could hand Rahman parts or tools, but as for coming up with engineering solutions -- well, mechanical equipment was her expertise, not his. He'd hoped, with all that he'd seen of the Menthar's biotech capabilities -- those spiders, the android -- that their workings might be similarly biological, but so far he felt even more incidental than he did in the Mercury's engine room. ::

:: She just continued looking at Del's face of helplessness when finally an idea struck. Her LEDs were blinking so quickly, they were nearly constant. ::

RAHMAN: ::softly:: ...unless...

DEL VEDOVA: What?

RAHMAN: You ever do a coronary artery bypass?

:: She wasn't really asking him as much as she was thinking aloud. Besides, no one did those anymore anyway in this century. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Why off *Earth* would I want to *bypass* it? It's a ten-minute procedure to repair any arterial defects! What are you *thinking*?

:: His volume apparently caught her off-guard, and she looked around at once. ::

RAHMAN: Sorry. I'm just talking to myself... I remember one of the doctors who used me as a "learning case" for his students at MS253 talked about how before synthetic tissue replacement became common, the medical field used to make extensive use of donor tissue, either from the individual patient or someone else. Whole organs even.

DEL VEDOVA: Well, yeah. It's fairly simple to do now, especially with the Merc's advanced bioreplicators. Before that, maybe not so much, but it *is *fairly routine.

RAHMAN: In my case, he was talking about limbs and skin tissue, but he mentioned that doctors also performed such operations on a smaller scale as well such as with the blood vessels of the heart.

DEL VEDOVA: Oh -- oho. You're actually talking about rebuilding. (beat) Wait. You're not *actually *talking about rebuilding, are you? I mean, the heart's a nice metaphor, but....

RAHMAN: Well, that's actually not too different from what we need here. We have to find a way to bypass the damaged microconduits to allow the plasma to flow again through the core assembly and out of the regulator to the rest of the network. And we're going to have to use the other components of this same regulator, like the auxiliary feeds, to do it.

DEL VEDOVA: Right. I mean, I'd still prefer to *fix *it -- but going around it, yeah, I guess we could do that.

:: Especially since she didn't seem to have the foggiest how to fix it from the ground up, and if she didn't, he *certainly *didn't. ::

RAHMAN: I don't suppose you're up for another surgery? I could use your assistance, and honestly, you're probably just as qualified to do this as any one of the skeleton crew engineers back at the operational center -- perhaps even more so. It's going to be a delicate operation that requires a steady hand. We can't shut off the feed to the unit, unfortunately, without cutting off power to the rest of the station. This is the first flow regulator in the distribution network.

:: She raised an eyebrow at her friend. ::

RAHMAN: One wrong move...

:: And then, she just couldn't resist flashing him a sadistic smile. ::

:: He had been ready to do it, too, until she gave him that smile that suggested that she routinely consumed children for breakfast. ::

DEL VEDOVA: *What*?

RAHMAN: ...let's just say it probably will be a good idea for you to stay in the suit.

:: She snickered to herself as he took it all in. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Oh, great. Well, what about you?

RAHMAN: What about me?

DEL VEDOVA: If whatever's going to happen to hurt me happens, what happens to you?

:: She looked at him blankly and then shrugged. ::

RAHMAN: You've got a medkit tucked away in there somewhere, don't you?

DEL VEDOVA: Well, so, great, you've protected the doctor just so he can tell the engineer that she's toast. Sounds perfect.

:: She nodded and walked back towards the flow regulator and crouched down to begin disassembling it when she heard Del behind her. ::

DEL VEDOVA: If I should be in a suit, then so should you.

RAHMAN: ::continuing to work on the assembly:: Relax, Del. I may be a difficult patient, but I don't have a death wish.

:: She took out a small wrapped package barely larger than a PADD and tossed it over towards him as he continued talking. ::

DEL VEDOVA: I guess that's true, since you *did* elect to have the surgery, but--

:: Something sailed through the air and landed at his feet. It was a little smaller than a piece of toast. He bent to pick it up. ::

DEL VEDOVA: What's this?

RAHMAN: It's an environmental suit.

:: His eyes widened behind the faceplate. And he'd been wearing this thing? ::

:: She looked back at him and grinned. ::

RAHMAN: Latest model.

