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Cmdr. Karynn Brice & Lt. Cmdr. Ethan Brice - Wish you were here


Yalu

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((Brice’s Quarters, USS Apollo))

:: Walking into his quarters, Ethan rubbed his hand over his eyes. He was tired. Strike that, he was knackered. Every muscle ached. Muscles that he wasn’t aware he had ached. His brain felt like a rubber ball bouncing around in the empty space between his ears. What time was it? He knew it was late and he was late. He was supposed to be calling Matthew. Going to the replicator he replicated a bottle of synthetic beer, popped the cap off and collapsed onto the sofa.::

::The dimmed lights in the room made the stars outside the window shine like glitter thrown over a dark blanket covering the vessel. Ethan lay on the sofa, one arm tucked behind his head watching the universe float past the window with a gentle softness that he hadn’t felt before. He couldn't’ describe what he felt inside. Calm? Tranquill? He couldn’t put his finger on it. Half the time he felt as though he were balancing on the edge of a knife; one slip and the “half the time” might be a permanent condition.::

:: But then another part of him poked his heart and yanked on the strings. His wife, Karynn, was out in the universe somewhere, maybe missing him, maybe not. He longed for her, yearned for her and wished they could be together.::

:: Man, she bowled him over sometimes. He grinned in the darkness of his quarters, lifting the single serving beer bottle up to his lips. He remembered the first night he saw her. Was it love at first sight? Probably not, she would say. It was a chemical reaction in the brain that caused the feelings of attraction. His heart had pounded to the beat of the bass drum pedal. Counsellors were always a pragmatic bunch. She was Pavlov, he was the dog.::

:: She was his strength, his faith, everything that held him up. Without her by his side, filling him with that courage he felt empty. His hand fell on his stomach and he raised his head slightly, looking at the holo-image of Karynn and Matthew. Matthew. He couldn’t bring him on board the Apollo. It was far too dangerous being out in the Expanse to have him there. He missed his little face, his little laugh... he didn’t miss finding FederationMan accessories sticking out of the carpet though. His feet were on a break.::

:: By now, Matthew would be asleep. He would have been asleep hours ago, if Rebecca was sticking to their routine. Ethan let his head fall back against the cushion again.::

Brice: Computer, compose a message. “I wish you were here.” Transmit to Commander Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

K. Brice: Lights. Half.

::The door closed behind the Haliian officer as the room brightened. With a slow sigh she looked around. The emptiness hit her in the pit of her stomach - not a lack of things, but a lack of his things. She missed the shoes in the middle of the floor, the engineering journals on the couch, the coffee mug on the table instead of a coaster. After unzipping her uniform jacket and dropping it on the arm of the sofa, a soft flashing caught her eye. She had a message.::

K. Brice: Computer play message.

::The welcome sound of her husband's voice, sent from lightyears away permeated the air. Not only was it a salve to soothe the pain of separation, it was confirmation that he was still ok. The message was simple, direct. A glance at the monitor showed her that his message hadn't been sent that long ago.::

K. Brice: Computer. Record message. "Me too." Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

((USS Apollo))

:::A beep from up above his head signalled that a message was being received. He wondered if it might be Karynn. Something doubted that. They had both been so busy lately that they hadn’t been able to find the time to speak. He, playing Engineer of the Year, she doing Science in another part of the Universe.::

E. Brice: Computer, play message.

::His stomach turned to mush as he heard her voice; soft and gentle, a reminder that his wife was out there and she hadn’t changed at least that aspect of her wonderful self. He smiled to himself. If she were there, they would be cuddled up on the sofa, perhaps doing different things, but they would together.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. “What am I doing without you, Mrs Brice?” Transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::The computer beeped. Karynn smiled. Bandwidth was limited, especially for personal calls, and they were saving up. But bouncing these messages back and forth was essentially free.::

::She laid back on her bed and put her feet up.::

K. Brice: Computer. Play message.

::It was a simple question that she could answer in one of two ways. She decided on cheeky.::

K. Brice: Computer. Record message. "Falling to pieces?" Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

((USS Apollo))

:: Another beep. He smiled again and asked the computer to play the message. Karynn had a good sense of humour, although it revolved around poking fun at him. He missed that. Looking at the table, he realised his beer bottle was sitting pleasantly on the coffee table without a coaster underneath it. She would have had his head if she could see.::

::He got up and ordered another from the replicator before lying back down on the sofa.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. “Keeping it together, just about. Enjoying the peace and quiet?” Send to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::Karynn had gotten herself a White Russian from the replicator while she waited. It was synthehol, of course. She could almost hear her human husband's complaints, but she had grown to not mind the stuff... much. After all, it still had effects, but they were more easily reversed should she find herself suddenly called back to duty. And she could really only taste the difference between the synthehol and the really good stuff.::

