SEASON 3: EPISODE 04
TO DELIGHT IN THE INHUMAN WORD: Part Twenty
Masters knocked on the inside wall. The patient opened his eyes and looked up at him.
“Lucky you have spare organs,” Masters said with a smile.
“If I were truly lucky I would have died in battle,” came a gravelly reply.
“Always looking for that silver lining aren’t you, Thopok,” Masters joked.
Thopok did not seem to get the humour and just frowned back at him. “There is honour in dying on the field of battle.”
Masters walked up to Thopok bed. Thopok was in one of the smaller recovery rooms off the main sickbay. Masters had just got himself released from sickbay after getting treatment for his injuries. He had also just finished checking up on Daley, who was also in sickbay. The ship was on its way to Starbase 381 for repairs. It was currently been towed by tractor beam by the Fury once he finished here he would make his way to the bridge to check on the status of the ship.
“I’d say you earned plenty of honour without losing your life. You saved my life.”
“You were captured.”
“You helped retake this ship by storming the bridge,” Masters countered.
Thopok was silent for a moment before replying, “An honourable death would have increased that.”
“You wouldn’t be able to then show your shipmates that you are still honourable.”
“Klingon’s don’t gloat,” said Thopok giving Masters a displeased look.
Masters scoffed. “That’s a load of crap! Klingon’s love to tell others about their battles and the enemies they’ve slain.”
“That is different.”
Masters shrugged. “Maybe, but now you have a chance to regain the respect of your brothers – to continue fighting and surpass it. Your honour has been restored; no one can doubt your courage or skill anymore.”
Thopok raised an eyebrow at Masters. “Are you saying that today was not a good day to die?”
Masters grinned. “I guess I am.”
“What about my loss to the Ferengi?” Thopok asked.
“You Klingons tend to focus more on the recent victories rather than past defeats. I was just in the Fire lounge where Mon’kor was telling of your exploits and how you tore a Jem’Hadar First to pieces. That man is literally singing your praises! Your peers will forget about what happened in the past and will see your exploits today as an indication of the warrior you are.”
“Respect from the crew of the MalbeB is not worth much.”
Masters felt like throttling Thopok. The man was set on just looking at the negatives. “They’re no longer the crew of the MalbeB, Thopok. That ship is gone. As you said they will be split up and assigned to other vessels and with them they will take the tales of what happened on this ship. Other Klingons will hear of it, ones that I’m sure you cannot just dismiss as riff-raff as you have done with the crew of the MalbeB. Your name will be uttered with reverence instead of with snide comments.”
Thopok did seem to perk up with that. However, it was not enough for Masters.
“Your superiors will also know what you did today because I will make them aware. I’m going to nominate you for a Starfleet Medal of Honour.”
“What? But that is a Federation award!” said Thopok with distain.
“True and if you can’t be awarded that I’ll nominate you for the Klingon equivalent. I don’t care if I have to drag you kicking and screaming I will not let you go back to what you were. You will be given an assignment your rank, experience and you honour deserves.”
Thopok regarded Masters suspiciously. “Why are you helping me?”
“You saved my life, you saved my crew, and you saved my ship. You might say I have a debt of honour to repay.”
“You...would not make a bad Klingon, captain. I appreciate your assistance.”
“You saved my life, the only reasonable thing I can do is to save yours from one of mediocrity and underachievement. To give you back the chance to be the warrior in the eyes of your people and regain the respect that is rightfully yours.”
Masters turned to leave.
“We Klingons do not forget our friends and allies. From this day forward our houses are intertwined.”
Masters turned back to Thopok. “Get well soon, Thopok. This war needs people like you to fight it.”
Starbase 381 was a large starbase of a design similar to the giant mushroom shaped Corona class spacedocks. It was smaller than that design and so had earned the nickname Toadstools by those in Starfleet. Officially it was the Venera class but the nickname toadstool was a hard one to shake. Like its larger cousin it had a mushroom cap shape but did not have a long ‘stem’. It also had an outer ring around its widest point. That had additional docking points allowing vessels to dock outside as well as a vast internal dock area within the mushroom cap.