DEL VEDOVA: Yeah, well, this is a fine time to let me know that *you're *packing the latest and greatest--

RAHMAN: I brought two. That's for you. Unless of course you like being stuck in that tin can.

DEL VEDOVA: It was a *joke!* Gods, if I can get out of here....

:: He didn't finish what he thought was a self-explanatory statement. Instead, she tipped her head, a mock gesture of thinking deeply. ::

RAHMAN: Well, you looked so happy in there, so I figured I'd let you have your fun.

DEL VEDOVA: (deadpan) You are a cruel, cruel woman, Rahman.

RAHMAN: Just get dressed. Don't worry... I won't peek.

:: But he didn't have to answer: He was already tearing himself out of the suit. ::


(( Later... ))

:: She hadn't been kidding: The suit was certainly the newest, he thought, or it had to be, as it fit him snugly but not uncomfortably and gave him the range of vision and motion he expected from his own body. It would be like taking a stroll in space without any suit at all -- provided something went wrong. Which, all things considered, he hoped didn't happen. ::

:: Properly attired now, the two began work on the delicate task ahead. ::

RAHMAN: After you pry off the panel, you should see three microconduits underneath.

DEL VEDOVA: All right.

:: Roshanara watched Del hard at work trying to figure out the mess of tubes and wires in front of him. She supposed that she would have gotten him out of that clunky suit one way or another. The greater flexibility afforded in the gloves of the newer set of garments would be necessary for the precise movements of the "surgery". ::

:: The engineer worked on one side of the core assembly while the physician worked on the other. ::

:: He was determined to get it right this time; he even had a pretty clear picture of what a microconduit (albeit the Starfleet version) would look like. Thankfully, there was enough similarity that, even with the guts of the machine spilling out at him, he found what he was looking for quickly. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Got 'em.

RAHMAN: All right, find the one that leads to the core and cut off the flow using the hyperspanner. That's the cylindrical tool if you forgot.

DEL VEDOVA: I didn't. That is, I don't think I did.

RAHMAN: Just checking. Once you've stopped the flow, seal the linkage to the graft with the laser welder.

DEL VEDOVA: Right.

:: His back was to hers, and even though she gave him step-by-step instructions, he knew she wasn't right there, watching him to make sure he got it right. From second to second, and depending upon how quickly he identified the components she named, this gave him more confidence and it gave him less confidence. He gritted his teeth and hissed a quick prayer: Architect and all your followers, don't let me blow anything up. ::

:: As the two continued to work, Roshanara decided to check on another topic as well. ::

RAHMAN: So... we never really got together again to talk about when you... got that message...

:: Speaking of not blowing things up. ::

DEL VEDOVA: (lightly) I, uh, don't really recall.

RAHMAN: You know... when we got to 118. It was about a relationship gone sour.

DEL VEDOVA: Oh, yeah, that.

:: Well, he couldn't pretend, not if she was going to ask directly. ::

DEL VEDOVA: You really want to know about that?

:: She didn't make eye contact, instead focusing on prepping her own set of microconduits for the graft. ::

RAHMAN: Now's a good time as any. This is going to take a while.

DEL VEDOVA: I guess. (beat) But shouldn't we be focusing on this? I don't want to slip and jab a hyperdyno-whatever into the hull and tear a hole right out into space.

RAHMAN: Nah, the dangerous part is over for now. If this device was going to kill you, it would have when you clamped off the plasma flow just then.

:: He rolled his eyes. Better to have gotten it done with, then. ::

:: She was of course half-joking. As chief engineer, she took occupational safety seriously. It wouldn't have killed him... maybe maim him, though. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Great. Thanks for the warning. You *can *tell me, you know.

RAHMAN: ::shrugs:: You looked so nervous. I didn't want to put more pressure on you.

DEL VEDOVA: Sure, sure. I appreciate that, I do. But, yeah, you can tell me.

:: Funny that he was repeating those words to her. Funny, that was the right word for it. ::

:: She finished ligating the first set of microconduits together and moved on to the next. ::

RAHMAN: Anyway, it should be smooth sailing until we rehook up the microconduits together. So... can we talk about it? Because I distinctly remember *you* reaching out to me at that time.

DEL VEDOVA: Sure. Though I don't know how much there is to say. (in a rush) I was going to be married and now I'm not. Not anything about the relationship. I mean, it didn't fail because of us. Or so he says.

