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2371; Starfleet Academy; "Climbing Accident"

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Nov. 7th, 2005 | 09:06 pm
posted by: colleenodonnell in en_fanfic

Since I've referred to this story in the RP, I figured I'd include the story behind it here. It happened in their second year of the Academy, during the weekend (when every careless accident happens).

Character Bios:

Colleen O'Donnell--*Just* turned nineteen, only a week earlier. She is a bit careless, she rushes into things, and she doesn't think as much before she acts. She's competitive, driven, and energetic, as always. She's got the 'it'll never happen to me' outlook at the moment.

John Wendell--Turned twenty a few months ago, a bit more mature than his first year but not by much. He still is every bit as competitive as Colleen and though he's slightly more concerned with his surroundings and danger, he'll forfeit all of that just for the challenge. He's willing to risk what he has in the hope of gaining something better, but he's a quick thinker. He's as sharp as can be, and will always find a loophole. He can basically sell ice to Andorians, and strategize anything at all.

Vereil Kate--They finally call her 'Kate', having been friends with her long enough to do so. Kate's cautious but fun-loving. Willing to take risks if they're important enough. She's security cautious because she's an aspiring security officer, but she's willing to compromise some of those beliefs in the name of a good time.

Richard Young--Rick's got his head straight on his shoulders. He's absolutely sure what is right and what isn't and he's considered overly-cautious by the other three. He'll say some things they don't approve of, thinking he's being helpful. But he's still a good friend. He's there when you need him and although he might be thinking of your physical well-being moreso than having a good time, he knows how to compromise and get out for a while.

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colleenodonnell

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from: colleenodonnell
date: Nov. 8th, 2005 02:14 am (UTC)
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It was November, in their second year. Mid-terms were done, and semester exams weren’t for another month. The cadets of course had work to do, but the weekend was quickly approaching and Colleen, John, Kate, and Rick all needed some down-time.
“Let’s go climbing,” John suggested Thursday afternoon as they sat in one of the dining halls, eating pizza and sandwiches.
“Climbing?” Rick asked. “Where? Holodeck?”
“Holodeck?!” Colleen laughed. “No, if we go, we go to a real rock. St. Hugo Heights.”
“I don’t have any gear,” Kate said.
“Not a problem. We’ll free-climb,” Colleen said.
“Are you insane?” Rick protested. “Free climb as in climb without gear? I’m *not* doing that.”
“You can borrow my gear, then,” John said.
“I’m not doing that either. I’m not risking falling…how tall is St. Hugo? Like eighty feet?”
“What are the chances of you falling the full eighty, Kate?” Colleen asked her.
“If you’re experienced, which you *are*, then you’ll probably wait a while before making a mistake,” Kate answered. “It’s stupid. Let’s replicate some gear.”
“I don’t have any credits left,” John said.
“What’d you waste ‘em on?” Rick asked.
“Food. And some cool stuff. Come on,” he added when he saw Rick’s disapproving look. “Like you haven’t blown your month’s worth of credits before.”
“Maybe,” Rick said with a shrug.
“Anyway, I’ve got some credits left over,” Colleen said. “I’ll replicate two extra harnesses. Then we’ll all have one.”
They nodded.
“We have to get approval from Dean Wilkes,” Rick said. “Off-campus activity. Why don’t we just go to the holodeck?”
“Because if you fall you don’t die,” John said jokingly. “And Colleen and I have a death wish.”
“Ha-ha,” Kate said. “You aren’t careful enough. The both of you. The most immature people I’ve *ever* met.”
“Why thank you,” Colleen said. “Come on, let’s go ask Dean Wilkes now.”
“A million people’s requests are probably in front of us,” John added, and they took off toward the Dean’s office. Once there, they waited in line for fifteen minutes before finally the door opened to the office, and Dean Wilkes asked them to step inside.
“What can I do for you four?”
“We’d like to go climbing this weekend, Sir. St. Hugo’s,” Colleen said.
“Do you have gear?”
“We have to replicate some, Sir” Kate said.
“Do you have credits?”
“I do, Sir,” Colleen said. “I think I have ten left. And we only need two harnesses.”
“That should clean out your ten. What do you plan to do for the remaining ten days of the month? Are you three willing to lend her some?”
“I’m all out, Sir,” John said.
“Me too, Sir,” Rick said.
“I spent my last one on my mother’s birthday gift, Sir,” Kate said.
“So no extra items for you, Colleen,” Wilkes said. He sighed, and leaned back. “I think it’s a bad idea.”
“Sir—I still have all my meal credits for the rest of the month. I won’t need to replicate anything.”
“Until the next hockey game, when your stick breaks or your helmet cracks. Or the next PADD that someone steps on. Think about this, Colleen. Ten days with no replicator credits.”
“With all do respect, Sir, we don’t have any left either,” John pointed out. He didn’t include ‘and *we’re* surviving.’ Dean Wilkes was known for being over-protective.
He sighed again and said,
“If you are willing to take responsibility for whatever happens, you have permission to go. You have nine hours Saturday, starting at 0800 hours. If you aren’t back by 1700 in time for check-in you’ll be reprimanded. Understood, Cadets?”
“Yes, Sir!” They all answered simultaneously.
“And no one falls. Make sure that equipment is sturdy, and notify St. Hugo officials as to what you’re doing.”
“Yes, Sir,” Colleen said. She knew the St. Hugo people anyway. They always let her climb the ledge.
“Have fun, Cadets.”
“Yes, Sir, we will,” John said. They left his office, and went on to class.

