The old office greeted him like an old friend, though Captain Hunt had rarely used the space. Today, however, it offered an easy retreat from the tension on the bridge. Though the majority of the ship had taken the new order of things with relative ease, there were a handful of crewmen who were uncomfortable with taking orders from Commander Asada and still viewed Captain Hunt as a traitor. Still, until they refused to do their jobs or blatantly disrespected a superior, he would try to wait for the tension to pass.
And it had to pass. They couldn't afford to lose any more people than they already had.
Hunt sunk onto the the bed that his ancestor had once slept in. These quarters, located directly off the bridge, had been reserved for the original mission commander. Though that mission had been scrapped, James Hunt had taken charge of the ship under the circumstances. Robert's head had been filled with the stories of his ancestors and lineage all his life, it was only natural that he'd desire the command track when the time came to pick a future.
Some days, like today, Robert Hunt second guessed that decision.
He wasn't afforded much time to doubt himself though, which was probably a blessing in disguise. The door chime emitted a crackle, more evidence of age and disuse, before Jamison stepped into the space. Hunt could never figure out how Jamison always seemed to know exactly where he was hiding out. "Captain."
"Report Mr. Jamison," Hunt said, cutting to the chase.
"All our visitors have returned to their ship, they're awaiting our signal to leave for Ne'Vha. According to Lieutenant Dexter...Jordan Dexter that is..." He furrowed his brow and Captain Hunt waved him on. The two Dexters of engineering had been causing confusion since the day they'd married. Hunt had always assumed it delighted them actually. "According to engineering, we should be able to get underway by the end of third shift. Though she cautions that we'll be limping along until we do some major systems overhauls and repairs..." he pulled one of the data pads free and passed the list over to the Captain.
"Well that's why we're going to Ne'Vha right? According to our visitors, it's the closest and largest space dock for the next several sectors," Hunt said as he scrolled through the extensive list. It was to be expected, even before the rebellion they'd been in need of a good tune up. "I only hope they're being honest with us..." he mumbled.
"So say we all," Jamison responded immediately. Realizing his mistake, he grimaced and began to apologize for speaking out of turn but Hunt waved him off once more. After an awkward moment, he pulled out another data pad and held it out for the Captain as well. "Commander Asada has reviewed the early reports from Security and approved these people for return to duty."
"Fine. But I want them on probation pending the outcome of the full investigation. Even if they weren't directly involved, I find it hard to believe they weren't aware of what was happening," Hunt said. "Next?" He pointed to the final data pad in Jamison's hands.
Jamison looked down at it for a quiet moment and then held it out. "Your speech, for the memorial ceremony – and all the names. All the arrangements have been made, as well."
Captain Hunt nodded grimly, taking the data pad. He already knew the words, he'd written them the night before, but the names seemed to go on forever. "How many?"
"Four hundred and sixty-two Captain."
"Thank you Mr. Jamison. If that's all, dismissed," Hunt didn't look up as the door swished open and closed again. The names continued to scroll across the pad long after he was gone.
Freya stared at the underside of the bunk above her and calculated the ways to extract herself from the bed without disturbing Meng. He was wedged between her and the wall and she knew the smallest movement would shift the bed, causing a loud creak of metal in the process.
Maybe it would be better if he just woke up and left. He couldn't be comfortable – she sure wasn't. Giving in, she slid his arm off her and sat up. The tell-tale creek of the metal on metal caused Meng to stir and mumble incoherently for a moment. "Morning," Freya muttered.
"Why, again, did we stay here last night?" Meng asked, rolling his shoulders to work out the kinks of a night spent in cramped quarters. "I have this great double bed in my quarters..."
Freya ignored him and went about making herself a cup of coffee in the tiny kitchenette space. Instead of pushing for a reassignment of quarters, she'd hidden herself away in the old bunks where she knew she wouldn't be disturbing anyone. 'Or be disturbed,' she thought, glancing at Meng briefly. "I don't recall anyone telling you you had to stay," she said as she clutched her coffee cup.
Meng frowned, "Freya, are you alright?" He tried to remember if she was usually this cranky in the mornings but she'd almost always slipped away before he'd woken up. "If you want me to go..." he said as he stood, narrowly avoiding hitting his head on the top bunk.
Freya didn't answer. She scooted around him, a feat in itself given the space, and disappeared into the bathroom. She wanted to tell him to leave but she bit her tongue and focused on washing her face.
"Freya." Meng slid the door open further and leaned against the frame. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she lied. Her head was already pounding and her stomach was protesting the lack of food already making her feel unsteady. "Just....I have stuff I need to do before the ceremony. Don't you?" Aside from checking on her patients, she didn't have much to do but it was a convenient excuse.
