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LtCmdr Traenor - Redi ad Regim


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((Bridge, Deck 1 - USS Darwin-A))
 
::Maxwell Traenor sat in the center chair of the bridge, thumbing across a PADD with idle attention. His mind wandered at times to his past, where he would have one of these data devices seemingly attached to his hand. A long career as a journeyman stellar cartographer had meant that he was used to perusing reams of scanned data and would carry one (or several) of these wherever he was - work, meals, the Promenade of whatever starbase he was stationed on, even to bed. As an older cadet at the Academy, he had carried one constantly, what with studying coming much more difficult for him than it did the youthful cadets with their still-plastic minds. Once he earned his commission and was assigned to first the Apollo, then the Darwin, his work in the Science department meant that he was able to carry on the well-honed tradition of having a PADD with him nearly everywhere he went.::
 
::So now why did it feel so odd to him to be holding one now? As an executive officer, it meant that he never carried one on duty anymore. When he inhabited his office, doing any one of a myriad of administrative tasks, he used them, but they stayed on his desk when he left. Was that it? Did less than a year of change overcome a career, half a lifetime, of comfortable habit?::
 
::Maxwell didn't think so. It was probably the subject matter on the PADD that involuntarily repelled him so. It was the umpteenth draft of a report for Renos when ne was returned to duty. How to tell nir superior officer, mentor, and friend of all he had done wrong by nem in the past several weeks? How does one write out in a dry report how he had nearly destroyed nir ship not once but twice? How to phrase how he had risked the lives of nir crew with death by combat, death by radiation poisoning, death by gravitic forces that could have rent the Darwin into atoms? How to express in a technical report that he had done so willingly, would do it all over again, would sacrifice his own life and all others if it meant saving nem?::
 
::And that was the crux of the problem right there. Traenor had compromised his professionalism and good judgement time and again over the intervening weeks since Renos disappeared. He had made rash, drastic, poor choices, ignoring common sense and the advice of sounder minds. He had unnecessarily risked the Darwin and its crew over and again. He had lost his temper numerous times, subjected officers under his care to persecution. Basically, he had been a terrible commanding officer. "But there was success in the end. Does not the end justify the means?", a vestigial, contrarian remnant of his willful temper, kept alive by lack of sleep and emotional and physical breakdown, insisted on saying. The goal was to retrieve Renos, and Renos was retrieved. All was forgiven.::
 
::Except that it wasn't. The Darwin was in rough shape. The crew was in worse shape. Renos was barely in any shape. The perpetrator who precipitated this whole ordeal, the deviant J'naii who had wormed nir way into their home and preyed on their goodwill until nir nefarious plan had come to fruition, Iy? Iy, who should have been brought before a Federation tribunal to face judgement for nir crimes? Ne was in absolutely no shape at all, unless you count accreting subatomic particles entering a nascent black hole a "shape". The return of Renos was barely a success, all contingent on how or if ne would recover. The rest? Abject failures, all due to his failure to lead effectively.::
 
::Why? This was the question that Traenor kept asking himself. Why had it all gone wrong? Why had years of Starfleet training, Command training, vacated him so easily? He feared and hated the conclusion that his mind kept drifting back to. Renos. Not Renos his commanding officer, not even Renos his friend. No, the Renos he coveted intimately and not-so-secretively. Had his desire for Renos, his deep-seated fear of the loss of an intimacy that barely existed driven him half-mad and made him command in a fashion that he wouldn't have if that desire didn't exist? That was uncomfortably close to the truth, and Maxwell winced each time his thoughts drifted towards that chain of thinking, almost like a tongue probing gingerly at an abscessed tooth.::
 
::There were plenty of reasons why he had avoided seeing Renos in Sickbay since ne first was retrieved. Hours-long conversations with Starfleet Command once they were in relay range took up a good chunk of time. Filling out reports and coordinating with the senior staff for departmental priorities was another. But, Maxwell would be lying if he said his conflicted feelings weren't a small part of it as well. He was ashamed that he had compromised his values and training so readily, and that if pressed he would admit to doing so again. Without the zig-zag pursuit of small slipstream jumps that had taken them weeks to follow, the return journey was so much more direct and shorter. That allowed Maxwell the justification of saying, "I'll visit nem once we get to Unity." He had even justified to nemself that the always private and composed Renos would not appreciate having visitors see nem in nir weakened and compromised state, and that it would be a disservice to visit nem and make nem uncomfortable in that fashion. It really was an amazing feat of the Human mind, how it was able to perform such mental gymnastics in order to twist the facts to fit a desired narrative.::
 
::It was with all these thoughts in mind that when Traenor looked up at the whoosh of the turbolift doors to see who was reporting to the bridge, the only thing that hit the deckplates faster than his dropped PADD was his dropped jaw.::
 
