Posted on Thu Mar 15th, 2018 @ 4:16pm by Lieutenant JG Samuel "Sam" Case
Shore Leave: Drama At Arcadia
Location: Starbase Arcadia; Flashbacks: USS Sol NCC-523, .44 Parsecs from K7
Timeline: Stardates 2263.214; 2263.199
The smell of lilac; a touch of turned earth. It was pungent in the nose: Klingon sweat. Sam Case associated it with death, loss, chaos. It rose panic in a suffocating chest, being crushed down on by a member of the House of Kawlos. Sam wrested himself from the armpit he was locked in, risking and taking the gash it would rake across his collarbone. He heard the fabric of his uniform tear- the least of concern. What was dull, pressing angst turned into the sear of cutting and the sheen of his warm blood. Aching muscles rammed already bruised elbows into solar plexus... solar plexus again.. then down into the gut with a fisted Mek’Leth. That gave him time to turn.
Sam had become all too familiar with the Mek’Leth: a one handed Klingon sword. At this very moment, more like a clam shucker, tearing past bone and into the tricipital lobe of a Klingon cranial exoskeleton. The sound the Vassal of the House of Kawlos made, going cross-eyed, was unpleasant but Sam had little time to care or revel. He used his foot to shove the Klingon down and pry him off the blade. It came free, slick with the viscous violet jam Klingons called blood. It clattered to the floor but Sam’s fingers still felt stickiness.
The inertial dampeners were offline. Every move the ship made felt like it was over pitted tarmac or mud rutted country roots. His lungs ached, his skin clammy to the thin air. Sam put his one uninjured eye on the gaping hull beech were most of the main screen had been minutes before. The other was a pudding of bruised black eyelid sealed shut and broken with red capillaries. Breathless and aching, bleeding from the temple and cheek, Sam rummaged for his phaser rifle. In rapid order he put two setting seven shots into each surrounding Klingon. Always double tap. Never be stingy with your energy cells. Nobody wants to lose a leg to a suddenly conscious and angry Klingon with a bat'leth and wounded honor.
He staggered back to his station as he passed a whimpering Ensign: a crouched Centauran boy who'd just shot a sizzling hole through a Klingon warrior. His rifle hand quaked. Someone mumbled "status report" nearby. Sam recognized it as Lieutenant JG Hollande, the Operations Management Officer. She sounded as bad as Sam felt.
"Captain's Singh's dead," came another mumble, itself dazed and shaky. Almost ephemeral. With it the last knot of tension, the center of trying, slacked from them all. A bridge crew, the survivors anyway, seemed to exhale in a universal breath of defeat.
"Commander Sorev too," Hollande said. The ship quaked. Sam was the first to get a status report. He tried to ignore the massacre of bodies around them; too many were faces he knew. The rest deserved their fate, "Heavy casualties all over the ship, Sickbay can't respond. Phasers exhausted. We're on thrusters only. Klingon boarding parties reported throughout the ship."
"That's nothing," added Hollande, leaning against the flickering screen of her station rather than sitting, "Last report from Engineering: Coolant leak in the reactor assembly, starboard side. The warp core will breech if they cannot lock it down-" Sam hoped Hollande wasn't taking his gaze wrong. She cradled her arm against the fullness of her chest. Probably broken, either the arm or shoulder. Sam wasn't a medic but how she held it was unnatural.
"-And they're probably swarming with Klingons." Sam added, dropping his eyes. He studied the other two survivors through one good eye. They were all asking unspoken questions in unison. Everyone seemed hesitant to breathe let alone take the worst step. "Our last senior officer is Doctor Brax..." Sam drawled. They looked to the one ranking member among them, laying against the Captain's chair with a bat'leth wound to the side. Foster. She was panting, her cheeks flushed. Sam swallowed, head swam in pain and fatigue. His mind wanted to calculate her chances without an emergency response team but duty simply refused. He had to focus on the living. Come on... sh*t...
Beneath his eyelids, which flexed in memory, Sam stared in calm into his self-imposed darkness. The air of the starbase was clean and sterile. The room was warm, rich and full-bodied compared to how he remembered the thin atmosphere and hollow chill of the Sol's bridge. He detected lavender.
"... And then what happened?" The voice was clinical, spoken in the received pronunciation of a aristocratic Betazoid.
Case rose his eyebrows but only after a moment opened his eyelids. Brown eyes settled, unfocused, on the ceiling. One was fine, the other tinged in the aged yellows and blacks on his eyelid, cheek and brow. His eye still had a pinkness to the sclera. These installations hurt his eyes sometimes: they were bathed in warm, red and yellow tones. It hurt more right now. "It was a running firefight to the escape pods...." he muttered, craning his neck around the memory foam like pillow under his neck. "We lost Foster on section seven."
Sam's blink itself was clinical, dispassionate. Inwardly he churned with annoyance. He hated Shrinks. He hated talking about himself. He fought the impulse to get up on his elbows and stare down the Betazoid, mostly because four sessions of this had taught him the Betazoid could stare back just so. It was eerie, those black eyes drilling a hole into your soul.
