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Major Tyler Kelly - How Far We've Come

Arturo Maxwell

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((Starbase 118  -  Marine C.I.C.))

((1 Day After the Columbia's Return))
::Tyler was sitting at a console in the C.I.C. filing the lengthy mission report in which he had to explain how he'd wound up flying the Columbia. He'd also had to submit a signed affidavit detailing the events surrounding Bomba's dismissal, which he'd happily provided. Fortunately, the Columbia's logs provided enough evidence to keep Bomba out of the center chair for the foreseeable future. It had been touch-and-go there for a minute, but in Tyler's opinion, the mission had been a great success in the end.
Considering the state he'd been in for his last couple of missions, his own morale had made massive improvements. He'd gone on a mandatory leave to try and find some way to cope with his trauma and had very nearly found himself discharged by Starfleet Medical when he'd met the man that would help him turn it all around.::
((Flashback - a few months earlier))
((Utopia Planitia Support Colony - Starfleet Counseling Offices))
::Tyler Kelly had served as a Starfleet Officer for the better part of 11 years, he'd never had the chance to set down roots or start a family. Hell, Mirra had been his first steady girlfriend in several years and even that was history now too. All these years of serving the greater good, whatever the hell that was supposed to mean, had served only to get Tyler beaten, scarred and finally marooned in the cold vacuum of space as he watched his own ship die. As he sat in the waiting room to be seen by the Counselor for his mandatory sessions, he leaned back into his chair until his head came to rest on the neutral colored wall behind him.
He'd come back to Mars because it was the only place he had any history. His mother, Dana Kelly, still lived and worked there at the Fleet Yards but so far he hadn't been able to bring himself to visit her. Tyler could see her face as if she was standing right in front of him, frowning as she took in his slightly overgrown hair, scraggly beard and generally scruffy appearance. Not to mention the fact she hadn't yet seen the 3 parallel claw marks running down the left side of his face where an enraged Gorn had given him a little love tap. No, instead he spent his leave staying in uncomfortable barracks-housing and drinking too much nearly every night just so he could sleep.
Tyler didn't know it, but things were about to turn around that day. Not in the counselor's office, but there, in the waiting room.::
Man: Son, you look like something the Targ dragged in. 
::Tyler sat up a bit straighter as his eyes found the only other person in the waiting room that morning. He was an older man with a thick neck, square jaw and a head of close cropped silver hair. He seemed like the kind of man that had seen it all and didn't like most of it. Tyler, already aware of his rough appearance, he didn't really feel like discussing it.::
Kelly: Thanks. ::He leaned his head back against the wall.:: I hadn't noticed.
::Despite Tyler's attempt to disengage from the conversation, the man, who looked like someone's tough old grandpa crossed the room and took the seat immediately adjacent to his. Annoyed, Tyler adjusted in his seat as the man turned towards him, clearly intent on continuing the conversation.::
Man: So what's your problem? ::He narrowed his eyes curiously as he prodded.:: You're obviously Starfleet or you wouldn't be here. D'you lose some buddies? Get your [...] kicked? Tortured?
::At first Tyler was caught off guard by the man's indelicate approach, but really he preferred it to the light-handed track the counselors took. Still, he had no idea who this grizzled old grump was or why he was talking to him. He just wanted to get the mandatory counselling session over with so he could get on with his day, not chat it up with strangers.::
Kelly: I don't know, uh... ::He shook his head in confused annoyance.:: All of the above, I guess. ::He paused::...Do I know you or something?
::If the man was put-off by Tyler's attitude, he didn't let it show. He simply sat up a bit straighter, puffed out his chest a little and fixed Tyler with a proud little expression that hinted that he'd been waiting for him to ask that question.::
Man: Colonel Roderick Holland, SFMC retired. ::He chuckled in his grizzled way.:: Well, as retired as a Marine can ever be, that is. ::His gaze found Tyler's:: And I'm here, Commander Kelly, because I've been down in the same hole you're in now and I'm going to tell you how to climb out of it.
::The Colonel had used his name without Tyler ever mentioning it, it was becoming clear that his being her was no coincidence. He just wondered why he was here, and what he'd have to do to bring this strange encounter to a close.::
Kelly: Look, Colonel Holland, I don't know what you think you know about me but let me save you some trouble. ::He felt the same anger and frustration brewing that had driven away everyone who tried to help.:: I'm done. I've given my whole damn life to the fleet and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. I've got no family, what friends I do make get lost to transfer or killed, and there's no place in this god forsaken galaxy that feels like home. ::He fixed the Colonel with an icy glare.:: No, all I've gotten are a bunch of scars, ghosts that won't let me sleep and an extremely vivid memory of what it feels like to freeze to death in a frakking vacuum.
