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Lt Cmdr Traenor & Lt Shayne - The conscience of good men


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((Corridor, Deck 6 - USS Darwin-A))
::The clouds were following him.::
::They seemed to snake their metaphorical, wispy ways just behind Shayne’s striding body. He paid them no more mind than he had in the holodeck. Of course, passersby would be unable to see them. They existed purely as a figure of his imagination.::
::But he’d always had an overactive imagination.:: 
::Somewhere, long ago, he’d heard that when an angry, panicked, or trapped individual ever becomes calm and controlled suddenly, under their own volition, that individual was more dangerous than ever before. They will have accepted their fate, and come what may, they are prepared for desperate actions.::
::And Shayne was so... very...calm.:: 
::He was going to walk into that man’s quarters. And he was going to tell Traenor what he felt. There would be no stopping him.:
::He finally arrived in front of the door, and without any hesitation, he pressed the doorbell.::
((Inside Traenor’s Quarters, Deck 6 - USS Darwin-A))
::Maxwell was sitting at his piano in casual clothes, idly picking away at a tune that he could not resolve in his head. He had been at it for an hour with no success, but the rote activity was soothing all the same. Barque was lying contentedly on the couch napping, happy to have the quiet companionship of his master, but he perked up at the sound of the chime with a quiet woof. Not expecting the summons at the door, Maxwell took a moment to assure his beagle before calling out an acceptance.::
Traenor: Come in?
::Shayne walked in a few feet, stopped, and stood at ease, hands clasped behind his back. He was going to tell the First Officer exactly what was going through his head. But he was going to do it by the book. It would do no good to loose his career over this. He couldn’t bear that.::
Shayne: Sir. 
::Randal was the last person that Maxwell had been expecting to see, and yet all the same he knew that a meeting like this would have to occur eventually. He had not exactly been avoiding the helmsman, but neither had he gone out of his way to seek him out. The events of the past mission still played large in his head, and the eventual results of that mission had led to Maxwell to be uncomfortable with how Randal would react to him and his part in it. Subtle cues from Shayne’s stance and demeanor informed him that this was likely not to be a friendly social call.::
Traenor: ::forced geniality:: Mr Shayne, a pleasure! What brings you by today?
Shayne: ::Keeping his smile friendly, instead of allowing it to turn into a snarl.:: I was wondering if I might have a word with you, sir. ::Leaning forward slightly.:: May I have permission to...speak freely?
::Barque let out an almost inaudible, low growl. Shocked by the uncharacteristic behavior, Maxwell shooed Barque into the sleeping chamber and closed the door, before offering Randal a seat at the small table in the main room. He made his way to the replicator.::
Traenor: Of course. Please, have a seat, can I get you anything?
Shayne: Oh, no thank you sir. That won’t be necessary.
::Now his voice was beginning to exhibit some of the cold fury that had run through his veins for weeks. They were cold words. But he wasn’t even getting started yet. He sat, slowly, as if his entire body were made of warped, creaking metal, never taking his eyes off the First Officer.::
::Taking calm, measured actions, Maxwell summoned a Bajoran coffee for himself and sat down at the table himself. He made sure to keep his posture and expression open and inviting, in contrast to the nerves and apprehension he felt ruminating within.::
Traenor: ::earnestly:: What’s on your mind, Mr Shayne?
Shayne: Oh, the usual tribulations of life. I was just wondering...how you were feeling after the...mission.
::The question was not asked in a concerned fashion. No, it was clear that there were fangs behind it. Frankly, Shayne couldn’t give two [...]s what Traenor was feeling at that moment. His anger was starting to boil, and pretty much anything Traenor said would likely feed the fires of his ire.::
Traenor: It has caused me a lot of introspection. It was a difficult mission for all of us.
Shayne: oO Introspection, huh? How’s this for “introspection”? Oo
Shayne: ::Still keeping a perfectly neutral smile on his face.:: Oh, yes, quite difficult. It’s a miracle we all came back...isn’t it?
::Maxwell wondered how Randal would react if he knew the large role his doppelganger played in his dreams, the vicious, snarling shell of a caricature that loomed large in the nightmares that deprived him of quality sleep. Still working through the portent of the images with counselor Stennes, Traenor had no idea if would be helpful or harmful to himself or to Shayne if the truth of those dreams were revealed to him.::
Traenor: ::trying to stay neutral, professional:: The results of the mission were less than ideal. I find solace that all of our team came back relatively unscathed.