::It was quiet. Too quiet. The silence was almost deafening really. She missed the sound of Matthew playing, of Ethan getting ready or coming home.::

K. Brice: Computer play instrumental music, Europe, Earth, Nineteenth Century.

::Having been raised by a professional musician - her mother played a Haliian stringed instrument akin to the terran violin in their city’s symphony - the scientist had great appreciation for orchestral music from all cultures. And with Ethan being from Earth, she had developed an interest in terran music.::

::Through the melody she heard the distinct sound of the computer beeping, alerting her to a new message.::

K. Brice: Computer pause music, play message.

::There was a momentary pause of silence between the end of the music and the start of her husband’s voice. She laughed lightly to herself. He knew her too well.::

K. Brice: Computer. Record message. "Not really. I can understand your love for the ambient noise in engineering now. What about you? Have you put water marks on your coffee table yet?" Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

((USS Apollo))

::The new message came through. He placed the rugby ball back down on its stand and looked at the ring markings on the table. He had, though he doubted she would have been in such good spirits about it had it been their coffee table. The young man laughed aloud in the dark room.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. "I don't know what you're talking about. I heard that you're posted in the Science department. Set anything on fire yet?"

::Remembering her mishap with a locked door on her training exam brought a smile to his face. He had to wonder, what she'd be like around a bunsen burner.::

E. Brice: Transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::With a laugh, the Haliian set down the PADD containing the issue of the scientific journal she had been reading. During her stints as Counselor and First Officer in her last posting she had gotten out of the habit of keeping up with the latest developments in the scientific community. Now that she was back in science - her first love - she realized that she had a lot to catch up on. She had immediately subscribed to a few general journals as well as a few more specialized ones, including the main publication for biochemists in the Federation.::

::To be sure, it was no Vulcan epic poem. But it was interesting, and even fascinating, to see what her colleagues had been up to. It reminded her of why she decided to join Starfleet in the first place.::

K. Brice: Computer, record message. “I’ll have you know that I can find my way around a science lab just fine. It’s you darn engineers that make things overly complicated.” Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

(( USS Apollo ))

::The message made him laugh, taking another swig from the bottle. Karynn was more adapt at most things, not that she would ever think she was or profess to being. There were a few memories he had that he treasured the most; memories that he would treasure until his dying day, holding his wife’s hand while he slipped into the next big adventure. They used to watch stars together, laugh about the most ridiculous things, look forward to tomorrow, caught up in the moment as the universe carried on revolving around them.::

::He looked over at the images on his desk of their wedding day and a smile crept onto his face.::

Brice: Computer, compose message. “Are we too old to run away together?” Transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::The Terran music was again punctuated by a computerized alert and the haliian couldn't help but grin. Even though she knew it was all in her head (they had been separated by lightyears for far too long for any true residual connection to remain for the touch empath), it was almost as though she could feel the pair growing closer again as they talked. She sipped her drink as she played his message, a smile playing across her lips.::

::She did wish they could just take off together - some days more than others. But her sense of duty was too strong for that, not to mention her love of knowledge, exploration, and adventure. She felt far too young to return to civilian life.::

K. Brice: Computer, record message. “Not too old, too responsible. Besides, could you really see yourself as a civilian?” Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

(( USS Apollo ))

::His chest was starting to niggle at him again. He rubbed it absent-mindedly, skimming through some of the repair reports on his padd. The last few days had been hectic; for one, he still needed to shave, the face fuzz didn’t look too professional, and for two, he was knackered. At one point, he had resorted to bunking down in the office from sheer exhaustion while the night shift worked. At least everything was going well now.::

::Karynn’s message came through, bringing a slight smile to the man’s face. She was right, he couldn’t see himself in civilian life any more. Maybe a few years ago, but now it was ingrained in his very being. There wasn’t anything in civilian life that could come close to what they felt as part of the Federation, as part of Starfleet, flying the flag out in the nethers of the Universe.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. “No, I couldn’t. We’ll retire from this life, but it doesn’t mean I can’t dream. There’s something inviting about a family house on the bank of an estuary somewhere where starships don’t torpedo us in the night.” Transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::The beep startled her and the haliian’s eyes shot open. Without meaning to, she had drifted off into a nap. From a scientific perspective, the journals were interesting, but for someone who was increasingly tired, it wasn’t exactly easy to stay awake while reading the dry, precise language employed by scientists. It took her a few moments to realize what was going on. When she finally had enough clarity to listen to his message she smiled.::

K. Brice: Computer, record message. “I agree. Retirement will be nice someday. I’m just too young yet.” ::She paused.:: Computer pause recording.

