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#1 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*
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Posted Star Date 21803.19 @ 14:54 (02:54 PM)

== This is a closed subplot for Grayson, Wueste, and whomever we invite. :) ==


== Current Star Date, Wueste residence, Gettysburg, PA ==


“The truth of it is, that the Beckett launch was what made me realize… I’ve done everything I ever hoped to accomplish and more for Star Fleet and with Star Fleet.”


Thomas sat back in his chair, shrugged slightly, and looked at his friend sitting across from him.  They were on the porch, and the sun was just going down in the distance.


“We’ve both been at this a long time—our adult lives, in fact.  Haven’t you ever wondered if there was something more to life than putting on the uniform, Dan?”


Thomas and Dan had been meeting periodically over the past few years, either at Thomas’ office or at Wueste’s home in Gettysburg, as they were this time.  In fact, coming here had been what had started the ‘bug’ for Thomas to think about retirement.  Sometimes Wueste would invite him out for the weekend, but usually they’d just meet in the evening or on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and chat.


“Maybe I just need a long leave.  At last check I had over four hundred days due me… I mean I could take over a year off.  But as long as I know I can go back—I won’t take it.  Ask Tyra.  I can barely take a weekend away without letting myself get dragged back in.”


Their friendship was an odd one considering how it started.  They had been ‘adversaries’ and had only had very little contact before the crisis had come to a head.  In fact, while Thomas knew who Dan Wueste was, he didn’t know the man at all before their conflict started.  So, his first impressions were all built around that period of time when Wueste, quite literally, was not himself.


Following the near civil-war of the Federation, the two had talked at length, to learn how things had got so bad.  Some of this was through the hearings that had been held.  At first, that’s all it was.  But after that it had turned into something more.  And Thomas now considered Dan to be one of his closest friends.  Probably his closest confidant, other than Tyra of course.


“It’s not I don’t have other options.  I’ve been shopped for a decade by some of the largest and most prestigious think-tanks in the known galaxy.  If that’s what I wanted, I could literally name my price.”


“But that’s not retirement.  I’m thinking, buy a small private home, maybe here on Earth.  Maybe on Delta.  Or Mars.  Or Luna.  Probably not Delta—Tyra’s not a big fan of certain aspects of society there, and truth be told, neither am I.”


Thomas stood, pacing as he often did when he was thinking.  He stopped, looking off into the distance.


“A nice quiet house, where we can raise our family.  Tyra will probably deliver while out there—” he motioned toward the sky “—but I hope to get her home and settled after that.  Maybe someone I know in SFSECCOM can pull some strings and get her a desk.  But I’m ready to retire.”


He sounded a lot like he was convincing himself.  He nodded a few times.


“Maybe I’ll take up golf.  I hear you can hit a ball a full kilometer on Mars if you hit it right.”


He’d never golfed a game in his life.


“Or I could start a garden…”


Even he burst out laughing at that one… Thomas Grayson in the dirt was about as likely as a Ferengi engaging in philanthropy.


He looked to Wueste, more serious now, as he sat back down.


“Haven’t I done enough for the Federation?  Don’t I deserve this?”


== Tag Wueste.  I took a minor liberty or two about the residence—hopefully not too far off.  Correct as you see fit. ==

#2 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21803.21 @ 22:01 (10:01 PM)

Dan rocked slowly in his chair as he listened to Grayson.  The dynamic had, during the earliest period of their friendship, been mostly reversed.  After the ordeal with the neural parasites, Dan had felt a need to talk.  Partially to sort out everything that had happened, partially to help sort out the tattered bits of his memory, but mostly because the parasites had robbed him of his voice for so long.  He had been barely an observer to his own life throughout his infection and, as the hearings and investigations wound down, he had still felt that need to re-establish his own voice.  It had been, in its way, therapeutic and Thomas had been the kindest and most understanding of listeners.  Their discussions had begun because the inquiries had required it, they had continued because the two of them were among the only people with the clearance to openly discuss what had happened with one another.  Now, it was more than that, they were literally the only two men in the galaxy able to truly relate to and understand the others experience. They continued to talk now because those discussions had led to a deep and real friendship.


So, on nights like this, it seemed only fair that Dan do the listening.  Besides, he was grateful for the company.  It could get lonely out here at the house.  The home was modest, but obviously too large for just one person.  It had been built shortly after his wedding, when the promise of growing old with a companion, perhaps even raising children, had seemed all but certain.  The home had been designed for a life that had not been meant to be, for a future that never was.  It had taken him years to finally come to terms with what the home actually was, rather than what he had dreamed it to be.  The structures minimal footprint was out of necessary, for building space was limited in the greater Adams County area out of respect for the Federation recognized historical and cultural significance of the battlefield and what remained of the Eisenhower Farm and old town.


From the front porch it was only a short walk to the Round Tops, the high-water mark, and several other key areas of the battlefield.  Truthfully he could walk to almost any area, though the town and the site of the old seminary were faster to reach by ground transport.  It was all very peaceful and, as the sun started to set below the ridges, an undeniably relaxing atmosphere.


He'd given up his office space and quarters on Alpha when he'd stepped down from Fleet Command.  He could arrange VIP quarters almost anywhere at the drop of a hat, but it rarely felt necessary.  He had a small office in San Francisco, but he rarely had any use for it.  He took whatever assignments were offered, he went where he needed, and the rest of the time he simply came home.


Grayson returned to his chair, “Haven’t I done enough for the Federation?  Don’t I deserve this?”


Dan's response came quickly, "Of course you have, Thomas.  Of course you have, we both have."


He paused to sort through his next words.


"You've earned a chance to do anything you want with the rest of your life.  Lord knows, I've pondered walking away from the Service more times than I can count.  The difference between us is that you have a family to build a new life with, while Star Fleet is all I have left.  That's as much my fault as it is any symptom of circumstances beyond my control.   Star Fleet is better for your continued service, but we've reached a point where it will go on just fine without either of us.  If there's something else you want, beyond what Star Fleet is able to give you, then I say take it.  You don't owe the galaxy a thing, frankly, at this point, I'd say the galaxy owes you one."


Dan leaned deeper into his chair and laughed.