Traenor: oO Renos?! What are you doing out of sickbay! Oo
 
::Not only out of sickbay, but fully bedecked in nir uniform. As if ne was returning to duty or some nonsense. Maxwell almost shook his head, trying to clear the cobwebs of disbelief from his mind. He never in a million years expected to see Renos up and about this soon, let alone showing up on the bridge. Traenor jumped out of the center chair, feeling like a bandit who had been caught coveting that which was not his. He watched like a hawk as Renos gingerly crossed the bridge, and sat down in concert with Renos as ne took to the center chair for the first time in over a month. The entire time, Maxwell stared at Renos with an incredulous, questioning glare.::
 
Renos: So what have I missed? 
 
Traenor: ::in a quiet tone:: My first impression is to say, "The turn down the corridor that leads to your quarters for a well-deserved rest". ::with genuine concern:: No offense, Renos, but why are you here on the bridge?
 
Renos: Well I am here… ::pause:: I am here to take us home! 
 
::Traenor had already read the Away team's preliminary report. The report that had stated how delusional and disoriented Renos had been when they found nem, not to mention his emaciated state. He tried not to stare to overtly at Renos's physical changes, though the loss of nir luxurious long hair was a shock that Maxwell could barely comprehend. Sickened and angered anew at what Iy had subjected Renos to, he had to wonder if Renos was completely cured yet of those delusions and confusions ne had been afflicted with. Nir statement wasn't cause enough to doubt nem, but ne still seemed... off. Maxwell couldn't shake the fear that the Renos they had once knew had been compromised or changed by nir experiences.::
 
Renos: ::Sheepishly:: Where are we headed anyway? 
 
Traenor: We're on the final stretch of our slipstream jump back to Outpost Unity. We should be back within the hour.
 
Renos: Excellent. Carry on then. Tell me about what you’re going to do with your shore leave when we get there.
 
Traenor: I too have a desire to catch up with loved ones. If this experience has taught us anything, it's that life is too precious to let opportunities to speak with those close to you pass.
 
::Maxwell had caught Renos's glance at him when he spoke the phrase 'loved ones', the gleam in nir eye, and was shocked by the guilt and hesitation that it brought him. He had meant his family, his sister and his niece, though he could understand why Renos would think that it was a veiled reference to their complicated more-than-friendship. The look that Renos gave him had served to ratchet up a swirling confusion that was newly present in his mind, and he felt he couldn't match nir gaze easily for the rest of the short voyage back to Unity. It was almost a relief for the guilt-ridden first officer when their final approach took the attention of the bridge crew and directed it back to operational needs, and finally they were parked back in a stationary position above their home base.::
 
Renos: =/\= Shipwide announcement: The Darwin is now docked at Outpost Unity. We will be operating on skeleton crews for the next couple of weeks as shore leave has been granted. Go. Enjoy yourselves. You’re a wonderful, hard working crew and you’ve earned it. =/\= 
 
::As soon as the ship was powered down and the stations locked, the rest of the bridge crew left to start their well-earned shore leave. Traenor rose at the same time as Renos, and fell in stride beside nem as they exited the bridge.::
 
Traenor: ::subconsciously avoiding direct eye contact:: You need your rest. A mission report and ship's progress can wait until after you've caught up on some sleep.
 
Renos: I quite agree. There’s only one place I want to be right now and that is tucked up cozy in bed.
 
Traenor: ::an uncertain pause, then blurting out:: We need to talk about so much. There's so much to say. I'm sure you have questions, and I do too, but now's not the time. But I need to know. Are you... you? Did they manage to... change you?
 
::Saying the word 'deviant' was impossible for Maxwell to do at this moment. He never really liked the word, thought it had a derogatory connotation, and considering what Renos had just gone through, thought doubly so now. The torture that Renos had gone through, simply because other J'naii wouldn't accept nem in nir natural state? It disgusted him to his core to think how narrow-minded and backwards the J'naii were.::
 
Renos: Gosh well… I don’t know honestly. I’ve barely had five minutes to gather my wits.
 
Traenor: ::coughing in embarrassment at his earlier forward question:: Of course. I'm sorry. It was a thoughtless question. I've just been so worried for you. But with the tender ministrations of Drs Pond and Cook, as well as Mr Scudder, you'll be right as rain in no time. 
 
::The cheerfulness that Maxwell affected was a little forced, but he wanted to be sure to impress upon Renos his full support and understanding, however or whatever form ne would need to recover from the devastating experience ne had been through. Their turbolift ride was short, and was nearing its stop.::
 
Renos: Sure. I’m just glad to be home.
 
 
LtCmdr Maxwell Traenor First Officer, USS Darwin NCC-99312-A
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