Shayne: “All of our team”, hmm? ::Feigning confusion.:: That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, sir. It seems, and I may be incorrect, that not all the team came back. Is it possible that we left a member of our team down there to be obliterated? I remember her quite vividly. 
::Had Randal reached across the table and slapped him, Maxwell couldn’t have been more caught off guard. Cutting straight to the quick, Shayne had laid bare the root cause of all his own fears and consternations. Vivid images from his dreams flooded forth, paralyzing him with indecision and regret. The hand holding his coffee cup started to shake, from what overload of emotion he was not yet quite sure, and he placed it back on the table with a bit of a clatter.::
Traenor: That was… unfortunate, Randal. I didn’t want to condemn her to death, but circumstances at the time were out of our hands.
Shayne:”Unfortunate”? No, no, sir, losing a game of Parrisses Squares is “unfortunate.” What happened down there was murder. Do you DENY IT!?!?
::He’d finally begun to lose his calm. Seething, white hot fury, resonating from his heart, spread to every tendril of his being and threatened to detonate in a fiery explosion of hatred. It was both liberating and sickening. So this was rage. He’d never understood why people got so violent when angry. Now he understood. Perfectly.:: 
::A muffled sharp barking emanated from the bedroom. The scent of coffee was overpowering and nauseating. The pulsating sound of the warp engine bore down on his eardrums like a painful percussion. Every slight impetus was enhanced and was contributing to a sensory overload. Head pounding in concert with his racing pulse, Maxwell stared mutely for a long moment at Randal as one word echoed over and over, as it so often did in his recent nightmares... Murder. Murder. Murder.::
Traenor: ::quietly:: That’s taking things a little too far, Lieutenant -
Shayne: Really? Really!? We could have saved her! You know that! Don’t deny it! It’s our job! We’ve sworn to preserve life, in whatever form it takes- whether it has skin, feathers, scales, or Borg implants. You...we were wrong! She’s dead because of us! 
::The all-consuming fire of Randal’s white-hot rage was spreading, and despite his feeble efforts to resist, Maxwell was being consumed in the conflagration. Face contorting into a matching scowl, he lashed out with his own harsh words.::
Traenor: You think I don’t know that, Randal?! You think I don’t see her face every time I close my eyes, knowing that I let her die? You at least have the comfort of being absolved of responsibility. You were overruled. I don’t get that luxury!
::Chest heaving with gulping breaths that would not draw enough oxygen to keep his vision from swimming, Maxwell regretted his loss of control immediately. He was a senior officer, dammit! He needed to be the one to keep control, to keep his emotions in check. But, exhaustion and - yes, the truth - overwhelmed his professional sensibilities. With sleep deprivation etching deep lines of regret on his face, he sat back spent, sorry anew for all he had inflicted on Randal. The barking in the other room had given way to howling, but Maxwell was so invested in seeing his dreams writ large on the officer before him that he could barely acknowledge it.::
::Shayne was still embroiled in his own emotions, but something small and potent penetrated his field of rage. Traenor was feeling it too. And he was the one in command at the time, a burden that Shayne did not envy, one that he could barely imagine. It wasn’t enough to end his tantrum, but it did bring it down ever so slightly. The pressures of command were astonishing. Anyone could make a mistake.::
Shayne: oO And he sees her face, too. Oo
::Her face had been practically all that he could see for weeks. Nothing was sweet anymore, nothing hopeful or friendly. Even the joy of being with Isabel was tainted with the knowledge of what had happened.::
Traenor: ::simply:: This is the point where I am supposed to spout the vapid platitudes that have absolutely no meaning and no comfort. “The greater good.” “The responsibility to the crew and the ship.” “Weighing risk versus reward.” But I insulted you with those already, in the heat of the action, and you deserve better than that. I bitterly regret my decision, and it haunts me continually. I feel your pain, and I want to legitimize it and acknowledge it for you.
