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[2366] USS Augusta: Kath's Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad Day

Theta-Omega VIII | 2366 | Unnamed Battlefield #48586; Federation-Cardassian War 

Ensign Katherine MacFarlane was twenty years old and she was convinced she was about to meet her maker. But, she wasn't alone there. Down the line she could hear one of the other security officers from the Augusta whispering Hebrew prayers. Of course she understood every word, understood the prayer itself, but pretended not to even hear so much as 'Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad' and certainly not 'Baruch Shem, k'vod malchuto l'olam va'ed'. Instead she was leaning back against a rock with her arm covering her eyes because it never became fully night on the planet and she had been running on empty for thirty-six standard hours after being dropped planet-side forty-eight standard hours previous. 

Joining Starfleet and then being sent to fight Cardassians after her graduation had not been in the cards. She wanted a new hand. But even through her fear, Kath kept her breathing steady. The only reason they were even on the planet was to investigate and neutralize a Cardassian laboratory. Something that couldn't be performed just through scans on the Augusta. She wasn't even in orbit. She had 'fled' with the remaining crew when it had dropped off Kath's 'squad' after a Cardassian warship suddenly howled towards her from the other side of the planet. And so Kath and her small unit of four young Starfleet officers (well, more accurately Kath and 3 enlisted along with her best friend, Sandra Morales who had just gotten her butterbar.) 

The young man reciting the prayer was even younger than she was, having gone through the boot camp for enlisted and getting pushed through while he was still eighteen. And he looked it. He reminded Kath (uncomfortably) of her younger cousin. She never would have wanted him in this situation and thus felt the same way for young Jacob. 

On Kath's left sat Althan, quarter Vulcan and younger than his face showed. And that was entirely the fault of the facial hair he had acquired since they had gotten planet side. Between Kath and Jacob was Sandra, obsessively checking and rechecking every weapon strapped to her person. It was, in some ways, Sandra's stimming action. She was always fussing with something, whether it was a PADD or a phaser. The last in the lineup was Brenton. He held himself like a veteran of uncountable wars but Kath knew that the man was a mere eight years her senior. He had seen the Federation-Cardassian War since its awful beginnings. He, too, sported facial hair but it was much bushier than Althan's though he had been growing it for the same amount of time. 

This all meant that Sandra, awkwardly, was the commanding officer of their little ragtag group. Their 'squad' was atypical. Their squad had been moderately bigger when they had first arrived. It had been thinned out by Cardassian booby traps and ambushes. The Augusta had been unable to beam them in closer to the facility, as there was some kind of protective screen forming a perimeter around it that prevented transporter signals from getting through. They all trusted Kath's tactical instincts more and so followed her directives regardless of who was supposed to be in charge. Sandra held no objections to this. Chain of command snapped in half quickly on the field. Kath kept hearing in her memories her father recite the age old wisdom that no plan survives contact with the enemy. 

Brenton was the one to be on watch when the Cardassians narrowed down their hiding spot. Kath's group had been trying to recover, regroup after all the losses they had taken. But they all knew it was only a matter of time, despite how small their group was now, before they were discovered. 

Sounding the alarm, Brenton's phaser rifle spat its fire at the attacking Cardassians. Kath lunged for Jacob and tackled the younger man to the ground as he was too shell shocked to move before a Cardassian nearly took his head off with their own phaser rifle. She heard Sandra step forward and dual wield phaser pistols to take out the Cardassian that had nearly ended Jacob's life. 

Rolling off of Jacob, Kath sprang to her feet and snatched her own phaser rifle from where it lay on the forest floor. In quick succession, burps of subatomic particles ended the lives of three Cardassians. But she noticed that the 'Cardies' were surrounding the small glen the Federation crew had hidden within. 

Before she knew it, Althan was down with a gut shot. Hands shaking, Jacob tended to the other man's wound while Sandra stormed forward and sniped an encroaching Cardie in the head. Brent suddenly appeared through a cloud of smoke from the phaser fire setting the surrounding greenery alight. He punted a grenade from where it had dropped just a yard from where Althan and Jacob were huddled. It exploded in mid-air and fractured numerous trees. Shrapnel of wood burst out in all directions, pelting Kath as she flitted through the trees to use her K-Bar that was hundreds of years old to dispatch any Cardies she could find in the odd version of twilight on the planet. 