::She was tired, and no doubt he was too. But talking to him - it was easily the highlight of her week. Her brain told her to say goodnight, her heart told her to keep talking until she collapsed. Of course, Dr. Shelley would not be happy to hear that her charge had collapsed from exhaustion. After a moment more of debate she spoke again.::

K. Brice: Computer resume recording. “Got a place in mind for when we’re old and get drummed out of service?” Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

((USS Apollo))

::Ethan’s head was resting on the arm of the couch, his eyes staring up at the ceiling. He remembered the last time that he and Karynn and been in the same room, when they were saying goodbye on the Tiger before their transfer; he to a posting at the behest of Captain Jaxx while Karynn to a Science calling in the mid- galaxy, unable to do such a large journey so soon after her illness. Neither had wanted to leave, both were at the mercy of Starfleet. He could remember her smell, the sound of her voice, almost hear her soft footsteps walking around.::

::He closed his eyes as he listened to her message. He could picture a house somewhere in the midst of civilisation, at the edge of a lake with a vineyard spreading out beside it, not that either of them knew anything about growing grapes or making wine. A dream was a dream after all.::

::He looked at the digital clock on the computer screen, spinning around. The hour was late and he knew Karynn would be tired; he could hear it in her voice. He needed some sleep as well, it hadn’t come easily lately and the more he tried to reach satisfying slumber, the less likely did he grasp it.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. “As long as I have you, we could go anywhere you like. We should take Matthew to Halii. What do you think?” Transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::Karynn let out a yawn, stretching her arms above her head, as the alert of a new message interrupted the tranquility of her quarters. With a smile she played her husband’s communication.::

::Halii. She hadn’t been back since about halfway through the academy. She’d seen her parents at their wedding, but she hadn’t really been “home.” Not that Halii felt like home to her any more. Home was on her ship, with her husband and stepson now. That was part of her difficulty in adjusting after this move. She would love to go back, though - and the opportunity to share her heritage and the planet where she had grown up with her family would be amazing.::

::She had been able to go to Earth with Ethan several times. They had explored all sorts of locales on his home planet together. She remembered their trips to Japan and the British Isles quite clearly. She was already thinking of places she would love to take Ethan and Matthew. Her home town of Larysta had an animal preserve that she was sure Matthew would love, for one thing, and she was pretty sure that they would both love the pink beaches that dotted the western coast. She also wanted to introduce them both to some of her culture: music, art, and architecture for example.::

K. Brice: Computer, record message. “I would love that and I bet he would too. I bet Will would let me coordinate leave with you sometime.” Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

((USS Apollo))

::It was a distinct possibility that Jaxx might let him do that very thing; synchronising his shore leave with his wife’s with enough notice. It would have to be when they had come out of their first delve into the abyss in the sector that they were currently inhabiting. He stretched up off the sofa, pushing his hands into the flat of his back to achieve the backstretch he so desired, lifting onto his toes to really get it right. He moved slowly into his bedroom, the light coming on automatically to a dim level.::

:: He sat on the edge of the bed with a heavy sigh as he started to pull his socks off his feet, listening to her message before lying back on the bed, one arm beneath his head and eyes closing.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. “In the words of our dear Ben Johnson, “In the hope to meet shortly again, and make our absence sweet.” You realise that if I get you in my arms again, I may never let you go.” Transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

((USS Drake))

::Karynn had given up most pretenses of trying to stay awake. She woke with a start, breathing in sharply at the sound of a new message. Shaking the sleep out of her head (or at least trying to) she listened to the communication from her husband. With a sigh she smiled.::

K. Brice: Computer, record message. “I wouldn’t have it any other way. I certainly wouldn’t be in any hurry to let you go either.”

::She paused, reticent to end their conversation but knowing that they both need sleep.::

K. Brice: “I’m tired ... knackered is the way I think you put it.”

::She laughed, hoping that her husband would appreciate her attempt to pick up his idioms.::

K. Brice: “As much as I hate to say goodnight, I think I must. Sweet dreams, Kiimosa. I hope to see you soon.” Save and send to Ethan Brice, USS Apollo.

((USS Apollo))

::Ethan listened to the message, hearing his wife’s voice for the last time that evening as he asked the computer to switch off the lights. His eyes were heavy, his breathing now shallow in the quiet room, lying back on his bed with little thought to what was going on inside the vessel. Sleep found him and tonight it wasn’t letting him go so easy. Before he slipped off into the night, he managed to get a final message across to his love, thousands of lightyears away.::

E. Brice: Computer, compose message. “I’ll only dream of you. Goodnight, Kiimosa.” Save and transmit to Karynn Brice, USS Drake.

::For the first time in many nights since they parted ways, the young Engineer fell asleep with a slight smile on his face.::

TBC

Commander Karynn Brice

Chief Science Officer

USS Drake

&

Lieutenant Commander Ethan Brice

Acting Chief Engineer

USS Apollo

Edited by Didrik Stennes
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