"I swear though, Thomas, if you quit just to start a garden, I will personally see to the creation of a crisis that demands the use of the reserve activation clause to get you back to something more befitting of your talents. For the sake of the plants, if not your own sanity."

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#3 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*
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Posted Star Date 21803.22 @ 17:52 (05:52 PM)

Thomas had to laugh at this last.


“I guess, then, that you’ll have to check in on me periodically to make sure I haven’t become a farmer.”


He sat, silently for several minutes.  The conversation, as it had so many times before, made him think of the past.


“You know, you and I are really the only ones that understand what happened,” he said.  “We can explain it to the others a billion times, but they can’t understand it.  You, with the infection—hell I don’t even fully understand that.  But when I was infected… and my hybrid nature reacted to it…”


He shook his head.


“You’re damned right we’ve both more than enough!” he spat.  “The galaxy doesn’t owe me one, Dan.  The galaxy owes us both a dozen.”


He set his glass down.


“We cam so close to blowing it—both of us.  One misstep by either of us and how many would have died?”


He shook his head.  “How many have already died because of strategic plans I put forth.  Sure, they were all for the greater good, or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.”


Another pause as he thought.


“But the genocide of the Krynar.  I mean at the core that was my plan.  It was my job—it was my goal—to do whatever it took to remove the Krynar threat.  Kill their offensive capability by taking out their core system’s military assets.  Use their own mastery of gravitics against them.”


“I can sit here and tell everyone, myself included, that I had no way to know it would create a cascade like that.  But I did know it was possible, Dan.”


Thomas picked up his glass, took another drink, and set it down.


“I need to retire, for the good of the Federation, of the galaxy.  I should have stepped down—or been thrown out—after that.”


Now he chuckled. “And if I had, you and all of your bug drones…”


He shook his head.  “It’s like fate plays a ******* balancing game with us, isn’t it?   We’re just pawns.”


Thomas Grayson never used curse words.  He could count the number of times he had.


“No, no gardening.  I’d just kill a few species of plants, then.”


Thomas nodded, as he reached decision.


“I’m submitting my retirement tomorrow,” he said.  “I’ve had it written for two years.  Just tweak a few words and change the date.  I’ll give them a month’s notice.”

#4 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21803.23 @ 02:04 (02:04 AM)

He wasn't remotely surprised that Thomas had been sitting on a resignation letter for the last two years.  It was remarkably common among those who had reached their level.  Dan had written his decades ago, though it was long since outdated and would have needed work to bring it up to anything that made sense today.  He had begun updating it after the destruction of the bugs, but his work with some colleagues, Grayson in particular, had prompted him to shelve it.


Finishing the last of the bourbon in his glass, Dan stood, walked over to the bar, pondered switching to something lighter, gin perhaps, before settling on the same bottle of bourbon he'd poured from earlier and refreshing his glass with it.


"Pawns? No, I don't think so.  We've been used, gods know we've been used as conduits for great... evil, but pawns? When a career spans as many years as ours have, a lot of good gets done on our say so, but the opportunity for bad is always there.  Sometimes we've been influenced by forces outside of our control, but, sometimes its just because good intentions aren't always enough to ensure the result is as pure as the rationale that led us to the action.  Aside from perhaps Picard after his experience with the Borg, or Command after the first invasion by the neural parasites, who can truly relate to what we've been through? No one, I think.  We were used, in different, but equally destructive ways, and we weren't pawns.  To be a pawn would imply some level of recognition of what was happening around us, but we were robbed of even that."


He returned to his seat, collapsed into it.


"This house is empty, Thomas, because of decisions I made when I was under full control of my faculties.  When career aspirations still meant something.  I've worked my way up from a midshipman to the highest ranks of Star Fleet and let me tell you, I've come to one inescapable conclusion, after all these years, after all I've done, the universe would have gone on just fine if I'd never existed in it.  That's not to say that I haven't had my impact, but just to recognize that nothing I've done was so singularly unique that it couldn't have been done by someone, anyone else.  The same can't be said for you, and I'll be damned if I'd just casually sit back here and let you write-off all of the good you've done.  You have literally saved the universe as we know it, that can't be so easily dismissed. Just look at where we are, think of the things that were done here.  There's a reason I built my home here, a reason I lobbied to commission a Battle Cruiser named in this place's honor.  As the Abraham Lincoln quote I picked for Gettysburg's dedication says, 'the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.' We may be fleeting, our existences temporary, Thomas, but the influence you, and those following your example, have had on the galaxy can't be forgotten."


Dan sighed as he downed his refill.


"So, if the time has come for you to retire, then so be it, but don't do it out of some sort of misguided notion of what is best for the Federation, do it for yourself, do it for your family.  You've earned the right to be selfish for the first time in your life, you've earned the opportunity to do what is best for you, without thinking about some greater good.  I hope you'll find a way to stick around the sector though, I'm old enough to recognize that my life today would be something less without you in it and to know that I'd regret losing these opportunities for face-to-face conversation if distance were to preclude them."

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#5 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21803.23 @ 20:51 (08:51 PM)

“Of course,” said Thomas, “that brings up the other problem.”


He sat there for a few moments.  “Tyra is still commanding your Gettysburg.”  He gave his crooked smile.  “Kind of ironic, considering the situation when she assumed command of it.”


He laughed, shaking his head.  Got up, helped himself to some of the bourbon—he and Dan were well past the point where when visiting the other they expected the other to serve them.


As he sat he took a sip.  Bourbon.  He didn’t hate it.  He didn’t love it.


“I have to be somewhere that she can easily visit on leave.  And her ship is based out of Bravo.  I mean she’s pregnant, and despite all of the other complications that presents for a couple in Star Fleet, now if I retire and she’s galivanting around the galaxy it means either I’m Mr Mom, or I don’t see either of them for months on end.  It’s been hard enough for us…”


He drank more than a sip this time.


“I could retire to Delta,” he said.  “But I suspect Tyra would be upset.  She’s not exactly in line with much of the Deltan culture.  Neither am I, to be honest.”


“I could take up station on Bravo, maybe spend my days crocheting and sitting in a rocking chair.”


He laughed at himself at this.


“No… I’ll probably stay in-system here.  Maybe I can get a job as a consultant—I sure as hell will get bored being retired after a few months.”


