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[Round 13] JP - Lt. Commander Karynn Brice and Matthew Brice - Innocen


FltCapt. Sidney Riley
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((Brice Quarters, after leaving the bridge, Day of Conference/Mission

Ending))

::As the doors slid shut behind the Haliian, wave after wave of emotion

washed over her. Everything she had been holding back for the last day,

pushing down so she could do her job, bubbled to the surface. The Captain

had been lost, even if only temporarily and for the first time Karynn had

really been in charge, with no safety net.::

::With every step, as she moved through their living area, her mind raced,

retracing every decision she had made. While the Captain had been returned,

she had been quite ill, almost to the point of death from the reports Karynn

had received. Thankfully, their medical staff had been able to improve her

condition and she was now stable. And it hadn�t just been the Captain.

Others had been severely injured or ill, either as a result of the plague

or encounters with Romulan colonists, angry at the Federation, or as a

result of the encounter with the creatures she now knew were called

�Reapers�. And although her crew had survived, many Romulans had not.::

::She sank into the sofa, feeling relieved but overwhelmed. It was over -

at least as far as she could tell. The Independence was on its way back to

the Starbase. But a sorrow overtook her. People had died. Others had come

close. How much of that had been due to her decisions, to her actions.

Diplomacy, the guiding principle for dealing with situations that she had

so strongly clung to since graduation from the academy, had failed, and they

had left the colony without completing their mission. What would the

ultimate cost be?::

::But had she really had a choice? They had been faced with animosity from

the start, anger at the Federation despite their attempts to help.

Resistance to their presence. From initial reports, it appeared that the

situation had turned for the worse when she had withdrawn the senior staff,

but situations like that didn�t spring from a vacuum. The conditions had

been right, and it wasn�t as though those conditions had been hidden when

she made her decisions. Not only had others suggested the issue at the

initial briefing, she had experienced that hostility first hand. Had her

decision to maintain the mission as long as possible been wrong? Had she

been overly idealistic, hoping that her precious diplomacy would win the

day?::

::The last time she had been in charge on the bridge, just before Operation

Bright Star, crew had died, and this time it had nearly happened again. A

tear trickled down the woman�s cheek as her shoulders slumped forward.

Worse, she had nearly lost the Captain, nearly had to tell a young girl

that her mother was gone, for good. Another tear followed the first

dripping into her hands. Far worse, their mission to the colony had failed.

Romulans there were dying and she couldn�t fix it. She had simply left

them there - who knew how many would die before the worst in the colony was

over?::

::She looked at her own hands, half expecting to see their blood there. If

there was one thing she hated most about command it was this: the

responsibility for others� lives. Ben had asked her once �At what point

should someone stop leading, if they are causing harm to those they lead?�

Was that what had happened? Twice now, she had been in command when

diplomacy had failed, and as a result, members of her crew, members whom it

was her job to return safely had either died or nearly died. Had she lead

them wrong? Another tear splashed into her hands.::

Matthew: Kolla?

:: A little sniffle of a runny nose sounded, followed by the yet more

distinctive sound of said nose being wiped along a sleeve. The footsteps of

the small boy were heard moving out of his bedroom and towards the sofa in

the living area, the little boy�s face underneath the dark mop of hair

looking through concerned eyes at his step-mother. As he saw her face and

the tears, his bottom lip wobbled, but he had to be strong and firm in these

situations, Dad had told him so. So, he sniffled again and reached out his

hand to her shoulder.::

::The Haliian turned toward his voice, another tear trickling down her cheek

as he reached out to touch her. In her mind, the image of Belleau in the

Ready Room played before her, a child who had, for a time, believed that she

had lost her mother. She reached out, gently brushing the dampness off the

young boy�s cheek, before pulling him onto her lap.::

Karynn: What is it Matthew? What�s wrong?

:: He snuggled into her embrace and just let her hold him for a few moments.

He was smart enough to know that she needed cuddling, just like she would

cuddle him when he needed so. Inhaling and exhaling exaggeratedly. Gently,

he ran his small fingers through her dark hair and smiled a week but

supportive smile.::

Matthew: ::quietly:: What you crying for, Kolla?

