USS Vesta

A Play-by-Nova roleplay game.

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Two is the Loneliest Number

Posted on Fri Feb 10th, 2023 @ 11:39pm by Commander Martin Sorenson & Commander Jonathan Mantell
Edited on on Sat Feb 11th, 2023 @ 11:39am

Mission: Between Realities
Location: Medbay
Timeline: After "Treehouse of Little Terrors"
2149 words - 4.3 OF Standard Post Measure

The still, recycled air of the Vesta corridors had a sobering effect on the Only teen. In the arboretum, the fresh, renewed air had a sense of living to it, a purpose of being. Even with the obstacles, one very physical, that he'd found there, the ship's arboretum had been the first place that Jack had felt like he could breathe on this ship. Even that seemed hostile to many on this ship, to think that he could breathe easy while their timeline's Jack breathed through a machine. At least he could count on two people who didn't have such a strong feeling that he was outed immediately as an imposter or an intruder. Two lone souls on a ship of hundreds, it was better than nothing.

It didn't make Jack feel like he wanted to stay here, either.

Jack could tell he didn't belong, that was obvious. He hadn't planned on being so oblivious about it, either. Stepping through the portal between their universes, the Only had expected his counterpart to meet him on this side. Together, they could find his way back, a pair of Jacks could do anything together. When their Jack woke up, when he could finally meet the 'real' Jack, Jack was certain he would agree.

The medbay was even more hectic than Jack remembered leaving it, the teenager nearly collided with a blue-shirted crewmember rushing through the door ahead of him. His security minder faded into the background, letting the Only maneuver toward the intensive care ward again. Toward his whole purpose of being here. The farther he went, the more frustrated Jack became, finding himself himself constantly stopped. This time, it wasn't by anyone challenging his approach, but by the sheer magnitude of medical mayhem that ensued within the ship's furiously busy medbay.

It was enough to make Jack remember why he used to avoid these places like the plague — and he had lived through a plague or five to know.

Jack's goal only seemed to get farther and farther away, every footstep holding less weight in this alien universe. The teen was starting to consider if he would ever make it to his counterpart in this reality. Engineering was so much simpler than this, when a machine was broken it got fixed. Jack often considered himself a machine in that way, even joking about what made him run and the fixes he needed — the sugar fix was always the best option, even when it wasn't. He almost glanced around for a replicator before remembering that sugar wouldn't fix this broken machine.

Not the one lying in the next room, living through machines himself.

Only the doctors here could, and they seemed scattered by other crises. If the others on the ship had known, would they think better of how they treated Jack now? That the future of the boy they idolized lay in the balance between his efforts and that of Doctor Sorenson? The Only knew they would never accept him as that future, not even if he stayed. The thought quickened his pace and heart, glancing about warily for the one soul who could ensure that Jack didn't leave this timeline behind without himself.

Luckily, the next person he ran into was the man himself. Casting his eyes up to Doctor Sorenson, Jack almost wished he hadn't. Not even the plaintive look in Aaron's face, just moments ago in the Arboretum, had been enough to prepare the teen to stare at pure exasperation in uniform. For a moment, he thought that was the end of it, that the doctor had decided he was done focusing on Jack as well. Then the teen heard the uncompromising words of...the self-same man in armor more suited to combat forces, screaming for a weapon.

So Jack wasn't the only cross-universe visitor they still had to deal with.

He shrugged and looked back to the only Sorenson he cared about right now. "I'd ask if this was a bad time, but I get the sense that they all are on this boat."

"You don't know the half of it." The exasperation was real, but not directed at teen Jack, whose arrival was more welcome than nearly everything else that had come through the door recently. At the moment that applied in particular a version of himself in marine armor who was refusing to let go of his phaser rifle. The only thing more disconcerting than discovering you did in fact have the capacity to be quite at home with doing harm, was looking into your own eyes and seeing it on the other end of a rifle pointed at your face. On one level he understood - the man had apparently gone from an active battle zone to the chaos of this medbay, so suspecting some enemy trap wasn't entirely unreasonable, but after having to talk down more a few such in the last several hours, having to rehash that with, well, himself - and a blood-minded obstinate and paranoid version at that - had truly gotten on his last nerve. Worse, now that the combination of persuasion and blood loss had gotten the man to at least stop pointing the rifle, Martin's staff seemed very uncertain about how to deal with him. (It couldn't be the resemblance. God knew, Ziks had no problem telling him to sit down before he fell over). "I'll be right with you," the doctor said, taking the excuse to force someone else to deal with Marine Martin. "Murray, sedate him if you have to, but treat that leg wound. And you," he pointed at the other Martin, "Stop threatening my staff, eh?"

With that Martin turned quickly, ushering Jack toward the ICU. "I expect you want news on your other self. The good news is that your stem cells are doing the trick. Given the degree of damage, and how weak he is, it will take a bit, but I expect him to make a full recovery." The happiness in the doctor's voice was a stark contrast to the sounds of a very similar voice engaging in shockingly fluent cussing somewhere behind them. "I have him sedated at the moment since we don't exactly have spare staff to make sure he doesn't try to leave, but I can dial that back if you want a moment to speak with him. You just have to promise me you'll make sure he stays put."