::Now it is was Shayne’s turn to be surprised. Traenor recognized the the futility of trying to appease Shayne by talking about the usual things. Furthermore, it seemed like he wanted to apologize to Shayne. He said that the helmsman deserved more- hardly the response Shayne was expecting. Was he expecting anything? No, not when he came into the room. Not when this conversation began. He just wanted- needed- to vent. To lambast. But Traenor was a human, too, most likely a better one than Shayne would ever be.:: 
Shayne: ::Not trying to rub it in his face.:: I think we’re all going to regret the choices each of us made on that day, not just you.
Traenor: I can’t take back my decisions. What’s done is done. And I won’t insult your intelligence and lie to you, and tell you that this type of situation will never occur again. Hindsight is a luxury that officers never have the benefit of in the heat of the moment. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t human, and that regret isn’t the burden we bear for those actions. Own your regret, be angry at me. You deserve it. But, don’t think me an unfeeling monster. There’s enough regret for everyone.
::He was still angry enough to fracture transparent aluminum. But...if anyone understood regret, in all its sickening grandeur, it was Shayne. Traenor’s words were so...familiar. They echoed what he’d wanted to say so many times over, regarding his own various regrets. The man wasn’t looking for the easy way out, he wasn’t begging forgiveness- not, at least, that Shayne could tell. He was owning it. He was taking responsibility. And while Shayne still found his actions repulsive, Traenor’s words struck a most potent chord. Almost at once, his burning hatred left his body, and he found himself utterly exhausted. He slumped into the chair. Traenor’s pain was something he was intimately familiar with; the desire to be forgiven, but refusing forgiveness. It was a dangerous slope. And while the helmsman didn’t doubt that Traenor had his fair share of regrets over the years, he might not have the same experience as Shayne. Shayne knew he wanted forgiveness, and he knew that he could never truly have it until he forgive himself. Perhaps that was what he’d need to do; help Traenor to forgive himself. He only wished someone would’ve told him that long before. It would be a long time still before Shayne truly forgave himself. Maybe he could spare Traenor from the same fate.:: 
Shayne: I still can’t agree with you.
::Maxwell would have dearly cherished absolution from Shayne, but he was not so naive to think that it would be so easily earned. Besides, what reason would Shayne have to grant him what he could not even grant himself? It tore him up inside to think that any other of the crew… his friends… burdened themselves with additional baggage that was not theirs to carry by right. He would be content to allow Shayne to rail at him for hours, days, weeks even, as long as it gave him an outlet to shed some of the pain from actions and decisions that had gone awry. Maxwell would have to come to terms with the situation through his own means, and the expert ministrations of Didrik, but in the meantime this cathartic confrontation stood on its own merits.::
Shayne: ::Very, very quietly, almost as if he was selling his soul.:: But I understand. 
Traenor: I… don’t know if there’s anything more I can add at this time, other than my sincere apologies for causing you such grief. A hollow sentiment, I’m sure, but I extend it all the same.
Shayne: ::Surprised at his own words.:: Then let me make a, perhaps equally, hollow sentiment. Somehow, sometime, not now, not soon, but sometime, forgive yourself. Only then can you live without weight wrapped round your soul.
::Feeling that both men had spent their destructive energy and were, if not at peace, then at least at an uneasy truce over their emotions, Maxwell rose wearily and moved next to the door, signalling an intent to bring this confrontation to a closure… for now. He would make himself available to Randal any time the helmsman needed someone to vent to, and he would respect the sanctity of the honest right to speak freely, and never hold the man’s strong words against him.::
Traenor: This doesn’t have to end here. Anytime you need to revisit this, I’ll be here.
::Shayne stood heavily, and slowly made his way to the door. It opened as he approached, but he stopped, and, hesitatingly, he turned to the First Officer, exhaustion, sadness, and a hundred other sensations apparent in his eyes. Then, without a word, he began to to extend his arm, obviously thinking of shaking Traenor’s hand. But he found that he couldn’t. There were no words, and no gestures that would sufficiently express what he (or Traenor) was feeling. Letting his arm drop to his side, he left Traenor’s quarters, seeking the solitude of his own, if only for a little while. The world looked a little different now.:: 
LtCmdr Maxwell Traenor - First Officer, USS Darwin NCC-99312-A
Lt Randal Shayne - Helmsman, USS Darwin NCC-99312-A
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