::Another tear slid out of the woman�s green eyes as she pulled him close,

burying her nose in his mop of hair, inhaling the comforting scent. For

some reason, young children�s hair almost always smelled good. Another

small tear splashed onto his head as she felt both his concern and his

implicit trust in her. The trust that Belleau had in her mother, the trust

that had almost been lost. Karynn had nearly waited too long. She closed

her eyes. It was ironic that the young child was comforting her - she was

the adult, the one who should be soothing him.::

Karynn: ::quietly:: It�s nothing darling.

:: His slight concerned smile at the corner of his mouth showed that he

believed differently. The young boy slid his arms around her neck and

snuggled closer to her, hugging as tight as he could. As he pulled away, he

kissed her cheek and was content for the moment to sniffle and sit in her

lap stroking her hair.::

Matthew: S�not nuffin� though, is it? Is it beeeecause... ::he thought for a

moment, finger on his lip:: ...you�re the boss now?

::The perception of children never ceased to amaze the Haliian. Somehow

they knew, they always knew. Belleau had known the moment she set foot on

the bridge, the moment Karynn had sent her into the ready room. She pulled

him back slightly to study him.::

Karynn: What makes you say that?

:: The boy�s eyes flashed for a moment with a twinge of sadness as though

he�d said something he shouldn�t have. He looked down at his hands, twisting

together in his lap and his bottom lip wobbled again but he inhaled deeply,

sucking it up, storing it in his strong shoulders and looked his mother in

the green eye again.::

Matthew: Teacher said so when I... ::he sighed and his voice went quiet::

When I said I wanted to see you �cause I was scared and she said I couldn't

�cause you were the boss and busy saving the ship and the peoples and all

the other stuff that the boss has to do like drink tea and things....

:: His voice trailed off and he looked back down at his twisting hands.::

::The Haliian couldn�t help but laugh as she looked down at him, ruffling

his hair with her hand. Was that her job as leader? To drink tea and

things? Despite the internal sorrow she still felt, the young boy�s

comments had lightened the mood. She nodded slightly.::

Karynn: Its because I was the boss for a while. Unfortunately bosses don�t

get to drink tea - at least not most of the time. They have to make

decisions... and sometimes people can get hurt because of those decisions.

I�m sad because that happened. People got hurt because of decisions I made

while I was the boss.

:: His sideways smile occurred again, only this time it was twinned with a

slightly confused and quizzical look. He didn�t know whether or not to ask

the question that was playing around the tip of his tongue, not because he

was afraid of what she would say, but because he wasn�t entirely sure if he

wanted the answer.::

Matthew: When you were the boss... did you �av to make a deecizion to hurt a

little kid? Like me?

::The Haliian thought about the Romulan children on the planet, about

Belleau. An intruder had gotten aboard her ship, and every child had been

at risk, as had their parents.::

Karynn: Would you be hurt if your dad had been in danger?

:: The child blinked. He wondered if she was being serious for a moment then

sniffled again with his runny nose before shrugging his shoulders lightly

and smiling.::

Matthew: Can I has your bedroom if he is? It�s bigger dan mine.

::A quiet chuckle escaped. If there was one thing that amazed the Haliian

more than the perceptiveness of children, it was the resilience that they

had. She shook her head slightly, still smiling.::

Karynn: He�s not... this time. But other children�s parents were. ::she

paused:: And its possible that one day a decision I make will put you or

your dad in danger too.

::Whether or not the child realised the gravity of what his mother was

telling him was another thing entirely. It was almost assured that the boy

knew, he was after all not unobservant and the frequent trips to the �safe

zones� on board with armed escort hadn�t escaped his attention either.

However, he wasn�t without a sense of humour and even in his young age was

still able to alleviate the situation somewhat with a cheeky grin.::

Matthew: Don�t put Dad in danger next to no water. He floats like a brick.

::The Haliian leaned back against the couch, laughing silently again, a

quiet sparkle returning to her eye. As much as she wanted to sit there,

feeling sorry for herself, the boy was pulling her out of it, something she

was very grateful for. He brought levity to the situation, a perspective

that was perhaps only possible through a pre-schooler�s eyes.::

Karynn: I�ll try not to. ::she smiled:: Thanks for the tip.

