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JP: Flt. Cpt. Kells, Lt. Cmdr. Teller & Lt. Cmdr. Brodie - What We Leave Behind


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One of the things I particularly like to see in SIM is consequences. How the actions of an adventure or a mission affect the characters and the way they grow up with it. It is even better if we can see how the crew helps each other to overcome traumas and problems and how the officers in command are humans beneath all the glamour of command, with their flaws, their weaknesses and their need of others. All this can be read in this JP and is just a tiny example of the good work and wonderful skills of its writers. In this shoreleave there are some great JPs and I had a hard time choosing one of them, but I think this one stands out a lot.

Good job guys! @Tony (Kells) @Geoffrey Teller @Alex Brodie

 

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“What We Leave Behind”

 

((Temporary Memorial Hall, Lower Cargo Level, Deep Space Nine))

 

Brodie didn’t have much difficulty getting into the restricted area...as the chief counselor aboard the Thor his role was the psychological and spiritual well-being of the crew...and that didn’t stop with death. The present circumstances, however, required him to focus more on the living - and on one of those in particular.

 

He stepped through the door and was struck by the sheer size of the room...almost an optical illusion, so much had been given over to it. In what appeared to be the far distance, almost the horizon, he could the single lone figure standing in the middle of it. 

 

He’d been worried about Geoff even before the near destruction of the Thor. The man had already been worried that he hadn’t done enough for his crew...he would see each of these flag covered capsules as a mute witness to his failure. A trial by silence, his footsteps echoed as he approached.

 

It had been hours since Teller had heard a sound other than his own breathing above the hum of the station.  He’d found it impossible to rest in his guest quarters and thought, somehow, a walk would clear his mind.  He hadn’t intended to come here when he stepped out of his door. It was simply where he had ended up after almost an hour of pacing the station's corridors and crossover bridges.  

 

He’d known the numbers before he’d arrived.  He knew the names, down to the last man and woman.  The youngest of the dead was barely fourteen years old, a child accompanying their father, their entire life well ahead of them.  Teller sagged as he felt the silent judgement of one hundred and eighty three officers and crewmen upon his shoulders.

 

What seemed like a lifetime ago, Geoff had agonized at length over the first death of a crewman under his command.  He’d spent days attempting to express his condolences to the man's family in a way that seemed meaningful.  Now, it was his responsibility to explain to one hundred and eighty three families why their sons, daughters, husbands and wives would not return.  Geoff could see them all, filling the spaces between the draped flags, mournfully asking him a single question.  “Why?”  

 

Geoff responded to the air, his voice a rasp.

 

Teller: I don’t know. 

 

Alex knew he wasn’t talking to him...he didn’t seem to have even noticed his arrival. He stepped to the other side of the capsule Geoff was looking at - a small plaque on the side read: Chief Petty Officer Ahr’and Vek. It was a Ktarian name...he made a mental note to ensure that all appropriate rituals were respected for when his next of kin was notified. He looked up to face Teller. He needed to say something but what...what did you say to a man in this position...did you answer the question without an answer? Did you speak for the dead?

 

He decided against any of that. Keep it simple...don’t state the macabre obvious.

 

Brodie: It’s strange...being back… ::looking around the room::

 

Geoff had been so wrapped up in his thoughts that he hadn’t heard the Counselors approach and his heart nearly exploded. His reply was much sharper than he intended.  

 

Teller:  I thought this area was restricted, Counselor! 

 

Geoff ground his teeth together and turned away, trying to get his runaway heart-rate back under control.  

 

Alex returned his gaze to Teller, raised his eyebrows and tilted his head slightly towards him - waiting patiently. Sometimes the best response was to say nothing. After a few moments the man half-turned back towards him. 

 

Teller:  I’m...I’m sorry, Alex.  You’ve got every right to be here.  I haven’t been sleeping much, I...I..think the raktajino they serve here is making me jumpy.  

 

Alex smiled slightly, warmly, an expression to show there was no harm done. He had worked in hospitals most of his life and spent time working with FedSec before his time in Starfleet. He’d seen the damage wrought by mass casualties. He had seen trauma lead even the strongest people into a great many unhealthy coping strategies. He was glad Teller’s had only taken him to the bottom of a coffee cup, rather than the bottom of a bottle.

 

Brodie: That’s alright, Geoff, no apology required. I didn’t mean to startle you. ::Gesturing to the PADD under his arm:: Just a few things to check off....::He softened his tone:: I’ve just been aboard the Thor...they’re making good progress with the repair work...