Finishing his glass of bourbon, he shrugged.


“Or I could ride the Gettysburg with Tyra.  I mean, she could have a civilian husband aboard.  I wonder how long that would last before I tried to meddle in ship’s business and she threw me out the nearest airlock?”

#6 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21803.24 @ 03:54 (03:54 AM)

"I could come with, all we'd need was a shuttle and we could solve crime on the side like a couple of regular Dixon Hills or Mike Hammers..."


He laughed at that thought.  The idea was ludicrous.  Dan could only imagine how Thomas' wife would react to the notion.  Truth be told, he didn't know her well enough to guess.


His thoughts momentarily looped back to something Grayson had said earlier, "She's not my Gettysburg, at least not anymore, not after what the bugs did..."


Dan shrugged off the rest of that thought by getting himself another refill on his beverage.


"You know, I never enjoy bourbon as much as I think I'm going to.  I like the idea of it, the history of it, I think more than I do the actual experience of drinking it."


He downed a portion of the newly poured glass full.


"Though, I must admit, this is a pretty good bottle."


The sun was now almost completely below the horizon line and the artificial lighting of the porch had kicked in.


"I'd offer to put in a good word with some of my system contacts.  After so many years as 1st Fleet Commander, I certainly know a number of individuals who would likely jump at getting a civilian advisor like you, but I'm afraid my recommendations don't exactly carry much sway these days.  It would probably do you better for me to keep my mouth shut.  That said, I'd be happy to help you brainstorm ideas anytime it might be helpful. And you know, if you find something appealing and you need a staff, just give me a buzz, I can think of worse things than retiring to serve as your social secretary."

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#7 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21803.25 @ 16:58 (04:58 PM)

“I don’t see myself needing a social secretary, Dan,” Thomas said with a grin.  “But, if you ever get tired of the uniform, maybe we could work together.  Built a consulting firm or something.  There are many private, and perhaps a few governmental, entities that would benefit greatly from the advice of a couple of guys with our background.”


He got up, poured himself more of the bourbon.  He was well on his way to a ‘buzz’ by the time he sat down and had drank another half of the glass.  He didn’t bring the bottle over because as long as he had to stand up to get more, he figured he’d keep himself under control.


Thomas sat back, looked around.  “You could do a hell of a lot worse than just retiring here, though,” said Thomas.  “Reminds me of Tyra’s parents’ place.  Or of the home I grew up in, down in North Carolina.  Quiet.  Nice.”


He took another drink—they were not sips anymore.


“Delta’s definitely out,” he muttered.  “That pretty much leaves living on or near Bravo, which I think is a non-starter. If I’m on that base, I’ll be in Ristone’s way—even if I am retired.  I was his boss for too long… it would create conflict.  Even if we never admitted it.”


He sighed.  “I think I should stay in system,” he muttered.  “I need to figure out where, and buy a home, and then file my papers with Star Fleet.”


“I’ve never done anything in my life without a plan… perhaps other than those aspects of my life involving Tyra.  No reason to start now.”


He finished another glass.  “You know, it’s not too bad.  The more you drink it, the more you like it.”


He got to his feet.  A bit unsteadily, and this time he brought the bottle back and set it on the small end table between the two men.  Topped off both glasses.

#8 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21803.26 @ 22:38 (10:38 PM)

It was gratifying to hear Thomas compliment the house.  Dan wasn't entirely sure why, he'd 'owned' it for years, built it to spec.  He didn't need anyone to say anything nice about it to recognize the inherent value represented by it.  All the same, he didn't have many people over these days, most of his friends were operating on the other side of the quadrant, retired to some far corner of the Federation, otherwise busy, or... gone.


It's nice to know I can still function as a host.  


Playing host was, partially, the purpose for which the home had been intended.  He'd taken inspiration from the Eisenhower Farm and how that former United States' President had used it to bring a sense of ease to diplomatic efforts with other world leaders.


The good news was that it was sounding increasingly likely that Grayson might be staying within a short shuttle rides distance.  If the idea became reality, it would be a huge boon for Dan's sanity.  He'd seen colleagues put out to pasture over the course of his career, but he'd never fully appreciated the sense of emptiness that came with the reality that no one really needed him anymore.  Dan was too proud to resign or otherwise retire, at least, for the moment.  To do so still felt like a recognition that 'they,' whoever 'they' were, had been right to push him aside.  Somehow moving on still seemed like an acknowledgement that, after the bug conspiracy there was no longer a place for him at the table, no longer a need for him to even show up to the party.


Dan was having a hard time sorting through the thoughts racing back and forth in his head.  It was either the lingering after effects of his recovery, a sign of his age and the complexity of the situation, or the whiskey.


Hell, why not all three?


Thomas brought the bottle back over to them and refreshed both of their glasses.  It was a welcome sign that the evening wasn't over yet.


"You're welcome to use a room here until you get it all sorted out.  I've got 4 bedrooms, plenty of common space, and a kitchen designed to impress the visiting dignitaries I never got around to showing the place too.  You and Tyra could take over half the house and I'd probably never notice."


He downed another portion of the amber liquid.


"Just give it some thought.  Never hurts to have a base of operations while you get yourself settled.  And I'm not saying I'll be offended if you turn me down, but..."


He laughed, "Obviously, I understand that you'll do whatever you end up thinking best.  You always do."


Sinking further back into his seat, he let out an audible sigh.


"If we're being honest here, the Beckett's launch has thrown me for a bit of a loop too.  Looking out at that crowd, so many of them members of Beckett's crew, and seeing a sea of eyes staring back at me, all younger than I can ever remember being.  I looked at them and realized that when I was where they are now, most of them weren't even a glimmer in their parent's eyes.  I'd be willing to wager that I was a Captain before most of them were born.  How the hell does that make any sense? I remember talking to Jon Beckett, like you and I are now, and now he has a ship named after him? That's one heck of a legacy for a man I still can't believe has been long retired to private life."


He finished the contents of his glass, refilled it.