The USS Fury had ended up tractoring the Swiftfire half of the way after the power distribution to the nacelles came close to failing. Both ships were also escorted by some of the ships from the 73rd Tactical Wing. The Fury and the ships from the 73rd had since left and returned to their duties.
The Swiftfire was now docked in one of the interior docking bays as it received repairs. Currently the main work being done was reattaching the nacelle that had been separated from the ship. The field repairs had held for the journey to the starbase but it was not a permanent solution. The other nacelle pylon was also undergoing repairs to reconnect the severed power connections to the nacelle and repair the hull damage.
The loss of the ship’s weapons pod was the easiest thing to replace. The starbase had several spare pods in storage, however they were of the older model that lacked the six rear launchers and instead had seven forward launchers. All up that meant the ship had three less torpedo launcher than normal. It also meant that the ship had no direct rear torpedo coverage. The starbase was unable to resupply the Swiftfire with quantum torpedoes to replace the ones lost with the rear pod effectively restricting half of the ships launchers to photon torpedoes only. It was a reduction in the ships offensive power but the ship was still a potent combatant.
In an observation lounge that looked out into the main bay of the starbase was Ensign Frank Cole. He silently sat and watched as the work bees and EV suited personnel went to work on the Swiftfire. He had piloted it back here, or at least for half the trip, the other half all he did was sit at the controls monitoring the warp field around the ship and the stress on the vessel as it was dragged the rest of the way by the Fury.
“Hard to believe most of us slept through that.”
Cole turned and saw Lieutenant Wessling standing behind him. She smiled warmly at him and took a seat beside him.
“You at least have an excuse,” Cole commented.
“It was probably the best rest many of the crew have had,” Wessling said. “Which is a scary thought if think about it.”
Cole did a polite half laugh at the comment.
“So how’s Autumn?” asked Wessling.
“She’s still in the station’s medical centre. Looks like she’ll need a new kidney, maybe a new liver and she has some spinal damage that will take some healing but it’s completely repairable so she shouldn’t suffer problems afterwards.”
Wessling looked genuinely upset by that news. Cole knew that Wessling and Autumn had gotten quite friendly in the six months Wessling had been on the Swiftfire. This was partly due to the friendship between him and Terri Letac, who was in a relationship with Wessling. Since Cole spent quite a bit of time with Letac it was inevitable that Autumn and Wessling would also spend time together. The four of them had even gone on a couple of double dates together.
“I’m glad to hear that she’ll be okay. It could’ve been worse, she owes you her life.”
“She was injured because I had her go for the turbolift,” Cole said as guilt started to fill him.
“Which if you didn’t do you would’ve both been stuck on the bridge and the Jem’Hadar could’ve killed either or both of you,” pointed out Wessling.
“I abandoned my post...I should have stayed and defended the bridge. I shouldn’t have left the commander and lieutenant there,” Cole argued vehemently.
Wessling gave him a questioning look. “Is that what you think? That you ran away?” Cole did not answer but guiltily looked back out to the repair work on the ship. “No one else is saying you did that. You just watched one of the galaxy’s most lethal killing machines butcher half of the crew on the bridge in a few seconds and disable the rest just as quickly. You were in a poor defensive position and your enemy was willing to kill anyone on that bridge, you weren’t. I know that he used Sol as a shield against you and you should not doubt your choice not to shoot a friend and colleague. What makes us different from the Dominion is that we value lives. We don’t see them as expendable or instantly replaceable.”
Cole looked directly into Wessling’s eyes. “Autumn nearly died because of my actions, Aimee. She’s the woman I love and I nearly killed her.”
“The Jem’Hadar nearly killed her. You kept her alive,” replied Wessling firmly. “You did what you could to treat her wound. You stayed with her and kept her fighting for life and even though you might have felt you abandoned her, when you left the turbolift you also gave her hope, something to hold on to. Her faith and belief in you kept her clinging to life until the marines beamed her out so she could get medical help. You saved her life, Frank.”
“Then why do I feel so bad about it?”
Wessling reached out and squeezed Cole’s shoulder. “That’s because she was hurt and you care for her. When that happens you’ll feel either anger at the party responsible or at yourself because you think you should have done something to prevent it. It’s something you have to get used to if you are going to serve with someone you’re in a relationship with.”