Meng seemed to accept her words and stepped back, allowing her to pass. "I suppose I do. Are you sure you're okay? I know today is going to be hard for everyone."
Freya nodded, waving him off unceremoniously. As soon as he was gone, she dropped onto her bunk. Feeling as if the air in the room had been sucked out with him, she struggled to breathe and the queasiness in her stomach threatened to send her running for the bathroom any moment.
Meng stopped in the corridor and debated returning to demand to know just what was up with her. Despite her claims of work, he was sure that Freya just wanted him to leave but why? After another moment of indecision, he shoved her from his mind and stalked back to his own, newly assigned quarters, to get ready for the day.
He distracted himself with busy work and checking up on repairs for most of the morning in order to keep both Freya and the impending memorial service out of his mind.
When Captain Hunt fell into step along side him, Meng brushed at the engine grease that decorated his uniform. "Getting your hands dirty Commander?"
When Captain Hunt fell into step along side him, Meng brushed at the engine grease that decorated his uniform. "Getting your hands dirty Commander?"
"Just helping where I can...I was just on my way to get a clean jacket actually," Meng explained.
"Mmhmm," Hunt seemed unconcerned with his new first officer's disheveled appearance. "Commander," he paused, considering his next words with care, "I understand that you and Dr. Ryan are close?"
"Well, yes...is that a problem sir?" Meng asked, quickly putting himself on guard.
"No. Though it's not recommended, that's not why I've asked," Hunt said quickly. "How is she holding up today?"
"Holding up Captain?" Meng asked. Despite all his distractions, he'd been trying to figure out the source of Freya's ire most of the morning. Perhaps Captain Hunt would provide those answers.
Hunt smiled, laughing at something that was known only to him. "How many people did she treat when she was with you...with the Sons?"
"Well she was our only doctor, and only person trained at all so, she treated everyone. Why?" Meng asked, confused by the direction the conversation had gone.
Hunt nodded, he had to have known that already from all the reports and gossip that had been going around since the end of the rebellion. "And how many died Commander? How many people died under her care?"
"Well they weren't all her....I mean many died before she ever saw them..." Meng argued but the final pieces had begun to click into place.
Captain Hunt saw the look of understanding cross his executive officer's face and nodded, sadly. "I'm sure you know how she is Commander, I'm sure you've seen that by now. She internalizes everything. Every death is a failing of hers because she wasn't good enough or she wasn't fast enough. It's all nonsense of course – she can't save the world after all."
"But she doesn't see it that way," Meng said rubbing his forehead.
"And she remembers, oh does she remember....every name, every face, every death. How do you think she'll fare today as the whole crew gathers to mourn the dead? Four hundred and sixty-two names will be read out in a few hours, how many of those does she blame on herself?"
"Excuse me Captain," Meng said quickly. He took the stairs two at a time as he ran for the medical ward.
"Oi!" Commander Katou jumped out of the way before they collided at the doors of the ward. When she saw who she'd narrowly avoided, she had to forcibly clamp her mouth shut before she said something insubordinate. "Commander Asada..." she said slowly, struggling to get the words out.
Meng nodded tersely to the science chief and silently prayed that her general dislike of him would end their encounter quickly.
Taking in a deep breath of resolve, Commander Katou stuck out her hand. Meng stared at it curiously for a moment and then returned the gesture. The hand shake was awkward and tense, as many first steps are. "I am....I," she fumbled over the words she'd hoped to say. "Permission to speak freely?"
"Sure," Meng said, still hoping to get away from her.
"I don't like you, I don't think you should be in the position you're in," Katou said, she sped on before he could interject, "BUT, I respect the Captain's choice and I will do my job Commander, I promise that much."
"Fine," Meng said tersely. "I don't need you to like me Commander Katou, good day." Before she could say anything else, he brushed past her into the medical bay.
Doctor Hapsberg looked up at the swish of the doors, "something I can do for you Commander?"
Meng glanced around the bay but Freya was nowhere to be seen. "Has Doctor Ryan been in today?"
Hapsberg smiled and pointed toward the back corner, which led to the smaller individual care units. "She's in unit two now," she said, before returning to her work.
Meng lingered by the door a moment, maybe Freya was fine after all. Maybe the Captain had been wrong. Still, the seed of doubt that had sent him running after her in the first place propelled him forward.
The narrow window in the door allowed him to watch her, unseen for several minutes as she tended to Lieutenant Ice. After she'd done all the standard checks, she settled into a seat beside his bed and took his hand in hers. Meng turned away from the scene and left the ward without disturbing her.
"Hey there Julian...." Freya stroked a finger along the palm of his hand as she spoke. "Are you in there? I mean the you before all this, the real you? I sure hope so. Things are so different now, so many lives have been lost and changed. Captain Hunt says we're in recovery but I don't know how anyone can recover from this."
