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Runner-up: Dress Greens

Irina Pavlova

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Dress Greens

Everything had changed. 219 years had passed, people grew old, withered, and died. Buildings were built, treaties were signed and wars were fought. Irina had changed herself, though not nearly to the extent everyone else does over such a long period of time. There were red flecks in the whites of her eyes, while the lustrous deep yellow gold of her hair was now more of a platinum blond, bleached in the same ultraviolet radiation that had long since fried all of the cones in her eyes and reduced her vision to black and white, with a somewhat limited pallet of grays.

Thirty-nine members of USS Columbia’s away team had shuttled down to Kjenta II from their ruined hulk of a starship all of those years ago, and now four of them were back. There were nine others who had survived the whole time in stasis, including Irina’s own four-year-old daughter Katya, and now, today, they were to be presented back into a universe that had long since abandoned them.

It was a strange sort of occasion, originally scheduled as a eulogy/funeral type ceremony to mark the loss of a much more modern ship, the Sovereign-class USS Discovery-C through the very same Aurix wormhole that had claimed the far smaller and more primitive NX-class Columbia two and a quarter centuries earlier. Something about Discovery not having working comms prevented anyone from notifying Deep Space 285 until a few hours before their arrival, and he funeral was quickly changed to a welcome home party, again more for the benefit of the Discovery crew and their families who thought their loved-ones dead than for anyone on the Columbia, most of whom having been forgotten long ago.

Captain Waltas had ordered everyone in both crews to wear their finest dress white uniforms, and for the crew of the Columbia, that meant 22nd century uniforms. Waltas wanting to show off his treasure or something like that. Being a marine, Irina's dress uniform was green rather than white, but the idea was the same, fancy and stiff with all of the frills.

Irina stood in front of the mirror as she looked at the two uniforms laid out on the bed. One was crisp and new, only worn on three occasions and perfectly preserved across time in the cold vacuum of space that was her quarters on the Columbia. The other, not a dress uniform at all, was the clothes she had worn her last day on Kjenta II. The pants and undershirt were marine issue, but faded, sewn, patched and more recently thrashed by bullets, road rash and more than a little of her own blood. The leather flight jacket also had bullet holes and blood stains, but the thick hide had stood up to the road rash with only some abrasion and discoloration at the left shoulder and back.

Standing at the mirror in her underwear, Irina desperately wanted to put on the ruined pants and jacket and walk out onto the stage as she really was, damaged goods, faded and worn by time with the color long gone. Just like the uniform pants and marine flight jacket, she remained obviously military, yet also wild, even savage.

It was strange the things one remembered. As Irina put the dress uniform pants on, she had to give a bit of a tug as the material stretched a bit to conform to legs far more muscular than those that had worn them before. She was almost the same height, generally the same shape. Her waist was only an inch bigger around, while her thighs and biceps had each grown a bit more. She stood a little over an inch shorter than when the uniform had been made, now a few tenths over 5’6”, instead of a few below 5’8”, but had gained a full 100 lbs in bone and muscle density. The uniform fit, mostly on account of the synthetic fibers it was woven from and their expansive properties.

Uniform on, Irina proceeded to attach the various and sundry ribbons, medals and insignia until she was so festooned with militaria as to look more like the old recruiting posters than the woman marooned for 219 years on that inhospitable rock. She looked, civilized.

Some other things besides Irina’s weight and physique had changed, including some additions to the uniform. There was a modern 24th century purple heart medal, alongside the two 22nd century versions, not to mention the rank of marine captain instead of first lieutenant. Irina thought it funny she was going to what was originally a funeral wearing a rank that was awarded to her “posthumously” in 2172.

Uniform complete, the last pieces were shoes and gloves, which she’d had new ones made on Discovery. The inch and a half of height she’d lost to Kjenta II’s high gravity were made up with non-regulation 2 1/5 inch heel, with regulations the furthest thing from her mind. She’d spent some time trying to put her hair into a neat and professional bun like she used to wear it, but her left hand wasn’t cooperating with her right due to nerve damage she'd suffered when their shuttle crashed so long ago, and in frustration she just let it hang, though cut now to shoulder length instead of mid-back as it had been on Kjenta. She wore no makeup, which combined with the wild-looking straight hair and the ever-present red flecks in her gray eyes presented an image somewhat different than that of her personnel photo. Of course, Irina couldn’t see any of the colors, including the one red and one green sock that to her were the same shade of medium gray, and didn’t care if anything was out of place or incorrect anyway.