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colleenodonnell

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from: colleenodonnell
date: Nov. 8th, 2005 02:15 am (UTC)
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The next two days were very long. They had no option but go through their normal classes and wait. When Saturday finally arrived, the four of them were up at 0600 and ready to go by 0630. But sign-out wasn’t until 0800, so they figured they’d replicate the harnesses then. Expending all her credits, Colleen came up with two more harnesses. They didn’t have extra climbing shoes, and John was a size larger than Rick, so Rick decided to go in his hand-to-hand combat training boots. They proceeded to laugh at him until Kate emerged from their dorm with *hers* on, and then they decided it wasn’t so uncommon to think along those lines after all.
They got onto the transit and rode it to St. Hugo’s where they walked for a bit before getting to the official’s office. They received a clip-in point and skipped the information session and option to teleport to the clip-in point and make sure it was sturdy. They trusted the St. Hugo people.
They clipped in, and the auto-belay checked their harnesses. The green light came on, and they began climbing.
Then Colleen said to John,</i> “Race you.”
John could not turn down a challenge. He never could. “You’re on.”
Normally the auto-belay would just keep up with their pace, but for some reason it was sluggish. Neither John nor Colleen cared. They were experienced, and the chances of them falling were slim to none. Rick and Kate were farther down. It was Rick’s first time on a real ledge. And his second time climbing ever. Kate climbed when she was little, but hadn’t been climbing since primary school. So they were considerably lower than Colleen and John.
Colleen reached forty feet. Fifty feet. Sixty. Her hands were starting to get tired, and she felt the muscles in her arms tightening.
John’s legs were screaming for him to stop. He decided to take up running as a weekend hobby, instead of just hockey with Colleen. Because obviously the skating wasn’t keeping his legs in the amount of shape they needed to be in.
He saw Colleen pass him and became determined to catch up. He went faster, and got to the point where the ledge rocked out at a 75 degree angle with the horizontal. It wasn’t that huge of a outcrop but it was large enough to make it harder. As he hung by his arm, he felt his auto-belay jerk. He paused for a moment.
“Colleen, did you feel that?”
“Nice try,” Colleen said. “You can’t stop me from climbing. I’m beating you, for God’s sake! Hurry up. We might still tie.”
John shrugged and kept climbing. But the auto-belay didn’t feel right. He went slower. He noticed Colleen did not. Then she reached a point where he could see she wasn’t tall enough to reach. She was going to have to jump.
Colleen came to this realization about five feet from the top of the ledge. The auto-belay would catch her if she didn’t make it. She leapt.
John paused while she did. She was still too short, and had way too much momentum. What was she thinking? He watched as her hand grabbed the bit she wanted, but then slipped because of her lack of a foothold.
She hung for a moment, and the auto-belay system jerked again. She fell.
Colleen watched as the ground came nearer. It was happening so fast. She heard Rick and Kate scream her name, she saw John release his clamp and begin to rapell down, and she kept falling. Sixty feet. Fifty. Forty. Thirty. She was caught. But at that point she had so much momentum that the harness yanked her hip out of its joint, and she slipped half-way out of it. She kept falling the final ten feet. Then she felt a horrible impact, and darkness.

