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A Little Brotherly Advice


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#1 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.03 @ 01:11 (01:11 AM)

== set either shortly after the Mission, or sometime during Shore Leave ==

 

=== Deck 05 - Junior Officer's Quarters: Casa Elias & Ramius ===

 

It had been days since the last time Nathan had felt like himself. Thoughts kept nagging him, and nightmares kept him awake most nights. The worst part about sharing Quarters with another Officer was worrying about keeping them awake: at least it was for Ramius. Benjamin Elias had quickly become a rock for the beleaguered Security Midshipman. Always ready to chat, and shoot the breeze. But with them both being middies, they were kept busy: and supervised like hawks. Especially Ramius, no doubt in fact due to the events that had transpired. Therefore downtime, sometimes, was rack-time.

 

For the most part, Nathan tried to keep things light – their days were filled with enough tasks that there didn’t need to be additional weight added. Yet, as he sat on the edge of his bed, Ramius couldn’t pull his hands away from his face. There were no tears, just a thinly veiled pained expression. Dealing with everything that had occurred took its toll. The cement that made-up the foundation of his experiences had been cracked, and in some places raked away, with deadly reams of rebar poking out in all directions. The work to repair himself was slow, too slow Nathan often thought.

 

I don’t know what I’m doing here…

 

I don't know what I'm doing at all.

 

Hopping up to his feet, the Security Midshipman did the only thing he could think of doing in his state, and when confronted by a problem that tormented him with no solution: he worked out. Squats, burpees, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups… every single possible exercise that could be done without a gym or weights, he went to it.

 

There was something to pushing himself to the limit of his physical capacity. It was like penance. A sort of self-flagellation, but without the messy sticky bloody business among other things. This wasn’t just some Sunday workout though, it was mean, nasty sort-of business. Every time he felt like he might pass out, he pushed himself even harder. Sweat poured from him: he ran to the head and retched twice. Only to go back and keep working himself down to the point where his arms and legs felt like meat popsicles. Just hunks of flesh and lactic acid.

 

When his self-punishment was done, he overrode the door closure to air out the place, before beginning to cleanup the entire shared room. Finally, once everything was clean and fresh (with the help of a natural deodorizer he replicated), he proceeded to shut the door, and clean himself up.

 

Yet his attempts at atonement fell short. In his very casual sweatpants and t-shirt, all he could do, was rest on the edge of his bed… pushing his face into his hands once more.

 

== tag Elias! ==


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#2 Mid Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21902.03 @ 02:46 (02:46 AM)

=== Deck 05 - Junior Officer's Quarters: Casa Elias & Ramius ===

 

Some days, Benjamin really missed being a civilian engineer. He had been the master of his own domain, answering only to the ship's captain, and hadn't had to worry about regulations and procedures. So long as it worked, and would continue to do so, nobody cared. Unlike now, where his shift supervisor was looking over his shoulder at every turn, and the Starfleet manuals had procedures for every single thing he had to do. There was even a procedures and standards manual for using a hyperspanner - he had checked.

 

Of course, then there was the paperwork, too, though at least his was fairly minimal. It mostly consisted of replies to maintenance requests; 'Air conduit clogged' answered by 'Air conduit declogged,' that kind of thing. He'd tried to be cheeky with it at the Academy, but got slapped down for that one real fast. So when he walked up to the door to his shared quarters - late, he might add, due to a last minute inspection he had passed with flying colors - and stepped through, it was with a sigh of relief as he started to take off his uniform jacket.

 

"Man, am I glad to be done with that shift," he said aloud to no one in particular as he stretched, trying to loosen up some from the labors of the day. He threw his jacket over the foot of the bed as he realized that Ramius was already there. He caught the scent of deodorizers in the air, and knew it had been rough day for him.

