Part of USS Edinburgh: Mission 1 – What Burns in the Darkness and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

A Final Farewell

USS Edinburgh
May 17, 2400
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USS Edinburgh – Morgue – 1130

Jordan worked in complete silence as the two bodies rested on the frigid slabs.  She had known colleagues over the years to play music in the background as they went about the process of preparing the dead for burial or transport.  It had always caused her great discomfort – as if she was offending the dead with the music of the living.  It was a sacred thing to care for the lifeless – they could not protect themselves or speak in protest.  The silence helped keep her mind focused on the care for the body.  She had started with Crewman Afya Ismael.  Her report was filled with the injuries the young woman had gone through before being thrown into space.  Reid’s heart had dropped to her toes when she made the discovery that Ismael had been alive when they’d tossed her out into the vacuum.  Her lungs bore the telltale signs of asphyxiation in an oxygenless environment.  As the doctor had continued to examine her body she didn’t want to imagine what her last moments had been like floating away from the ship, realizing her last glimpses of life would be that of her captors. She still did – it was hard not to uncover what had happened without understanding what it would have felt like to die in space.  An orderly shuffled in with the metal coffin and helped her gently place Ismael in her resting space.  Reid secured the body within, and slowly lowered the lid.  She set the lid down and tapped at the console…the final six clicks securing the cover to the coffin echoing loudly in the emptiness.

She turned her attention to Ensign Klaus Carl and repeated her steps.

USS Edinburgh – Seven-Forward Lounge – 1230

The tables had been cleared from the crew mess and the chairs arranged.  The two caskets were arrayed in the front with the UFP and Starfleet flags draped on either side.  Various crew had been filtering into the seats and soon the room was filled.  An officer at the front played gently on a piano.  Commander Harris sat in the front, scrolling through the notes he had made on his PADD.  The loss of two crewmen was hard in any season…but for such a young crew who had spent four years in the Academy together…the losses were cutting harder.  He had spent much of his time before this service meeting with friends of the two and hearing the things that mattered.  He checked his chrono and got a nod from Reid.  He had elected for a dress uniform and the entire command team had agreed.  Much of the gathered crew had followed their lead while others had chosen black to mourn the lost. He stood and stepped to the podium.

“Good afternoon.  We gather here today in order to try to understand why.”  He paused, looking over the crowd.  Several were already leaning into each other or dabbing at their eyes.  “Today we give our last farewell to Crewman Afya Ismael and Ensign Klaus Carl.  You knew them better than anyone.  Each of you here built friendships and relationships with them over four years of learning, understanding, and facing the challenges of becoming a part of Starfleet.”  He took a sip of water, “Understanding loss can feel an impossible task.  Grief is a monster who waits in the shadows…a monster you think you’ve slain only for it to rise from the shadows once more.  You must know this – you are not alone in this struggle.  Each of us in this room has felt the stinging pain of sorrow…of reaching for that empty place at the table or sending a message that will never be opened.  You are not alone on this path.”  He looked from his notes, “Serving together on this ship is unique – we become more and more like a family.  A crew bonded together by success, failure, and loss.”  He took another sip. “I spoke about understanding why…it is the question you have asked yourself over and over.  It is the part of the grieving process that is the hardest at times.  We live in an age of understanding, of answers – of knowing so much about our universe and what happens within it…that when we wrestle with the why in moments like these – we can exhaust ourselves.”  He looked out and let the words settle before he continued, “Because the why eludes us…is hidden from us or is never fully understood.  The answer to why may never be fully explained to us…we must find a way to accept such things.  Our hearts and souls can only travel down the endless road of questioning without answer for so long.”

He paused and looked out to the gathering, “I wish I could bring them back.  I wish you could have made it longer and farther along without this moment.  There were some friends of the deceased who wish to speak.”  He stepped and gave them space to speak.  Each of them spoke of memories, of conversations, of inside jokes that caused ripples of laughter to course through the shared tears.  Moments of levity in class and off duty were given context and there was more laughter, a bright lamp in the midst of the fog of sadness.  The last officer finished speaking and returned to his seat.  Harris returned to the podium and let the conversations between friends continue as more scattered chuckles weaved through the gathering.  Silence soon fell.

“You have taken the first step in dressing the wound of loss.  You have the memories of your friends and the light they brought to our lives.  Cling to that. Remember that.  Remember them.  And find ways to honor them as you go forward.  They are gone…but they are not forgotten.”  He stepped away as the piano player played one of the favorite songs of the gathered officers.  Their grief-strained voices sung along softly at each chorus until the song had faded and silence returned.  Slowly the gathered crew stood and made their way to the caskets to say their final farewell.  Soon it was just Harris and Reid standing by the caskets.

“You spoke well of them, Ambrose.”

He put his hand on Afya Ismael’s coffin, “They deserved more.  They deserved to live, Jordan.”

She gave a nod and slid up next to him, “You’ll make sure the others get that chance.  I know it.”  She kissed his cheek, “I’ll see you for lunch a little later.”  She left the room and Harris stood, silently standing sentinel over the dead.