Part of USS Resolute: Protect Arriana and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

5 – Para bellum

Resolute
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Fear. 

Pain. 

Shame. 

Deep within the ship, in it’s web of bio-neural circuitry, it paused to listen to the crew’s thoughts and feelings. Something had happened. Something big. 

Something bad. 

The minds on this ship, apart from the one, bright, shining mind, were beyond its touch. They were too fragile, too easily burned. So all it could do was listen, and worry. These minds were its to protect. But something had them scared and in pain. 

So it did all it could. Spread out from it’s favourite replicator through the ship to others. Offering support and love through hot drinks and sprinkles. Whatever was happening… it was there. 

No longer alone. Part of something again. 

Helping…

_______

 

The Dominion. 

It was up there as one of the big bad’s of recent history. 

Raan Mason sat alone in his ready room, the lights off and a mug in his hand. Occasionally he lifted it to drink, ignoring the remnants of cream and sprinkles that was all the replicator saw fit to give him these days. He even ignored the fact the coffee had gone cold. Coffee was coffee and he’d spent enough time in a trench that he didn’t care… and he certainly didn’t waste good caffiene. 

The stars sped by outside the window, but he wasn’t looking at them. Wasn’t even looking at his own reflection even though it stared back at him. He wasn’t looking at anything other than into the past.

He’d been born in a battle. 

Not literally, of course. He’d been born in a palace, in the lap of luxury, but he hadn’t found out who he was until he’d been knee-deep in mud and chaos, facing his own death as he looked down the barrel of a rifle. 

Raan Mason, the real Raan Mason, had been born that day. 

That person, the one who had fought his way out of trenches and won a war against overwhelming odds, was one he kept under lock and key. One he hid from others, lest they find out who and what he really was. 

He lifted his head and looked his reflection in the eyes. Faced the truth. 

He was a killer. Pure and simple. 

War did not scare him. The situation they were about to face did not scare him. The fact that he knew some of his crew were not coming back did not scare him. 

And that scared him more than anything. That was the thing, the real person hidden within, that he hid from everyone. 

He lifted the coffee and drained it. Let the emotion drain from him as he locked those thoughts and memories away. They would serve no purpose now, not with what they were going into. 

“Mason to Bennett,” he said, waiting for the chirp as the computer connected them. “Meet me in the holodeck.” 

__________________

How many people on this frigging ship have been in a war?” Tav muttered to himself as he scanned down the lists he’d made. “We might as well have called it the Uss Army or something.”

He’d thought it would be a quick job, and two fairly small lists, but as he’d started to look at the crew, really look at the crew, he’d realised that actually… it would have been easier to make a list of the crew who hadn’t seen action somewhere. 

For some of them it was something big, like the Captain, who held the rank of General on his own planet. Or their CMO whose personnel file had a picture of her in a planetary uniform with a chest full of medals. They were just two of many. 

Or it might have been something minor, like Ensign Cormoran, who had been a signaller in some inter-systems skirmish, or Elaria, who hadn’t been in a war per se, but had more weaponry technical certificates than anyone that pretty or delicate should have. Some of the stuff she was rated on he was sure he couldn’t carry, so he wasn’t sure how the hell she could. He looked at himself in the reflection of his padd. Yeah, he should definitely work out more. When this was over—

His thinking stalled, his breathing along with it as panic hit him broadside. 

When this was over? They were going up against the Dominion. The Dominion… people didn’t come back from shit like that. Or if they did, they came back changed. Not themselves. 

He had a great uncle who’d been in the Dominion war. He was… not right. No one talked about it, about his odd little quirks, the way he was there sometimes and not others, while sitting right there. The nightmares that made him scream at night. The way Tav’s grandmother hushed everyone up and looked after her brother when he had one of his episodes. No one said anything. 

But Tav knew. Now he was older, he knew. 

And now he was facing the same enemy.

Shit. Why couldn’t he have been more like Soren? His twin was so calm and self-assured, always knew where he was going and what he was doing. 

Whereas Tav felt like a bumbling idiot most of the time. Like a snail on a planet amazed at everything around him, the same as the tattoo on his inner arm. He definitely felt like that snail now. Small and insignificant and like one heavy boot would crush him. 

He was in the middle of a minor panic attack, sucking down air like he had an elephant sitting on his chest when the turbolift slowed. The door opened to reveal the ship’s Chief Science Officer, Quinn Allen. 

Tav nodded at him as he stepped into the lift and the door closed. Not even running through Allen’s personnel file in his mind did much to quell the panic running through him like a herd of stampeding lemmings looking for a cliff. 

Allen didn’t have military experience, but parts of his personnel file were oddly redacted. Tav wasn’t sure why. It wasn’t like a security clearance thing, those area’s were clearly marked. This was something different… but not even that mystery was enough to bring his mind away from thoughts of the Dominion and the… oh my god, they were going to be on the surface with the Jem’Hadar. 

Get it together, kid. He heard the words in the captain’s voice… or was it Bennett’s. But then Lieutenant Allen’s hand dropped onto his shoulder and he found himself looking up into clear blue eyes. 

“Breathe,” Allen said in a low voice. “In through the nose, slowly, counting to four. Hold for four. Follow me, okay?”

Tav nodded, forcing air into his lungs as the lieutenant demonstrated, counting for them both. 

“Good,” he gave the ghost of a smile, then turned Tav slightly. “Now out for four and focus. See how the lights reflect off the doorframe, there’s a slight movement with the lift. Keep breathing and watch it, focus on it. Bring yourself back into the moment.”