:: He smiled again, demurely and played with his thumbs in his lap. He

reached up to her hair again as he looked back at her and giggled, to

himself more than his mother but as he twirled her hair around his fingers,

he felt a little more peaceful than before.::

Matthew: Feel better?

::Her own voice echoed in her head, advice she had given someone else.

�Commander... We live and work in a dangerous environment. Its the life

we've chosen to live, and a risk we've chosen to take on. Your being in

command has not, I repeat NOT put us at any more risk. Your ability to think

quickly and give the tough orders have saved us on more than one occasion.

What has happened isn't your fault. Not this time, not any time.� She had

encouraged that first officer, one who had become her close friend, to trust

his instincts and not blame himself after the fact. Could she take her own

advice? For him, knowing what to do in the moment had been easy, natural.

Could she learn to trust that small voice inside her, the one that somehow

knew what to do?::

::On some level she knew she had to. This most likely would not be the last

time that would be tested. Whether she liked it or not, she was finding

herself moving up the ladder. Although the woman had no ambitions herself,

she had found herself in this position, and could likely find herself in

charge again in the future. The Haliian nodded, gently brushing the boy�s

cheek with her hand.::

Karynn: I do. ::pause:: Thank you.

:: He nuzzled his cheek into her hand and brushed his own fingertips down

the length of her face, feeling the bumps on her forehead and then all the

regular human features that were with them. Inwardly, the boy was very

afraid of being left alone and in some small way, Karynn being the boss even

for a short amount of time gave him a bit more comfort. He sniffled again, a

bit too hard and sneezed loudly, shaking his head afterward with a slightly

dazed look in his dark eyes.::

Matthew: S�cuse me. ::he smiled a watery smile:: You feel better about bein�

the boss and drinkin� tea?

Karynn: ::laughing lightly:: Being the boss, yes. I�m not sure I�ll ever

drink tea very often. I prefer coffee.

:: He made a face.:: Matthew: Mud tastes better.

:: He slid down off his step-mother�s lap and back to the floor, onto his

feet and found his toy box in the corner. Rummaging for a second, he walked

back over and placed the model of the Independence-A in her lap. It was now

pretty battered and one of the glass lenses for the port nacelle was

missing.::

Matthew: Federation Man says the greatest oak tree was once a little nut,

like me, who held it�s grownd. It grew bigger and stronger with loadsa

leaves �n made little nuts of it�s own. ::he shrugged:: Maybe da ship is

your oak tree... like you and dad is mine.

::The Haliian smiled, quietly running her finger across the battered

nacelle. The ship, the one that had, in truth, become her home, had been

through a lot - and it had stood its ground despite the odds. She pulled

him back onto her lap with a smile.::

Karynn: Perhaps you�re right. ::laughing gently she spoke quietly:: Wise

beyond your years, you are.

:: He frowned and chuckled, lifting his hands up to the sides of his head.::

Matthew: Rice behind my ears? ::he rolled his eyes:: I grows potatoes in my

ears! Not rice!

::The Haliian laughed, embracing him in a hug.::

Karynn: Ah, potatoes then. ::she paused:: So did you come out hoping for a

story?

:: He giggled again like he�d been caught out sneaking cookies into his

bedroom. He pondered the question for a moment and replied with a

questioning look on his young face.::

Matthew: Where did you grow up? On a ship like me?

::The Haliian shook her head, her dark curls bouncing gently.::

Karynn: No, little one. I grew up on a planet, one far, far away right now,

called Halii...

::Pulling the child close, she quietly described life on her home planet.

Perhaps it wasn�t too different than the life he knew on Earth when he was

there with his Mother. Perhaps Humans and Haliians weren�t all that

different...::

The End

Lt. Cmdr. Karynn Brice

First Officer

USS Independence-A

and

Matthew Brice

as SIMmed by

Lt. Cmdr. Ethan Brice

R&D Engineering Officer

USS Independence-A

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