"Alright so we call it. We're adrift. We're going to explode..." Sam said with a thumbnail scratch to the bloody, fresh scab on his cheek. They all looked at each other as if it was necessary blasphemy. The nods came slowly, more fevered and distant from Foster when she agreed. Sam shifted his thumb just as a bird of prey came to view in the gaping breech before them. Green light, like teardrops, lanced into the Sol and caved in the hull around the center "C" of "NCC-523. The vessel shuttered. Sam shifted another finger, searing a cold and thin snort of air harshly through his nose. The shoulders around him slumped again. "This is the Bridge. Abandon ship. All hands to emergency escape pods. Repeat. Abandon ship." Another key he stabbed. The garish flash of pulsing red shifted to blue, the klaxon wailing a mournful call.
"We ordered the abandon ship." Sam continued in a calm drawl, clearing his throat softly. "And proceeded to our escape pods. Like I said." He added tersely. It didn't seem to phase the Counselor. He didn't share the rest. But he played it out- as he had a hundred times- in his mind.
"Computer locate Captain Taresh Singh and Commander Thirishar ch'Sorev." It was Hollande. The computer returned that the Captain's life signs had terminated. ch'Sorev was not aboard. "Computer, under emergency evacuation protocols in time of war, transfer control of auto-destruct to remaining Bridge Officers. Authorization Hollande, Zulu Victor One Delta."
"Access Denied. A ranking officer of Lieutenant or above is required to authorize self destruct." The ship shook again, the bursting glow of a Klingon torpedo erupting across the edge of the remaining saucer. People were dying even as the glints of small, trapezoidal craft breaking off en masse gave hope that some souls would survive.
"The brain doesn't know the body's dead," Sam said with a shake of the head. "We've got a ship swarming with Roachheads but we can't put them down." Hollande glared some at Case's choice of words.
"Computer... this is Lieutenant Jacqueline Foster. Chief Flight Control Officer. Initiate auto-destruct sequence. Echo, Sigma Four Four." She flashed a deadeyed, glassy smirk at the survivors, her bloodied hand fumbling off the console she’d accessed. "Nobodys getting this ship as a trophy. Set auto-destruct sequence one. Code one-one-A.”
Sam splayed out his hands onto his console. He held his breath. This was really happening. Would everyone get off on time? "Computer, initiate auto-destruct sequence. Lieutenant Junior Grade Samuel Case. Assistant Chief Tactical Officer. Authorization Theta Echo Seven Charlie. Set destruct sequence two, code one-one-A, two B." He looked at Hollande again, she stared into his good eye.
"Initiate auto-destruct sequence. Authorization Zulu Victor One Delta. Lieutenant Junior Grade Svajone Hollande." Sam would remember that French accent forever, seared into fate. “Set auto-destruct three, code one-B-two-B-three.”
"Auto-Destruct sequence completed and engaged. Awaiting final code to begin countdown." The computer was emotionless even as it skipped and gurgled with bit errors.
Sam checked Foster, who had drifted again into threaded belly breathing. His stomach went hollow, then hard for vengeance. "Computer, begin a two minute, silent countdown. Initiate auto-destruct sequence. Authorization Alpha. Zero. Zero. Destruct. Zulu."
"Auto-destruct sequence engaged. Two minutes until auto-destruct. This will be the only warning." The computer chimed in again, melodic yet as cold as the room they were in. On every panel the schematic of the Sol in pulsing red, white numbers counting down from 120. Sam refocused, the blue lights glowing and mourn-call droning out of the klaxons. They were all washed out in it's light, blood cast in purple shades on faces and limbs.
“Let’s get out of here,” Hollande hissed, grabbing for the nearest phaser. She protected her broken arm against her breasts. Sam was on his phaser, gesturing to the shell shocked Ensign to help support Lieutenant Foster. Sam winced, bending enough to snatch up three Klingon house badges which he pocketed. Then he checked the charges in his rifle. His last look was at the lifeless eyes of the Captain. He moved to slip off the Sikh's wristband and collected the ceremonial kirpan on his side.
Guts wrenched. "Shukria," Sam whispered to the corpse. “I’ll take point,” Sam assured louder while he tucked the kirpan and band in to the phaser pouch over the cleft of his bum. “If they get me, put me down. I’m not okay with being some Klingon’s plaything.”
“Same,” echoed the Ensign and Hollande in unison. The ship trembled violently; far to their side the science station exploded in smoke and a shower of arcing blue power. The force field yawned and groaned. “One hundred-five seconds.”
The interface the counselor held squealed in melody, the man taking notes. Sam tried to seal himself off, fortifying his mind like he would have with torture. He didn’t trust Betazoids completely. But then again they were known for their brutal honesty. “Alright...” was said to Sam with the same clinical dispassion, hanging as if to try and lead Sam to mistrust the silence more. Sam reminded himself they’d done nothing wrong. Even if the guilt ate him. “Is there anything else you’d like to talk about Lieutenant Case? How about your injuries. You’re being treated here but I understand transit was what... ten or twelve days?”