Jacob lifted his head in time to see Sandra swiftly getting prodded into position to be in between two Cardassians with their sights trained on her. 

"Lieutenant! Watch yourself!" Jacob called out but the chaos around them drowned his voice out and Sandra could not see the danger she was in. 

But one of her allies had. Kath's legs pumped and sent her airborne off of a mess of boulders. The blood stained steel of her K-Bar sank deep into the lower neck of the Cardassian. She swiped her hand off to the left, ripping open the neck fringe and sending blood splurting out with enough force that Kath was covered in Cardassian blood even though she was sprinting away towards Sandra. 

It was too late. A third Cardassian that no one had seen sprang up from the ground like a snake. His phaser rifle took a hefty chunk out of Sandra's side and raked down her thigh. Deep enough that it almost hit bone. Kath landed a moment later, one arm slipping around Sandra's middle. The classically trained soldier then pivoted, using her own back to shield her friend. The tactical jacket covered her lungs and her heart but it did not extend down far enough to protect her hips. Multiple shots hissed out, slamming into her own thigh and hip. But she was on the move regardless, limping heavily and pulling Sandra along with her. 

Another shot sizzled through Sandra's leg and burned a hole in her patella that would have been worthy of awe if it weren't an enemy and it didn't hurt like a mother fucker. Sandra's belated scream ripped through the air and made Kath's ears throb from the volume. 

"I've got you, mi amiga, I've got you," Kath assured her friend as she looked frantically for cover. All she found was a giant tree stump. That would have to do. She nearly flung her friend down behind it then collapsed next to her. 

"How bad is it?" Sandra gasped out, palming her sole remaining phaser pistol. Kath glanced down at the ruins of her friend's leg. Brown eyes met Sandra's green and a subtle shake of the head was given. Sandra swallowed thickly but nodded. Kath rummaged in the pouch on her uninjured hip and removed the small hypospray. She injected it into Sandra's remaining hunk of thigh and hip. Then a dose was pressed into her own, nearly identical wounds. But the beam had been smaller, with less energy behind it. Her leg would be fine. Sandra's... not so much. They both knew it. 

"Cardie fucking... lech lehizdayen!" Kath heard Jacob shout but she couldn't figure out where he was. There were too many trees, too much smoke. 

"Yaakov!" Kath blurted the Hebrew version of his name as she saw what she thought was his outline in the smoke. The figure froze then turned towards her. Limped forward. It was not Jacob. Her hand came up and fired before she could fully comprehend the target was not her crewmate. The Cardassian collapsed. Another form took his place but this one was actually Jacob. The young man tripped over the body and when he did Kath watched his right arm seemingly 'come loose' from the rest of his torso. It dropped to the forest floor with a sickening thud-splat that made Kath gag and nearly throw up the ration pack she had eaten what felt like days ago. 

"Go," Sandra rasped in her ear. Kath crouched and rushed over to Jacob. Despite herself, she scooped up his severed limb in one arm and Jacob himself in the other. She guided him to the tree stump where Sandra hid, figuring that was the best place for him. He was shaking, going into literal and metaphorical shock. Not knowing what else to do with it, Kath put his arm in the man's lap. When he looked over her shoulder, she saw his eyes widen. Quickly pivoting on her heels, she got off two shots before the Cardassian making her way through the thick smoke could fully see the small group. 

"Brenton! Althan! Sound off!" Kath called out, shuffling through the trees in a crouch. Her hip and leg screamed at her but she had more important things to worry about. She could deal with her wounds later. So long as she wasn't also going to need to accept more deaths of more friends. 

She ran right into Brenton's legs as she was looking frantically in a 180* swivel for him and Althan. She fell backward onto her ass and looked up. He was holding Althan in the oh so poorly named bridal carry. As far as she could tell, Althan wasn't breathing. 

"No, no, no," the desperate mantra left her lips as she rolled back to her feet. Her palm brushed across his blood and sweat stained forehead. His neck looked like it had been attacked by a wild animal. It was a miracle his head was still attached. Brenton was holding him in a careful carrying position, and she realized a better description was how one held an infant. Supporting the head and neck-- what was left of the latter. 