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colleenodonnell

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from: colleenodonnell
date: Nov. 8th, 2005 02:16 am (UTC)
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John saw the entire thing. Although he was rapelling, he watched her fall. It was instant. He saw her jerk out of her harness and fall the final couple of feet. Then she was still.</i> “Colleen!” He screamed again, and finally got to the bottom. Rick and Kate were already there. Kate was taking her pulse. Rick was contacting the officials on his combadge. And John…John couldn’t move. He just stared at his friend, and stammered, “Kate…it she…?”
“She’s alive,” Kate said. “Unconscious. What the hell *happened* up there. You guys were almost at the top!”
The emergency personnel arrived and entered the access code to beam her directly to StarMed. John, Kate, and Rick did not have clearance to beam with her, so they caught the emergency transit and went as quickly as they could. They ran into the Emergency Center, only to be stopped by two nurses. “We understand you’re Colleen O’Donnell’s friends, but doctors are extremely busy right now and they don’t need you three getting in the way.”
“I have some medical training—we all do. We’re cadets in Starfleet Academy…maybe we can help or something—“ John started.
“The best thing you can do to help is to go to the waiting room and stay out of our way,” The nurse reiterated. John didn’t listen, and started to move toward the Emergency Center trauma room that looked like everyone was gathering around. The other nurse held him back and said, “Do we need to call security? Come on, you guys are Cadets. Act like it and go wait.”
John said firmly, “You’ll call us if anything happens?”
“We’ll call you. We promise,” one nurse said.
“Where’s the waiting room?” Rick asked.
“Over there,” The nurse pointed, and the three turned and walked into that room. They sat down.
Rick was the first to speak.
“What exactly happened? You guys were racing.”
“Yeah,” John said. “The auto belay jerked. Did you feel that? Right when we got to the outcrop on the ledge?”
“Yeah, we did. We stopped climbing then. We both thought it was malfunctioning,” Kate said.
“So why didn’t you guys stop?” Rick asked.
“We were racing,” John said. “I paused. Colleen just kept going.”
Kate rolled her eyes.
“What were the chances that the equipment wasn’t going to work? Huh? Like one in a billion? I suppose you’re glad you’re right, Kate. She *didn’t* make a mistake until she got to the top!” John got up and walked away.
“He didn’t mean that,” Rick said to her. “He’s nervous. And he probably feels responsible.”
“I know,” She answered. “But he’s not. It wasn’t his fault, and he needs to know that. I’ll be right back.”
She got up and went to console him. Rick just sat there, staring at the trauma room door.

Meanwhile in the trauma room, the doctors moved as if they had practiced this exact routine. Colleen required surgery—the impact on her skull had been too large and they needed to repair damage to her brain. Her leg had been dislocated but that could be easily fixed. She had broken her collar bone, her wrist, and somehow, her pinky finger, but not any other fingers. But those too could be easily fixed. She had a large laceration on her arm, which was sealed. The cranial injuries were the most severe, and required the doctors’ attention immediately.

