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[2008: NOV-DEC] For the Children


Nemitor
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Carte plopped himself down at the table, a tray of meatloaf and pie in his hands. The woman across the table smiled widely, her own tray filled with chocolate ice cream, slowly overflowing the dishes as it melted.

"More ice cream, eh?" Carte asked with a chuckle as he shoved a forkful of meatloaf into his mouth.

"It's not my fault." She smiled in response. Her fingers helped the spoon lightly, as if it were going to fall to the plate. "Why are you here? I thought your shift hadn't ended yet."

"It hasn't." He said, "I just wanted to see you."

"You've never taken time off before – won't the Commander be angry?"

He had another three hours until his shift was done, just like she started the day three hours earlier than him. He was punctual; he had to be.

"Don't worry about it." He said, still grinning, "The Commander has more important things to worry about than me taking a short break to spend lunch with my wife. There is a war going on, you know."

"Oh, don't call it that!" She scolded, "It isn't one, no matter how much the outer worlds say it. And keep your voice down…"

She glanced hesitantly around the rest of the mess, the masses entertained fully by their meals. "I heard they're trying to weed out possible dissenters, mutiny fears and all, and I don't want them thinking you're one of them."

"Look… Amy…" Carte reached over the table, clasping her hand. "I know I've made mistakes in the past, and I've suffered the consequences. I was ready to fight a war when there wasn't one, and I didn't understand what it meant. I've learned a lot since then, and I won't make the same mistakes. I'm a different man now, partly because of you."

"I just don't want to see you taken to the brig, of worse." Amy muttered.

"Don't worry… I have the Admiral on my side, without him I'd still be a measly Ensign."

Her badge suddenly beeped, reminding her to return to work. Carefully she rose from the table, deep blue eyes gazing at Carte. "Will I see you down at sickbay?"

He stood as well, side stepping the table. "I don't know if I'll be able to sneak down. Send me the report on the kid though, I'll read it while avoiding the boss."

She laughed as he reached in for an embrace. They stood there in the center of the mess, the half-eaten plates still resting at the table, ignoring the glances from the crew.

"You know I love you, right?" he whispered in her ear, "Whatever I do, I do for you, and for the baby."

"I know." She replied, stepping back. He took her tray from her and watched as she left, his eyes trying to catch a final glance. Reaching down for his own tray he gently brushed at his eye, a single tear fluttering down to the ground. He froze for a moment, his mind racing. He couldn't break down now; he would have plenty of time to do that afterwards.

---

Carte didn't go back to work. His boss, the commander in charge of Engineering probably forgot he even existed, a common phenomenon on this ship. Like most flagships it was huge, the pride and glory of the united Federation fleet. He spent his days fine tuning phasers and replacing torpedo banks, a job he was thankful for.

His quarters were small for two people, but cozy. Antiques of the past sat firmly on the center table, family photos everywhere. Carte avoided the pictures, heading straight for the replicator. He pried the panel off and attached a small device to the main board.

"Coffee, green, frozen." He ordered, the replicator spitting out something that wasn't coffee. He rigged the replicator to act as a transport buffer, the memory device acting as pattern storage. He left the device attached to the board; it wouldn't matter if he left evidence. He dumped the contents of his engineering pouch to the ground, the replicator's product fitting snugly inside. He glanced at the chronometer – it was time to go.

The lift opened and Carte entered, a bead of sweat sliding down his face. The door opened and he stepped out, the Bridge before him glowing in its power; the staff working as though he were just another drone. He glanced about, taking security's positions in mind. The view screen glowed, the image of a fleet slowly amassing into view.

"Everyone down!" Carte shouted, the phaser in his hand striking the security officers as they crumpled to the ground. "Nobody move!"

A few of the ensigns screamed as many others dove for cover, Carte hitting as many as possible. The Admiral in the center pivoted around but Carte was already there, the phaser pointed at the Admiral's head. He tapped the phaser, switching it to kill.

"What are you doing, Carte?" The Admiral asked slowly, his eyes piercing into Carte's soul.

"I'm doing what I have to."

The bridge was silent, everyone staring that the man holding the weapon to their commander's head. Carte blinked strongly, his eyes red and swollen. "Tell your men to back off, Admiral Bage – the phaser will fire if I'm shot."'

"Stand down." Bage ordered, his wrinkled face unafraid of the madman threatening him. "I'll handle it."

"Insert the following commands to the computer." Carte demanded, tossing a padd to the helmsman. He turned back to the Admiral, hands shaking. "Lock down the bridge."

"It's too late for that." Bage whispered, motioning toward the lifts in the back.

"John?" a voice whispered, barely audible.

Carte spun his head, his insides twisting as he saw the voice's owner. "Leave the bridge." He stuttered.

"What is going on?" Amy's voice wavered, water gathering in her eyes.

"This isn't what you think!" Carte stuttered.

"It's mutiny, Carte." The Admiral said, "You'll be executed without a trial."

"No. No." Amy cried in disbelief, hobbling toward Carte.

"Stay back!"