 

He took a moment to grab a clean change of clothes and stepped into the head to get cleaned up and changed into something more comfortable than the uniform, leaving Ramius for a moment to gather himself. He'd seen the look the young midshipman wore - on others, and in the mirror. The look of a man blaming himself for everything. The look of a man doing everything he could to distract himself, to keep the pain at bay. As Benjamin ran through some quick ablutions and got ready for the night, he knew he needed help.

 

For a moment, Benjamin remembered his little brother, David. Benjamin had helped him through some rough times when they were kids, as well. When David had been in high school, he recalled, he had been smitten with this girl, just head over heels in love. Or so David had thought at the time, anyway. It didn't matter that the girl had a boyfriend already. It had taken far longer than it should have before David got the hint, and was mortified at what he'd done, at just how far he'd gone to pursue her, even if none of it was physical. But he'd learned from the incident - not without a few bruises to show for it, but he'd learned. Benjamin, once he'd found out about it, had administered at least one of those bruises himself. The look on David's face as he came to grips with how easy it was to wander far across the line was the same one he saw on his roommate now.

 

And again, Benjamin was the only one here who could do something about it. Hopefully without the bruises this time. His eye twitched as he looked in the mirror, and he rubbed it, the flash of static it created a reminder of his own bad days. As was the clink of his wedding band against the sink. He quickly turned the water on and splashed his face, bringing himself back to the present.

 

He knew that Ramius had done... something... on that day they had both come aboard ship. Something bad enough that he'd been called before the Captain. That was as far as the scuttlebutt went. Or at least as far as it went around him. It was possible people knew more, but weren't telling him since they were roommates. But that didn't matter.

 

He pulled on his shirt and stepped out into their shared room. "You, sir," he said as he walked over to the replicator, "look like you could use a drink." He crouched down and popped the panel below the replicator out, revealing the EPS tap - and the... minor... alterations he'd made to it. He pulled out the collector from beneath the still and sniffed it. "Hopefully today was a good year for this stuff," he said, and had the replicator spit out a couple of glasses. "Pretty sure I got the temperature and mixture right, but this is the first of this batch." He poured them both a glass before replacing the collector beneath the condenser.

 

He walked over to the younger man and handed him one before turning one of the desk chairs around and sitting with him. "So," he began, and took a sip. The rotgut burned on the way down, but it wasn't close to the worst he'd had. He needed to adjust the mix a little, but it was definitely a serviceable batch. For just a moment, he thought about what he needed to do to it, but caught himself staring at the open wall panel.

 

He set the glass aside so he couldn't stall anymore, and turned back to his friend. "You look like a man who's run from his problems about as far as he can," he said. "Guess that just leaves looking them in the eye." He sighed, and leaned forward with his elbows on his knee. "Easier to do that with a friend, that way you outnumber them. So how can I help?"

 

==Tag!==


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#3 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.03 @ 16:43 (04:43 PM)

"Man, am I glad to be done with that shift."

 

Nathan hadn’t even heard Ben enter. It wasn’t until the first words were spoken that Ramius straightened up, and quickly changed his expression to something more welcoming. Even if it was him faking it, it was better than dragging everything – and everyone – down around him. Focusing on his breathing, he calmed himself down enough to be personable again; it was a cycle that he was getting used to.

 

“I have no doubt! Seemed like a longer shift than normal considering I beat you back to the ‘racks.”

 

Steadying himself, the Security Officer found a more comfortable perch on his bed. When the Engineer came back into the room, Nathan could read the body language that accompanied his re-entry. The demeanor had changed from shrugging off the day, to seriousness.

 

Talk time?

 

"You, sir, look like you could use a drink."

 

Talk time…

 

“Hahaha, you know I’m no sir. And where are we going to get drinks dressed like…”

 

All words came to a sudden and screeching halt as Midshipman Benjamin “Shadow” Elias popped open the panel to reveal a still.

 

A still? An illegal still? In our Quarters? A Security Officer’s Quarters?

