"Making It Out"
Author's Note: Written for suryaofvulcan in the Enterprise Ficathon. She wanted “Travis in command of Enterprise. Don't care how or why, just give the boy a chance to shine.”
Making it Out, or, the Story of the First Human to Receive the D’Nashi Medal of Grand Distinction
It appeared to be a bland and unexciting asteroid field. While it was perhaps larger than the average interstellar asteroid field, it was by no means the largest known, and its slow-moving component asteroids were spread out thinly. Seventeen Enterprises could have fit between any two given chunks of metal and rock, and Travis Mayweather could have piloted through it without difficulty at the age of nine.
As they approached the perimeter, T’Pol announced that the asteroid field created a magnetic field unlike any other on record. It was not, she concluded, a great variation from known magnetic fields, but she thought it merited study. Enterprise was heading through at impulse anyway – besides the fact that plowing through asteroid fields at warp speeds was ill-advised, one of the plasma injectors was acting up, so the warp engine was temporarily offline for preventative maintenance. Captain Archer had Travis slow to three-quarter impulse to allow for more thorough scans.
They’d been inside the perimeter less than two minutes before Travis started to feel unwell. It was a strange ailing, unlike anything he’d previously experienced. At first he thought that perhaps he needed to stretch his legs, because they felt pressured. Then it spread to a headache and the incomparable sensation that his stomach was shrinking.
“Does anyone else feel like they’re being crushed?” asked Hoshi.
“More or less,” replied Travis, who found that speaking took more effort that it normally did.
“That’s a good way to explain it,” agreed the captain.
Malcolm’s affirmative answer was in the form of his worried question, “Could this be some sort of defense mechanism?”
Archer rubbed his temple and sighed. “T’Pol?”
“I do not detect anything that would suggest artificial construction.”
“Do you feel it?”
“Yes.” Travis wondered if it bothered her to admit that.
“Reverse course, Travis. Full impulse.”
“Reversing course, full impulse.” By this time Travis felt his body resist movement, limbs weighed down by some invisible force that defied explanation, muscles straining to obey the commands of his brain.
The comm. came to life with a distinctive accent. “Tucker to the bridge. We’re all feelin’ weird down here.”
“Everyone is, Trip. We’re leaving the asteroid field.”
“The unique magnetic forces of this asteroid field could be the cause of our adverse reactions,” theorized T’Pol.
Whatever explanation she might have offered was cut off by a thud. With extreme effort, Travis turned his head enough to see that Hoshi had slumped over her console, evidently unconscious.
“Bridge to Sickbay,” paged the captain. When no reply was forthcoming, Travis got more worried. “Bridge to Sickbay. Dr. Phlox, please respond.” Still nothing, but the captain sounded less lucid. “Bridge to…Bridge to…” Then there was nothing more from Captain Archer.
Travis could not turn to look behind him as the bridge grew silent. He could no longer spare the effort of movement; his focus remained the helm. Getting out of the asteroid field quickly was the only hope left.
“Commander? Lieutenant?” he croaked after a moment. When there was no reply, he could only assume the worst. He was the last person conscious on the bridge, and possibly the entire ship.
His body pulsed, strangely, with a rhythm that felt reassuring, even as Travis knew it would kill him. His heart beat to an irregular pulse, and it took effort to breathe. Instead of legs, he felt only a vague sensation of shifting pain. Even his arms obeyed the desires of his mind only with concentrated exertion; without knowing the helm as he did, there was no way his fingers could have performed the correct functions.
It was like moving in a state closer to sleep than wakefulness. Travis found his concentration slipping away, even as he approached the perimeter. With an intuitive understanding characteristic of the best pilots, he continued to navigate the ship even though he could no longer identify the name of his course. Was it starboard or port? He could not recall, but it was the way out. He would not allow the curtain to close on his mind.
After precious seconds passed, his finger pushed the control. At the Academy there had been a wretched training exercise that simulated high gravity, but it had nothing on his current situation. Moving a finger half an inch might have well been twirling a shuttlepod on the same finger for all the trouble it was.
Finally Enterprise cleared the asteroid field. The immediate effect of this was a change in the pain Travis felt; it seemed as though each individual cell in his body was now throbbing. He was trying to decide if he should come to a stop near the field so T’Pol could study it more or get as far away as possible, but was interrupted by the soft chiming of Hoshi’s station.
It was tempting to ignore the incoming transmission, but there was a chance it could be something important, such as an angry alien threatening to blow Enterprise to smithereens unless they left the area. Getting from the helm to the communications console was no small feat, but Travis managed to drag himself over. He carefully repositioned Hoshi so she was no longer slumped over, noting with relief as he did that she was breathing normally.