"Of course, I promise," Jack nodded as sincerely as he could to the chief physician. Anything to get time with his counterpart here. The news of the other Jack's recovery sat oddly on the Only's shoulders, and he paused before the entrance to the ICU. To the rest of the crew, he was the imposter, an imperfect version of what could be ahead of their crewmate and friend. The teenager could have come with any intentions but one that would have been accepted as pure, not with their own version stricken ill because of him. If he hadn't let curiosity get the better of him, hadn't looked in the odd portal that appeared, perhaps their Jack wouldn't have been pushed to the brink of death because of him.

And perhaps he wouldn't be leaving a part of himself behind in their Jack either.

It wasn't the reason he had come, but it was what he was going to leave as his legacy. Jack thought about turning away, abandoning his quest to see his counterpart at last. From all he had gathered, the only ones here who had received him openly were those that their Jack had rejected. There was only one more person who hadn't decided, and he was lying on a biobed inside the ICU. He had technology to assemble and a portal to build, all under the constraints of a ship under siege, the Only could spend his time better than this. It wouldn't be as fun, but Jack would survive, and from all accounts from their Doctor Sorenson, so would the other Jack.

Jack let his feet move, his mind made up. The mayhem of the medbay dulled behind him as he left it behind, passing into the quiet realm of humming machinery and the monitors attached to Jack. The other Jack. The real Jack. His last chance in this universe. Jack, the older version, stepped a meter away from his younger self, pausing to glance up at the physician. "Do you think he'll remember any of this?"

As he dialed back the sedative, Martin regarded the boy still lying unconscious attached to monitors and fluid drips. He very much hoped the Jack who'd panicked and flailed at the prospect of even a simple hypo wouldn't remember most it. "Some of it, though probably not clearly since he was near delirious when he was first brought in. Now that he's more recovered... possibly. I can say for sure," the doctor admitted wearily.

The teenager nodded solemnly, pondering the circumstances for a moment. There were still so many variables, too many uncertainties. He'd known that going into this adventure, only counting on the boy in front of him to see it through. Now that he finally had the chance to meet him, Jack couldn't understand why he was still so uneasy. "I hope so," he said at last, taking a step forward. This was why he was here, after all. "I don't think I'll ever forget it."

Jack took hold of the another Jack's hand, fulfilling his journey at last.

Martin nodded, stepping away to leave them some privacy. "I doubt I'll ever forget any of this either." ...much as I'd like to...

There was silence in the ICU, for as much as there could be, for several minutes. Seated by his slow-to-wake counterpart, the Only searched for what he wanted to say. A few times, he started to speak, only to find himself fumbling for words. Jack didn't think it should be this hard, he was the friendliest person and loved talking. He was a great admirer of himself, too, and truth be told he had mentioned that fact to the mirror or an empty room more than once. "Isn't it so weird?"

He glanced at the sleeping boy, who gave little indication of stirring yet. It didn't deter the teenager, simply bringing more color to his flustered face. "I can't find a single thing to say that seems right in this moment." Jack rolled his own eyes, annoyed more with his own hesitation than any embarrassment to be talking to a room devoid of listeners. He might have had plenty to say, suggestions coming to mind the instant he admitted his shortcomings, but the Only didn't get time to voice them.

[Everyone. This is Yoshi Minawara. As we speak members of the crew are attempting to solve the issue of the current displacement we find ourselves in...]

Jack found a way to secure himself with one hand tethered to the prone form of his boyish self. The teenager thought to fill the air with all his ideas, his plans for his visit, the ways each crewmember, Starfleet or not, had interacted with him, suggestions for his counterpart, the longer his list carried on the more wrong it felt to give it voice. He sat solemnly instead, grasping his only tether to this reality.

He roused from the violent rocking, bruising from vibrations that should have been comforting at any other time. While the ship pitched and strained, he had the vaguest feeling he needed to be doing something. What was it? More of the ear-splitting sounds assaulted his head, and he threw his arms around it. Something pinched at the skin of his hands and arms, pulling at him, trying to keep him from safety? No, the Only wouldn't give in, keeping his eyes tightly shut against the maelstrom around him. It was so loud, so confusing, and all he'd wanted was to go back to sleep.

Now, all he wanted was someone to tell him it was going to be okay.

Tired, groggy eyes finally opened when the air had stilled. Jack peered through a grimy haze, rubbing at eyelids that he could have sworn weighed as much as five starships. He rubbed at them, yanking at the tethers of his hands, and only after discovered they were tubes. Medical tubes, coming out of his body! The boy shuddered, whimpering in the lonely confines of the worst place on the ship for him. Against all reason, he thought there had been someone here, calling on him to wake up, holding his hand.

His hand was empty now, just like the rest of the intensive-care ward of the medbay where Jack laid for some time after the ship calmed and long after he resigned himself to being all alone.


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