 

“Is… is that… that’s a…” stuttering and stammering, his jaw couldn’t quite close all the way. It was locked into a permanent open gape of astonishment, while his eyebrows migrated to his forehead. Ramius shook his head, and raised his hands to his eyes, rubbing them.

 

Did I get sedated again? Oh no… I didn’t freak out or something again did I?

 

It was purely instinct that Nathan grabbed onto the offered glass. Somewhere deep inside him there was a momentous struggle between two very different sides of him. One side, who represented camaraderie, brotherhood, and friendship, was thrilled to be getting a pull from the first batch of illicit aqua vitae. The other side, the goody-two-shoes, law abiding, one-man-justice-squad, was more concerned that Nathan never even had a clue that there was an illicit distilling operation working out of his very residence.

 

"You look like a man who's run from his problems about as far as he can. Guess that just leaves looking them in the eye. Easier to do that with a friend, that way you outnumber them. So how can I help?"

 

A long, lingering pause filled the space between Benjamin and Nathan.

 

“There. Here,” Ramius’ free hand pointed to the EPS conduit.

 

“There is, here, in our Quarters… a still? An illegal, illicit, safety code breaking, still? How long… no, don’t tell me. I don’t want or need to know. This is like… I’m complicit now, you know? If I don’t say anything?”

 

He stared directly into Ben’s soul for a brief fraction of time, weighing the insurmountable options that begged to be considered. Though in all reality, what was he to do? Turn in his roommate, who had been pretty much one of only two anchors on board that kept him from resigning his commission?

 

Who the hell am I to turn him in?? That’d be rich. Imagine the scuttlebutt then? Reprobate Security Officer nabs moonshiner Engineer trying to help him turn his life around! Not only that, but this isn’t like this is insubordination or disobeying the direct order of a Commanding Officer, right Nathan?  

 

What if someone were to find out though? Add bootlegger to your already distinguished list of failures? Cue trumpets. Captain Crawford would do the honors herself surely.

 

Okay, okay. First, you didn’t notice for one. Two, this thing is small, compact, portable, and easily de-construct-able, I think. Three… … …

 

Letting out a rather loud chuff, he shook his head and raised the glass to his lips,

 

F*** it.”

 

Tipping back a sip of the abhorrently delicious fiery liquor, his eyes immediately watered. Yet he swallowed it, and suddenly he felt like he could be a dragon; belching out fire and s******g brimstone. A cough or three rose up from the sweltering forge that was now his chest. The cockles of his heart warmed, defrosting the frigid muscle while the real taste of ethanol rose up and out of his nose.

 

Ahhhhhhhhhhh…” his voice sounded incredibly off, “that’s, that’s not synthahol.”

 

After a few more moments of letting that first sip linger, and a shiver that rolled down his spine, he cleared his throat to speak again.

 

“I’m not running from anything, it’s fine, I’m fine, really. Just some rough shifts, and as you know, the mission was tough on everyone. It’ll be awhile before that kind of settles, you know? Then there is all the drills and training that are the fallout from the ‘response’ too… so I’m just tired mentally and physically. Otherwise, I’m ship-shape. I appreciate the real drink though – this will help me sleep for sure,” Nathan’s chuckle was genuine, but his lies were clearer than the pull from the still.

 

“Once we get some shore leave, I’ll take a vacation… then I’ll be better than fine.”


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#4 Mid Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21902.04 @ 00:24 (12:24 AM)

For a second, Benjamin wasn't sure what was going on inside Ramius' head. He was staring at the glass, and then at the wall, and before he opened his mouth, Benjamin knew he'd made an error. "There," he babbled, lifting a hand towards the open panel. "Here..." And then the dam burst, and Ramius started in. "There is, here, in our quarters... a still? An illicit, safety code breaking, still? How long... no, don't tell me. I don't want or need to know. This is like.. I'm complicit now, you know? If I don't say anything?"

