Part of USS Altai: Spectres in the Dust

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay…

Mess Hall / Observation Deck
August 2400
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Tonight on the outpost of 1-SZ, most of the crew from the Altai and the station itself have come to the mess hall to enjoy a movie on movie night. Mainly because it was one of those days where it is all quiet out there in space, little activity that they could find from the Breen, and there was nothing to do than routine work. So now and then, there be a movie night in the mess hall with a randomly selected movie from the twentieth or twenty-first century, and everyone will be given a chance to watch, relax and enjoy something different from what may have been a dull, routine day for them.

Usually, Benjamin Jones would be on the Altai’s Bridge, going over intelligence logs from Starfleet Intelligence on the Breen and examining sensor and communication logs that they can intercept from the Breen. But the day was much like it was for him, as it were for everyone else. Routine and boring. Also, it was one of those days when it was quiet, and they had not picked up anything from the Breen. So Ben had finished his duties and decided to join the crew in the mess hall on movie night.

The movie began to turn into a romantic scene where the two characters who had resisted their feelings for each other since the beginning finally chose to act on their feelings and embrace each other. But, unfortunately, the outcome in this old movie was entirely predictable; it was enough to make Ben stand up from his seat and vacate the room.

Ben wandered throughout the station, on course for one destination but taking the longest route he could think of by turning at every intersection. He hoped each step would help him process the old memories that crept up on him. But as closely as he got to his destination, the worse the pain became, so he decided it was time for a direct route.

With one last step through the corridor, Ben found himself at the Observation Deck. With a heavy sigh, he stepped up to the railing, rested his forearms against the bar, and leaned into it while he stared at the stars through one of many large view-ports. A few others there also enjoyed the view of the stars and the floating frozen chunks of rock. Then some were enjoying each other more than the view.

“Just keep your eyes on the stars.” He quietly told himself.

“Hopefully, the ones far away and not our star over in the corner. Don’t want you to go blind.” Came Cooper’s voice.

Ben snorted, “Eavesdropping, Chief?”

Amanda Cooper shrugged her shoulders before she leaned her arm into the rail she faced directly at him. “I just happened to be curious as to why you suddenly left the mess hall during movie night and also just happened to hear you talking to yourself.”

Ben chuckled and looked at her. “So you followed me.”

Amanda smirked. “Just a friend that is looking out for another.”

Ben shook his head with a small smile. “I appreciate it, but I’m fine.”

Amanda snapped her fingers and pointed at him. “That. Right there. Is a lie.”

Ben raised his brows at her. “So now you are a psychologist?”

Amanda shrugged her shoulders again. “More like experience. I have a lot of friends back on board the Don and quite plenty who had gone through quite a bit themselves. Those who’ve had loved ones on Mars or starships during the conflict with that rogue Klingon group in that one sector.”

Ben stared at her. “And so you think you can read me like a book?”

Amanda smiled. “You may have been a decent Intelligence Officer, but you’re horrible at hiding the look that’s all over your face. So who is she, and where is she? So I can pay her a little surprise visit.”

Ben shook his head at her as he stood up and leaned his arm into the railing just like Amanda. “None of it matters, and I will not allow my Chief Petty Officer to get herself discharged from Starfleet and placed right in prison.”

Amanda laughed. “Please. I have my ways. Starfleet security still hasn’t found the bodies of the scumbags I’ve dealt with.” She winked at him.

Ben could not tell whether she was joking or not. “She found someone she is happy with, and that’s all that matters.” He told her.

Amanda shook her head. “Except she did so after hurting you. And this,” she motioned her hand all over him, “is just a shell hiding all that pain.” Then she pointed to his eyes, “And your eyes say that there is a lot more to it than that. Come on. Spill it.”

Ben shook his head and pushed himself off the railing. “I’m not doing this.”

Amanda sighed. “Fine!” She raised her voice as she watched him head for the door. “Then I’ll submit a complaint to the Captain that the First Officer is emotionally compromised and not fit for duty.” That stopped him in his tracks.

Ben turned around and walked back up to her, his face in hers. “What gives you the right?” He growled.

Amanda shook her head with an eye roll. “Fact that I am Chief of Operations of this station and my duty is to ensure that the operations of this station is not compromised by some faulty equipment or some faulty officer.” Truthfully, she was bluffing. She really had nothing concrete to give to the Captain. But she could tell that her bluff was working when he backed down with a heavy sigh. “And I have a suspicious feeling that you won’t see a therapist, but you know that Starfleet would demand it in order for you to keep your career, or they will forever see you being emotionally compromised and a risk to you and to everyone who serves with you.”

Ben placed his hands on the rail and stared back out to the stars. “You’re right. I won’t see a therapist. Because some people deal with pain differently than others. I handle my pain differently. I take it one step at a time, every single day.”

Amanda leaned in closer to him as she listened. “You hide it pretty well.”

Ben smirked. “I have years of practice.” He told her before he licked his lips. “You would think that the more advanced we are as a civilization, as a power in the galaxy, the easier it would be to get over the feelings you have for someone.”

Amanda would answer but she felt it was best to not interrupt.

So Ben continues. “Before the Academy, I had met this sweet, kind, empathetic woman who loved children. So  I thought to myself, some day I will find the one who I can spend my entire life with, create a family together and grow old together. The one who our hearts will be in sync, our minds will be on the same page and our love never ending.” He licked his lips as he gripped the bar tightly for a brief second then relaxed. “She was the one.” He smiled. “She was my soulmate. We had the perfect chemistry. I enjoyed every single second we had spent together and I could see in her eyes that she too enjoyed every second.”

“And what happened?” Amanda asked.

