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Part of USS Helios: Threadbare Flags

Realities of Space and Time (pt. 3)

Edge of Cyodan system
Late 2401
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I can feel a sigh of relief from the ship as it exits warp, the minute difference in my stomach as the ship stops bending the rules of physics and returns to the familiar strictures of space and time. No longer are we running the thin line between matter and energy as the pontoon like nacelles take a gulping breath of the void, their coils still glowing white hot in the housings, shining like stars across the invisible bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Now we simply are, simply being. Maine always said I was imagining it, that there was no perceptible difference between faster than light travel and simply floating in the empty cosmic sea, “fast or slow, it’s all the same” he would mutter every time I let out a relieved sigh, as with everything he was so sure. But I never could shake the feeling that being at warp was somewhat of a middle finger to the universe, ‘we see your rules and have decided to play our own game’. I can hear him now, his voice floating across the room every time we left the untrustworthy shelter of the warp bubble “You worry too much David, we’re not offending the universe.” Always with that wide smile, self assured, confident. The man was infuriating.

I miss him desperately. 

As the turbolift arrives at the bridge, I concede he might be right, perhaps it’s simply all in my head. As the doors slide open I can see people milling around the bridge, unbothered by the fact we have just been catapulted across lightyears in an admittedly large and elegantly designed tin can. Maybe it’s just me.

“Lieutenant?” there is a woman standing in the doorway, her head tilted slightly as her eyes narrow and the twin antenna atop her head twitch accusingly. Behind her I can see three officers in discussion, their heads bowed as they mutter, brows furrowed in…? Concentration? Frustration? At the centre I can see Bib. Command agrees with him, something about the third golden pip on his collar has changed the way he stands, his already muscular shoulders seem broader, his back straighter. And was that… just a touch of strategically trimmed stubble across his chin?

“Lieutenant?” The officer is snapping her fingers at me now, her perfectly manicured blue fingers tipped with silver nail polish, her own acceptable little rebellion against the dress code. I like Captain Tanek’s willingness to overlook the minor bending of the rule, it speaks to his understanding of the truly important matters, who cares about your nail varnish when confronting the Borg. Certainly not the Borg; or else we might as well have painted all our nails and waved aggressively out the windows. 

Another clicking of silver tipped fingers.

“Yes?”

“May I use the turbolift?” She makes a swinging motion with her arms, indicating I should leave the lift carriage where I am rudely considering the existential nature of warp travel and whether Bib is more handsome as a result of being the big boss. I step out, muttering apologies as she mutters her own complaints, I barely catch the something about ‘cow-eyed junior officer’s’ as the doors slide shut behind with a full stop thud. 

Science console, science console. I scan the large room, still unfamiliar with the layout despite having been here a dozen times; in my defence, usually its night time and there are far fewer people. With the Science department positions still up in the air since Rana’s…. departure, and the likely collapse of Theta Squad, I’ve been trying to make a good impression, bridge duty is always a good box-ticker. I turn to make a move left, pretty sure the station was once to the left but there’s a bank of mustard shouldered engineers there, the words ‘Mission Operations’ illuminated above their heads. Right, it’s definitely right. Across the room, past the trio of senior officers whose brows now are the envy of the Grand Canyon, I can see a merciful sea of blue shoulders and an empty chair. The words ‘Science II’ are emblazoned above them. I feel as if I could break out into a run, leaping effortlessly across consoles like an action hero to reach the waiting chair. Instead, it’s a nervous meander in a wide arc around the rear of the bridge, quietly apologising to unbothered crewman under my breath for having taken the wrong turn. I can feel the soft leather of the seat calling to me, its plump cushions welcoming me to the background position at the back of the bridge; where junior science officers can get lost pitter-pattering away on their consoles, processing the multitude of data captured by sensor palettes and probes. I am steps away when the increasingly handsome form of Bib blocks my path. 

“David.” Has his voice gotten deeper? “The captain and I have been discussing some things.” Yes, almost definitely deeper. “Have you had anything more from your mother, more than the message?”