"I-I'm sorry, Ensign. I tried... to get to him. I was too late. Cardie bastards have mined the perimeter without us noticing. He ran right into it," Brenton half sobbed out. 

"It isn't your fault, Brent. C'mon. I don't see any more Cardies. I'll go minesweeping in a bit," she said, gently guiding him along by the elbow back to the tree stump. 

Staring numbly as Brenton tenderly placed Althan on the ground next to where Sandra was desperately trying to staunch the bleeding just shy of her carotid artery with synthetic dermal patches, Kath collapsed opposite them. Tears pricked her eyes. So many hours of training. Simulation after simulation. Smoke, water, zero-g. None of it had prepared her for seeing the body of her friend so badly mangled. Or watching a friend's limb just... fall off like in one of those zombie holonovels from the twentieth century. No, not holonovel. 'Movie'. Vaguely recalled learning that term during a class on more primitive technology, one example of many that the Academy felt the students might come across in their travels.

Kath only noticed her hands were shaking when she tried to check her phaser rifle and make sure its battery pack was full. Her hand shook so bad that she dropped the battery pack multiple times trying to push it into place. Barely managed to tap her COMMbadge. 

"Augusta, this is Ensign MacFarlane. It's a massacre down here. C-can I get-- can we get an ETA on your return?" even her voice shook. Her father had once warned her that it didn't matter how much she trained, it would never hold a candle to the real deal. Of course she hadn't understood. Then. She did now.  

"Hang in there, Ensign. We had to boomerang around the local star. What's the status of your unit? Where's your Lieutenant?" the voice of the First Officer sounded tinny coming from her COMMbadge. At the moment she couldn't recall her name, or her face. 

"Sh-she's wounded bad. Barely missed the artery in her leg. Three quarters of my unit is dead. Dios, they nearly decapitated Althan with one of their traps," Kath finally managed to answer after a few times of moving her mouth but no words leaving. "Y-you need the medical bay prepped for surgery. J-Jacob... his arm... it just... just fell the fuck off!" Kath's voice went a little higher in pitch but she managed to keep her tone level. 

"Don't worry, Ensign. We will. We'll get that arm back on good as new. What's your personal status, MacFarlane?" the First Officer said, as soothing as the situation allowed her to be. 

"G-got slammed bad with phaser fire in my leg. But I can walk. I can fight. Pr-protect my unit before you get here," Kath said, dismissing her own health and wellbeing for the sake of her friends, her crewmates, her family. "Lieutenant Morales's is worse than mine. Ayyy!" The pain made her vision go black at the edges for a moment. 

"Alright, Ensign. Just focus on the next few minutes. Are you in a safe place?" 

"N-nowhere on this shithole is safe. But I think we got rid of the Cardie unit that was in the area."

Pain spiked through her leg from her hip to the tips of her toes and back again as she tried to push herself back up to her feet. 

"Good. That's good. You've done amazing, Ensign. Focus on your successes." 

"What successes? We didn't even get into the facility!" she snapped. 

In the silence after her angry remark, Kath snarled her pain as she peeled away her uniform pants from the wound. The fabric clung to the phaser furrow in her hip, blood crusted on it to keep it in place and make it too painful for her to fully remove even just the fabric that made up the leg of the trousers. 

"We're back in-system, Ensign. We're sending a shuttle now." 

The First Officer's voice sounded so distant, so warped. All of Kath's adrenaline and endorphins had drained away. 

"Kath? Kath, stay with me!" Sandra said even as she was still struggling to staunch her bleeding. She could see Kath drifting further into shock. Wound wise. Psychologically. 

But it wasn't enough. Kath's consciousness slipped away like sand in an hourglass. She slumped where she sat against a tree opposite the giant stump. Her friends were safest there. Their wounds were more severe. She would be... fine. 

When she woke, she could feel the familiar rumble of a T3 class shuttle around her. It was soothing, almost. Her remaining unit was saved. She couldn't see where they had taken Althan's body, or Jacob's arm. 

But she saw Sandra, hooked up to all kinds of machines and fluid intake. Lying on a biobed, her wounded leg expertly dressed in synthetic dermal patches. But it was wrong. Sandra's foot was angled wrong. If Sandra managed to keep a hold of the limb, it would likely hurt her for the rest of her life. 