:: Roshanara looked up from her work in the dim corridor and watched Del seem to think it over in his own head first before letting the next rush of words flow out. ::

DEL VEDOVA: And I'd like to believe. I was just away too much. That's all. And he couldn't handle that and isn't in Starfleet and didn't want to deploy with me. So now I'm not in a relationship.

:: Even as he said it, it sounded unbearably lame. Doctor, diagnose thyself. ::

:: She sighed. He could have been describing her own experience nearly eight years ago with Javed. But she had since gotten over the pain of being tossed aside via subspace call. For her friend, it was obvious the wound was still fresh, no matter how much he tried to convince her -- or himself -- otherwise. ::

RAHMAN: Sounds like a lot to endure on your own.

DEL VEDOVA: No, it's fine. History as old as this station, that's all it is. I've moved on.

:: She didn't reply, prodding him to turn and look back at her with her silence. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Or at least I don't think about it. Yeah, that's what I don't do. But enough about me. Let's talk about you.

RAHMAN: Me? What's there to talk about?

DEL VEDOVA: You've just had a look at my laundry. Only fair that I get to do the same.

RAHMAN: Hmph.

DEL VEDOVA: Unless this is another point where my misstep might kill us all.

:: She raised an eyebrow at him. ::

:: Well, he thought, it *was* a valid consideration. ::

RAHMAN: Well, maybe just *you* depending on how much you're intending to dig into my... ahem, laundry.

:: Against his better judgment, he smiled. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Oh, so *that*'s how we're going to play. All right. Listen, if you don't know what I'm getting at, okay, we can work on this--

RAHMAN: I know what you meant. Don't worry about it. You still need to cross link the remaining accessory microconduits to shunt the power flow. I think you're getting the hang of it.

DEL VEDOVA: Kind of you to say, Doc Rahman.

:: She nodded and went back to working on her own side, facing away from him. ::

:: Still, he could see that she was paying him a kindness, and the oddest thing was that he agreed: Against his own assumptions, he *was* actually getting better. He could identify each of the tools and every one of the conduits she had named, and he was also beginning to get a sense of the mechanisms behind the names. He nodded to himself, and as he had dumped rather a lot on her all at once, allowed that he'd adjourn for the moment and not ask her to continue.

:: However, not even two minutes had passed when she spoke again as their laser welders hissed in the background. ::

RAHMAN: His name was Javed. And I thought we had something special. Evidently, we didn't.

DEL VEDOVA: What made you think that?

:: He asked the question quickly, without thinking, then blushed behind his faceplate where she couldn't see. However, she didn't joke at him or tell him off, she laughed, though the sound of the laugh made it clear that she didn't find anything funny. ::

RAHMAN: No need to go into the details. Unless you like those kind of details.

DEL VEDOVA: I-- no. I mean, I don't need to know, unless, you know, you want to tell me.

:: Too late, he cut off his stream of babble. Fortunately (or unfortunately), she was already responding.

RAHMAN: Needless to say, I thought maybe he was going to be the one eventually... I mean, not *the* one. I don't really believe in that whole notion. But I thought perhaps he would be the one I would seriously consider sharing that part of my life with. Finally.

DEL VEDOVA: Yeah, I know the feeling.

RAHMAN: But he wasn't. And the good news is, Del, time does heal all wounds. Eight years later, he seems like another lifetime ago. In a way, he was. If we had stayed together, I might not have ended up on the Tempest and all that followed afterward...

:: He sighed. Despite being a transtheist, he was usually closed to such if-thens, but he listened nonetheless. She was offering a hand, even if it was one he didn't particularly like. ::

DEL VEDOVA: I know. I mean, I understand that events have undeterminable consequences. But....

RAHMAN: But anyway, you don't have to worry. You still have your good looks and your charming... well, your good looks. Don't do anything silly like get yourself disfigured by plasma coolant. It seems to be a turn off in my experience.