Ah yes, the message that forced us to bend space to race across the sector to the Cyodan system. My mother would be ecstatic that her simple message had so put the brass on edge that they redeployed us to the former demilitarized zone; once upon a time she and my father would have laughed at the mighty Starfleet set quaking by an old woman’s message. But she was alone now, another victim of Frontier Day and the message had been one of desperation rather than a flexing of anti-establishment muscle. I can see her worried face, burned into the forefront of my brain as she relayed my uncle’s message. I might have broken the laws of physics myself to reach through the screen to her, pushing my tear covered hands onto the panel as if I could melt into subspace and change the truth; that she was now a lonely old woman having to live with her loss in every brick and mug. And worse, that I had abandoned her to that fate with the cruel tongue of my own grief, too blinkered by the loss of my father to realise that she had lost her husband. I had still not managed to send a reply other than a few pathetic words ‘Message received. I will ask.’ A dozen attempts to record a message sat waiting in my quarters, none of them said the right words but rambled desperate apologies that we had parted with such unforgivable words. 

“David?” Bib was leaning in, close enough to smell the Yara root that hung in his aftershave, a gift from Zaya months ago, a mote of his own unspoken grief. “Are you okay?” I could see his eyes looking across the Captain. “Do we need to go somewhere a bit more private?” He was worried I might cry again, as I had when I had first shown him the message, as I had when we had shown the Captain. 

“No Commander.” The words are pulled from deep within, his bright blue eyes an unwelcome distraction. I’d never found him handsome before, perhaps I was just attracted to those in authority. Perhaps I’m just a bit of a mess. “I haven’t had any further messages from my mother.” He looks visibly disappointed, his brow now forming a valley so deep it might fold in on itself and produce a small black hole here on the bridge. That would be a relief, no more tears, no more memories, no more accidental left turns, no more confusing feelings for the increasingly attractive Andorian, no more nightmares at my uncle’s face, no more regrets for things beyond my control. No more regrets for the things that were. 

“That’s a shame. We don’t have a lot of Intel to go on and we’re not amongst friends here.” What had he expected? That I had absent mindedly forgotten to mention a dossier that had landed in my inbox, revealing the inner workings of the New Maquis? 

“No Sir. ” I had heard the news reel, they liked to play the news channel it in the lounge, ‘Tenacious outpost kicks out Starfleet’, whilst littered with journalistic speculation it had included some uncomfortably accurate reflections. The inhabitants of the border we’re frustrated, Starfleet was a shadow of itself, the Federation had other priorities. 

Bib is sighing, his big hands reaching to un-crease his temples, no black hole today, no salvation. “Well, it looks like we’re going to have to go down to the moon ourselves.” He’s looking at me again with those big blue eyes. He’s expecting a response, a volunteer?

“I’m sure you and security will find them sir.” I can see where he’s leading, Theta Squad, which means seeing Ole again, I can see the twinkle in his eyes, I think he is the only one interested in reaching that destination. 

“I thought we might get the old band back together. This is exactly the kind of thing Theta Squad was created for.” Must find a way to derail this train, that bridge seat is so near I can hear the leather calling my name. 

“I’m not sure how much of a squad we are anymore.” That might have been a bit too cruel. “Sir.” That almost definitely doesn’t make it less cruel. I can see I’ve hurt him, the twinkle in his eye muted slightly, he had known most of our departed friends far longer than I had, Maine especially so. For a moment we are both widows, pining for the same long lost company. But the third pip is quickly back, his grief shelved behind the Yara root aftershave. 

“Then we will have to find some new squad members, won’t we David.” He smiles at me. 

“I’ve got bridge duty…” I lean round his massive shoulders to motion to the open seat behind him. But I see it’s already filled, a young Benzite woman, her iridescent skin shimmering in the muted light from the console. 

“Looks like I can borrow you. Let go.” He motions with his arm back towards the turbolift I emerged from only moments before. “I’m sure Ole will be pleased to see us.” 

I’m sure he won’t be. My stomach is lurching again.  

Comments

  • David really is wallowing in his grief here, isn't he? Just happily rolling around in it and tripping all over himself? Then again, that's how grief works sometimes. The attention to detail, sights and sounds and then how they relate to past events, people and feelings - all of it is so evocative and really brings a full sensory experience to David's narration. His aversion to returning to anything Theta Squad is clear but Bib is either not picking up on it, or just refusing to recognise it. Which hey, might just be Bib's way of dealing with the losses? This insight into David is just spot on and enjoyable.

    May 24, 2024