Ben gripped the bar tightly again, which lasted longer than a brief second before he relaxed. Then his arms bent a little at the elbows as if his chest had become heavier for his arms to hold up. “Two months later, she confesses to me that her therapist insisted that she spend more time on improving herself before getting into a serious relationship.” He said softly that Amanda had to lean in to hear. “And so she broke it off.” He then chuckled with a smile, but it was merely a defense mechanism. “She said that I was not broken. She truly believed that I was fine.”

Amanda shook her head. “You were not. How did she not see that?”

Ben shook his head. “Oh she did. At least not until a week later though. Because I caught her in a lie.”

Amanda shook her head again. “Of course. But go on.”

Ben looked at her. “I found out that she actually wanted to start a relationship with some other guy, who turned out to be a scumbag as he was trying to date him and two other women. And when she found out about this, she was hurt. Then she understood the pain she caused me. But it did not matter. The damage was already done. Worst part was, I had no idea how broken I truly was until I tried to go to someone else on a different planet, someone who did accept me for who I was. But by doing so, I left my family with nothing but a letter, to which I tried to explain my reasoning for leaving. I only ended up hurting my family by doing that and I didn’t see it. Not until three years later, when I finally woke up and realized that I was living in a lie. I had no feelings for the woman I was with, there was no chemistry, no magic some people would say, it just was not real. I then explained it to her and she told me she knew. But what made it worse was that she was driving herself more into debt with some group, no matter how much I tried to advise her to stop. And her brother…” Ben shook his head. “There was a smuggling problem that Starfleet has yet to solve and he was a serious drug addict. The toxicity of him, plus their mother, was ruining me. So I took everything I had and I went straight back home. Mainly because after I realized what I had done to my own family, I knew I needed to repair the damage and get my family back.”

Amanda slowly nodded her head. “Sounds like you’ve been through a lot.”

Ben smirked and shook his head. “Was not the first time a woman has hurt me. There was another when I was some years younger before I had met the one I thought was my soulmate. We had been together for a few years and planned on getting married after school. But then her mother passed away, and unfortunately, she took a much different turn. But the one I truly believed was my soulmate became nothing more than a memory that I have tried for years to forget. So I have tried to find someone else to fill the hole he had left inside of me, create new memories, and replace the ones that plague me every day.” He then pushed himself off the railing and stared right into her eyes. “That’s why I signed up for Starfleet Intelligence and why I chose to work alone. I have chosen to never let myself get close to anyone, because no matter how much I try to get close to someone, the memory of her brings back the pain and I push them away.”

“Sounds like to me that you need to get your confidence back and get back on that wagon.” She grinned with a playful slug to his shoulder.

Ben shook his head. “I appreciate it and I appreciate you for listening, Chief. But it doesn’t change a thing. It won’t stop the sleepless nights or the anxiety or pain from the memories I deal with every day because I will never find anyone like her again. Simple as that. I had fallen harder for this woman than I ever had for anyone else.”

Amanda shook her head. “Well, as they say, the harder you far, the more painful it will be.” She smiled. “Come on, Ben. You and I both know that there are plenty of fish out there. But, heck, because you might fall in love with a Tholian.”

Ben couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah. Right. Or a Breen.”

Amanda pointed at him. “Hey, it could happen! We are out here watching them! Although we haven’t really seen a female Breen either. Do Breen have women? Or maybe you’re not as straight as you think you are…”

Ben rolled his eyes at her with a chuckle. “Watch yourself, Chief.”

“Oh come on! Lean over with me! I too had some horrible scumbags when I was a teenager. Both men and women. But I still lean heavily towards women, so.” She shrugged her shoulders at him. “Don’t knock it until you try it, is all I’m saying.”

Ben shook his head at her. “All right, all right. Respectfully, no. I will forever prefer fish over the meat.”

Amanda gasped. “Lieutenant! Using metaphors are we? How deceptive and rude. Not that you’re wrong.” She teased. “But in all seriousness, I had a woman like her. I mean, I wasn’t like…super into her like you were with that lady but she pulled on my heart strings and also pulled the same crap on me too. It doesn’t matter how far we’ve come as a civilization, there will always be scumbags out there. Face it!! We are not in a perfect galaxy. We’re far from perfect. But someone out there will show up just out of the blue and you will finally and completely forget about the one that terrorizes your memories.”

Ben shrugged his shoulders. “Maybe. We shall see. But for now, I think I am going to avoid movie nights that have anything romantic in them.”

Amanda laughed. “Good luck with that! But you know what? I think we will finally be getting a bar put in place. How about we go to that instead and slam some drinks, have some laughs, and forget about the crap in the past for a while?”

Ben grinned at her. “I have a better idea. I got some Romulan Ale stashed in my quarters.”

Amanda gasped again before she shushed him. “My guy, are you trying to get us into trouble?” She teased him right before she laughed. “But if you’re offering, I promise I won’t tell anyone.”

Ben shook his head with an even larger grin on his face. “You’re all right, Chief.” He told her as he began to lead the way.

“Damn right I am. Otherwise this station be falling apart!” She told him and as if right on que, a ceiling panel had detached and landed onto the deck. “I wasn’t being literal!” She shouted up at the ceiling, right where the panel had come from. Shout that which got the attention of those that were still there.

“Do I need to be worried?” Ben asked.

Amanda ‘psshed’ at him. “Nah. I’ll get one of my boys on it.”

“I meant about you.” Ben smirked.

Amanda slugged him in the shoulder, little harder this time. “Let’s go get that drink before I give you something to worry about.”

They laughed as they headed for Ben’s quarters, where they would drink a couple bottles of Romulan Ale and tell each other stories, whether it be about something hilarious that happened at the Academy or when Amanda was with the corp.