 

It was a casual conversation topic but one he hoped the man could relate too. He didn’t want to interrogate the man - he looked terrible. It was understandable given what they had all been through and the fact Teller, by his own admission, wasn’t sleeping. It was definitely too much to hope that it was just the double raktajino and an unfamiliar bed.

 

Teller: So I’ve heard.  I..I need to review the repair reports tomorrow...or today now, I suppose.  I’m a little behind on my paddwork.  I’m..more than a little distracted.  

 

Geoff moved to step away and found his legs completely unwilling.  He tumbled painfully to the deck, his knees taking the full force of his collapse.  Small bolts of agony rushed to his brain.  It was a final breaking point.  All the emotions he’d suppressed and pushed off exploded at once, the [...] finally collapsing.  A torrent of pain and grief hit Geoffrey Teller and threatened to drag him under.  His chest grew tight and his vision narrowed to a thin point.  Far away, Teller could hear a voice calling out to him, but he could muster no response.  It was all he could do to keep from passing out entirely.

 

Alex watched as the man blanched, moved forwards a touch and then immediately disappeared behind the other side of the capsule. He rushed around to the other side and found Geoff slightly bleary eyed and unfocused trying to get to his feet. 

 

Brodie: Geoff! 

 

Geoff reached an arm out, grabbing the front of the Counselors tunic as if it were a lifeline and he was drowning.  He spoke through gritted teeth, each word a challenge.  

 

The man was pawing at his tunic and Alex had to grab his wrists to stop him climbing up his front. He would have helped him to his feet but his gut feeling was that the engineer would just fall down again.

 

Teller:  All these people, Alex.  All these souls.  They were my responsibility.  Every single one of them.  

 

Brodie: Easy….easy…close your eyes. Deep breaths. In…and out...nice and slow.

 

Alex eased the man down into a seated position and, in the absence of a tricorder, pressed his finger against his carotid artery. His heart was beating hard and fast and he could feel the heat of the man’s skin. The pulse was regular, as far as he could tell, it definitely seemed to be a panic attack rather than a full cardiac incident.

 

The racing pulse started to slow a little...although his breathing was still quite rapid. Alex eased himself down onto the floor next to Teller.

 

Brodie: Okay...I’d like you to keep your eyes closed and keep breathing - slow and steady. I want you to focus on the first thing that’s on your mind - whatever it is, just say it.  

 

Geoff tried to blink his vision clear, but his field of view was full of phantasms.  He forced his lungs to fill with air.  

 

Teller:  I think about them.  All I can do is think about them.  Their families.  Their lives.  Wanatabe over there was up for a promotion.  I signed the paddwork myself.  He was a good man...he deserved better.  They all...deserved better.  

 

Alex couldn’t argue with that - they did deserve better. A normal shakedown cruise leading to the deaths of nearly twenty-five percent of the ship's complement...and sitting next to him was the man who felt responsible. He had been the Captain; it had been his ship - ergo it was his fault...at least that’s what Geoffrey Teller would...did...believe.

 

Brodie: You feel responsible because you were in command?

 

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Teller: How can I possibly….atone...for this?  There’s...there’s nothing for me to fix.  No clever solution to pull out at the last minute that turns this all around.  All these souls, Alex...and no one to blame.  Except me.  

Ah, bargaining. The third...stage of the Kübler-Ross model. ‘How can I atone for this?’, ‘How can I balance this equation?’, ‘How can I make this right, mean something?’ All normal reactions - how can you make it right if you can’t take it back? He wasn’t the biggest fan of the model - he’d seen people see it as a linear progression, and then exacerbated their guilt because they felt they weren’t as far as they should be. To be fair, it was largely out of context - although that was the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

Turning back to Teller...the man was, however, right...mostly. There was nothing to fix, there was no clever solution...but he was wrong about one thing.

Brodie: No. No-one to blame...full-stop...and certainly not you.

Geoff struggled to get his breathing under control and found a small unexpected core of calm somewhere deep in his mind.  Grabbing at it desperately, he felt a strange but immediate wave of relief.  Within moments, he was in something resembling control of his emotions again.  

His vision finally came back into focus on the calm, reassuring and clearly concerned face of Lt. Cmdr. Brodie.  

Teller: Thank you for saying that, Alex....but you know it’s not true.  When I stepped onto the bridge that day, whatever happened next became my responsibility.  Fleet Captain Kells trusted his ship to me.  

Geoff gestured around them.  All the evidence of his failures in neat, even rows.  They offered no absolution.  The Counselor looked unconvinced.  