:: He chanced a glance over his shoulder, but she had kept her face to her section of bulkhead. Was there a bit of self-pity there? Or, if not pity, then deprecation? He didn't ask, nor did he pursue it in any other way. Some things would wait. ::

:: In truth, it wasn't just the physical scars that had hardened herself against the possibility of seriously pursuing any other ventures in that area of her life. Her friend Lidia had noted once that Roshanara never seemed to let down her "shields" when it came to such possibilities. ::

:: She supposed the security officer had a point. After all, the woman herself had also experienced her share of heartache with a broken engagement and a son caught between the two sides. In comparison, Roshanara had gotten off pretty light, scars included. But then, security officers tended to be resilient individuals, always looking for a new way to counter difficulties and bounce back from a catastrophe. ::

:: Engineers tended to be more conservative. Protection was the key: safeguards and containment fields. Preventing the catastrophes from happening in the first place. ::

DEL VEDOVA: I understand. I just -- thought that the attractive option of no longer being alone would be something I'd experience. But, well, no. Or at least not yet. (beat) I'm all right with it, now. Before, not so much. But time, yeah, time's been good for me.

RAHMAN: All right, anyway... as long as you're good then, I guess there's nothing left to discuss on the matter.

DEL VEDOVA: No. I guess not.

:: But, still, he was surprised by her quick dismissal. Not of him, certainly, but of the relevance of the topic. He was almost certain there was more there, but he didn't want to pursue it for now. Part of this desire was their friendship; part of it was a fear, no matter how slight, that further engagement of the topic would somehow counteract the work of the surgery. He was terribly superstitious for a medical doctor. ::

RAHMAN: Then, let's flip this switch and turn the lights back on.

DEL VEDOVA: I couldn't agree more.

:: He stood up, but stood over the exposed conduit, so she waved him away. ::

RAHMAN: You might want to step back.

DEL VEDOVA: Oh. Right.

RAHMAN: All right, on three. One, two... three.

:: She activated the flow regulator, and the microconduits began pulsating with light. The device hummed as it began sending the power to the areas beyond the junction. She followed the flow of light along the power conduits with her flashlight and smiled. ::

:: He understood a bit of what it meant to have such power moving along the conduits now, though of course not in her detail, but the metaphor of the bypass worked: They had gotten past the sticking point. ::

RAHMAN: Looks like you saved another patient, doctor.

DEL VEDOVA: Well, I don't know about saved--

::The full lighting then turned back on instantly, revealing that the two weren't alone anymore. One of the large cybernetic spiders Roshanara had seen on her first visit to DSX was watching above, clung to the ceiling right above the doctor. ::

RAHMAN: Del, look out!

:: What--? ::

:: But they were both quickly knocked unconscious as it shot a web at them, sweeping them off their feet before pulling them back into the darkness. It all happened so quickly that the flashlight that had been in Roshanara's hand was still spinning on the floor as the flow regulator continued to churn with new life. ::


(( What time is it? Where are we? ))

:: When she opened her eyes again, Roshanara noted the strange lines that moved upward like the rungs of a ladder. Were they going down somewhere? It took a moment to get her bearings before she realized she wasn't being dragged downward but rather *across* the corridor floor, tightly bound in some sort of web-like material. She looked over to see Del was similarly being dragged with her. ::

RAHMAN: Del?

:: Her voice was far away. How was he hearing her? Where was she? Come to that, where was he? ::

DEL VEDOVA: Mmphrh?

RAHMAN: Del, wake up!

:: Oh, all right. It took a huge effort, but he rolled his head slightly and felt a tugging on his legs, almost like a slight current in water. He'd also drooled a small pool on the surface of his helmet. Lovely. ::

DEL VEDOVA: What's going on? Where are we?

RAHMAN: I have no idea.

:: So he glanced around, and as soon as he did wished he hadn't: They were moving through some sort of spidery graveyard, with the biological bits decayed away and only their mechanical components left, surrounded by a few grotesque husks. He understood now, without looking, why he felt a tugging on his feet; he restrained himself from looking, as he didn't want to scream. If he started, he might not stop. ::

DEL VEDOVA: How in *space *are we running into *them *again?**

RAHMAN: The coronal mass ejection must have affected most of them as well.

:: He realized after a moment that she meant the dead ones. Well, good. He couldn't see the use of malfunctioning cybernauts. ::

DEL VEDOVA: If they're dead, then what about this one?

:: Again he referred to it without actually looking at it. He took a deep breath, and the spider took that opportunity (not that it should have known) to jerk him a little harder so that his pool of spittle ended up against his ear. Perfect. ::

:: Roshanara looked back down at the spider that was pulling them. Studying it more carefully, she noticed then that several of its legs looked to be torn and scarred as well. ::

RAHMAN: I suppose this one was a lucky survivor.

