It had been some time since Noah had climbed last. He caught himself making the climb harder on himself than need be. He pulled himself up onto a natural ledge and looked for the next point of attack. As he looked, he found his mind drifting back to the events in Engineering. He felt a twinge of guilt for stunning Thomas as he remembered seeing the Ensign’s face. The effects of the orbs had just dissipated and Noah remembered seeing recognition in Thomas’s eyes when the stun blast had hit him. Noah had acted on instinct. He had reasoned then and reassured himself numerous times in the past few hours that he’d stunned Thomas because he hadn’t had time to find out if the troublemaker was still under the influence or not. At the time when he’d stunned the Ensign, he’d had about 90 seconds to try and shunt the overload to the shield generator. The easiest way to accomplish that mission had been to stun Thomas and deal with the overload.
Noah took another deep breath and blew it out through his clenched teeth. He looked at the rock face again. He had to put this incident out of his mind; this part of the climb demanded his absolute concentration. He checked that he had the gear that he needed for this part and then refilled his chalk bag.
The comm badge clipped to Noah’s shirt chirped. He wedged his dangling right foot into the chimney formation and used his now freed right hand to tap answer the call.
“Masterson here,” Noah said, hearing the strain in his voice.
“It’s Ensign Guptha in Operations, Lieutenant. The chrono-display shows three hours and one minute,” the OOD explained.
“Understood, Ensign: I’m fine and about 500 feet from the summit. You can call off the Marines,” Masterson joked.
“Was I supposed to send some, sir,” Guptha asked. “I will, however, stand down the Medical SAR team and the shuttle currently on 2-minute notice, Lieutenant.”
Masterson smiled. He liked a sharp wit as much as the next person; he had thought that Guptha’s dry humor might make things interesting around Operations. So far, so good.
“That’s good, Ensign. I’ll contact you once I reach the summit. Masterson out,” Noah replied. He tapped the combadge and then continued on with the climb. An hour later, he reported to Operations that he had made the summit and would need a ride back down, unless Ensign Guptha wanted some extra hours. He sat down and surveyed Bersallis III while he waited for the shuttle that Guptha had sent. When he heard the approaching engines, he gathered his gear and waited to leave.