“An interesting turn of events, Lieutenant Commander.”
Jessica nodded once as she stood at attention in the Admiral’s office, doing her best to control herself despite the heavy scent of the Deltan’s pheromones that hung in the air. “Yes, sir.”
Admiral Zelle placed her elbows on the desk in front of her and leaned forward, steeping her fingers as she regarded the young commander. “It is unfortunate what happened. However, your actions were justifiable. The Devidians are still very much a mystery, but every encounter we have had with them has been treacherous. Removing their presence from the Rift and Romulan space helps to protect the already devastated Romulan people.”
Jessica nodded again in reply, nervously biting her lip. “It’s terrible what happened to the crew of the Warwick, Admiral.”
Zelle tilted her head to the side. “Yes, it is.”
“Just such a…pointless, stupid way to die.” Jessica’s composure broke as she ran a hand through her hair.
“I have found that, many times, we’re not offered the chance to die in a ‘blaze of glory,’ as many of our colleagues would prefer, Jessica.” Zelle leaned back in her chair, looking down at the desk that stood between them. “They will be remembered for their sacrifice as explorers, rather than warriors. I would find that to be a much more…honorable way to be remembered.”
Jessica noticed the change in the air and immediately relaxed, putting her hands behind her back to keep from fidgeting. “Please tell me it gets easier.”
Jessica could see just the faintest hint of a smirk in the Deltan admiral’s eyes as she looked up at the blue alien. Zelle shook her head. “I’m afraid I can’t, Jess. It doesn’t.”
The two women were silent for a moment before Zelle stood, causing Jessica to snap back to attention. “If you will excuse me, Commander, I have some matters to attend to with regards to your debrief.” She smiled and turned towards the door. “You should get some rest, Jessica. I’ll have another assignment for you once repairs are complete on the Rafale.” The dark-skinned Deltan smiled again and winked before leaving the office.
Jessica nodded, a tight knot forming in the pit of her stomach. “Aye, Admiral.”
“Just a few more taps and…there. That should do it.” Dossu dropped the hammer to the ground and stepped back from the wall, admiring his handiwork.
Behind him, Jessica rubbed her eyes sleepily. She yawned. “It’s three in the morning, Dossu, and it’s been a long few days. Why am I here?”
Obruz turned around and grinned proudly. “Because this would be my first official act as First Officer.”
“You’ve already had a few official acts.”
“On your orders. This was all me.”
Jessica yawned again and stood, stretching a little. As she had begrudgingly pointed out, it was three in the morning on the ship, so that even Hurricane Hal’s, the crew lounge, was deserted save for the two commanding officers. “And what exactly is ‘this?’”
Obruz waved Jessica to him and stepped aside, nodding to the bulkhead where he had been working. The bulkhead was bare, with no paint or trim; it was as if the ship-builders had forgotten to finish the wall, leaving the super structure exposed. Mounted high on the wall, near the ceiling, was a wooden sign with the phrase “Fair Winds and Following Seas” carved into it. Below the sign, neatly lined up in rows, were silver plaques with names etched into them. A few names were etched right into the bulkhead itself, to include a new name in the center of the wall.
Jessica turned to Dossu in surprise, tears threatening to well up in her eyes. “You…added to the wall.”
Obruz nodded somberly. “I felt it was appropriate.” He pointed to a few newer plaques that he had added, a few of them with the names of the command crew that had perished with the late captain.
Jessica squinted, reading a few more of the plaques in confusion. “I hadn’t even heard of half of these people.” She frowned, shaking her head. “That feels so wrong, not knowing who these people are.”
“Well, don’t be too hard on yourself.” He pointed to one plaque in particular, drawing Jessica’s attention to it. “I added a few…other names.”
Jessica gasped and turned away, a few tears dropping uncontrolled from her eyes. “Why?”
Dossu put a hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I just…thought…” He sighed. “We’re a combined crew. We all lost people we cared about.” He stepped forward and put a hand out, touching the plaques on the wall reverently. “There are a lot of ghosts here.”
Jessica wiped her face, laughing a little. “It’s tragically hysterical, how hard we work to immortalize them after they’re gone. That a name on a wall could do them justice.”
Dossu shrugged. “I wouldn’t call it tragic, or hysterical. I think it’s a nice tradition to keep. We continue to remember them and their sacrifices. We continue to take them with us on our journeys. We keep them close to us, to remind us not of what we lost, but what we continue to fight for.”
Jessica nodded a little, running her fingers over the plaque Dossu had pointed out to her. “The Rafale crew aren’t going to like this.”
Obruz shook his head, rolling his eyes. “I’m the First Officer. I don’t give a vole’s tail what the old-Rafale crew will think. We’re a single crew now. No Rafale, no Merveille. This is your crew, your Rafale now.” He rapped the wall with his knuckle. “I’m unveiling it tomorrow afternoon.”
Jessica nodded. “Good. It’ll be good for the crew.” She shook her head. “I’ve heard of some of the…problems that have been happening lately, between the two old crews. I think you’re right.” She nodded, staring at the names on the bulkhead. “We’re one crew now, and we’ve all lost too much for us to start fighting turf wars on our own ship. I don’t mind have a few extra ghosts on the ship, if it means we don’t have extra skeletons in our closet.”
Obruz grinned. He turned to leave when he noticed Jessica still staring at the plaque he had shown her, her hand still caressing it as tears fell silently down her cheeks. He frowned sadly, wondering if it had been a good idea after all to show her. “Ma’am?”
Jessica blinked, coming out of her daze, and turned to look at Dossu. “Yes?”
“Were you planning on staying here?”
Jessica smiled softly and shook her head. “No. Just…give us a moment. Please?”
Obruz nodded, turning around and heading for the door. “Goodnight, Jessica.”
Once the door had closed again, Jessica fell to her knees, her slow tears suddenly a flood down her face. It was a simple gesture, one that was supposed to help bridge the gap between the old-guard Rafale crew and their new, former-Merveille shipmates. Many of the names she didn’t and would probably never recognize, because she had never met them before this night; they had fallen in the battle over Vega, but on the medical ship. And now they were neatly engraved on plaques next to the names of the Rafale’s fallen, the ones lost in the same battle, many of them gone in the desperate gambit to save the Merveille.
And there, in the same alphabetized rank and file as the rest of them, and now tenderly caressed by blue fingers, was one name Jessica hadn’t expected to see. She laughed bitterly at her first officer’s kindness.
“Hi, Bridget,” she whispered, wiping her eyes with her free hand. “Welcome aboard the Rafale.”