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colleenodonnell

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from: colleenodonnell
date: Nov. 8th, 2005 02:17 am (UTC)
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Her parents were notified, and they both beamed in directly from Starfleet HQ, where they were giving a presentation on compact transporters.
She went into surgery one minute and thirty seconds after her parents arrived. The surgery lasted three hours, and in that time Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell stood outside the trauma room door with John, Rick, and Kate. Mr. O’Donnell said only once,</i> “What happened,” and John launched into the explanation. It was clear he still thought he was to blame. Mr. O’Donnell said, “Are you three all right?”
When they nodded, Colleen’s dad put his hand on John’s shoulder. “You aren’t to blame, John.”
John nodded, still not entirely convinced. Finally, the doctor walked out. “We were able to repair the damage to her brain,” he said immediately with a reassuring smile, as Mrs. O’Donnell muttered, ‘oh, thank God’. “We aren’t sure when she’ll wake up or how much she’ll remember when she does. Someone needs to fill out a statement as to what happened.”
“I will,” John said quickly.
“We should too,” Kate said. “Rick and I were there and saw the whole thing from a different angle.”
“Why weren’t those auto belay devices examined? And how the hell did they malfunction?” Mr. O’Donnell said.
“You’ll have to ask the St. Hugo officials that question, Mr. O’Donnell,” the doctor said.
“Will Colleen make a full recovery?” Mrs. O’Donnell interjected.
“She should. As soon as she wakes up, we’ll be able to tell how much she can remember. She’s not going to be steady on her feet for at least a few days. And I’m declaring her unfit for Academy work for two and a half weeks. She should be up and walking around by Wednesday or Thursday, though. Just keep her at home and no extreme physical exertion for the next two and a half weeks.”
“No hockey,” John said.
“Not for another three weeks, at least.”
“But she’s going to be okay. Oh, thank God,” Mrs. O’Donnell said. “Can we see her?”
“Yes,” the doctor said. “You can wait for her to wake up. Though I caution you, you might be waiting a while. The nurses are going to repair minor damage. She still has a few open lacerations and broken bones we’d like to repair. As far as internal injuries go, we’ve repaired those.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Mr. O’Donnell said, and turned to Colleen’s friends, indicating that they all should go in. They walked into the room, and saw Colleen definitely not looking her best but looking infinitely better than she had. A few nurses were running regenerators over her untreated injuries. Electronic bandages lined areas where deep lacerations had been sealed, and a brace held her leg in place so it wasn’t irritated by movement.
Of course John, Kate, and Rick did not know this, but Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell were reliving the event from nine years ago, when their son and daughter were both involved in that horrifying shuttle accident. Colleen suffered injuries far more severe than what she faced now, but the fact that she was seriously injured again brought back those painful memories of their fifteen-year-old’s death, and Colleen’s narrow escape from that fate. Erin couldn’t help but cry, and Patrick didn’t do very well in his efforts to avoid tears.
Kate and John and Rick looked at each other, confused as to why Colleen’s parents were reacting like this. Colleen was injured, but the doctor said she would be okay. There was no need to cry.