Brodie: It is generally poor practice to correct a client directly but no-one, and I mean no-one, could have predicted this. I understand there are protocols before entering subspace, to screen for distortions and other anomalies that could affect travel in that medium. Were there any?

Geoff thought back, reexamining those last moments before they hopped into slipstream for the thousandth time.  Ben, comfortable and focused at the helm.  Everything aboard the ship was running smoothly.  The QSD checklist completed and Engineering standing by.  A cat had been recovered from the bowling alley.  Everything was fine, and routine, and normal.  Right up until it wasn’t.  

Teller: No, there was nothing.  Zero.  No indication that the drive or the slipstream were, in any way, abnormal.  I’ve gone over it and over it.  Even had the station computer run simulations based on our sensor records.  Nothing!

Geoff could feel his frustration flaring, but the anger he expected was muted and his mind stayed clear.  It gave him a moment to reflect and listen to what Alex was trying to tell him.  

Brodie: Some might argue you have already, to use your word, atoned. You gave an order to evacuate nearly three-hundred crew to safety...and then your leadership in the face of the situation we faced allowed us to prevent further losses. Over six-hundred people are still alive today because of the decisions you made.

Geoff tried to look at the situation analytically & dispassionately, like an old Academy exercise.  There had been no error - no oversight.  Everyone had performed their duties exactly as expected.  Everyone.  Including him.  It simply hadn’t been enough.  Geoff felt a bone deep exhaustion finally overtaking him as he began setting his burden aside.  

Teller: Alex...you’re right...and I know I’m being harder on myself than I would be on any other member of the crew.  It’s just...I’ve always demanded more from myself.  I told you - I don’t think of the crew as colleagues or teammates.  They’re family...and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my family.  

Brodie: That’s a commendable attitude to have Geoff...but you do have to remember to take some time for self care...every now and the…

Teller:  I’ll be honest, Alex, I’ve never been much good at that...

Alex was cut off as he heard to doors hiss open  

Geoff’s head turned at the sound of distant doors parting and was surprised to see Fleet Captain Kells himself walking in.  

Kells:  Oh.

The sound just popped out of Aron. He’d had no reason to assume the hall would be empty, and yet he was surprised to find two of his senior staff there. Not waiting, though “waiting” was what he thought when he first walked in. Not at all fair, he reflected, especially once he had taken a look at Geoff’s face. Even from across the hall, Aron could see how distraught he was, and how he attempted to look at though he wasn’t.

Brodie: ::Quietly to Geoff, patting him on the shoulder:: Take a moment. ::Aloud and standing:: Down here, Captain.

Kells: Hello, there!

Even to his own ears, Aron’s voice sounded too hearty. He dropped it as he approached.

Kells: How are you both doing? (beat, to Teller directly) Geoff?

Teller: I’m alright, sir.   Just…::Geoff looked around, not really having the words for it.::  Just trying to make my peace with this.  Somehow.  

Kells: (gently) I’m glad to hear it.

But he couldn’t help it when his eyes flicked to the counselor for a moment. He wouldn’t pry, but Aron was glad that Geoff had met with Brodie, whether or not the meeting had been intentional.
Quote

Alex had almost forgotten what the Captain looked like…he’d barely seen the man since before Ferenginar...that seemed like a lifetime ago now. He looked around the room...more than a lifetime in some ways.

Brodie: ::Nodding:: It’s...it’s a lot to process. Sorry, can we...can we help you, Captain?

Kells: No, no, I don’t want to intrude. Just…

He looked from XO to counselor, then back again.

Kells: I want you to be able to come to me if you need to. That’s all.

Teller: Please sir, stay. Personally, I’d welcome your perspective, if you wouldn’t mind?

This was progress...and absolutely the right thing to do. Brodie could give advice but he wasn’t a seasoned starfleet officer. He’d seen a lot of life and the it’s many ups and downs but Aron Kells, a man close to his own age, was a man who had lived his life in the uniform and that counted for a lot. Here was living proof of what could be done.

Teller seemed to have paused mid-sentence...as if the question to come had become shy in the man's throat.

Brodie: Go on Geoff, what’s on your mind?

Teller: Well sir, you had a long career before you joined the Thor, some of which is so classified the computer gets grouchy with me. You’ve had your share....difficult journeys. How do you keep going? How do you process something like...this?

That was the big one...and Alex watched Kells intently. The answer to this question would tell him a lot - the first answer came on his face though. Sadness...and perhaps a little fear? He was also impressed that Geoff had been able to open up in this way. Maybe it was the setting? Maybe, when faced with all these silent witnesses, he felt that he owed them the truth of his own feelings?