"Did you read the engineering logs on that thing? The warp cores are named after Matt Thrawn.  We came out of the Academy around the same time, I remember being a midshipman with that man, he was on the Forge, I was on the Yori, we worked together to recover the Pulsar from Kwalin.  It doesn't feel like that long ago, yet, here we are.  We've reached a point where all I can think about is legacy.  I keep coming back to it.  You can retire tomorrow and the textbooks will be instantly updated to teach the Life and Times of Thomas Grayson.  I came into the service so full of drive and ambition and now, having reached the pinnacle of success, I can't help but wonder what the hell it was all for?"


Despite the tone of some of his words, it was clear that Dan wasn't upset.  The statements didn't come from a place of anger or even frustration.  It was as if the sum total of his life had suddenly come upon him, climbed up on his shoulders, and left him tired, worn down, and yet somehow lost.


"I guess I'm just looking for meaning, Thomas, some sense of what it was all for.  I know the things I've done, good and bad, the lives I'm impacted, but it all just feels like stories, whose meaning has been lost to time."



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#9 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21803.30 @ 00:12 (12:12 AM)

The offer of using the house as a base of operations was attractive.  But Thomas was concerned that if he did that, he might never do anything else.  It would be very easy to fall into a comfortable routine, camping out in Gettysburg, doing the odd consulting job here or there, and running off to Bravo between Tyra’s missions to see her.

It would be easy.


Too easy.


The conversation was making Thomas realize his age.  And yet, Malone was almost his age.  And had been in the fleet just as long.  And Malone was just getting his first command.


Does that mean he’s stagnant or that I just did too much too early and made myself obsolete before my time?


Neither, was the answer.  All three men, Malone, Dan, and Thomas, had followed very different paths.  Thomas, for example, never really liked commanding a ship.  He wondered how his life would have been different if he’d never done so.


I’d have never met Tyra.  A lot would be different.


“I never actually met Admiral Thrawn in the flesh,” said Thomas.  “I mean personally.  We’ve attended events together, of course.”


Dan went on to talk about his own career, and this is when Thomas shook his head.


“We’ve all played our part, Dan.  We’ve all done what we were meant to do.”


He emptied another glass and didn’t even hesitate to pour more.  The bottle was getting low, and he looked at where the others stood.  I sure as hell can’t walk over there for another one without breaking something.


“You have had a much bigger impact on things than I suspect you realize,” he muttered.  “What will they say in the history texts about me?  ‘The man who developed the plan that defeated the Krynar.’  Or the other textbooks.  ‘The man who planned the Krynar genocide.’”


Thomas looked into his glass, drank a bit more.  Stared into it for what seemed a long time.


“I was sitting in rooms planning things while you were out there doing them.  The Borg invasion.  The Romulan wars.  The fight with the Klingons.  I never saw most of that.  Not the way you did.  Not the way many of our peers did.”


He paused.  “Did you hear about Derrick Grant?” he asked.


“Word has it he’s gone right off the deep end.  I’m talking the former Admiral, not the Captain.  Admiral Derrick Grant, retired, or Ambassador Grant, retired.  Went and disappeared for a few years, turned up with some terrorists apparently.  Whole case is so black that all I know is he’s been remanded to custody.  Heck, even your friend Scott over at SECCOM didn’t know anything.  Apparently, Intel and Special Forces have him.  A few rumors I heard said he had literally gone insane.  Thought he was working for the greater good and tried to bust into some secret facility and steal some tech.  Somewhere in the Vulcan system of all places—everyone knows that Intel wouldn’t hide something important in one of the core systems.”


He shook his head.


“So, I guess compared to that legacy, we’re not so bad after all.”


His glass was nearing empty again and he didn’t care.

#10 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21804.02 @ 22:13 (10:13 PM)

Listening to Grayson, Dan couldn't help but be reminded of their age difference.  Dan was 11 years Grayson's senior and the more they drank, the more he felt the difference.  It was perhaps fate that had brought them to this similar point in their careers at the same time.


If it was fate, Dan was thankful for it.


"The Krynar were an existential threat to our very existence." He tripped over the redundancy.  Decided he didn't care, the point was made.


He finished the rest of his glass.  Briefly considered getting another bottle out, before deciding to at least temporarily table the idea.


"You did what had to be done. I'm still trying to piece together all the memories from my experience with the bugs, I know they struck first, I know that when they attacked the Krynar, millennia ago, that the Krynar were much as we are today.  I know that the 'enlightenment' weapon the Krynar developed was intended as a means to neutralize the control the bugs had over infected humanoids.  I think it was the bugs takeover of Star Fleet that drew the Krynar to us in the first place.  I can't prove that, but it somehow feels right.  It doesn't matter though, their encounter with the neural parasites changed the Krynar, of that I have no doubt.  They didn't care who or what stood in their way to stop the bugs anymore and absorbing worlds and entire civilizations into their Confederacy had become their de facto method of purging an infection from the bugs.  The Krynar would have destroyed everything we are, everything we ever were, to kill the bugs.  That was a cure every bit as bad as the infection itself.  We had no choice but to stop them both and while the bugs were calculating and methodical, which meant there was time, the Krynar were not.  I think if we hadn't struck first..."


Dan trailed off.  It was the first time he had ever really connected all of the dots in his head and the level of alcohol he had consumed fit better with blurting out every thought than it did with committing the details to rational internal analysis.


Grayson was right though, Dan had been on the front lines of so many of the Federation's most important moments.  He wasn't sure that he agreed with Grayson's interpretation of his impact, but of the basic facts, Thomas was, as usual, exactly right.  Dan had spent many years commanding starships, the Forge, the Getty, the Dauntless, Pulsar, and he still wasn't sure if he had been good at it on any of them.  He hadn't been ready for the administrative role of Fleet Command when he'd been assigned to help oversee the 3rd Fleet, but he had been ready when he'd been assigned to the 1st Fleet.  He had felt good at that, but how much of that work was his? How much was the creature that had controlled him?  The initial point of infection had yet to be determined, but it had occurred many years before anyone ever suspected something.


He listened to Thomas described Grant's situation and shook his head in recognition of what Grayson was describing.


"Between you and me, Thomas, I think that might be my fault too.  I'm pretty confident Grant was infected.  I think the parasite in me had sent him off on some far-flung mission at the time I was captured and the creature purged.  I think the stress of the experience pushed him over the edge.  Derrick was always riding right along that edge, I think this tipped him right on over.  He's not the only one, there are others who were working for the bugs that I can't account for since the infection was eliminated."