::The older man waited patiently for the tirade to end, a look that was suspiciously close to amusement playing across his face. He pulled a small worn shoulder patch from the pocket of his civilian jacket with a picture of a Galaxy Class ship and the name U.S.S. Cairo emblazoned on it. It looked to Tyler like it had been cut off an older EV suit, judging by the tattered remnants of fabric still clinging to the edges. The name didn't ring any bells, but he could tell by the reverential way the old Marine handled the patch that it held some great meaning to him.::
Holland: I have a feeling I know more about you than you know about yourself, Mister Kelly. ::He shook the patch:: U.S.S. Cairo. We got ambushed by the Dominion patrolling the Cardie border back in '74. Lost with all hands... well, almost. ::He stared past Tyler, obviously remembering events long passed.:: I was a Security Officer, like you, and it was pure dumb luck that I happened to be preparing to run an EVA drill in the shuttle bay. When the ship got hit the force field went down and I got sucked out with an extra canister of o2 in my hands. ::He stuffed the patch back in his pocket.:: I guess the baddies missed me in the wreckage, I floated for a full day before my suit put me under. Woke up half frozen on a Romulan Warbird.
::Tyler eyed the Colonel cautiously, he'd never heard this story, but he had no reason not to believe him. As the old veteran relived his experience Tyler could see flashes of himself in the Marine's eyes. He still didn't know how he was planning on helping him, but Tyler decided the man had earned his attention.::
Kelly: ::Leaning forward slightly, interested against his will.:: Then what happened?
::Holland waved his hand in Tyler's direction and gave another gruff chuckle.::
Holland: I went through all of this too. ::He patted Tyler on the shoulder with a sad smile.:: I think every man, men like us anyway, is born with the notion that they if they wanted it bad enough, they could be invincible. That if we just trained a bit harder and planned a little better than the rest, we could never possibly die. Then we survive a few crazy missions and it just reinforces the notion that we just might be un-killable by virtue of our own bad-assery. ::He glanced down at his hands then back up to Tyler:: Then we are confronted with something like this and our brains aren't conditioned to handle it; no amount of planning or training can save you when you're in freefall in the cold, dark, infinite expanse. You realize that the indestructible self-image you've created, the legend you've built for yourself to cling to when times get tough is, was, and always will be a complete fallacy. ::He let out a sigh.:: And it hurts.
::Tyler felt his face go red as a wave of embarrassment washed over him. He was never the type to share his feelings openly, but this man he didn't even know had just cracked open his head and poured it's contents out on the small coffee table in front of them. It was true, all of it. He was scared of dying, afraid to let his crew down again and terrified of space itself. Tyler felt like he had a lump in his throat the size of a hand grenade.::
Kelly: I... well...::He gave up on words and nodded slowly::
::Holland stared at the broken man in the wrinkled gold uniform across from him with the sympathy of someone who had been in this exact place so many years ago. Carefully he began the same pitch given to him by another old Marine just like he was now.::
Holland: You're not a lost cause. The things you have done have mattered. ::He pulled a small PADD from an interior coat pocket.:: You want a family? I can give you as many brothers and sisters as you could ever hope for and you will love them like they were your own flesh and blood. I can give you another chance. You will never be invincible, but I can make you a part of something that is.
::The older man pushed the PADD into Tyler's hands and he glanced at what it was. He saw that it was the necessary paperwork for him to transfer from Starfleet Security to the Starfleet Marine Corps and it was already approved, awaiting only his signature. Tyler brought his gaze up to find Holland watching him expectantly, he knew the Marine had pulled some serious strings to get this done before Tyler scrubbed out of the Fleet completely. It was all pending his successful completion of the grueling Starfleet Marine Basic School, but the fact that Tyler found himself considering it, rather than brushing it off and retreating to the nearest bar like usual, was promising. He gazed at Holland with all the desperation of a man at the end of his rope.::
Kelly: Did it work?
::The old marine smiled and [...]ed his head to the side slightly.::
Holland: You think I'd be here if it didn't? ::He paused to let the words sink in.:: Come on Mister Kelly, lets go make you presentable.
::Surprisingly, Tyler rose from his chair and followed the man out the door.::
((Starbase 118  -  Marine C.I.C.))
::Tyler was shaken from his memory by the voice of the Bajoran Second Lieutenant he'd met back in the Columbia's Brig.::
Torok: Major. ::She waited for him to look her direction.:: You're needed in holodeck 4 to oversee the Orbital Drop Quals, Sir.
::He rose from his console as he fixed her with a quick smile and nod.::
Kelly: Thank you Lieutenant.
::He kept his smile as he made his way to the holodeck, wondering what Colonel Roderick Holland was doing now, wherever he was.:: 
Major Tyler Kelly
Marine Officer
Sb118 Ops
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