Freya lapsed into silence, still holding his hand but saying nothing. The only sound was that of the constant beep of the machinery that monitored his life signs. "Andy's dead," Freya whispered the words, as if saying them louder would make it all the more real. "I suppose you know that though. Your aunt is dead – I watched her die. I'm sorry about that, not because she was a good person or anything but because she was your family. So many people are dead now...I can see their names and faces in my mind. All of them," Freya grimaced, clutching her head as the headache threatened to overtake her. "It hurts Julian," she squeezed his unresponsive hand. "Please come back to us. Please come back to me. I can't add another name to the list – especially not yours."
The cargo bay had been cleared of debris by a team of security officers, the only ones who had been allowed back to duty in fact. Engineers had spend the better part of the morning rigging the wall to display the names of the dead in rotation. Jamison had overseen the installation of all the trappings to transform the bay into a suitable venue for the service.
As the service drew closer, more and more people filled the space. Civilians stuck together toward the back and sides of the room while uniformed crew found their designated spaces and waited, silently, for orders. There was no talking above a whisper in the bay. When Freya entered, accompanied by Doctor Hapsberg and a few nurses, eyes turned toward her and even the whispering stopped for a moment. The many retellings of the final hours of the rebellion had made her quite a celebrity on board.
It was a title she'd gladly relinquish.
All eyes turned toward the doors, thankfully, as a shrill whistle announced the arrival of Commander Asada, Captain Hunt and the former council members Trane and Elana. The quartet made their way to the front of the crowd while the crew members fell into line and came to attention.
Elana, bearing the symbol of the clergy, stepped forward first. "May we all bow our heads in silence and prayer for the family and friends we have lost." She said a quiet prayer, an old one which was repeated by several in the room. Others merely bowed their heads. A few people cried, their sobs audible in the silent room.
Captain Hunt stepped forward, "thank you Elana," he said as she stepped back, taking up a position next to Mr. Trane. "May our ancestors forgive us. May our lost kin find Home," Captain Hunt placed a data pad on the podium and looked out across the sea of solemn faces. "We have come together today to bid our fallen good bye. After such a period of estrangement, it seems appropriate that we unite to mourn our dead at long last." Hunt looked toward the two walls displaying the names. He was silent for several moments and a few people began to fidget.
Captain Hunt looked down at his speech and shook his head before beginning again. Only Jamison would know he'd veered from his speech. "We have been fools, all of us, these past months. We are an endangered species. We cannot afford to be so disrespectful of life. Every one of these names represent a person, a member of this crew, a shipmate. They were someone's someone. They were important! Everyone of them was important to someone....and we....we failed them." Hunt stood up straighter, taking a moment to catch the eyes of several in the audience. "As their names are read, remember them. Remember their accomplishments. Remember their potential. Remember their personalities. We cannot forget, or we will be doomed to repeat our history." As he concluded, Commander Asada, Trane and Elana stepped forward. Between the four of them, they would read off the names of the dead. "Kelly Aaryn. George Ashford. Teagan Ayrn...."
Though not religious, Freya closed her eyes as the names began to flow. Those that she'd known or treated flashed before her briefly, fading just in time for the next.
"Jane Colbert. Franklin Delaford...." Meng was now at the podium, pausing briefly between each name before reading the next. In the back of the room, a handful of children began to grow anxious. The list was long and wore on a child's patience much faster than an adult's.
"Theresa Ice. Andrea Kowalski. Corey Lee. Kara Lee...." When Andy's name was called, the newly reinforced engineering corps looked up toward the wall as a single unit. Mr. Trane had to pause after reading the names of the Lee twins to wipe his own eyes, they were only eight years old.
The names continued, filling the air and pressing in around them. Everyone was affected by someone's name more than the others; everyone struggled to keep their composure in the face of so much death.
"Gina Parsons. Bradley Seeford. Lana Swanson. James Tarn..." Meng stiffened as Lana's name was read by Elana. By now most of the children had sat down on the floor while the uniformed crew struggled to maintain their posture until the final name was read.
After the finale name, Casey Yates, was read, Captain Hunt stepped forward once more. "No loss or sacrifice should be in vain. Protect your fellows as if they are your kin." Without order, the crew snapped to attention while the children got to their feet. The chords of the funeral requiem filled the cargo bay.
As the final notes died out, the crew was dismissed and began to mingle or dissipate. Hunt chatted briefly with Elana and Trane before excusing himself. He approached Freya at the wall, startling her out of her reverie. "Doctor."
"Captain," Freya said, wiping away a single tear. Hunt seemed to be studying her, an aggravating feeling, so Freya turned her whole attention to him. "Something you needed sir?"