Dan was making excuses for a man who might just be insane of his own accord.


He couldn't help but laugh at that.


"You know, Thomas, if one thing has become clear, it's that you and I are far harder on ourselves, than we are on others.  I suppose that isn't such a bad thing, but I find myself always looking for an explanation with the actions of others, while, when it comes to my own actions, the internal judgement always seems far more damning.  I guess it's a good thing we have each other, it's good to have someone else to remind us of the best of ourselves."

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#11 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.03 @ 17:02 (05:02 PM)

Bourbon.  It was definitely something Thomas hadn’t had much of before.  And it was definitely having an impact on him.


I am half tempted to just leave here and shuttle right off to finding a new home… screw going back to HQ for another month or so for ‘transition’ time for someone else.


“What you’ve said is true, Dan.  And I doubt there is anyone else who can see it the way we do.”


I remember when he was calling me the man who caused the genocide.  And now this.  It was those ******* bugs.


The sun was down now, and darkness was filling the rural landscape around them.  Even the lights of the house and porch were dim enough to let the shadows overtake much of the area around them.


“I remember a time when I couldn’t have sat here without security either right here with us or just out of sight, watching.  We came so close to destroying ourselves.  We can’t let that happen again.”


Thomas came back from the distant look that had overtaken him.


“I think one thing we can agree on, is that Grant was always somewhat a loose cannon.  He had strong leadership, but he never applied it with rationality.  I think his heart was in the right place.”


And now here we are, talking about him like he’s dead.  Time to change the subject.


“Well, it’s another election year.  I haven’t seen any strong contenders come up to challenge the Barnett-Gavoath ticket.  Barnett seems like a pretty level guy, but I’m glad to see someone more aggressive next to him.  I feel like Gavoath has the teeth that Barnett doesn’t show if he has them.”


He looked at his friend.


“You know, you should run.  It’s been a long time since someone with fleet ties has gotten up to that level.  And publicly you’ve got a clean record—that of a war hero several times over.  I bet you’d have half a shot at winning.  I mean after Beckett came Prenn—and he was no prize.  And now Barnett.  It would be very interesting to see someone with your background get back to the Presidency.  Someone who understands the uniform and what it means...”

#12 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21804.06 @ 01:13 (01:13 AM)

"...We can’t let that happen again.” Grayson said, finishing a thought.


Dan nodded, "I'll drink to that."


He picked up his glass, remembered it was empty.


"Well, I should I say, I would drink to that."


He laughed, though he meant the sentiment sincerely.  They had a duty to figure out a way, any way, to prevent this part of their history from ever repeating itself.


They quickly moved passed discussing Grant.  It was for the best.  For now, knowing what little they did about his situation, the topic could only be a sad one.  


What a waste of such talent.


"I can't say I disagree about Barnett and Gavoath.  I think they make a functional team, though I'm not sure Gavoath is half as smart as he clearly believes himself to be."


He'd have done a spit take at Thomas' next statement, if he'd had the drink left to do it.


Damn... I should have just gotten another bottle out when I had the chance.  


It was for the best.  The jocularity of his inner monologue was perhaps proof enough that he'd had his fill of real alcohol for the moment.


"I watched what the Presidency did to Jon, what political service did to Ray Gage, I don't know, I'm not sure I have the stomach for it.  Even after everything we've been through, we're still Admirals, our positions engender a certain level of respect, our words still carry authority.  I'm not sure how I'd handle having to focus group everything before I could say it.  You on the other hand, I think you could offer the people a lot.  I can see it now 'Town Manager Thomas Grayson.'  Has quite a ring to it.  Think of the office hours."

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#13 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.06 @ 14:34 (02:34 PM)

Thomas shook his head.


“I can’t see anyone electing me after the past few years.  You got the short end on what those things did to you, but I got the bad press out of it.  Not your fault… just the way things flow.”


He set down his now empty glass.  Thought about standing.  Thought better of it.


“I doubt I could get elected dog catcher, much less President.”


He shook his head again.


“Besides… If I did that, I might make you start working for a living again, Dan.”


Thomas sat for a long time, just thinking… or trying to... Bourbon, wonderful stuff.


“With my creds, I’ll probably end up in a think tank somewhere.  Little known fact—I got my doctorate in Strategic Resource Management and Allocation, a very long time ago, Dan.  That means that once I retire, I’m Doctor Grayson.”


He looked like he wanted to spit.


“I’m not sure which is worse, being called Admiral, or Doctor.”  A moment of thought.  “No, I know what would be worse.  Being called President.  Nc sir.  Not for a billion credits.”


Thomas pushed himself up out of the chair.  Am I gaining weight?  No, you’re just drunk.


He stood, somewhat unsteadily.  206 centimeters suddenly seemed like a long way to fall.


“Tomorrow.  I’m going to march down to Vice Admiral Braggins’ office—he’s TACCOM at the moment—and tell him I’m done.  I’ll work out the rest of the month.  And then I’ve got about two-hundred days of paid leave coming, so I’ll take a nice vacation—maybe get Tyra to take a few months with the new baby and all.  And then we’ll see where things go.”


He looked down at his friend.  “I’ve never worked without a plan before… never worked without the safety net of Star Fleet.  Not since I was sixteen.”


He took a step... well not quite, more of a half-step half-stumble.


"I should go home, sleep this off.  I suspect I'll regret this drinking tomorrow.  I'll go show up at Braggins' office sporting a great hangover, and hand in my papers..."

#14 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21804.07 @ 17:27 (05:27 PM)

Working for a living again?


He laughed.


"I'm telling you Dr. Grayson, I take orders really well, so feel free to ring me up any time if you need someone foolish enough to follow you into the private sector."


Dan watched as Thomas tried to stand.  He considered helping, moved to stand, but instead caught himself in the same struggle Grayson was now working his way through.


I can't remember the last time I drank this much? Maybe the last time Thomas was over?


If anyone had told him even just 5 years ago that he and Thomas Grayson would be not just drinking buddies, but good friends, he'd have dismissed the thought out of hand.


My how times have changed.