"You said you were done with mistakes!" Tears fell freely from her face now as she collapsed to her knees. "You said it was all behind you!"

"This… isn't a mistake." He hesitated, "You don't know what pain this brings me."

"Not enough apparently!" she shouted, "You're throwing your life away, for nothing! I thought you'd changed; I thought you put us above politics! I thought you were better than this…"

"We all did." The admiral interjected, a slight smile hidden from view. "Why do you think he's even at that rank anyway? You owe your career to me Carte; and this is what you do with it. This is your final mistake."

"Shut up!" he cried, his arm pulled back to strike his friend. Right before impact he stopped himself, taking a sharp breath inward. "No, no, this isn't a mistake."

The helmsman had entered the commands as ordered, and the bridge had been sealed off. Security wouldn't reach the bridge in time. There were only a few men still conscious, silent in fear. One of them tapped his screen, and Carte quickly fired at the man, making sure to switch it to stun.

"Then what is it?" Bage asked, "You pulled your life together; you have a wife, a child on the way, and then out of the blue… this."

"This isn't random. There is a reason – I don't want this life." He cried, "I don't want this life for my child. He deserves the same opportunities I had; he deserves freedom. You know there is a problem when the Klingons have more rights than we do; when one wrong word can get you imprisoned or killed."

The fleet still filled the view-screen, immobile and unaware of the chaos aboard their flagship. In all their glory and power, they were unable to stop one man with a phaser. They were drones, Carte knew, following their orders mindlessly. They obeyed a leader who had grown insane.

"You aren't going to solve anything on your own." Bage reminded, motioning toward the rest of his fleet. "The fleet will still act, security will get up here, and you will die."

"No!" Amy cried from her knees, "Admiral, you have to do something – you can't let him die, you can't."

"I'm not going to die." Carte whispered, drying the tears from his eyes. "There are others – countless others who know we've gone too far. This is not random, this is not without planning."

"You can still beg, you can beg for your life!" she replied, "We haven't gone that far – we still have democracy… the people can save you."

Carte stood up straighter at her words, his hands steadying. He had gone over this event a million times in his mind, knowing what he must do, what he must sacrifice. He never wanted her to be here – he never wanted her to see.

"No, love. That's where you and I differ the most – we both want the same goal, just I realize that there are moments when no amount of negotiation will solve a problem. We've passed the point of no return, and no amount of talk will bring back what we once had. There is a reason those planets sent out their declaration of independence; there's a reason why we have Civil War. Our democracy caused this problem, and some problems can only be solved by revolution."

"The revolution is destined to fail, Carte. Just like the one you nearly started a decade ago, this one will be stopped right in its path – what do you think this fleet is for?"

For the first time since lunch Carte smiled, his swollen face pained as the muscles moved. He reached over and tapped a button on the Admiral's seat. He paused for a moment as he looked at the screen. The screen fluctuated as fleet of ships suddenly decloaked, weapons fire filling the screen.

"What do you think our fleet is for?" he nearly chuckled, the phaser slightly lowering. "I'm not the only one, Bage – half of your fleet is immobile or under our command. Ours was waiting to make sure the flagship is down. The first victory of this war goes to us."

"Are you going to kill me?" Bage wondered, his face falling, "War must involve killing; murder. Are you going to kill me like your comrades will kill my friends?"

"No." Carte said firmly. Flashes of phaser fire lit up his face unevenly, the battle raging. "You're right – you gave me my life back, and I can never fully thank you for that. When this ends, I know you'll be on whatever side is right – whether its mine or not."

"But you're already killing me, John." Amy cried, "Why can't you see that? Your wife and son are going to be the first casualties of your war."

Carte lowered his arm, knowing now that no one would try to attack him. Not with the battle outside. He approached his wife, and embraced her firmly.

"Don't say that." He said. "Everything I do is for you and for the child – never forget that. He'll grow up free; not knowing what life he almost had. There are some things worth fighting for – some things that must be done. You'll understand before it's over."

"I never thought it would be you."

"It wasn't supposed to be; not until the baby. It's gotten bad, Amy – were living under a dictatorship, one that is becoming harsher and more cruel by every passing moment. I don't want our child growing up in a land where fear of being killed is commonplace. We have to go back to what once was, we have to make sure the Federation returns to what it was; what made it great. If we have to fight for it, so be it."

The fire on the screen slowed, yet it was impossible to determine the victor. Federation vessels fired at Federation vessels, no way to externally determine friend from foe. Carte's commbadge suddenly beeped; he detached himself softly and holstered his phaser.

"I have to go." He whispered, before turning to the Admiral. "Get her back to Earth – keep her safe."

Bage sighed, "You're going to be convicted of treason, Carte, and you are the enemy. She'll be returned to Earth and placed under house-arrest, as standard protocol."

"That is all I ask." Carte turned to face his wife, wiping a tear from her face. "I'll come for you, when it's over. Don't give up hope."

She gave a quick nod as he tapped his commbadge, the swirl of energy surrounding him. A moment later and he was gone, the bridge crew turning to face the Admiral.

"Now what, Admiral?"

"Now we fight our war."

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