Brodie: That’s a very open and honest question, Geoff. Human nature always makes us want to try and shield ourselves - brush things off as more trivial than they are...

Aron tilted his head for a moment at what the counselor had to say, then looked to Teller.

Kells: (quietly) You don’t. You make it through, moment by moment, day by day, until you remember your routine, and it incorporates you into this new version of yourself. This (beat) version that’s after, whatever “after” may mean. But you’re not the same, no. And you don’t keep going. You make yourself.

He peered at Geoff, and the turmoil that swam just beneath his face.

Geoff sagged, feeling the truth of it pressing on his shoulders. It had been something he knew from almost the moment it happened, that this disaster would stay with him for as long as he lived, but he’d tried to avoid it. Tried to ignore it. Simply tried not to acknowledge it in the hopes that somehow, it would be gone and he could feel himself again.

Teller: I want to do what’s best for the crew…right now, I’m just not sure that’s me.

That was the grief talking and Alex knew it….but if not him, then who? Here was a man who cared so deeply for his crew that he would be prepared to throw away his entire career and commission as some form of penance? He wasn’t having that.

Brodie: Or maybe you’re exactly who they need...

Kells: It’s trite to say that it’s up to you, because it isn’t, not really. There’s no shame in moving on to something else. We all discover where our lines are at some point.

He nodded to Geoff’s uniform.

Kells: If you can make that a part of who you become now, then some would call that making it out the other side. But me? I say that you’ve lived every day since, and that’s its own sort of victory.

Geoff looked down at his uniform and felt a strange juxtaposition in his mind, like he was looking at himself from a distance. He looked older, and more tired, then he imagined, but there was something about the red command uniform that looked correct in a way it never had before. It seemed to fit right, in some way it hadn’t. Geoff no longer felt like he was wearing a borrowed tunic.

Teller: Thank you, Captain...I think that’s something I need to focus on. I’ve said it to the crew, but ‘live to fight another day’ has always rung a little hollow for me.

Brodie looked from Teller to Kells and back again.

Brodie: oO Maybe a little less hollow now. A shame it had to come like this. Oo

Kells: So, what will you do now?

Teller: Frankly sir, I feel like I need to sleep for about three days. I’ve been burning the candle at least 5 or 6 ends.

Brodie: ::Smiling, that sounded more like GJ Teller.:: That’s....that’s some candle you have there, Geoff.

Aron gave a short nod. There was no shame in any of it, whether they were talking the guilt that came with surviving when others hadn’t, or in being in a position of authority when one was responsible for those same lives.

Kells: (shortly) You should never have been in that position. I ought to have borne this, not you.

Geoff shook his head - if he was truly to believe that he couldn’t have done anything differently, then neither could Fleet Captain Kells.

Teller: Sorry Captain, but if you’re saying I’m off the hook then it follows that you are too. We got blindsided...all of us.

There was the truth of it all...no-one could have predicted what happened...and if anyone said they could then they were either damn liars...or responsible for it.

Brodie: We got through it though…::looking around the room:: It’ll stay with us for a long-time but we will have that time to heal. We can’t undo what has happened but we can choose how we approach the situation we find ourselves in.

Kells: But it is you, now. And you have to figure it out in your own way. With or without Starfleet, with or without your crewmates. (beat) Though I hope with both.

Teller: Couldn’t drag me away with horses, sir, although Mr. Brodie here might like the opportunity to go riding some day.

Brodie: Well...it is always good to get back in the saddle.

Alex tilted his head slightly towards Teller as he spoke...the underlying comment implied.

Teller: Yeah...I’ve been thinking about getting in a runabout and taking a little cruise. I hear the wormhole is nice this time of year. Springtime in Bajor, when the neutrinos are in bloom.

As their conversation came to a quiet close, Aron offered an awkward half-smile.

Kells: I’ll leave you to it, then. You know where to find me, or the computer will, anyway.

With his hands behind his back, Aron continued on his way through the hall, very specifically thinking, for the moment, of nothing at all.

[End]

========================================================================

Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Teller
Executive Officer
USS Thor - NCC 82607
Fleet Captain A. Kells, Commanding
V239509GT0

&

Lt. Cmdr. Alexander Brodie
Chief Counselor
USS Thor NCC-82607
Writer ID.: A239005BM0

&

Fleet Captain Aron Kells
Commanding Officer
USS Thor
V238208LV0
&
SB118 Captains Council Magistrate (so ask me anything!)

 

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