"I'd pay money to see Paul's response to that.  Not just because your retirement will be a major loss for the service, but because he's still so new to the Vice Admiral rank that I'm not sure he'll know what to do with a full Admiral resigning to him.  If you're not careful, he might just go blow up a star system to work out the frustration."


He could see the resolute uncertainty in Grayson's eyes.  It was a big decision.  Right as it might be, big decisions were not easy decisions.  This life was all either man had known for the majority of their lives.  Walking away wasn't easy.


"If anyone can make a new life outside of the service work, Thomas, I know it's you.  Dare I say that I think you could probably make anything work if you set your mind to it.  Just don't forget to get a holo-image of Braggins' face when you stumble in tomorrow and hand him your walking papers.  I'd like to frame his expression and put it over my mantle."


Finally standing now, he shuffled over to Grayson, put his a hand on his friend's shoulder.


"Sleep is a good plan. Be safe, my friend. You know how to find me if you need anything."  

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#15 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.09 @ 14:18 (02:18 PM)

“Thank you, Dan,” said Thomas.  “And the next time you call me Doctor Grayson, I might knock you on your god damned ***.”


With that, he reached into his pocket, pulled out his personal COMM, and ordered a site-to-site transport to his home.


One of the advantages of not only our wonderful technology, but also my rank and position—which I will soon lose—no need to get a ride home.


“Have a good night.  I’ll be in touch.”

And then the annular confinement beam snatched him, and he was vaporized.


== The next morning, Star Fleet Headquarters ==


It just so happened that the next day was the weekly staff meeting at TACCOM, of which STRATOPS was a sub-department.  The meeting went as expected, until it came time for Thomas to discuss his department’s position.


He stood, and at six-foot nine he was literally towering over everyone who was sitting.  Some of them were here in holo-shimmering slightly not because of a lack of technology, but because it was designed to do so, so that those present would KNOW that they were holograms.


“Everything is going smoothly, and quietly.  We have no major operations under way.”  He smiled.  Only a few here knew him well enough to see that he looked a bit under the weather.  Maybe one or two would suspect the reason—bourbon.


“In fact, they’ve been this way for quite some time now, and from the information we are getting from Intel and other field divisions, it likely will stay that way for quite a while.”


He looked around the room.  These people were colleagues, and many were friends.  Some had been for a decade or more.


“Several of you know that the events of the past several years have resulted in many changes in my life, both personally and professionally.  Moving from here to the Nova, then to Delta to command the Fourth, through the Krynar invasion and then the fallout after that.  Leading into the conflict which I was at least half-responsible for within our own ranks.


“You also know that Star Fleet has been my life since I was sixteen, and that my wife is about to give birth to our first child.”


Looks from around the table seemed to be getting where he was going, and Thomas smiled.


“A few of you know that I’ve been considering all of this lately, in the view of my future.”


He turned to TACCOM, sitting at the head of the table.  “Paul, you’ve been great to work with—as all of you have.  And I’ll miss being in these meetings every week, in working close with several of you more often than that.”


“But it’s time to let the next generation step up.  I’ve got two-hundred and three days of leave coming to me, and I’ve decided to take them to be with my family.  I’ll be taking this leave starting on Friday.  In the next four days I’ll tie up loose ends and get my 2-IC up to speed.”


He looked around the room.  “Following my leave expiring, I will be retiring, effective that star date.  For the next few weeks I’ll still be available if anyone has any questions but following that I’m looking forward to moving on with my life in the private sector.”


With that, he handed a PADD to TACCOM.  “Paul, this is my official notice that I am surrendering all duties forthwith, effective Star Date 21804.13.  It’s been a pleasure working with you, and I hope we can all maintain our friendships.”


With that, Thomas sat down, looking like he was halfway between immense relief and immense grief over some great loss.


== Tag Braggins if you want ==

#16 VAdm Paul Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21804.09 @ 16:55 (04:55 PM)

As usual, Paul was only half-listening to this week's Tactical briefing; most of it was routine and procedural, and varied only slightly week-by-week; a patrol route change was usually the biggest headache had to deal with, and he had people specially trained to determine what routes required what classes of starships as a priority. Grayson's reports were equally as standard for the most part, though from the day Paul had accepted being shanghaied into taking his new position, it looked as though the man had lost his love for the position he had been promoted back into following the bug infestation at Star Fleet Command. Though his delivery was as clear and concise as usual, Paul knew the lingering effects of a hangover when he saw them, and the artificial eye under the patch on the right side of his face detected signs of dehydration and fatigue in the older Admiral's system.


He's been at this game day-in, day-out for too long. He's never even taken more than a week or two's leave at a time, no wonder he's burning himself out.


Paul was mildly surprised when Grayson announced his immediate intent to retire following the spending of his accumulated leave, but simply continued to watch the older Admiral with an intent expression on his scarred face while he finished and lowered himself back into his seat. With one hand, the gloved and artificial left hand for the keen-eyed, Paul reached and took the PADD from Grayson and studied it for a moment, not actually looking at the words but simply appreciating the symbolism for a moment.


"If everyone could please give us the room, this meeting is adjourned until further notice."


As the holograms winked out and the subdirectors, including Mackenzie who looked at Grayson with a worried expression, all departed, Paul placed the PADD on the table and leaned back in his chair with a heavy sigh. For a moment he stared at a fixed point on the ceiling, as if contemplating what to say to a man one rank senior to him with fifteen years more experience. With a grunt as aching joints protested, Paul resumed sitting upright and leaned forward so his folded arms rested on the table. This visibly was the most attention he had paid at any point in any briefing so far, and his one good eye fixed Grayson, noting the look of triumph, relief and despair on his face.


"Well, I can't say this was what I was expecting from today's report, but I also can't say I'm surprised."


Paul tapped the PADD with his artificial index finger, and span it several times on the table while he mustered his thoughts.


"By rights, I should probably reject or misfile this until I am certain your replacement meets my standards. I'm not going to, because I think in retaliation you'll just get yourself suspended with pay until my term in this chair is up and hand this exact same PADD to my replacement, but before I put my thumbprint on this, I want you to cut the bulls**t."


Paul sat up straighter in his chair, arms still folded.