"Yes, though I have been debating if now is the best time," he said. When she didn't respond except to wait, expectantly, he continued, "Lieutenant Kowalski named you, as her Recipient."
It took Freya only a moment to realize his meaning, she nodded slowly. Somewhere, there was a crate packed full of Andy's things. And a letter for her from her best friend. Freya nodded, biting the inside of her lip. "Understood. Excuse me Captain," she brushed past him and narrowly avoided Meng as she exited the cargo bay.
Freya curled over the bin and tried to resist the urge to throw up. She'd failed twice already and couldn't imagine there being anything left inside her at this point. She swiped at the beads of sweat rolling down the side of her face and took several deep breaths. Finally, the urges passed and she carefully pushed the bin away before laying her head on the cool metal of the bulkhead.
She gave the large crate taking up her floor a sidelong glance. A couple crewmen had brought it up, at her request, nearly an hour ago but she hadn't mustered the courage to open it. "It's just stuff Freya," she scolded herself.
But it wasn't just stuff. It was Andy's stuff. And Andy was dead.
The nausea came back with a rush. Freya crawled over to the bin but after a shaky moment, managed to suppress the feeling. She dropped her head between her knees and would have been content to stay that way if the door hadn't chimed.
Freya seriously considered ignoring the visitor. The idea of standing up to open the door seemed to be entirely too much work. When the door chimed again, it was followed by fervent knocking. "Freya?" Meng. She should have known it was him.
"Come in," she muttered, barely loud enough for anyone to hear.
When Meng entered the room, his tall frame filled most of the frame, mercifully blocking the light from the hallway from flooding her tiny darkened quarters. "Freya?" He took in the scene with one quick glance and then knelt beside her, concern etched on his face.
"I'm fine," Freya lied.
"Yeah that's a lie. Come on," he slipped his arm under her shoulders, intending to support her as they walked to the bunk. Freya, however, had every intention of staying put and refused to stand. "Freya, you've been throwing up and you're running a fever. You need to get in bed and rest," Meng said, scooping her up into his arms since she refused to help. "See, I paid attention to your medic training too."
"Liar, you didn't come once," Freya said with a weak smile. "I'm not sick Meng...not like that anyway. So you can put me down now."
He crossed the space in a few strides and set her down on the bed, then knelt in front of her. "Then what Freya? I've seen you like this before...after the bombing of bay twelve..."
Freya groaned and dropped back onto the pillow. Facts and figures flashed across her memory, seventy one civilians dead, at least twenty children. She'd spent days trying to purge their burned faces from her memory, to no avail.
"It's not your fault Freya! None of them were your fault! If anyone should be shouldering blame it's me," Meng crawled into the bunk beside her, brushing the hair from her face.
Freya looked at him, opened her mouth to say something and then snapped it shut. "I have stuff to do," she pushed his arm off of her and scooted to the end of the bed to climb around him. The crate, Andy's crate, loomed in front of her though. Despite a surge of sickness, Freya bent over the keypad and typed in her authorization code while Meng watched from the bunk.
"You don't have to do this now Freya," Meng said. "It can wait until..." he grew silent, searching for the words. Until what exactly?
Freya ignored him and pushed the lid open, blocking him from view. Tucked into a pocket on the inside of the lid was a data pad that would contain Andy's letter. She stared at it, willing herself to pluck it from it's confines and read Andy's words. What would her friend have said to her? How long ago was it written?
"Alright, then I'll leave you to it," Meng said. Freya glanced up as he slipped through the doorway. He paused in the doorway and considered saying something more but finally just nodded and disappeared around the corner.
Liam closed up the panel outside the hologrid with a satisfied smile. "One more thing done," he said to himself, mental checking the repair from his frightfully long list. He grabbed his toolkit and turned to leave, nearly colliding with Freya. "Oh hey Doc."
"Hi Liam," Freya said, awarding him a small smile. "Is the grid working?"
"Yes'm, just fixed her up. Minor repair actually."
"Good," Freya said, fishing a small holostick from her pocket and slipping it into the control station. "Computer, initiate program. Liam," she turned back to the engineer, who was now moving off, "will you stay a moment please?"
"Sure Doc," he said, confused.
The doors slid open on command and the sounds of waves crashing against the shore and birds screeching in the sky met them. Freya and Liam exchanged a look and then peeked into the hologrid.
"Um, wow..." Liam said. Though the grid had been used to recreate a single room before, it had never been programmed for such an extensive scene. "You really are multi-talented Doc."
"This isn't mine. It's Andy's," Freya said, stepping beyond the doors. As soon as they were inside, the doors sealed closed behind them, disappearing behind the holographic representation of the beach.
A figure materialized in the distance and approached them, a bright smile on her face. "Welcome to Paradiso."