Sam’s inner demons swelled their need for an irreverence spat, “Oh well I was so drunk I don’t really remember how many days it was. But there were precisely four wakes on the Diligence. One for the four hundred seventy one souls on the Sol.. One for the two hundred and six souls on the Tycho City. At least one for the eight hundred plus lost on Outpost Belfast and still counting.” He glared at the Betazoid eye to eye, “One for thirty three on the Diligence, so you’ll forgive me if my wounds seem trivial.”
“But they’re still personal wounds.” The guy was like ice, yet sympathetic. Unnerving. Sam shook his head against the pillow, sighing. Frustration wanted to blurble up... or something like it. All Sam knew is that he wanted to tamp it down and remain in control.
“It’s just flesh, Counselor," he scoffed in his throat, "It’s an accidental collection of dead stars. At least I still have mine. A thousand, five hundred and ten can’t say the same.” He smirked because he couldn’t help it. “And the longer I’m laying here on a cot that numbers just going to keep going up.”
“Regardless of whether you are on a cot or not, the numbers go up Lieutenant. You've-"
Sam narrowed his eyes, a flare or irritation, "I didn't mean it that way. I-"
"- I'm aware of that. I also know you're a survivor of brutal personal combat, and you and your shipmates had to destroy your own home. Are you trying to tell me that hasn't affected you?"
Sam huffed, "A ship is a thing."
"That thing was your home. And that's not an answer."
Exasperated, Sam huffed, sitting up on his elbows, "Of course it's affected me." His chest tensed it's muscles. "Look. Doctor Vel. Can you just tell me what you want from me so I can either go home or go back o duty?" The Doctor set aside his notetaking device and leaned forward.
"Samuel. You were forced to kill several Klingons. You were forced to call for your ship's abandonment, something junior officers are never forced to do. You were seen taking trophies off of the Klingons-"
"Oh well, I just want to have a rough idea of who's going to declare a blood hunt on me some day when this is all over-"
"- And when someone tried to confiscate a knife-"
"It's called a Kirpan." Sam snapped. "It was my Captain's."
The Doctor raised his hands, "- Well when someone tried to confiscate your Captain's kirpan, you nearly tore the boy in half. Why?"
Sam laid back. "Are you familiar with Sikhs, Doctor? Captain Singh was a Sikh."
"I can't say I do," the aristocratic Betazoid said. "But I know he was important to you. Was it love?"
Sam laughed in his throat, "Captain Singh was older than my father. So don't insinuate anything. He was Sikh. They're..." he sighed and rolled his shoulders, closed his eyes. "Defenders of the weak... and justice. The knife is symbolic... its a blessing for mercy. It's never used against anyone. He was a peacemaker."
"So you admired him."
"Yes." Sam replied it after a moment. "He was... better... than me."
"Better? I don't understand." The Betazoid crossed his legs and picked up his note device. That set Sam on edge and sensing it, the man froze and set it down. "Do you want to talk about that?"
"... Not really." Sam admitted. "It's not relevant. The point is, that kirpan was my Captain's property and it goes back to his family on Vega IX. They need to know he died a good Sikh."
"You're from Vega IX, aren't you?"
"Yes. The Southern Tea Coast. Most of Vega's Sikhs live in the Red Canyons." The pause after was long. Sam just closed his eyes where death was, the smell of Klingon blood. A whimpering Ensign. The breath-stealing inertial thrust against your lungs when an escape pod kicks you out of a dying ship, just before its own dampeners kick on. And watching it explode in that sparkle of white and blue heat. Then the helplessness.
"I think that's enough for today Lieutenant. I'll schedule you for another session in a couple of days." Sam let his eyes blur into the black behind his eyelids. They ached from the warm light of Starbase Arcadia. He needed to go to the Infirmary, get something for the eye strain headache. And for the ache in his bones. He mentally tried to calculate if he'd missed a bone fortifier. But if he had he would've heard about it by now. Despite his pain he was desperate to run. Or climb. But in silence he sat up and kicked his feet off the couch and onto the floor. "I have to ask, Lieutenant. Do you currently have a weapon?"
Sam smirked, his chin to his chest. He'd stood and shuffled, "Worried I'm going to blow my head off?" He stood above the Betazoid, seated. The man smiled in his own coy way.
"It's a precaution only." Sam could only guess that the man had probed his mind, using the thought of a weapon to scan surface intentions. And he would've found exactly the truth- no intentions, either to himself or others.
"0830." He confirmed with the melodic chirp on his PADD. Sam's neck gave a stiff acquiescence of of a nod, fighting rolling his eyes. "Dismissed." Sam took his leave. By the next section bow-side he was at a jog. By the time of his second access ladder to go down decks, he was trying to work up a breathy huff.
Lieutenant JG Samuel "Sam" Case
Chief Tactical Officer
USS Defiant NCC-1764