“Would feel the same if it happened to you and Terri?” Cole asked.
“Of course. However, I’d also have my inner counsellor telling me what I’m telling you...or I can have Gloria do it,” said Wessling with a wide grin. Cole had no idea who Gloria was and guessed she was one of the other counsellors on the ship. “Your proximity to each other from serving together will always make you feel like you should be able to protect her, but the fact is you can’t. There’ll also be things out of your control. You just have to roll with the punches and deal with what you can control, just like you did today. Just remember that you saved Autumn’s life.”
Wessling patted Cole’s arm and gave him a reassuring smile before she stood and left. Cole turned his attention back to the repair work on the Swiftfire. Wessling’s words rang in his mind. Cole knew that what Wessling said made sense; as long as he and Autumn served together he would want to protect her. Yet there was no way he always could. Cole wanted to carry on to be with Autumn but could he continue to serve with her?
This was a rare occasion. The shuttlebay of the Swiftfire was crowded with the entire crew of the ship. Rarely was it possible to gather everyone who was serving on the ship into one location as there had to be people on duty, but since they were in spacedock getting repairs they did not need to have any crew on duty.
The crew was arranged in a parade formation and split into sections. Before the group were a set of torpedo casings draped in the flag of the United Federation of Planets. These were not weapons but coffins with the mortal remains of those who had perished in service to the Federation.
Captain Masters stood in front of the coffins before the entirety of his crew. He waited for the group to settle before he began.
“Today we gather here to mourn the passing of our shipmates. Brave men and women of the Federation who gave their lives in service to a cause that is bigger than any one of us. They gave their lives to ensure the freedoms we hold dear and our values that keep us strong.
“They are not the first on this ship to give their lives...but I wish they would be the last. We all join Starfleet with a knowledge that our lives very well could come to an end in these uniforms. It is not something we dwell on for we know that if we do meet that fate that we have given our lives for something we believe in. Yet we hope that we are never the ones to be in the coffins,” Masters paused as he partially turned to looked at the coffins behind him.
“The enemy used our values and morals against us. They played on the fact that we value the lives of our comrades. They used our empathy to board our vessel.” Masters glanced to Core. She stood quietly with the rest of the crew, a steely look on her face. Core had blamed herself for the boarding of the ship as she had not identified the ship until after they had beamed the Jem’Hadar over. Masters did not blame her and did not think anyone on the ship did. Hindsight could be a wonderful thing, it also could be terrible. In this case it was the latter. He looked back at the crew. “They see these as weaknesses...I do not. It is what makes us who we are and it is what we are fighting to uphold. They came into our home and they hurt us, not for the first time. We cannot help but feel these losses a bit more than others because they died in the defence of this ship. It does not diminish those who have already given their lives nor will it diminish those who will give their lives.
“The enemy hopes that the fear they instil in us will break us. That these deaths will diminish us – it only does so in numbers, for each life lost we are all instilled with more determination to defeat the Dominion. It strengthens our bonds with each other, it makes us stronger. The Dominion will never be able to diminish our spirit for we know we fight for what is just and right. Unlike them we do not fight for ourselves, we fight for everyone in this quadrant, even those who don’t want us to or don’t know we do...we fight for them. And we will fight on because we will not let these deaths be in vain. We will reign victorious over the Dominion.”
Master brought up a datapadd and looked at the list.
“The following have given their lives for the United Federation of Planets in service with the Federation Starfleet: Ensign Mili Azulai, Lance Corporal Eamon Bullock, Petty Officer 2nd class G’Ethza, Lieutenant junior grade Draylen Harles, Petty Officer 2nd class Vylus ch’Ixrep, Chief Petty Officer Gareth Lewis, Private Kyle Dix, Private Justin Salvatore, Second Lieutenant Tashanna, and Gunnery Sergeant Xanthius. They died defending the USS Swiftfire and all those who serve on her. We thank you and honour your sacrifice.”
“ATTENTION!” called out Core.
The echo of over six-hundred boots thumping the floor reverberated throughout the shuttlebay.
