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Part of USS Nestus: Lost Memories and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

Tenderhooks (pt.5)

The Oromal cluster, on the edge of Dominion Occupied territory
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The sleek race-car lines of the Rhode Island class vessel slipped away from Nestus as its impulse engines flared into life, heading to its station trillions of miles from their current position. Gently arcing through the infinitely empty sea of stars, its belly shined with reflected autumn glows of the nearby Oromal cluster. From his chair in the aft observation lounge Bib watched as the vessel that had couriered him to his new assignment skimmed through the thick void like a delicate pond skater, until the orange glow was overwhelmed by a flash of blue light from the vessel’s nacelles, catapulting it to incomprehensible speeds. He had only been aboard a few days during the transit to Nestus‘ position of retreat but given the small nature of the ship it was hard for visitors not to get a good glimpse into the lives of its crew, particularly for someone as friendly and outgoing as Bib. Everyone was tense as expected but the young Andorian had found the crew members also struggling with the sting of betrayal. A few of the older officers and NCOs had recently left the small ship, unable or unwilling to face the Dominion one again; the various news streams from across the fleet striking at wounds that had barely healed. Each one had left a tight-knit family and some had left behind mentorships, relationships in the kindling and dearly beloved friends; even now the Dominion War was costing lives in the face of this renewed threat. Lifting his Raktajino to his lips Bib sighed, here too on the Nestus they were struggling to deal with a departed family member. 

“Are you ready?” Maine said, stepping through the port door and crossing to Bib’s position at the wide windows of the lounge. The tall pale human had always struck Bib as sombre at the best of times but now he seemed even colder, more detached; his gaunt features were stretched even further across his bones and his pale skin had turned as white as a snow-blizzard. They had once joked that Maine’s could have been confused for an Aenar, laughing as Bib tussled his frosty hair looking for antenna. It had been a very different time, a time when they had been happy together, before a life in Starfleet Security, before Theta Squad, before the Lost Fleet. Bib felt a small sting of betrayal remembering his own sense of abandonment. 

“I think so, unless you make Raktajino differently here?” Bib responded. His familiar grin spreading across his face. Desperate to lighten the heavy mood in the room.

“Nope. Replicator standard.” Maine responded. ‘At least he is talking’ thought Bib. 

“It’s going to take a few minutes for Captain Tanek to get into position, why don’t we catch-up?” Bib offered, his hand patting the seat next to him. 

“I’m not interested in talking Bib. If you don’t need anything, I have things to do.” Maine muttered, beginning to turn away from the windows and back to the doors that would lead him back to his office, to his silent mourning.

“Like watch old footage of T’sal?” Bib interrupted. It was harsh, possibly even cruel to comment on the man’s grieving process but theirs had always been a relationship of brutal honesty, it had been what made it successful. It was also what made it end. The mission was going to be dangerous and difficult, Maine needed to be focused and there would be time to remember T’sal once they had succeeded. 

Maine’s footsteps stopped with a explosive thud. Even on the plush carpet that ran throughout the ship, muting footfalls and the ever-present rumble of the ships small warp core, the sudden slam of his whole body stopping sounded like a boulder dropping. Silence descended on the room like a fog, obscuring Maine’s face in the half-shadows cast from the door. The lounge’s perpetually dimmer lighting state cast deep shadows into the already gaunt hollows of Maine’s cheeks, for a moment he appeared as a skeletal husk of the officer Bib had grown to love. 

“I’m sorry you aren’t getting the chance to say goodbye.” Bib offered, it hurt him to see the officer who had once been his own rock look like he was melting away into sorrow. The silence continued, heavy and almost without end; it seemed to pour from Maine and suffuse through the large windows. attempting to fill the empty void with his sadness. In his current state Maine might overflow the galaxy’s vast empty container. Bib wondered if this was finally one loss too many, had the difficult life of service finally pushed the harrowed Human too far?

“He was going to take me to Vulcan.” Maine whispered, more to his own ears than Bib’s. “We were going to go para-gliding over the Stalik Plateau. Then camp and watch the stars.”

“I didn’t realise things were serious?” Bib said, his tone comforting, despite the bitter taste in his mouth. Memories of their own holiday sailing an ice-cutter on Andoria echoed in his head, making his antennae twitch. They had been good days, full of joy and laughter as they huddled against the blizzard and shared their secrets. 

“They weren’t. We were just enjoying the time together.” Maine replied, he was almost convincing. “We didn’t want to have it conflict with our duty like…” Maine paused, becoming aware of the other man in the room once more. 

“… like us.” Bib finished. It had been Maine’s deployment on Nestus that had caused the end of their relationship, Bib had been ready to leave Starfleet Security for a more stable and safe posting on a Planetary Starbase, perhaps even ready to return to Utopia Planitia. Maine had not yet willing to give up his perceived duty. ‘Too many people to protect’ had been his excuse. In truth Bib suspected the man couldn’t give up the purpose his work gave him. He had never met another person who felt things quite so deeply, despite his serious exterior and stoic tone Maine seemed to feel personally responsible for the safety of every being in the Federation. They had never managed to resolve the conflict and went their separate ways. 

“Why did they send…” Maine paused. “…you?” Of all people, a visit from an old boyfriend right as he tragically lost the possibility of new love seemed a cruel joke from the universe. 

“I was closest.” Bib answered matter-of-factly. “I have relevant expertise in experimental weapons.” He paused, there was another reason that Bib had been dispatched to support Theta Squad. “And they needed someone to assess your mental state. Who knows you better?” he finished. The Andorian offered a small smile, he had the authority to remove Maine as team leader should he need to; doing so might make the team all but useless, endangering the mission but it had to be an option on the table. 

A cold wave washed across the room, causing the Andorian’s spine to shudder. Maine still hadn’t turned to face him but his shoulders were now squared, his body rigid and tense. 

“What is your assessment Lieutenant Commander?” Maine spoke, formality binding his words as he realised that the team’s visitor wasn’t necessarily the sympathetic shoulder he might have hoped. 

“That depends.” Bib responded. Was this really how their relationship was to be now? Cold. Formal.

The chirp of the intercom sliced the tension that flooded the room, pressing against bulkheads that threatened to buckle against the uncomfortable atmosphere. A young woman’s voice battled through the dense air. 

“Maine. Tanek has signalled they’re in position. We are standing by to begin our approach to the Breen station.” 

“I’m on my way Hermira.” Maine said. “It’s time to go”.” He continued to Bib, taking a heavy step towards the door he looked back towards the seated Andorian who began to rise and follow. Illuminated by the light streaming from the corridor his eyes hovered on the man who had once been the most important person in the galaxy. 

“Ready?” Bib said quietly, offering a familiar and comforting smile. 

“Ready.” Maine whispered. Almost convincing.  

Comments

  • Oh boy Bib introduction came in like a thunderhamer of Thor, not playing around and pouring the salt into that open wound of Maine like there is no yesterday. Sure there is no reason to beat the bush around it and you know get the facts there. But in these kind of convo's Bib needs to lay it down easy. Now Maine def hates him. Oh I look forward to more!

    June 14, 2023
  • Bib

    Commanding Officer / Team Leader

  • Maine

    Former Team Leader - Tactical specialist