Moaning from the pain of the effort to move, Kath dragged herself over to Sandra's biobed. A scream ripped from her lips as she grabbed the edge of the biobed then yanked herself to her feet. 

"S-Sandra? Sweetheart?" Kath whispered, gently grasping the darker woman's hand. It didn't feel as warm as Sandra usually did. Sandra wasn't her lover, but they were close friends. 'Bosom buddies' might have been apt if they had been living in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. 

Watching with worry, Kath saw Sandra slowly rouse from whatever amounted to slumber when so blanketed with pain. As she saw Kath, Sandra offered a small smile and squeezed Kath's hand. 

"Hey, puta," Sandra said, purely teasing. It was their way. Insults they could never mean in a thousand years. 

"Who you fuckin' callin' puta you carajo?" Kath managed to throw back even as her eyes filled with tears. For Sandra, seeing her usually more stoic friend crying just made her worry that much more about her prognosis. 

"Hey. Hey. S'gonna be 'kay. 'Kay?" Sandra murmured, whatever drugs she had been given for pain making her words slur together and come out half-formed. 

"Y-yeah. 'Course. I know. You're a tough hijo de puta.

"Aww, don't give me that conojo shit!" 

"S-Sandra. Please. Look. I dunno where they took Jacob but. But you need to know something," Kath said, gently squeezing Sandra's hand. She swallowed thickly. 

"Can't it wait? I'm so tired." 

"NO! I... No. It can't. Sandra. I'm gay. Er. Well. I like everyone. No matter what they got in their pants."

"Now is not the time to ask me to marry you, Katherine MacFarlane," Sandra said sternly. 

It made Kath give a proper laugh for once. "No! Nothing like that. I just. God forbid but. In case anything happens I needed you to know." 

Sandra laughed softly but nodded. She took Kath's hand and kissed the knuckles. "Well, I love you no matter what you like in peoples' pants. I just ain't gonna marry you. I don't love you like that." 

Kath forced another laugh. "Th-thanks."

Both looked over as they heard footsteps. 

"We need to take Lieutenant Morales into surgery now. Try to save that leg," one of the nurses Kath recognized from the Augusta said. 

Swallowing a lump in her throat, Kath nodded then gently released Sandra's hand. "Of course." 

By the time the shuttle returned to the Augusta, Kath learned that nothing could be done for Sandra's leg like had been done for Jacob's arm. All they could do was fit Sandra with a prosthetic and get her started on physical therapy immediately. She was out of the war until further notice. 

When the shuttle docked in the bay of the Augusta, Kath walked between the biobeds for her two friends. When she looked behind her she noticed Brent was on a bed himself. 

"Got pinged a little close to the spine. They didn't want to try anything until we got back home," Brent said, grimacing in pain. He had carried Althan despite his own injury? An injury that could be career ending if not treated properly? 

"Brent..." Kath breathed. She couldn't handle this. Her unit had been cracked apart like an egg. Her own injuries seemed to pale in comparison. Guilt gnawed at her. 

Kath said a quick goodbye to Brent then to Sandra and Jacob. 

Then, setting her jaw, Kath limped her way back to her quarters. There she made use of the relative soundproof of the room to scream at the ceiling, her heart hurting more than anything else. She didn't understand why she had survived in so much better shape. 

When she next saw Sandra, the woman was being fitted with a life-like prosthetic that exactly matched her skin tone. She had what could be a year of physical therapy to get through. And the regular head-shrinking therapy too in order to cope with such a huge change to her body. And all Katherine MacFarlane had was a line of scars on her hip and thigh to show for it.

And yet, Kath was put on the next transport back to Sector 001. Back to Earth. Along with Sandra, Jacob, Brenton, and Althan. 