DEL VEDOVA: Lucky, yeah, that's the word for it.


:: When the dragging motion finally stopped, Del closed his eyes. He knew he was being foolish, that whatever was coming he should be prepared for it, but he just couldn't do it. When the spider began to vocalize -- harsh, shrieking noises like a cross between a crow's caw and metal scraping on metal -- he screwed his eyes tighter, at least until Rahman prodded him sharply. ::

:: The spider had crawled over to a grate, prying it off with its legs and had pulled both Roshanara and Del closer to itself and the opening in the floor, as if to let them see what it had found. The sight was a familiar one. ::

RAHMAN: ::whispers:: Del, if I didn't know better, I'd think it wants us to repair this flow regulator like we did the other...

DEL VEDOVA: *It*? It does? Why can't it just do it itself? It's part of the station, after all; it should know just what it's doing.

RAHMAN: Who knows? Maybe it's too damaged to do the job itself. Or maybe it couldn't come up with the idea we had...

DEL VEDOVA: Oh, great. Don't tell me you want to *help*--

:: But he didn't get that thought out. As if to tell them it was growing annoyed of their chatter, the spider hissed at them and, for his first look, Del saw it stab at the flow regulator below with one of its legs impatiently. It was a very human motion. He almost laughed, though most of that was fear. ::

:: The engineer gazed up at the spider and then back at Del. ::

RAHMAN: Hmmm, he reminds me of someone...

DEL VEDOVA: Who?

:: He genuinely was too on edge to catch her, but she clarified for him. ::

RAHMAN: I don't suppose you speak arachnid?

:: He glared over at her. ::

:: It was absurd really. She shouldn't have been taking their situation so lightly to poke some more fun at him, yet somehow, she didn't feel they were really in any danger. If anything, she felt an air of desperation from their multi-legged captor... ::

DEL VEDOVA: Very funny. Look, if it wants help, then--

:: He gestured to the conduit. ::

RAHMAN: Del. I suggest we not make it angry.

DEL VEDOVA: All *right*. But the first move it makes against us, fry it.

:: She furrowed her brow at him, showing both confusion and disbelief at him. ::

RAHMAN: With what? My magic index finger?

DEL VEDOVA: I don't know, I don't know! Pull out a live wire and stick it or something.

:: He had raised his voice in exacerbation, causing their new companion to hiss at them with an agitated tone. ::

RAHMAN: ::whispers harshly:: Keep your voice down!

DEL VEDOVA: Fine, but can we *hurry*?

:: Though she considered figuring a way to signal for help, it didn't seem like a good idea with both of them being literally under the watchful eyes of the impatient spider. They soon got to work once more, and once more, the corridor was relit. ::

:: In fact, with the single experience behind him, Del found that he needed her guidance at only a dozen key points during the repair, and -- likely because of their cyberarachnic overseer -- he found his desire to start talking about failed relationships again was at an all-time low. As a result, the repairs were complete in less than fifteen minutes, and again the cramped corridor flooded with light. The spider shrunk into the shadows of a nearby hatch, but not before Del had seen the radiation damage apparent on its biological portions. He took a step after it and it shrieked, though not loudly and not in an unfriendly way -- though as soon as he thought that, he dismissed it as needless humanizing. ::

RAHMAN: ::amused:: I guess he wants his privacy...

:: The doctor though seemed to be deep in thought. ::

DEL VEDOVA: Look at the damage along its cephalothorax. It wouldn't be difficult to treat with standard radiation therapies, but not down here....

:: She turned towards him, unable to resist prodding him. ::

RAHMAN: Sounds like someone remembered why he has those patches on his shoulders...

:: He tried to dismiss her. ::

DEL VEDOVA: I don't know what I'm suggesting. No, scratch that, I *do*, but I'm barely suggesting it, because it sounds like I'd want to help.

:: She was all set to poke fun at him again, but then she saw him visibly flinch as he continued looking back towards the hatchway where the spider had descended away. ::

RAHMAN: Del, are you all right?

:: She grasped his forearm gently, ashamed now at her earlier insensitivity. ::

RAHMAN: I'm sorry I teased you... I remember reading the mission reports about the Mercury's first trip to this station. I can't imagine running into one of the spiders again is the most desirable of reunions for you.

