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Part of USS Mackenzie: Mission 6 – Uneasy Alliance and USS Mackenzie: The Mackenzie Squadron – The Uneasy Alliance

20 – The Uneasy Morning

USS Mackenzie
03.17.2401
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Morning had come.  Bleary-eyed, Walton pushed herself up from the biobed, groaning at the residual pain and soreness.  Doctor Longfellow watched her struggle and moved to her bedside, hands beside his back.  She was furiously stubborn and independent.  Wren gritted her teeth, “I haven’t hurt like this in a long time, Longfellow.”  

He tapped at his PADD, “Your leg was broken in multiple places from the impalement.  The other leg was pretty roughly bruised.  As for the rest of you…,” He handed her the device, and she read through the report, “…you were lucky there were no long-term effects, Captain.”

She handed him the PADD, “All thanks to you and your sickbay, Doctor.”  She took a deep breath and inched her feet down until they touched the deck below, and she put weight on them slowly, wincing as she went.  It took her five minutes, but she was standing on two feet, grimacing through the dull pain that throbbed.  “You have a report about the rest of my ship?”  

Henry led her to his office and waited until the door closed, gesturing to a chair which she refused.  He threw his hands up and moved to his desk, activating the separate report on the console, “After a full night of search and rescue on the Mackenzie and Janoor III, we’re up to 35 dead.  Our wounded are at 250.”

She gasped, “That’s half our crew, Longfellow!”  Her heart beat fast within her chest.  They had taken a pummeling, and paid for it in gallons of blood.

Henry replied, “It’s rough, Captain.”  He clicked through the numbers, “100 are in critical condition, 50 in intensive care.  Many of our damage control teams and engineer officers took the brunt during the battle.  The remaining 100 are in various stages, from serious to overnight observation to probably getting released today.  Sent the report to you.”

She listened to each chilling detail.  Half of her crew had suffered at the hands of the Dominion in a no-win scenario that had nearly taken their lives.  She shuffled to the chair before his desk and looked him straight in the eyes.  “What’s the butcher’s bill, Doc?”

Henry pursed his lips.  This was the least favorite part of his job.  The cataloging of the dead.  They would never see the faces of those lost.  They would never meet for coffee or run into them in the corridors.  A space now sat achingly open, the silence of absence filling the air.  “Lieutenant Mo Guowei was lost when the damaged deck he attempted to evacuate buckled…and then breached.  Shields snapped into place too late.  His body was recovered.”  He swallowed hard as he continued, “Lieutenant Kiazas Vol.  Her body was located in the ruins of the transporter complex along with two of her defense operations teams.”

Walton wiped her eyes.  Both were new to the Mackenzie and had started to connect with their fellow officers and crew.  “Fuck.”  She practiced breathing as the reality of two senior staff losses began to filter from her head to her heart in a flash flood of emotion.  

Longfellow felt her pain.  “They were good officers, captain.” Wren waved him on. And so he continued.

Five Engineers.  

Five Operations Officers – two onboard Mack and three on Janoor III.  

Two shuttle operations officers had been caught in a catastrophic failure of the hull and docking doors in the shuttle bay.  

He paused as his eyes lingered on the next statistic.  He took a deep breath. “Six medical officers and crew.”  He forced his emotions deep and regained some control as his eyes shined with the dew of grief as he continued.  He had known them.  He had worked with them.  Each of them had given their lives to save another.  

Three cadets had been lost in the buckling of a deck.  

Two tactical officers had been killed on Janoor III by the enemy, along with eight security officers who had been lost in the fighting and the resulting impact of the battle cruiser on the city of Polaris.  

Longfellow leaned back in his chair, his eyes red, “Goddamn Dominion.”  He tossed the PADD roughly on his desk and stared at the ceiling for what felt like an eternity before focusing on his captain, who sat crumpled in her chair.  “I wish I had better words…or news.”

Wren acknowledged his apology with a half-hearted wave as she sank into her chair, “I read the mission reports about when Captain Harris lost fifty crew on the Edinburgh.  I couldn’t get over how hard that loss had hit…and wondered how he carried it.  How he dealt with it.”  She looked to her Chief Medical Officer, “You never got a chance to talk to him, did you?”

Henry leaned over his desk, “Jordan Reid recruited me…and he was dead before I had a real chance to…get to know him.  Reid left, and I haven’t heard anything from her since.”  He grasped his hands together, “We all carry it with us – all our failures, our losses…it’s never really gone, captain.”  He sighed the long sigh of memories and age, “I ended up here because I didn’t have a home…and I just kept wandering from place to place…hoping to find the answer to loss.  The why did this happen to me, and why does it keep happening to me….”  Longfellow looked at her, silently appreciating her as a CO even more with this conversation, “The hardest part is accepting that we will never know the why.  It’s one of the remaining great mysteries of the universe.  Why do the good ones die so young… no bandaid can lessen that trauma.”

The captain pulled herself out of the chair and groaned as she forced her body into a place of posture.  She wondered, “What if the answer to the why is simple?”  He frowned, and she explained, “What if the good die young as a reminder of what it means to live?  That we don’t have any time to waste…our time may just be around the corner.”  Wren reflected, “I watched an old Earth movie in my Academy days…and this line stuck with me ever since….’Nobody chooses when’.  We don’t get to choose how or when we go.”  She wiped the still-flowing tears, “Still doesn’t take away the sadness, even as much as I repeat it in my head.”

Longfellow understood, “It sucks no matter what we do, captain.”

Her lips twisted in a half smile, “That an official diagnosis, Longfellow?”

Henry returned the half smile, “Official – sucks to suck.”

Wren pushed herself out of the chair, “Well, I better get to work sucking.”  She paused and asked, “Has Park made it out of her coma?”  She had been getting hourly updates on her XO.  The command center ten decks below the bridge had taken a nasty punch and torn the cargo bay apart.

Longfellow shook his head, “I’ve got a consult with Olympic staff in ten on her. I should know more by this afternoon.”  He encouraged her, “We’re going to do the best we can for her, Captain Walton.”

She stopped at the door, her eyes full of feeling.  “I know you will, Doc.  It’s just hard.”  She pursed her lips and left his office, limping as she went.  

The door closed.  Longfellow took several deep breaths, his heartbreak for the Mackenzie crew and the Janoor people threatening to overwhelm him.  He counted to ten, and he was able to focus on his control.  SIckbay needed him.  And he needed sickbay.

Comments

  • Victory comes at a cost. After the frenetic moments of battle, a downtempo post like this forces the reader to walk with the survivors as they attempt to reconcile what has happened and to process the losses. The dialogue between the Captain and the Chief Medical Officer here was excellent. Neither of them has a great answer for what has happened for there is no good answer. One particular detail that jumped out at me, besides the emotion you capture so well, was the way you used very specific details (evacuating a deck, docking doors failure, cadets, etc.). This choice both added to the ambiance, and it also highlighted the point that death strikes randomly. These were not all security officers in a pitched battle. Many were just lost because they were wrong place at the wrong time, and this doubled down on the accompanying dialogue.

    June 5, 2023
  • What an incredible chapter, you have really captivated the feelings and harsh reality of after a tense battle. As tough as Walton is, when Longfellow starts listing off the members of the crew that didn't make it, you can really feel for her in that moment, especially when she goes to wipe her eyes. Simultaneously, I loved the frustration of Longfellow when he was through listing the casualties, their reactions just felt real. Well done!

    June 9, 2023