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Chapter 8

Jessica gritted her teeth in anger, glaring down at the man sleeping peacefully on the bed in front of her.

It had been a day now since the memorial service on Etam. Three days since the planet had burned.

She looked up at S'Tel, who was standing on the other side of the bed. "Wake him."

S'Tel raised an eyebrow in typical Vulcan fashion. "I advise against that course of action, Commander, until I am able to ascertain the extent of his neural damage."

"I don't give two shits about his neural damage, S'Tel," Jessica snapped back. "Get him up. Now."

S'Tel looked away and nodded. "Very well. This will be noted in my log."

Jessica didn't care. She was beyond being worried about what her chief medical officer logged anymore. There was only one thing on her mind now, and it involved the unconscious, injured Lieutenant sleeping before her. The sight of him made her stomach twist with nauseating rage.

The Vulcan pressed a hypospray to Seymour's neck, then moved to the clamshell that was over his chest and began the protocols to bring his body functions back. The man's eyes twitched, then his eyelids fluttered. He coughed, finally opening his eyes enough to see and recognize Jessica.

"C-Commander," he gasped, before erupting into a coughing fit. "What...what happened?"

Jessica sneered, her lip curling. "What happened? What happened?! I'll tell you what happened, you pathetic little excuse for a man." She stepped aside and pushed his head so that he could see the beds next to him while she pointed. "Tompson, Rehrer, and Dubois, all in comas because of you." She stepped around so that she was talking to the back of his head, unable to look at his face anymore for fear that she'd start pummeling him. "Acuff, Mosz, Hausrath, and Thoobor are all dead; the only one we could recover was Thoobor, or at least what was left after a rock crushed his upper body." She twisted his head so that he staring up again. She bent down until their noses touched and she could smell his foul breath. "You disobeyed orders - my orders - to do what? Prove you're better than me?"

Seymour swallowed hard, slowly shaking his head. "N-no...that's not what it..."

"Then what in hell was the point, Lieutenant?" Before Seymour could answer she held up her hand. "Shut up. You don't talk. I don't want to know. I do not want to know. Why not?" She jabbed her finger onto the clamshell's controls; immediately, the diagnostic tool retracted into the biobed. Jessica pulled Seymour up so that he was sitting and pointed at the massive display on the wall of Sickbay. "Absolutely nothing you say can change that!"

Seymour watched in horror as the screen showed the playback of the first asteroid hitting Etam. The image paused for a moment, before the time jumped forward to show the second rock hitting the planet. He felt sick when the image repeated on a loop.

Jessica let go of Seymour, walking around until she was in front of him. "You make me sick, Lieutenant Sonia. I have put up with a lot from you, and I've tried. I've tried to give you the benefit of the doubt." She waved her arms around her. "I even gave you this assignment - trusted you to do the right thing!" She shook her head. "I'm done. You're done." She turned to S'Tel. "Sedate him again if you need to. As soon as you see him fit to leave, transport him to the brig."

Seymour shook his head. "I was just...trying..."

Jessica glared at him, clenching her fists into tight balls. "Shut up. You're under arrest for the negligent genocide of the people of Etam, among other charges. We're dropping you off and leaving you at Sierra Station to wait for your court martial."

"I didn't mean to!" Seymour shouted, covering his face. "It wasn't supposed to happen like this!"

"S'Tel, sedate him before I do." Jessica turned on her heel and stormed out of Sickbay as Seymour sobbed behind her, tears streaming down her own face.

She entered the turbolift and let the doors close behind her before she started sobbing, her entire body shaking from the rush of adrenaline.

Her commbadge chirped, and she slapped it hard. "What?!"

"Captain," came Obruz's somber voice. "You'd...better get down to the guest quarters."

Yala.
Jessica's eyes went wide. "Deck four," she called, before replying to Obruz, "On my way. St. Peter out."

She suddenly felt very numb, her previous rage a distant afterthought as the turbolift sped to deck four. She tried to prepare herself for the scene awaiting her. How much blood would there be? What would it smell like, besides more death? She wanted to scold herself for immediately fearing the worst...

The low cry Yala had made on the bridge when the first asteroid hit her planet echoed in Jessica's mind. The pain, suffering, despair, heartache - there was no other way it would end.

Jessica blinked, stopping before she walked into the closed door of the guest quarters. She shook her head, trying to clear it, pushing the confusion of how she had arrived here out of her mind. She knew she'd find their guests dead. She just didn't know how gruesome the scene would be.

Jessica took in a deep breath and tapped the door control. The doors parted, and she stepped inside, biting her bottom lip nervously.

The air smelled thick with blood, but the bodies were already laying on stretchers, covered with grey sheets. Security and medical techs moved about the quarters, taking scans and measurements for their report. Obruz was kneeling next to the larger of the bodies; he looked up as Jessica walked in and stood, frowning sadly.

"How?"

Obruz shook his head. "They replicated a knife." He covered his mouth briefly, looking like he was going to be sick. "Yala...she slit Gorem's throat. Then she..." He raised his hands, starting to mime when Jessica lifted her hand to stop him.

Kneeling down, Jessica slowly pulled Yala's sheet off the alien's face. Her expression was pained, but her eyes were thankfully closed. "She trusted us." Jessica pulled the sheet back to cover Yala's face, her earlier detachment giving way to more grief. "She trusted us, and we destroyed her."

"No, we didn't. If Seymour-"

"If I hadn't put him in charge of the mission!" Jessica snapped her head up to glare at Obruz. "We're just as responsible for this, if not more so!" She fell backwards, sitting on her rump as she broke down in tears. "I should have listened to you. To my gut. I never should have put us in this position from the beginning; should have requested more support."

"There was nothing you could have done, Jessica."

She shook her head, taking in a ragged breath. "I could have said no."

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