"You and I both know this has nothing to do with starting a family. Everyone in this room has a family, my wife was sitting four seats down from you. I understand that you want to prioritise family life, but I am also well aware you aren't going to demand Captain Crawford gives up the Gettysburg to a totally new command team if the rumours about Commander Simmons' impending promotion are correct, just because you want to play happy families. So I'd like you to explain to me in your own words, verbally not through text, why one of Star Fleet's greatest strategists has decided to call it quits seemingly on a whim after forty years of exemplary service. I get why you want to quit, I really do; if I'd been scapegoated by Command for all the crap in the past five years, I'd walk away as well! You went from being considered Star Fleet's greatest rising star to being compared to raving lunatics like Matt Decker or Garth of Izar, and your transfer to Strategic Operations was a move to keep you out of the public eye and away from situations where you could command fleets ever again; you should have been being groomed to be the next Commander-in-Chief, and yet you've been sidelined."


Paul paused to give Grayson a chance to process what he'd just said.


"Am I on the right track, or are you really walking away to focus on midnight feedings and diaper changes?"

#17 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.09 @ 18:09 (06:09 PM)

Thomas’ trademark somewhat sarcastic crooked grin spread across his face as Paul talked, and he gave a very soft chuckle at the mention of getting Tyra to quit.  It would never happen… as much as he’d like it to.


Grayson had started to get up, but now sat in the seat closest to Vice Admiral Braggins.


“No,” he said.  “When it comes down to it, you’re on the completely wrong track, Admiral.  I mean, sure I’ve got screwed in a few ways, but that’s life.”  Thomas visibly shrugged at this.  “Honestly, I’m not sure I’d have wanted C-in-C anymore than I wanted command of Nova years ago, or 4FC Command.  The place I’ve always been happiest, professionally, is right here at StratOps.”


He paused a few moments.


“I’m tired, Admiral,” he said.  “I’ve been at this for, as you just pointed out, over four decades.  I think I’ve earned retirement.  And no, I’m not going to change diapers.  At least not those kinds.”


That slight grin reappeared.


“I’ve got a few offers to keep me entertained,” he commented.  “At least for now.”


He sat there for a few minutes.  “You know, twelve hours ago I was going to come in here, slam that thing down onto your desk, and tell you where you could stuff all of Star Fleet.  Nothing personal, Admiral, but I’ve just had enough.  Hell, even Dan Wueste is reaching the end of his line, I think.”


“You said it yourself… you’re part of the younger newer Star Fleet.  The future.  I’m the past.  Just an old dinosaur.  It’s time that us old men make room for the next generation.”


He paused again, shrugged.


“I think I realized it last month when we were all at that launch of the new Beckett class.  She’s a beauty, and the future.  Even Malone, their commander, has another good decade, maybe two, before he should retire.  He’s almost as old as I am.  And if you look at the rest of his senior crew, they are all up-and-comers.”


He got a distant look, and then nodded.


“Yes sir,” he said.  “This is the right call.  It’s the right strategic move for both myself and for Star Fleet.”

#18 VAdm Paul Braggins

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Posted Star Date 21804.11 @ 14:01 (02:01 PM)

Paul listened quietly as Grayson spoke, citing not the way he had been treated by Star Fleet but instead his increasing age as his reason for wishing to retire. Though Paul was over a decade younger than the Admiral who was only just on the right side of sixty, Paul had to admit he didn't find the older man to be as old as he claimed he felt - sixty had been retirement age four centuries ago, but with developments in medical expertise and technology, Humans were making it to well past a hundred years old on a regular basis; legend had it that Admiral McCoy had only retired from Star Fleet Medical once he was approaching one hundred and forty years. Sixty was nothing in the grand scheme of things! A painful twinge in his shoulder reminded Paul that it wasn't just physical years that counted in a job such as theirs.


It's not just the years, it's the mileage...


"I seem to recall reading that you were a young up-and-comer until recently. Rear Admiral at forty-five is one hell of an achievement, even after the various recent conflicts, entry to the Flag Ranks remains above and beyond the reach of those who are simply 'good' at their jobs."


Leaning back in his chair, Paul rubbed his face with both hands before combing through his beyond regulation-length hair from hairline down to neck. There was more grey in it today than there had been when he'd taken the job at Star Fleet Tactical, and there had been more grey in it then than before he'd first taken command of the now-lost Ticonderoga. Grayson was right, he had given enough of his life to Star Fleet to deserve a rest, but where did that leave Star Fleet? Star Fleet Tactical had been brutalised by the alien parasites when they had arranged the "accident" that had made Mac acting-Director, and Grayson was pretty much the only officer remaining with the seniority, competence and confidence to manage something like Strategic Operations effectively. That said, with new minds came fresh ideas, and the next strategic prodigy was out there somewhere just waiting to be found.


Time will soon come for me to consider doing the same. As he says, there are things to keep him busy... Retirement need not necessarily mean boredom...


"However, you are right; there comes a time when age and experience become a detriment rather than a benefit. I doubt my own services will be required much longer once the current crop of Captains start making Flag Rank, but given I've lived my life on the edge, one day at a time, one conflict zone to the next, since a little after my sixteenth birthday. Being able to walk away from that and settle down sounds a lot better than being tied to a damn desk for the rest of my life!"


Picking up the PADD, Paul quickly scanned the document to make sure it satisfied all of the legalese that was required for just such an action, before placing his thumb on the reader and accepting Grayson's request for retirement. Placing the PADD back on the table, he slid it across to the older man.


"Your retirement is approved. As of April fourteenth, twenty-four eighteen, you are on leave. Two hundred and four days after that, you cease to be Admiral Grayson."

#19 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.11 @ 14:39 (02:39 PM)

"Thank you, Admiral," said Thomas, and then he stepped forward and offered his hand.


"I'm not disappearing completely, so if someone has a question that they need to bounce off me, I'll be around."  He gave that grin again.  "Just, after my leave is done, you'll have to hire me to do it.  I do, however, need a month or so to cool my thrusters.  I've got a few family matters to attend to."


Tyra, and the baby.


"Thank you, and it's been an honor serving with you and everyone else."


== We can continue if you want, but I am also going to move him on a bit. :) ==


== 2 hours later, StratOps Command office ==


Well I didn't exactly keep it a secret, announcing it in that meeting.  I should have expected this.


