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John Randall

Home At Last





(Personal Log Stardate 11701.16)


John materialized on the transporter dais of the Challenger. He looked around for a moment, gratified to see the familiar walls, then stepped down off the dais, nodding to the transporter chief. "Welcome home, Lieutenant," said the chief, and John replied, "Thanks, chief, good to be home." The chief said, "You've been gone for a while, haven't you?" Randall replied, "Yeah, it's been an....interesting time." The chief chuckled. "I bet it has. Good to have you back, Lieutenant." "Thanks again, chief," said John as he strode toward the door of the transporter room.


The door swished open at his approach, and he walked down the corridor to the turbolift. "Deck 3," he said as he stepped into the car, and the lift sped off. Arriving a few moments later, he exited the car, and strode down the corridor toward his cabin. He was met by various personnel who all greeted him enthusiastically, then he arrived and walked through the door as it swished open.


He deposited his duffel bag on the sofa and just stood in the middle of the living area for a few moments, taking in the fact that this was his cabin. He had thought at various times over the previous 8 months that he would never see this cabin again, and he was greatly relieved to be back. He then gave a mighty sigh, stripped off his uniform and went to the head to take a shower.


25 minutes of heaven later, he stepped out, toweled himself dry, and went into the bedroom, grabbing his bag as he went. He put the various items of clothing he had into their proper drawers, then donned his pajamas, told the computer what time he wanted to be awakened, then climbed into his bed, and went to sleep.


************************************4 DAYS LATER***************************************************************


John awakened after 10 hours of sleep, sat up in the bed and rubbed his eyes. He then climbed out of bed, stripped off his pajamas and went to the head to take a shower. The previous 3 days had saw Randall slip back into business as usual aboard the Challenger. His first trip to engineering had been a satisfying one for the chief engineer of the Challenger. He had been met with shouts of glee and a few hugs from some of the female ensigns and junior grade lieutenants. Susan Maloney had hugged him tightly, sobbing into his shoulder, and John just held her for a few moments, weathering the emotional storm.


Jeff Michaels also gave him a long hug, then told him it was about time he resumed command of engineering, which drew a laugh from the crowd. John laughed with them, then told everyone to get back to work in mock anger, and they all laughed and went back to their stations. Michaels brought John up to speed on the status of engineering, then told him about the recent goings-on of the Challenger.


John nodded through it all, then stood back and watched the crew go about their business for a few moments, savoring the fact that he was back in his own engineering department on his home ship. The next 2 days were the old familiar routine for the chief engineer of the Challenger, although he did wonder if he would ever be called for a debriefing, then he reminded himself that this was Challenger, they would get around to it when they got around to it, if they ever did.


He did make a brief trip to the bridge not long after his initial return. He had stepped out onto the bridge to be met by wide-eyed stares from most of the crew. He and the captain talked briefly, then as he turned to leave, got a 'welcome back' remark from Erica Rinax, the XO of the Challenger. He had then left the bridge and returned to his cabin.


He stepped out of the shower after 20 minutes and toweled himself dry. He then went into the bedroom to put on a duty uniform. He then left the cabin and walked down the corridor to the officers' mess. He went in and went up to the ordering wall. He gave and received his order, then sat down at a nearby table to eat.


He finished the meal and deposited the remains in the recycler. He turned to leave the mess hall and spotted the science officer of the Challenger, Lieutenant Anastasia Poldara, intently reading a PADD. He debated for a moment as whether to greet her or not, then squared his shoulders and went over to her table. It was the first chance he would have to talk to Ana since he had left her in the mess hall of Starbase 179 when he was undertaking the covert mission to find the Starfleet officer who had betrayed his father. She had told him, rather strongly, her feelings on the matter, then said she hoped he came back so he could put that part of his life behind him, and they could move forward, or there would be problems.


John now intended to find out if there were indeed problems between himself and Ana. He cleared his throat as he arrived at her table, and said, "Hello, Lieutenant." She didn't move a muscle for a few seconds, and John thought, 'Well, guess she doesn't want to talk.' He turned to leave, and heard her voice say in surprise, "Wha--oh, John. I'm sorry, I didn't see you standing there."


Randall turned back to her and said, "I'm sorry if I bothered you, Lieutenant. You look busy, so I'll see you later." Ana quickly shook her head, putting the PADD onto the table. "I'm not busy," she replied. "Do you have time to join me?"


John regarded her a few seconds, then went to the chair across the table from her and sat down. "It's good to see you again, Anastasia," he said. "It's been a while since the last time I saw you on Starbase 179." She nodded quickly again. "About that," she began, then fell silent for a few seconds. John waited for her to continue. "I would like to apologize for the way I treated you," she continued, and Randall raised his eyebrows.


"It's okay," he replied. "I actually took your advice, and it served me well on that mission. It ended badly, I'm sorry to say, but it was going to anyway, so no harm, no foul as far as I'm concerned." Poldara looked puzzled for a moment. "Advice?" she queried, and John filled her in. "Oh, that," she answered. "Right. I give good advice." John smothered a smile.


"Coming from you, that's quite an admission, Lieutenant," he said, and Anastasia cocked her head at him. "Would you like to hear another?" she asked in a low voice, and Randall raised his eyebrows at her sudden change in demeanor. She told him about her misgivings on the past few weeks aboard the Challenger, then she suddenly went very quiet, and put a hand to her mouth.


John sat up a little straighter in his chair, sensing he was about to hear or see something completely out of character for the science officer. Ana's dark eyes were moist as she stared at him, still with her hand over her mouth. "John, I tortured somebody for information," came the muffled remark, and Randall's eyes went wide. He leaned toward, speaking softly.


"You did what?" he asked gently, and Anastasia nodded, taking her hand away from her mouth. "It's true," she said softly. "And, maybe the worst part is, I actually enjoyed it for a few seconds." She sat back and put her hands to her face briefly, then dropped them and looked Randall squarely in the eyes. "And I'd do it again to get the results I got," she said defiantly.


John stared at her a few seconds, not believing his ears. "You must tell me about that sometime," he said. "And I'll tell you how I was on my way to rejoin Challenger at the Utopia Planetia shipyards when I was kidnapped by a Romulan ship."


Her eyes went wide at that remark, but she only said, "Yes, I'd like that." John nodded and stood up. "Well, I won't take up any more of your time, Lieutenant. I need to report to the bridge." Ana quickly arose, grabbing her PADD from the table, and said, "It's time I was on the bridge as well, I will accompany you. I'm wondering what we're going to report to the Romulan ships."


John stared at her. "We're contacting Romulan ships?" he asked in disbelief, and Ana smiled at him. "John, do you mean to tell me you've been back 4 days, and you haven't read the mission reports?" she asked. John turned toward her, but her eyes were twinkling now, and a strange smile played around her lips. Randall thought, 'She's actually trying to tease me. She has changed some.'


He said, "Hm, maybe I shouldn't go to the bridge, the Romulans think I'm a Starfleet Intelligence operative." She turned toward him, her eyes widening again at his remark, then an announcement came over the ship's comm for all department heads to report to the conference room on deck 1. Anastasia and John left the mess hall and strode to the turbolift, riding it to the top deck. They exited the car and strode down the corridor to the conference room.



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