 

To be fair, Benjamin hadn't thought of that. The still was a small one, for personal use. He wouldn't have shown it now if it hadn't been for the look of despair on Ramius' face when he walked in. Also, if he hadn't finished off the bottle he'd brought with him yesterday. But he'd trusted Ramius with the secret, and was willing to live with the consequence of that. Ramius stared into his eyes for a moment, obviously weighing all of the options. Benjamin wanted to say something, but didn't want to push him, either. Part of his intent was to help the man find his feet and settle his mind. If that meant turning him in for the still, so be it. He could take the black mark on his record. He wasn't sure that Ramius could.

 

After what felt like an eternity but couldn't have been more than five seconds, Ramius cursed with a huff, and took a sip. He coughed a couple of times as the liquor hit him like a fireball from Hades himself, before letting out a sigh of pleasure. "That's, that's not synthahol."

 

Benjamin chuckled and saluted with his glass. "No, it really isn't," he agreed, and took another sip of his own.

 

“I’m not running from anything, it’s fine, I’m fine, really," Ramius blatantly lied. "Just some rough shifts, and as you know, the mission was tough on everyone. It’ll be awhile before that kind of settles, you know? Then there is all the drills and training that are the fallout from the ‘response’ too… so I’m just tired mentally and physically. Otherwise, I’m ship-shape. I appreciate the real drink though – this will help me sleep for sure,” he continued with a chuckle that at least sounded genuine.

 

“Once we get some shore leave, I’ll take a vacation… then I’ll be better than fine.”

 

Benjamin chuckled himself. "I hope when you spoke to the captain, you didn't try to lie like that. You're terrible at it." He took another sip and set the glass aside before continuing in a slightly raspier voice. "Not that that's a bad thing. Truth is a simpler thing anyway."

 

He leaned back in the chair, arms crossed. "Yeah, I know that the captain called you in to her ready room the day after we got here. Don't know why, don't need to know and probably don't want to, unless you want to tell me. I'll be all ears if you do, and won't say anything unless you say to or command orders me to, though that's less than likely since the captain was involved in the first place." He scratched below his eye again, nervous now that he was trying to cut to the heart of the matter.

 

Benjamin sighed. "I know right now, you're frustrated and likely a little angry. Just the way you've been beating yourself up with the workout routines tells me that, and yes, I can tell. All the deodorizers in the world won't quite cover up that sweat-and-vomit smell, though you've done a good job with trying," he added with a smile. "I've just been around the block a little more than you have.

 

"But right now, beating yourself up won't help," he continued. "Unless I'm mistaken, any punishment for whatever you did is already meted out; nothing you do will change it. So at this point, it's a basic physics problem: If the situation can't change, then it's you that has to. Look at what happened, find the root of it, and figure out how to avoid it next time. Won't be easy, won't be quick, but you don't have to try it alone, either. I'm here to talk whenever you need, and as you can see," he said with a wave of his hand at the wall, "I'm good at discretion."

 

He stood and walked back to the removed panel. "How about this," he said as he made sure the still was secure. "Let me help you with whatever's on your mind, and I'll tell you just why I run this thing. I assure you, it's only for personal use, too; I'm not here to start selling moonshine and compromise our officers. It's just for me." He replaced the panel and walked back to his own bunk, picking up his glass on the way before leaning back against the wall. "Sound like a deal?"


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#5 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.05 @ 07:54 (07:54 AM)

"I hope when you spoke to the captain, you didn't try to lie like that. You're terrible at it."

 

Daggers launched from Nathan’s eyes as his middle finger extended from his free hand, yet there was a smirk, and his voice was playful,

 

Dick,” a slight chuckle came out, and Ramius took another sip, squinting as he did.

 

As Benjamin continued, it became more obvious just how quickly hub-bub managed to get around the ship. Pentaghast doubtfully would have said something, but the Bridge was full of people on the morning rotation. It was also rumored that Tactical took to gossip like flies to… honey… at the Academy, and he wondered if there was truth to the euphemism.