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colleenodonnell

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from: colleenodonnell
date: Nov. 8th, 2005 02:17 am (UTC)
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They waited six hours before Colleen woke up. In that time, Rick left and brought food back for everyone. Sometime in there, a nurse had brought fold-up chairs, but no one could really remember when. When her eyelids flickered open and she looked around, she sighed, coughed slightly, and tried to sit up unsuccessfully.</i>
“Easy there, Peanut,” Patrick said.
“How are you feeling?” Erin asked.
“Like crap. How are you?” Colleen asked her mom, seeing the red rings around her eyes that gave away the fact that she had been crying.
“I’m fine, baby,” Mrs. O’Donnell said as she hugged her daughter passionately. “I’m just so glad you’re okay.”
Colleen smiled and returned the hug, only to recoil from the pain she felt in her collar bone. “My God, what happened?”
“You fell seventy-five feet,” John said.
“That’s what you get for not wearing a helmet,” Rick said in half-jest, but promptly shut up at disapproving looks from Kate and John.
“We were climbing,” Colleen said. “And that stupid auto-belay broke.”
The doctor entered and said, “Cadet O’Donnell, I hope you don’t mind, but I need to do a quick evaluation. Family and friends can step off to the side. No need to leave the room.” The crowd stepped off to the side, and watched as the doctor evaluated Colleen’s mental capabilities. When he was finished, he said, “This is remarkable. I’ve never seen a patient undergo as much mental trauma as you have and recall everything to such precise detail. Congratulations, Cadet. You are very lucky.”
“Lucky is right,” Rick echoed.
“I’ll leave you to your visitors. But only another hour. Then the rest of you should leave and get some sleep while Colleen rests. She’ll be discharged into your care tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
The doctor left and Colleen asked, “How did the auto-belay malfunction?”
“That’s what *I’d* like to know,” Mr. O’Donnell said.
“We’re gonna find out,” John said firmly.
“And Colleen, would you please tell John it isn’t his fault?”
“It isn’t your fault,” Colleen said with a smile. “Really. I was stupid. I shouldn’t have reached for that rock after the auto-belay jerked like that. We should have descended.”
“Like Kate and I did,” Rick said.
“Yes, we all know you were right and we were wrong, thank you Rick. Again,” John said.
“Let’s not be hostile,” Mr. O’Donnell told him. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault except the idiot who didn’t check the auto-belays. And I intend to have a word with that idiot.”
“Me too,” Mrs. O’Donnell said.
“I’ll help,” John said.
“Though it would have been better if you four were wearing helmets. And if you were being a bit more careful in your climbing endeavors. I know you’re supposed to be able to go as fast as you want, but you shouldn’t be so trusting with the equipment. This should be a lesson to the four of you,” Patrick told them.
Colleen nodded, and winced slightly after doing so. The other three looked down at their shoes.
“Now…are you hungry, Peanut?” Patrick asked.
“Yeah,” Colleen answered. “Definitely. Someone want to explain exactly what happened to me? I seem to be discovering a new injury every time I move,” she said.
“I’ll go get the food, then,” Patrick said, and indicated that Erin should follow. They should give Colleen’s friends some time alone with her. “And you three can explain.”
Once they left, John and Kate and Rick launched into the description of exactly how she landed, and then every injury that had befallen her, and she smirked at the end of the story. “This is gonna be one to tell our kids when *we’re* parents.”
“Yeah—how *not* to do a sport,” Rick said cynically.

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colleenodonnell

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from: colleenodonnell
date: Nov. 8th, 2005 02:17 am (UTC)
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Just then, Patrick came back with the food and Colleen ate. They all left after the hour was over, and allowed Colleen to get some rest. The entire crowd headed to the St. Hugo climbing office, and discovered that the auto-belay device that controlled the entire thing never had any problems before that day. They were all moving to discover what had gone wrong. The investigation revealed it was a faulty power source. The time that it blinked off and on allowed for the jerk they all felt, the period where it didn’t work at all, and Colleen fell, and then the sudden blinking on ten feet from the ground, where the harness caught her leg and slowed her descent significantly. It was almost a perfect fall. Had Colleen landed any other way, at any other speed, or had she been caught at an altitude lower than ten feet, she would have been killed or paralyzed. She had really been very lucky, and it was mysterious how the device malfunctioned to make that so.
The investigation was dropped, and a new policy about inspecting auto belays was instated. Colleen went home the next day, and she spent the next two and a half weeks recovering. Erin wouldn’t let her out of the house, so John and Kate and Rick came to see her when they could get time. John expended all of his transporter credits for the month seeing her every day, so she made it a point to laugh at him for not having *any* credits for anything left at all, for this month, and cutting into the next month’s credits.
John could never really tell her how much it had scared him when she had fallen. He knew it scared Kate and Rick as well, since the expressions on their faces were as unforgettable as his. But it had made his heart stop, it had made him freeze. He *never* froze. Not during any high-stress simulation. He was an ‘action’ person. Someone who reacted by doing something when under a high level of stress like that. But he froze, and that puzzled him. At that moment, the prospect of Colleen being dead had rushed through his head and wouldn’t allow him to think of anything else.
By the end of the three weeks, Colleen got back on her skates and practiced hockey with John and her other teammates. She got checked by this 250 lb Third-year, and went flying across the ice. She decided at that moment that she had gotten too out of practice over that three-week recess.
The climbing accident became something of a legend. Everyone heard about it who knew the four Cadets, and Colleen became annoyed with a new person asking ‘are you okay’ every ten minutes. But if nothing else, the experience taught the Cadets how to be careful, and how foolish and dangerous races were never helpful to anyone. Though they *were* fun.</i>

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