Dressed, Irina made her way to the small antechamber to the large auditorium where the ceremony was taking place. She looked at each of her 11 surviving shipmates, all of them wearing Starfleet uniforms while she as the lone marine rather stuck out, even in Irina’s monochromatic vision. The 8 officers revived from stasis tubes kept looking at Irina’s mismatched socks, while the other three who had survived the ordeal on the planet and were every bit as colorblind as she, didn’t notice. Mismatched socks or not, nobody in the small room said a word.

Waltas spoke over the PA system telling tales of bravery and sacrifice and other such nonsense. He made the empty promises of how the federation in all its benevolent nicety niceness would be so very nice to the Columbia survivors and help them transition into this wonderful, enlightened and yes, nice century where everything was flowers and unicorns and feces no longer stunk. Then as the applause died down, Waltas’ voice took on a more triumphant and less somber tone.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you the crew of the USS Columbia, Naval Construction Code number Zero-Zero-Three.” There was thundrous applause, which died quickly as Captain Waltas raised his hands. “Lieutenant Commander Graciela Solis, chief medical officer. Lieutenant Rebecca Moore, assistant chief engineer. Lieutenant Michael Thomas, assistant chief science officer.”

The names were called one by one, and each was followed by the loud applause that to Irina’s sensitive hearing sounded almost like gunfire and despite her knowledge of what it in fact was, her heart still was beating fast and her hands sweating more than she would like.

When she was alone in the room, Waltas spoke again. “Lastly, Marine Captain Irina Pavlova, Chief of Security.”

Irina walked out onto the stage and felt every one of the ten or twelve thousand eyes on her, heard the applause increase in volume and frequency. Her heart beat faster and she fought the overwhelming urge to run. Two steps, three. The incessant applause wouldn’t stop. Twelve steps, thirteen, left face, halt. She stood there at attention, her fists clenched so tightly her knuckles cracked, adding to the staccato horror.

Waltas spoke again. “Ladies and gentlemen, true pioneers.”

The audience all stood up and cupped their hands as they clapped, the roar deafening. Irina could feel her grip on reality slipping as she her eyes started darting about, looking for the nearest exits, the path of least resistance while her rational mind tried desperately to keep her feet from moving.

She couldn’t hold it anymore, and pushing through Crewman Saunders Irina bolted from the small formation as the applause suddenly came to a stop in sync with her motion. She didn’t look back, just quickly closed the 15 feet to the side door, veritably threw the security guard out of the way as she slammed against the door and found that the push bar was quite locked, but the wooden door itself was no match for almost 200 lbs of fast-moving marine desperate to get out of the room.

Irina wasn’t sure how far she’d run, only that she’d gone through about three more doors and finally found an empty room where she could stop and try to get her wits about her. She had no idea how long she just stood there, and while she knew there were people on the other side of the door she’d come in through, they were, thankfully, not crowding in. Finally the door did open, but it was a familiar face to come in.

“Come on back, Irina, its fine now.”

“What’s fine Grace? Did the 24th century pack up and leave? There’s no going back, and I’m afraid to go forward.”

“I know” Graciela Solis said as she walked up right in front of Irina and held out her hand. “Come on back, we’re all afraid to go forward, but we have to do it anyway.”

“Its different for you, you slept through it.”

“Yes, I slept through it. You didn’t. But as you said, there is no going back, but you can, you must go forward. If not for you, then for your daughter. Katya needs you, and from I heard from the Discovery’s team that went down there to get you, I think this century might need you as well.”

“We are over 200 years out of date, they don’t need us to be anything except museum exhibits.”

“Your wrong. The machines get bigger, faster, more powerful, but its always the people behind them that make the difference. Don’t ever forget, we were picked for Columbia because we were the best that Earth had to offer. I’d wager we still are.”

“And if they don’t give us a chance to show it? If they put us out to pasture?”

“Don’t let them. If you run and hide your fears will come true, but if you go back out there and face the future, somehow I’m sure you’ll get another ship, maybe even one of your own someday.”

“I’m a marine, we don’t get ships.”

“Rewrite the rules then. You kept everyone alive on that planet all those years. You kept Captain Waltas and his crew alive when went down to rescue you. I have a hard time believing the Starfleet of the 24th century would be stupid enough to throw that away.”

Irina just listened, while her eyes kept going back to the door. Finally she unclenched her fists, took a deep breath and locked her gaze on the Columbia’s doctor. “Okay Grace, we’ll try it your way.”

With that, the two women walked out of the supply room, back through the personnel and finance offices and finally to the main hallway and back into the auditorium. The security guard at the broken door shot her a dirty look, but Irina just smiled and walked past him, and out into the seething mass of humanity and other species.

Major Irina Pavlova
Chief of Strategic Operations
Duronis II Embassy / USS Thunder-A
OOC: My character was actually based partly on the song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" by Blue Oyster Cult, which is linked below.
Edited by asiafish
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