"Sh'ma Yisrael etc.,"- Part of the Sh'ma/Shema that observant Jews recite upon waking, upon going to sleep, during services, and when they believe they are about to die. Generally, the first prayer Jews learn, and the last they hope to be able to recite when their time on Earth is done. It means 'Hear O Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One'. Kath is also accidentally fulfilling one of the customs of the Sh'ma: covering your eyes as you recite even if she isn't the one doing the reciting. Read more here. Spelling used is found in the Mishkan Tefilah, the prayer book for Reform Jews.
Butterbar- Slang for a Lieutenant JG/Second Lieutenant. The US military insignia for a 2nd Lieutenant is (was in Trek time) a single gold-painted 'bar' or stripe.  Versus a full Lieutenant/First Lieutenant having a single silver bar. (And the silver bar further cloning itself when one is promoted to Captain.) I couldn't figure a good slang based on the ridiculously simple system of rank pips and stripes.
Lech lehizdayen- 'Go fuck yourself' in Hebrew.
puta/hijo de puta- bitch/son of a bitch
carajo- slang for dick
Conojo- slang for pussy (not cat)
"And you know this how?" "I'm a spy, remember?"
Lt. Katherine “Darkstar Foxtrot” MacFarlane, Asst. Chief Tactical Officer, USS Theurgy (Vector 3)

Re: [2366] USS Augusta: Kath's Horrible Terrible No Good Very Bad Day

Reply #1
Earth | 2366 | Starfleet Hospital; California

"Once I get used to this thing, I am so kicking your ass for saying that!" Sandra said, her arms shaking as she walked in between the parallel bars, slowly learning to put more and more weight on the prosthesis for her physical therapy.

Kath laughed, reaching out to help pull Sandra's hair into a ponytail.

"I think you'd look cute with a Vulcan bowl cut!" Kath repeated. Sandra hooked one arm around one bar and used her other to take a swing at the other woman. Kath easily dodged and barked laughter.

"No one will notice the leg, you gotta appear a little bit physically changed!" Kath defended. And yet, it nagged in the back of her mind. Should she really be saying these things? Even if Sandra encouraged it?

"Mi socia, my curls will never allow such a cut. It will frizz out all over. Not cute!" Sandra huffed, returning her hand to the bar and continuing her slow trek along.

"Even better!" Kath teased.

Sandra rolled her eyes. Once she got to the other end of the bars, Kath half carried Sandra to a chair nearby. Slowly Sandra lowered into it.

"I should be able to at least stand at Althan's funeral," Sandra said. Kath felt an oppressively uncomfortable blanket of awkwardness cover them.

"Y-yeah. I think so, too. And I'm one of the pallbearers," Kath agreed quickly. She really did hope so. She did not know why she had been asked to help carry the casket, after all wasn't it her fault he was dead?

"I bet you don't need any help. You've bulked up since we got back to Earth," Sandra said, her voice turning gentle as if speaking to an easily spooked animal.

"Well, I mean... if I had just been... faster. Bulkier..." Kath muttered, looking away from her friend.

"Hey. No. Kath, did you see a therapist like I suggested yet?" Sandra said, frowning at the other woman.

Biting her lip, her only 'tell', Kath kept her gaze turned from Sandra. Reaching out, Sandra turned Kath's face back.

"Please. You were hurt, too. And we all lost Althan. It isn't healthy to just bottle that all up."

"I'm fine!" Kath snapped, pulling away. But they both knew that small sentence alone proved she wasn't. The guilt of the survivor. Or, more succinctly: survivor's guilt.

What did she care? She had only known Althan a couple months. Only knew them all a couple months. What kind of friendship can form in just a couple months? Ignoring of course, how close she was to Sandra.

"I have to go see Brent. See if his doctors say he can help me with Althan," Kath said, standing up abruptly.

"Kath--" Sandra tried but her friend, the eternal soldier, left the room without another word.

Earth | 2366 | Starfleet Veteran Assisted Living; California

"I-I dunno, Kath. I really want to but the doctors say I could reverse all the work I've been putting in," Brent said softly, too ashamed to look his friend in the eye. Out of Sandra, Brent, and Jacob, Brent seemed to be taking it as well as Kath was. Kath did not know if that was good or bad, yet. But at least she felt a little better when she was around him.

"Sure, Brent. No problem! Your recovery is way more important," Kath said. But they both heard the edge to her voice. They only had a funeral for Althan once. Brent couldn't ask for a do-over later if he started feeling guilty about carrying the casket -- or not, in this case.