Tav nodded as his breathing slowed down, his heart-rate following suit. 

“You good?” Allen asked and he nodded again. 

“Yes sir, thank you,” he murmured, heat washing over his cheeks. What must the lieutenant think of him? “I’m sorry… I don’t know what came over me.”

Allen just shrugged. “We’re headed into a big, scary situation. You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t a little scared. It’s natural, don’t worry about it. If you get stuck, remember the breathing and focus on something.” 

Tav eyed Allen as the lift began to slow. Allen didn’t look at all scared. “I will. Thank you, sir.” 

The door pinged as it opened and he headed out to locate the captain and Lieutenant Kovash.

____________________

 

“Hey, old girl, looks like we’re getting a second outing in as many days.” Dayne Bennett ran his hand over the big weapon on the workbench in front of him as the engineering staff worked on getting engineering ready for whatever they were doing to be facing. 

But in this moment, no one needed him. No one but his girl here. Big Bertha. Her name had been both a source of amusement, and whispered with fear. 

He ran his hand over the shoulder rig, feeling the familiar soft leather of the straps. She was probably the only one of her kind, a hybrid weapon that hadn’t come from any production line. She’d been bootstrapped together from three different rifles in the ruins of a building while under fire. He’d damn well near shattered his shoulder with the kickback the first time he’d fired her and every second of that battle as they’d fought their way out, he’d been sure her power cells would overload and blow them all into the afterlife, do not pass go, do not get a nice fancy military funeral.

But she hadn’t blown up, and his shoulder hadn’t broken. She’d saved his life and the lives of eight others as they’d fought through enemy lines. He’d never picked up another rifle, not during the war. It would have been like cheating on his girl here. 

And now they were going into another war. He paused, letting that fact seep into his bones. Let himself absorb the reality of the situation and what they were heading into. 

No matter what the stories they told themselves afterward, or the battlefield reports said… or the holomovies that were made years later about it, there was one simple fact about war. 

It was ugly and brutal. It took people and ground them up, destroyed who they had been and turned them into something else. That might be a body, or a different person entirely. 

To go in again… he knew what he was facing. Let himself feel that horror. The pain. The fear. Then he nodded and ignored it. 

He’d had his moment. Better now than in battle. None of them could afford to lock up or fall apart when they hit the surface. Him more than most because he knew without a shadow of a doubt he’d be leading some insane mission at Mason’s order. He always did somehow. 

But this time it wasn’t against an enemy he knew. Or, he did… he’d read about the Dominion, just like anyone who had been through the Academy. Even if it hadn’t been required reading, he would have read up on them anyway. 

The Dominion war had been both a catalyst and a defining moment for Starfleet… hell, the quadrant as a whole. One thing he’d learned in his life was that those who forgot the past were often destined to repeat it. Something he’d often drilled into his recruits when they forgot the fuse timings on a grenade… 

But these weren’t recruits he was taking into battle. Scared civilians who’d only joined up because it was fight or be annihilated. This time he would be fighting with the crew of the Resolute, with starfleet officers and crew… men and women who had chosen to be here, made that promise to put their lives on the line to uphold the federation’s values. 

That didn’t mean they weren’t going to be scared. It didn’t mean that they were going to win, he knew that. The odds were against them and the situation was dire…

He smiled, and patted Bertha’s barrel. 

“We’re gonna be looking after people again, old girl. And you ain’t gonna let me down. You never do,” he murmured as he quickly checked over the straps of the big weapon for wear and tear, then checked the charge on the battery packs. He’d upgraded her since the war, so her systems were bang up to date, and the rig system for his shoulder was newer, so she was easier to carry. 

And he was going to carry her into battle. Mason hadn’t rescinded his permission for personal weaponry. Besides that, the Jem’Hadar would be familiar with Starfleet weaponry, which were recognisable even decades later, but he was damn sure they wouldn’t expect Big Bertha. No one expected Big Bertha. 

“Mason to Bennett,” the captain’s voice reached him over the ship’s internal comms network. “Meet me in the holodeck.” 

“Aye sir,” he said, lifting Bertha off the workbench and slinging her over his shoulder. “On my way.”

Comments

  • The crew is preparing mentally for the task up ahead and I do see a constant tension coming back in your post. Which is good, it feels natural to keep that flow going as it builds up. But I do wonder when it comes to boil over in battle, will some of them break under the pressure? Awesome job

    May 17, 2023
  • THE ENTITY LIVING IN THE REPLICATOR IS BACK! But what does that mean: all the minds being beyond its touch and too easily burned? What is the nature of its touch? And is the entity feeding Raan funfetti sprinkles?? You do the broody thing so well. Even on the other side of the fourth wall, I'm scared to meet the real Raan. The highlight for me was the character study on Tav. His tongue-in-cheek perspective makes him a perfect audience surrogate (USS Army, ha) and his feeling like a snail made for such a vivid visual!

    May 18, 2023
  • I feel Big Bertha is about to become a character of their own!! Once again the crew of the Resolute, though small, is covering big issues here on the eve of what awaits them on the horizon with this mission. Without a doubt, the Dominion War is one of the most significant events in many of our characters' history and your alluding to it makes what you preparing to put them through sound even more dangerous, even scarier and more fun! I agree with Brendan, the whole broody/dark imagery in your setting gives me shivers down my spine, and an entity living in the replicator - well damn that's a creative idea I cannot wait to see more of!

    May 21, 2023
  • I love the various perspectives of the different crew members from Tess and experience and fear to Mason's veteran status great post enjoyed it a lot

    June 2, 2023