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Life In Memoriam


Ben Livingston
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The darkness slowly gave way to the pale light of dawn, coupled with the untroubled calls of perching birds. Into this acoustic garden, the heavy grunt of a brawny man’s awakening burst forth, not shattering its beauty so much as giving it purpose.

Hector’s eyes opened to the familiar quarters he had called home since his arrival on Starbase 118 all those years ago. The light panels glowed, slowly intensifying as his eyes adjusted to them. It has taken months to settle on a lighting program to which he wanted to awaken; the audio back then had been news, not birds. But so much had changed
– had changed him – since then. One heavy foot after another landed on the ground as he sat up and filled his lungs with that first deep breath of the morning. Oxygen was again coursing through his arteries, rushing to their destination with fervor of the day.

Moments later he was on his stomach, toes gripping the hard floor and hands pressed flat. He pushed himself up, a gruff exhale commanding his body into its rapid motion. One. Now resting on his outstretched arms, he let his body slowly down again, and repeated the motion. Two. He continued his morning routine, pushing up again, and again, and
again. Twelve. Thirteen. Fourteen. His mind wandered back, as it always did during this ritual, to the off-season with his high school parrises squares team. He was such an old man now, looking back. His time with them, though, was what had pushed him toward enlisting Starfleet to begin with.

“You’ll never win if you’re afraid to get hurt,” Dak had said. Yes, the team captain, always looking out for the safety and morale of the group. But day after day of hearing it had its effect. Eventually Dak wasn’t admonishing “it’s just a scratch” as he rolled his eyes; he was soothing Hector with “the doctor says you’ll only be here a week” as a
tears of guilt rolled from his eyes. But Hector hadn’t minded, once he was out on the field again. He was in the best shape of his life, he felt vibrant, and they had finally started to win. Not just here and there – their team was recognized as a force to be reckoned with.

Seventy-four. Seventy-five. Hector held his position for a few extra seconds, gauging how tired he had become. Time had taken its toll on his body since his days playing parrises squares, but his whole outlook had been changed by it. Physical vitality was critical to a full life, he’d learned. Activity and competition could fill a person with sensations otherwise unimaginable. That love of experience and dynamism was what had brought him together with Karla. So in the end, any injury, any scar he had gotten from the game had been well worth it. His heart held captive by memory, he struggled against the weight as he stood up.

Minutes later, he was stepping out of the sonic shower, and staring at himself in the mirror. There used to be another face beside his, here. Karla’s visage in the glass was as familiar as his own they prepared for the day together. More than that, her playful touches and endearing laughter had been as much a bathroom fixture as the sink. They were things he would never experience again. There had been a time, as he grieved, that Hector had considered programming her voice into the morning alarm. Only as he went through their recordings to find a good clip did he realize that her illness had passed on a disease of his own. Using Karla’s favorite bird calls was as close as
he dared – perhaps as close as was healthy.

Hector shuddered as the memories flooded back. He looked in the mirror; he was the only one there. Everything was normal – it was all as it had been for years now. He stood alone in the bathroom, looking at his face in the mirror. His clean-shaven face – a practice he had meticulously maintained since … well, for as long as he’d lived alone
– revealed the scar under his chin. He scoffed at it.

That was the scar that had given himself shaving for the first time after her death. It had been months since he’d last seen the skin beneath, and they had told him that shaving would be like peeling away the sorrows and allowing himself to move on. Well, he had never missed a day since then; they’d even told him they were impressed by his courage. But they didn’t understand that he had worn that beard as she lay in the biobed. He would never wear it again. That scar was the first step in his healing process.

The wave of remembrance passed as Hector stepped out of the bathroom; the physical reminders of their daily preparations were behind him. His uniform hung, as it always did, beside the wardrobe, waiting to be put on for the day. And yet it struck him in a new way. The pip of the Chief Petty Officer, gleaming as it always did, was not glinting any
differently in the light. The uniform remained clean and crisp, as usual. But something seemed different. It just looked so strange there, hanging empty, with no person inside of it. Hector stood staring at it for minutes on end, trying to decide why it bothered him. Oh. Oh, no … it’s me, he thought. The empty uniform was not just him … it was what he had become. He had filled it once; his career gave him pride, but there was so much more beneath it. That uniform had once been bursting at the seams, trying in vain to contain his
joy, his energy, and all the wonderful days he spent with friends and family. And yet today … today he was getting up and going to the lab. Once there, he would wonder with which junior officer – whether Cody or Orionar or some new face – he would do battle in his crusade to keep the Science labs running as they ought. In the evening, he would have a quiet meal alone, read a few reports, and turn in. This uniform – this shell – was all that was left.

With a sigh, he tenderly took it in his hands and dressed himself with it. Ready for the day, he passed through his quarters toward the door. Next to the exit on a small table was an inverted glass vessel on a base. Within it hung suspended in midair their two wedding rings, clasped eternally together and interlocked as were their souls. He smiled and stayed a moment longer, letting the floating remembrance imprint itself again upon his mind, as it did daily.

-----

Lieutenant Ben Livingston
Assistant Chief Engineer
Starbase 118 Ops

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