:: She tried to make eye contact with him, but he continued to look into the distance, remembering now. ::

DEL VEDOVA: It's more than just arachnophobia. I've seen what those things can do up close -- to Bale, to Cain. I was *there*. I performed the emergency operations....

:: He shuddered again. ::

RAHMAN: Del...

DEL VEDOVA: Well, you're the ranking officer, Commander. You tell me what to do, and I'll do it.

:: Of course. Take it out of his hands and have her force him to do whatever needed to be done, even if it meant ignoring her friend's PTSD or have him suffer a panic attack. ::

:: What was needed to be done anyway, though? ::

RAHMAN: Hmmm... the fact that it just left us now suggests it doesn't consider us a threat. At least not presently. Did its behavior seem any different from what you saw when you were last here?

DEL VEDOVA: Oh, yes. They were aggressive killers! This -- I mean, I still don't trust them, but they're displaying much less overt aggression.

RAHMAN: All right, well, the prudent thing is to notify Commander Herodion and station security and engineering. Whether we try to help this survivor or not, I'd like our next encounter to be a little less...

:: She took a moment to wipe away some strands of the spider's web still clinging to the outer skin of her environmental suit. Del shuddered. ::

RAHMAN: ...entangled.

DEL VEDOVA: Agreed. Do you want to do it?

:: She nodded and tapped her combadge, calling DSX's chief engineer. ::

RAHMAN: =^= Rahman to Commander Sal.

:: The voice on the other end was a bit distorted at first, but the signal quickly cleared up. ::

SAL: =/\= Sal speaking, what can I do for you?=/\=

RAHMAN: =/\= This is Commander Rahman. I'm with Dr. Del Vedova down in... =/\=

:: She took a glance around and realized she still didn't know quite where they were, and with her tricorder left behind at the first flow regulator where they had been snatched by the spider, it would be difficult to triangulate their exact location ::

:: Del took the hint and started looking for some marker of where they were, but he found nothing -- not that he really expected to, as the station was unlikely (at least yet) to have signs he could read. ::

RAHMAN: =/\= Actually, I'm not really sure. Can you get a position lock on us, commander? We are somewhere where the power has just been restored to this section of the station. =/\=

SAL: =/\= What are you doing in a access corridor all the out there? By my readings your not too far from the Arachnid dome. =/\=

RAHMAN: =/\= We ran into one of the station's previous inhabitants: a cybernetic spider. It looks like it survived the CME, but many of its companions didn't. It... um, encouraged us to help repair a flow regulator before running off into the shadows. I doubt you'll pick it up on sensors, but it might be worth a shot to try. =/\=

SAL: =/\= More importantly are you and your doctor friend ok? =/\=

RAHMAN: =/\= We are unharmed, but Dr. Del Vedova notes that the spider appeared injured and possibly treatable... we could use some additional help -- and security -- though before we go looking after it. Please beam us back to the command center, so that we can meet with you and Commander Herodion. =/\=

SAL: =/\= I think I can manage that this time although its worth noting that the Commander doesn't like unnecessary site to site beamings. =/\=

DEL VEDOVA: Doesn't *like*? That hardly enters into it!

:: He didn't say it loudly enough for her badge to pick up, he thought, and he saw a slight smile pull at her mouth. ::

RAHMAN: =/\= Also, if you could please advise my colleague Mr. Walker to join us. =/\=

SAL: =/\= Sorry no can do on that one. Walker is on probationary duty and currently indisposed. =/\=

:: Roshanara was genuinely surprised to hear the news about Mr. Walker's "probationary duty" status. In the time that she had worked with him on the Mercury, she had never known him to be anything less than professional. She exchanged glances with Del before responding. ::

RAHMAN: =/\= I see... well, then we will just see you and Commander Herodion then. =/\=

SAL: =/\= That you will. Sal out. =/\=

:: Del looked over at Rahman; he wanted to ask her when to expect transport, if they should take a sample of the dead spiders' biomaterial or anything else, but before he could even speak the beam had grabbed them. Well, wasn't that always the way of it? ::


Dr. Nic del Vedova

Chief of Emergency Services, USS Mercury

&

Lt. Cmdr. Roshanara "Little Miss Muffet" Rahman

Chief Engineer, USS Mercury