Masters turned and walked to Colonel Tiki. He presented the PADD to Tiki and said, “If you please, colonel.”
Tiki accepted the PADD reverently and stepped forward. “Company, forward!”
A group of Marines marched forward, forming a tunnel towards the open entrance of the transport shuttle. Tiki and four Marines walk to the coffin nearest the shuttle. Tiki inspected the coffin and saluted as the four Marines picked it up and carried the coffin towards the shuttle. As they walked through the tunnel created by the honour guard, the honour guard saluted the fallen member of Starfleet and the Swiftfire. Tiki walked to the next coffin and waited for the four Marines to return and they repeat the process.
When Tiki came to the third coffin four members of the crew stepped forward from the group. They were led by Lieutenant Misi, who marched up to Masters.
“Lieutenant Solomon Misi requesting permission to transport Lieutenant Draylen Harles to the shuttle.”
Masters looked at the group assembled. With Misi were Rosetta, Baker, Cole and Ensign Malic. All five were bridge officers who took the gamma shift. Baker and Malic were not present on the bridge when the ship was boarded, but were regular members of the gamma shift. Baker was the regular officer manning the science station, which had been manned by Cole during the attack and Malic was a flight controller rotated through the helm position with Bailey. Bailey was the only one not there as she was still recovering from her injuries. It was the final act of close friends and colleagues, how could he deny them this last act?
Masters nodded. “Proceed, lieutenant.”
Misi gave him a slight nod of thanks and marched with his party to Colonel Tiki.
“Of course, lieutenant,” said Tiki as he handed over the PADD to Misi.
Misi stepped up to the coffin and inspected it as Tiki had. He nodded to the other four officers and Rosetta and Malic took the front while Cole and Baker took the back of the coffin. Misi stood at attention and Tiki saluted as the four officer picked up Harles’ coffin and marched towards the shuttle. The four marine coffin bearers joined the honour guard as they walked through it, saluting their fallen comrade.
The marines loaded the rest of the coffins into the shuttle until all but two are in the shuttle. Tiki walked up to the shuttle and was met by a Starfleet officer. Colonel Tiki presented the Starfleet officer with the padd that Masters had given him. The Starfleet officer compared it to one he had nodded and returned Tiki’s padd. Tiki spun on his heels and returned to Masters.
“Transfer of the deceased is complete, sir.”
Masters nodded. “Very good, colonel,” he said as he accepted the padd back.
The marines in the honour guard dispersed in formation and joined the rest of the group as they silently and respectfully watched as the shuttle departs through the rear doors of the shuttlebay. Apart from the whine of the shuttle’s engines the shuttlebay was silent, though not to Masters. In his head all he heard were the sombre tones of the Last Post echoing as the shuttle departed.
Once it was gone Masters again addressed the group.
“Private Justin Salvatore and Petty Officer 2nd class G’Ethza made the decision that in the event of their deaths they were to be given a burial that has long been a tradition of spacefaring races. We commend the spirits of Lance Corporal Eamon Bullock and Petty Officer 2nd class G’Ethza to space, to travel her silent expanses for the rest of time.”
Behind him one of the crew blew the Boatswain's whistle and Masters subtly sent a sign to Starbase 381 using the PADD in his hand. The two coffins faded away in a blue transporter haze.
Using temporarily set up holoemitters in the shuttlebay Masters activated a large display that showed a view of space from the station in front of the gathered crew. Into view appeared two torpedo casings as they drifted off into the vast darkness of space. The Swiftfire being in dock was unable to launch the torpedoes itself so Masters had organised for the starbase to do that part for them. The group watched as the torpedoes faded into the blackness of space.
Once it had Masters signalled that the service was over. They had seen their comrades off in a fashion befit their service in Starfleet.
Core came up to him. “That was very nice, Jonathan.”
“It’s a bitter sweet honour,” Masters said. “One that gets done far too often.”
“Some of the crew and most of the senior staff are heading over to Club Wellington on the starbase for a few drinks. We thought about having it here but with the repair work it seems more prudent to have it somewhere where we don’t have to worry about the lights being turned off.”