When Thomas had returned to Strat Ops there had been a standing round of applause, and a dozen or more congratulatory handshakes and comments.  At least they haven't had time to arrange some sort of stupid party...


When he finally got into his office he made a holo-call.


"Well, Dan, I did it.  It's official.  As of Saturday I'm on leave until I've used it all up, but I'm free to pursue whatever other endeavors I may come up with starting then."


He grinned at his friend through the imager.  "I guess it wasn't just the bourbon talking..."


== Tag Dan if you want ==

#20 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21804.12 @ 04:03 (04:03 AM)

==Gettysburg, PA -- Personal Residence==


While he'd been expecting to hear from Grayson, Dan hadn't been sure what time to expect the follow-up.


As such Thomas' transmission came in while he was sitting at his kitchen table staring down a large mug of coffee.


The presently off duty Admiral looked remarkably collected, given the last evening's drinking, but was all the same visibility tired, especially when compared to the energy, or at least illusion of such, being conveyed by the call's originator.


Grayson looked like a man from whom a weight had been lifted.


"Congratulations, Thomas, you've taken your first step into a world where liquor courage can become an acceptable manner by which you make the important decisions of your day."


Of course the after effects remained a vivid reminder of why synthahol had been invented.


"So, how did Braggins take it? I trust he didn't break anything? I'd hate for anything to have happened to his one good eye."

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#21 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.12 @ 17:48 (05:48 PM)

"So, how did Braggins take it? I trust he didn't break anything? I'd hate for anything to have happened to his one good eye."


Thomas couldn’t help but smile and chuckle.


“You know, it’s no wonder you only have one friend, with wit like that…”


Thomas thought for a few moments.  Gave a shrug.


“He argued with me a bit… seemed to want to pin it onto the stresses of the past few years working on me.  He explained that I was too young to retire--with life expectancies and all. And then he gave up and accepted it.”


“Not like he had a hell of a lot of choice.  My handing it into him was just a formality. It had already been transmitted to personnel an hour before.”


Thomas sat there, looked thoughtful for several seconds.


“The formalities… I will miss them.  I didn’t enjoy the big social events, but I did always enjoy the formal routines.  It lended a sort of consistency to life. Each day, I knew pretty much exactly what I’d be doing.”


“Well, not anymore.  As of midnight on April 14, 2418, I am a free man.”


Another pause.


“Whatever that means…”

He looked around.  "You got any more of that bourbon?  I still have authority for a site-to-site... and it's either beam over there, or..." But Thomas shook his head.  "No... I have a very busy day tomorrow, handing stuff off.  I'd better stay home."

#22 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21804.14 @ 21:24 (09:24 PM)

“You know, it’s no wonder you only have one friend, with wit like that…” 


Dan laughed at Grayson's comment before faking a frown.


"Only one? I was sure I had at least two, the young Lieutenant Junior Grade that keeps sending me assignments insisted that he considered us friends when I asked."


Thomas continued to provide an overview of the meeting with Braggins and Dan finally took a sip of his coffee as he listened.


Dan had to admit that he didn't know Paul Braggins particularly well, but even still, an argument about life expectancies was not the track he'd expected.


"I thought you'd think better of fun, after all, why enjoy retirement? As for the bourbon, oh I've got plenty of that."


He tapped a few controls on the table and activated a small site-to-site transport.


A crystal decanter filled with an amber liquid materialized on Grayson's desk.  On it were engraved Grayson's initials and the date April 14, 2418.


"Just a little something to help you celebrate when the time feels right.  It's from the same batch of bourbon we enjoyed last night, obviously the container is yours to keep."


He chuckled.


"It's a good thing they not only let me keep my site-to-site transport authority, but also my security clearance, otherwise the transport inhibitor protecting your office would probably have scattered the beam to the wind before it ever reached you."


Dan sat back, drank some more coffee.


"What you forgot to tell Braggins is that we're never too young to start enjoying retirement.  If he wants to work until he's 160, then more power to him..."


He found himself briefly lost in thought.


"You know, Thomas, if I wanted to throw in the towel, who would I even resign to? The snot-nosed kid who keeps bringing me 'work?' I don't even really know who I report to anymore, I suppose T'Mana if God were to be unavailable.  You know what they've got me working on right now?"


He took a larger gulp of his coffee.


"Crop reports for Sherman's Planet.  I reminded Mr. Lieutenant Junior Grade that my background was in security, and needlessly trashing perfectly good starships, and you know what he told me? He said 'Sir, maintaining current crop levels on Sherman's Planet is vital to the security of the Federation.'"


He shook his head.


"So naturally, I closed the channel and took the assignment."


The coffee mug was now empty.


"You'll be relieved to know, I'm sure, that this year's quadrotriticale harvest is, if not record setting, certainly very good."

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#23 Guest_Dr Thomas Grayson (Adm-Ret)_*

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Posted Star Date 21804.17 @ 17:31 (05:31 PM)

Thomas smiled and nodded in thank-you at the materialization of the bottle.  It would be saved for a special occasion.


And he laughed at the last.


“Sounds like it’s time to talk to his boss… or submit that retirement form to the kid.  If nothing else, the look on his face would be priceless.”


Thomas sat back, thought for a few moments.


“I’m going out to Mars tomorrow,” he said. “I have a meeting with Solar Resources Ltd.  They mine the asteroids out in the Kuiper Belt.  They want someone to tell them how to best restructure their fleet of mining and transport vessels for maximal efficiency and profitability.”


“Maybe next time we talk, I’ll be able to report to you on the current state of heavy metals in the Kuiper Belt.”


He was still in his office, but it was nearing time to go home.  For the last time.

#24 Adm Daniel Wueste

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Posted Star Date 21804.20 @ 02:52 (02:52 AM)

"Let's just not accidentally mix your heavy metals with my grain, or we might have an agricultural disaster on our hands."


He chuckled, but it was as much to mask how odd this moment felt as it was anything else.


Their friendship would continue, so why did this feel like such an ending? Change was never simple, but Dan's was not the life changing.


"Good luck, Thomas.  I'll look forward to hearing how it goes."


The channel closed.  He sat in the silence that followed for several minutes before deciding it was time to try and get some more work done.

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