"If you can't, I'll ask Jacob if that's okay with you. His rehab is going quicker than Sandra's and he only needs one arm to do the thing," Kath said after a long silence where all that happened was Brent investigating the glass of juice he had leftover from breakfast.

Althan's parents had insisted his crewmates be the pallbearers. Not any of his family, a family filled with physically stronger Vulcans. Kath did not know why she was organizing the whole thing. But in her guilt, her desire for everything to go right had swum to the surface.

"And if anything goes wrong I can just say it wasn't me, it was the one-armed man," the poor taste joke left her before she even knew she was thinking it. Kath and Brent just stared at each other for a few heartbeats before laughter left them both, helpless to do otherwise.

"That was... terrible," Brent stated when they finally calmed down.

"Si si si, I know," Kath said, another lone chuckle escaping. But she noticed Brent wasn't as morose as he had been. And that, after all, had been her goal.

Earth | 2366 | Starfleet Cemetery; Enlisted Plots

Jacob and Kath walked at the front, holding up Althan's casket with relative ease. One of Althan's other friends from a different ship took the back along with a younger cousin.

Slowly, carefully, they lowered it onto the stand next to his memorial picture. A tent had been erected to keep the worst of the California sun off the visitors.

"You alright? All things considered?" Kath asked Jacob in a low voice as they went to sit in their assigned spots close to the front.

"Yeah. Shoulder hurts from carrying... him," Jacob replied quietly. His gaze lowered to the ground. The grass looked good. Everything looked nice -- for a funeral. Jacob had used his organic arm for most of the carrying, Kath having arranged it that way on purpose despite his assurance he was actually getting along well with his rehab. Sandra sat in the row behind them and reached over to put a hand on Kath's shoulder. Kath looked over then nodded to her friend. Sandra smiled slightly then gripped Jacob's good shoulder. He just barely smiled. Brent sat next to her and nodded to Kath and Jacob. Kath had noticed how he sat very straight, which was new.

Kath, not exactly knowing how a Vulcan and human mixed funeral went, found herself giving rapt attention to the whole event. She listened as his Vulcan side of the family honored his intelligence and logic while his human side remarked on his ability to make those around him feel at ease and how often he smiled in a way you couldn't help but smile back.

When it was his Augusta crewmates' turn, Kath was glad she had written out what she had wanted to say-- in bullet points but still. She had gotten prepared. She had never expected needing to prepare for a friend's funeral so soon, however.

"I did not know him long, but I know I liked him. During our tour on the Augusta, he explained how he used his emotions in battle to keep himself grounded and the worst experiences at bay. Anger can move mountains." She paused for a moment. Wondered briefly how the Vulcan side appreciated that last part. "I also know he hated the war and just wanted to go home. I'm sorry it had to happen like this."

Althan, like them all, had written out his will. Instead of being buried on Vulcan, in their Starfleet cemetery, he had chosen Earth to go with being far more Human in temperament and having more Human blood in him.

"I wish I could have saved him, and all the others we lost. I know he did not believe in an afterlife, so I won't contradict that belief. His memory will live on in all of us and that is enough."

Nodding mainly to herself, Kath walked off from the podium.

Later, after everyone had their say, the retinue retired to the gathering space for the after service. Tables were set up with food and drink and the walls held various pictures of Althan.

After getting some wine she wasn't familiar with, Kath wandered to join her friends.

"You did really good, mi socia," Sandra said with a gentle smile. She was sitting in a chair with her cane propped up next to her.

"Thanks. I just hope the Vulcan side of the family was okay with it," Kath replied with a slight smile in return.

"I think they knew Althan followed his Human side more," Sandra assured her.

Nodding, Kath looked around the room. Everyone seemed to be mingling more than she had hoped.

Althan wasn't the only casualty from the Augusta, but he was the closest to Kath and her friends. On the trip back home, the ship had had a combined memorial for everyone who had died on the greenery and mud ball.

It was only a short while later that the war ended. If Kath had entered Starfleet Academy any later, she would have missed it. A hell of a way to start your Starfleet career.
"And you know this how?" "I'm a spy, remember?"
Lt. Katherine “Darkstar Foxtrot” MacFarlane, Asst. Chief Tactical Officer, USS Theurgy (Vector 3)

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