He picked up the earpiece and listened to the transmission. It sounded like an automated call to his untrained ear. Unfortunately, the Universal Translator was not living up to its name. Travis worried about that, because it sounded like an automated distress call, but he most certainly did not want to find out the hard way that it was a threat.
Whoever was sending out the transmission didn’t care much for consonants, it seemed. Finally the UT gave him a word in English: help. Over again, between the alien words that Travis couldn’t pronounce if he wanted to, he heard “help.”
Decision made, Travis made his way back to the helm. He tried his best to ignore the pain that was just beginning to subside, and instead focused on finding the source of the distress call.
“Oh no,” he groaned aloud. There was a small craft, hardly bigger than a shuttlepod, fifty seconds’ travel into the field. Enterprise would have to spend nearly two minutes inside the danger zone. He considered for a moment, but looked over to the captain’s chair. Looking at the occupant, he concluded that, if Captain Archer were the one awake, he would go in. Therefore Travis would as well.
First things first, though. He limped over to the tactical station, where Malcolm had slumped on the floor and appeared to be sleeping. Travis was reassured by his even breathing, and proceeded to route grappler control to the helm. He then took the long way back to his station, checking on T’Pol and Captain Archer. The walking was laborious but imperative.
He was still nagged by the thought that he should keep Enterprise out of the asteroid field at all costs. What if he couldn’t resist the effects? After all, he didn’t know how he’d managed to in the first place. Worse, what if returning hurt his shipmates, his friends? There was no good answer, really, but Travis took comfort from knowing that his course of action followed what Captain Archer’s would be.
At first he didn’t notice anything different than the throbbing he already felt, but halfway to the alien ship it became obvious that he’d be lucky to make it out. Why had he gone in again? Oh yes, it was the right thing to do…sometimes it’s easy to forget that when your life and the lives of your friends are at stake. Refocusing, Travis tried to ignore the growing sensation that his legs were being slowly stretched away from his body. Similarly he attempted to push all thoughts of his throbbing shoulders out of his mind, although it felt as though someone were pushing his shoulder blades together. If he could bring Enterprise over the last asteroid, the grappler would have a clear shot. That was what mattered.
With lead fingers he released the grappler. For the first time since they’d come across the cursed asteroid field, something went right: the grappler landed squarely on the alien ship. Travis instructed the computer to reel it in while he took them out of the asteroid field.
It was going to be the longest fifty seconds of his life, but he had to stay conscious. Autopilot was a tricky thing in asteroid fields, and at any rate it had to be programmed. The only way out was through his manual skills, and towing another ship added more complexity. Still, it would have been easy as pie except for his rapidly deteriorating condition. Pressing his fingers on the console, quite necessary to pilot, made it seem like his finger bones were being pulverized, while his spine could have been on fire from the searing hot pain it caused.
As soon as the spine goes, things start to go downhill. In a matter of three seconds the fire had spread out through his nervous system. Travis barely avoided scraping the small alien ship on a particularly jagged asteroid. Enterprise was now moving in spasms that sent Captain Archer’s unconscious form to the floor, although Travis was too far gone to notice.
At last there was hope. While Travis doubted he could last the final fifteen seconds, a small turn would take them out of collision range. The laws of physics, seeming still applicable, would take care of the rest; Enterprise and her rescued passenger would glide out of the asteroid field at full impulse.
Bright light was ruining most of his vision and he could no longer feel if he was touching the console. Travis felt his fingers only as extensions of the blazing in his hands. Hoping that he was, in fact, hitting the correct buttons, he set the ship’s course.
With that, the red-hot pain consumed him, and he remained conscious for another three seconds but unaware of anything aside from pain. Losing consciousness was a relief - cool water to the pain he suffered. As Enterprise and the alien ship slipped past the perimeter of the asteroid field, Travis Mayweather’s comatose body slumped over the helm. It so happened that the way his head landed, he cut power to the engines. Nevertheless, the two ships drifted on the strength of their momentum, safely away from the magnetic distortions.
Both Phlox and T’Pol later theorized that Travis was able to remain conscious longer because he had grown up in space. As the latter had put it, “The entirely of your physical formative period was spent in space, which likely reduced your sensitivity to changes in magnetism due to constant exposure to the magnetic variations you encountered on your parents’ vessel.”
Whatever the cause, Travis was just glad that he had been able to save Enterprise and the aliens. They called themselves D’Nashi, and diplomatic relations were off to a great start. At the end of the day, though the D’Nashi were calling him a hero and insisting on awarding him their Medal of Grand Distinction, Travis felt less like a hero and more like a regular human as he drifted off to sleep.
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