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CH02: S [D06|0030] No Rest For The Wicked

Chapter 02: Supplemental [ Day 06 | 0030 hrs. ] No Rest For The Wicked

[ Cmdr Ranaan Ducote | Junior Officers' Quarters | Deck 10 | Vector 02 | USS Theurgy ]

Sickbay had turned out to be a wash. He had, at least, discovered the reason for van den Berg's use of Arizona rather than Endeavour - she had suffered a nasty head injury which had claimed a year or more of her memory. It was almost worse to have another of his crew back, only for them not to know anything about being a part of it. Though... perhaps it would be better that way. She'd never know what had happened. She might be spared the fallout. Regardless, he would look out for her, same as he had since she'd signed her transfer instructions a year ago.

As the doors quietly hissed shut behind him, Ducote slumped back against them, his head hitting the composite with a dull thump. For a moment or two, he just took some breaths. There were no voices in earshot, and the empathic impressions he picked up were pleasantly muted by the intervening bulkheads and distance. The only sounds were of the environmental circuit and the ship's engines rumbling through the superstructure. And that was a problem.

His day was done. There was no Niger to fly while others rested. There was no crisis to navigate. Events around them were as advanced as they were going to get for several hours.

As if they'd been waiting, recollections and recriminations started to swim around his head. Taking advantage of his lack of distraction.

"Get to your stations," I said. Right before abandoning mine to get to the crew decks.

When it mattered, when it counted, he hadn't gone to the bridge as he should have. He had fled to his own quarters in the hope of finding his off-duty fiancée still there before she left to answer the red alert. And then, when he found her, he sent her away from her station. The ship's Chief Engineer. How many people might have lived if two of the most important people on the Endeavour had been where they were supposed to be? Impossible to answer, he supposed; he didn't even know how many were dead yet. The only benefit of fetching up on the Theurgy is that he likely wouldn't have to face a tribunal for gross dereliction of duty. Worse, even. Deserting post in the face of the enemy.

"Christ," he muttered, folding over until his hands leaned on his knees. He had never felt more unworthy of his uniform.

Another uncomfortable confession came forward - he had then taken the runabout into the nebula as a way to absolve his own sins, unheeding of the other survivors aboard it. Condemning - as far as he knew at the time - the entirety of the remaining survivors to abduction by the Theurgy and getting sucked into this whirlwind of... of... whatever the fuck this all was.

With leaden limbs, he pushed himself off the door and shuffled further into the room. He pulled his tunic off and stuffed it into the replicator, pips and badge included, before deciding he needed food. He didn't feel hungry in the slightest, but it had been half a day or more since he'd eaten. And Hadiya would always remind him-

Another flash from the past - this time a sunny day in Boston, and his therapist's office. He remembered how the subtle patterns in her ivory satin headscarf caught the light from the window behind her. It had been more than a year since his last appointment with her, but he still remembered the glossier paisley shapes against the matte base. It seemed an odd thing to have focused on. They were easier to see against the teal collar of her uniform, too. "You have to remember to eat," she had reminded him, after another tired admission that he'd skipped a meal or two. "Even though you might not want to."

- to eat. He sighed, before replicating a bowl of feijoada, the hearty meant and bean stew on which he'd been raised. The smell took him home, but as he sat at the desk and pushed it round the bowl and picked at it half-hearted, he found his mind wandering again. Back to the Endeavour.

Captain Amasov had been something of an example to him on that ship, exacting in his standards but always keen to help his subordinates achieve them. And after surviving the Borg in direct confrontation twice, he had finally been defeated by them. It felt strange to hope he was dead, but given the alternative was assimilation... It just didn't seem fair. Hundreds of officers and crewmen, people he'd known and respected and cared for and looked after, celebrated their successes and commiserated their losses. Mostly gone.

The loss seemed too huge. He couldn't encompass it in its entirety.

Inside his chest was an immense pressure, the sense that something in there needed to be released. Locked away, with the key nowhere to be found. He tried to find it, by imagining the faces of everyone on the ship. One after the other. As he'd known them, not as he'd seen them at the end. But there were too many. His grief was too big to express, and so it sat there. Trying to focus on a smaller part of it didn't seem proper, either - he should give it all its proper credit. He had to.

And Blue.

Blue, on her own, was a loss too big to feel. It was strange, after what felt like more than the single year it had been, not to be surrounded by half-completed projects and tools and fucking fuzzy blankets and Albert perched in a corner. She would always take his not-really-complaints about dumbass cadets and ornery officers with a smirk and a quip, then fold herself into his arms on the couch and ask if twinkies were allowed before dinner yet. A deep, shaky breath escaped him. It had taken months for her to be able to consciously put aside her fear that he would abandon her, and months more for the subconscious instinct to fade. But it had never completely left her.

And then, when their world was being dismantled around them, he had actually done it. Sent her away. Let her think he was definitely following. Disappeared into the bowels of the ship, never to be seen again.

The guilt, added to the mountain of grief, barely changed its total crushing weight. The mass in his chest grew inexorably, threatening to swallow him still, but he didn't know how to expel it.

Out of nowhere, he thought of the yearly multicuisine barbecue in the main shuttlebay on the anniversary on the Endeavour's keel being laid. He'd been to every one since he'd transferred onto the cruiser. The next one would have been due in a couple of months. Finally, as if to wash away the grit, his eyes welled. The f- This sets me off in the end?!

His self-derisive barked laugh turned to sobs, shaking his shoulders despite their quiet. His hands came up to his face as the tears rolled down. The crack in the dam had been made, and the pressure in his chest finally began to recede as he slowly rocked back and forth in the desk chair. He mumbled apologies to the aether between hitching breaths, as if the souls of the dead could hear him and by some miracle consider forgiving his failures. He begged the people he'd left behind, the ones he hadn't been there for, the one he had personally shot to spare him burning alive... he didn't even know what he was begging of them. But he begged all the same.

He wanted them back. He wanted his ship back. He wanted to still be blissfully ignorant of this new enemy. He wanted to be out from under the guns of Task Force Archeron. He wanted his remaining crew to be able to go back to their careers and families.

He wanted Blue back.

Ducote didn't know how long he sat there, with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. But whatever second-, third-, whatever-wind was keeping him upright had finally been dispelled with that final burst of emotional effort, as the quiet crying subsided and he could blink his eyes clear again. Perhaps this whole nightmare would end when he awoke tomorrow. He'd be back in bed in his quarters on the Endeavour with curls of Blue's hair clinging to his stubble, and he could brush this whole event off as a bad dream.

Or, more likely, he would simply resolve to be the officer he'd been trained to be once again, and atone for his sins that way. That, he could do.

Laboriously, he pulled off his boots, then used his crimson shirt as a rag for his face after removing that. It followed his tunic into the replicator. Time for bed, at last. He set an alarm for 0630 out of habit, then shambled to the bed and flopped back onto it. I wonder how long it will take me to sleep?

Ranaan Ducote barely finished the thought.
Nator 159: "I accept no responsibility for the ensign's manifest stupidity. Sir." [Show/Hide]
Ranaan Ducote: "A ship is a home; its crew a family." [Show/Hide]
T'Less: "Your odds of prevailing against us are... slim." [Show/Hide]
Valkra: "Come! We will shake the gates of Sto'Vo'Kor!" [Show/Hide]

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