“I have to check up on Rachel,” said Masters turning down the invitation.
“Come on, Jono. Rachel won’t mind if you have one or two drinks. It will do the crew good to see you out and about. You only have to be around for fifteen minutes and then you can leave to check up on Rachel.”
Masters watched the vista of space projected before him. He tapped the control and the image disappeared as the projectors were switched off.
“What’s fifteen minutes?” he commented. Core smiled widely and the two officers and friends headed out of the shuttlebay.
Rachel Daley raised her arm and reached over to the glass of water next to the bed. Every single muscle in her body ached. Doctor Murphy had given her a look over and had said she was very lucky to be alive. The telekinetic blast she took had been like an electric shock and she had received two. Daley had spent most of the trip to Starbase 381 in sickbay but had opted out of a stay in Starbase 381’s infirmary. They had more seriously injured people to worry about then Daley, so she rested up in her temporary quarters on the starbase while the Swiftfire underwent repairs.
The door chimed. Daley went to get up but her body quickly reminded her of her situation. She called out, “Enter.”
The door opened and Masters stepped into the room.
“I half expected to see you standing by the door,” he said.
Masters gave her a half smile. “You tried, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I instantly regretted it. So come to check up on me?”
Masters walked up to her bed. “Yes, I thought we could have dinner together.”
“I don’t think I can make it to the table,” Daley admitted.
“That’s why it’s going to be dinner in bed.”
“I like the sound of that, will you be spoon feeding me?”
Masters grinned and sat gently down on the edge of the bed next to her. Masters reached out and ran his hand through her hair. “We’ll see how it goes.”
“It’s probably the only spooning you’ll get,” she said teasingly. “At least until I don’t feel like a punching bag.”
“Good thing this starbase has a holodeck then,” Masters humbled quietly, but loud enough for Daley to hear.
Daley gave Masters a slap to the stomach and immediately regretted it. Her arm muscles felt like they were on fire. “I don’t know how I feel about you and a holographic woman…you know I’d have to kill her right?”
“What if it is a hologram of you?”
“Especially if it is a hologram of me,” Daley said firmly. “I don’t like the idea of you having a version of me that you can adjust physically, emotionally and mentally to suit your needs. How can a girl match up against that?”
“Good point,” Masters acknowledged. He gave her a cocky smirk. “Luckily for me I know I’m perfect so a hologram of me would be a pale imitation.”
Daley laughed and then groaned in pain. “Don’t make me laugh…it hurts.”
“Sorry,” apologised Masters rubbing her side. “Would you like a drink?”
“No thanks.” Daley paused. She had a question on her mind since she had been held captive by Jasis. “Jonathan, you killed Jasis on Caprius?”
As solemn look came to Masters’ face as he confirmed, “Yes.”
“Was she unarmed?”
Masters took longer to answer this time. “Yes. It was not a task I took lightly. Sela, my captor was been seduced into surrendering us to Jasis and the Dominion. There was no way I could let that happen.”
“If you had a weapon on you, you could have attacked Sela, the armed threat and captured Jasis instead.”
“I tried three times to incapacitate Sela. I got stunned for my efforts. It’s true that I could have used the knife on Sela and taken Jasis hostage instead. I however made a decision to try and save the life of a Starfleet officer who only had one life to give and try to understand why she had betrayed her oath. At the time the only way that seemed possible was to kill Jasis, a Vorta who by the end of the week would have a new clone to continue her existence. Had I known that she would go crazy and try to hunt me down…I’d have still tried to save Sela.”
Daley nodded. “Given the situation I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing.”
“I hope you don’t have to experience that type of situation,” said Masters patting her arm.
“Do you think that’s the end of it?” she asked.
“That disruptor blast would not have been good for her. I’d like to think that this is the end of it and that the wound was fatal and she died on the transporter pad of that other ship,” said Masters.
“What about her other clone?”
“If she was telling the truth her current clone is a good Vorta who doesn’t concern herself with revenge, so hopefully we won’t get a visit from her.”
Daley frowned. “So we just have to worry about the one insane clone trying to hunt you down.”
Masters lent down and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “Hopefully we don’t have to worry about anything.”