 

"I know right now, you're frustrated and likely a little angry”

 

So many understatements in my life lately…

 

“Just the way you've been beating yourself up with the workout routines tells me that, and yes, I can tell. All the deodorizers in the world won't quite cover up that sweat-and-vomit smell, though you've done a good job with trying…”

 

That revelation caused a cascade of emotions in Nathan from surprise, to shock, to horror, to guilty, then to ashamed: all in the span of a couple of seconds. In fact, he was mortified that not only did Elias know, but that he could tell from…

 

Ugh, the scent. Gross Nathan. Grooooooossss. Alright, time to change the hardcore workout venue…

 

Adding more to his sermon, Ramius could hear the truth in the words that Ben spoke about beating himself up; adding extra punishment on top of his ‘sentence’ as it were. But as much as he heard them, they didn’t exactly settle. Even if they had, it was doubtful that he could just change how he felt about things. Though, that is exactly what Elias was getting at. Changing the scenario so that he didn’t have to feel the way he did. That, and probably because he wanted to stop coming home to acidic humidity. A shiver of gross crawled up Nathan’s spine.

 

"How about this. Let me help you with whatever's on your mind, and I'll tell you just why I run this thing. I assure you, it's only for personal use, too; I'm not here to start selling moonshine and compromise our officers. It's just for me. Sound like a deal?"

 

“You mean, the still and its contents are for you and me now. I'm complicit, remember?" a chortle escaped him.

 

"Sure, I mean, you can try I suppose… even though nothing is really wrong,” this time the lie was filled with sarcasm. Taking a deep breath in, then releasing, Nathan cracked his neck. Then, another sip from the River Styx was in order, and the fire burned just as hot as the first time.

 

“I hope you are ready for this, because this is some heavy s***. I don’t usually like to bother people with my problems, because, well they are my problems and I caused them. But, my actions are affecting you too… I mean, I’ll remedy that now that I know that you know. Though, you should have said something earlier cause even I find it gross to think about. Really, I just shouldn’t do it but…”

 

Ramius moved from the edge of his rack and moved to the wall as well, pulling his body in tight. Another deep breath signalled just how hard it was for him to get whatever was inside him, out and off his chest. It wasn’t a simple matter, even though he had the ability to spill his guts. That was proven by his amazing ability to tell the honest truth to the Captain, and not sugar-coating things. Hell, he probably should have left some bits out along with not back-talking… something else for him to work on he supposed.

 

Yet another lungful of air passed through his nostrils before he began to speak.

 

“I f****ed up Ben. There is no better way of putting it. I got people hurt,” his face turned down with his eyes, and looked deep into the glass in his hand.

 

“That’s one of the biggest parts of everything because it isn’t something I can correct. I mean, temporal wormholes or whatever aside, I won’t ever be able to take those moments back. And I would too. In fact, I’d Groundhog Day that whole first day of the mission. Wait, not Groundhog Day because I’d have to relive it over and over again. I’m already doing that,” he sighed.

 

“I guess… I’ve never really had to face regret before. It was always simple choices that lead me to becoming the person that I am today. For good or bad, I always managed to see a silver lining, or a lesson to be learned. Now, there are a metric f*** ton of lessons for me to learn from that day, but I can’t see a bright side to any of them.

 

Not only that… but I’m questioning if I should even be here at all. I literally failed the hardest anyone has ever failed in the history of the Gettysburg probably, in the fastest time possible… maybe even in the entirety of Star Fleet’s history. It was like I wanted to speedrun in the ‘quickest-to-****-up competition’. Congrats to me though, I got my trophy. All of it has me wondering if my parents were right. Well, they never outright questioned my decision to go to Star Fleet, but they didn’t support it either. Maybe they knew it wouldn’t be for me.

 

I’d like to think that I have something to offer. That I can be better than that first day. I know I can, but what happened has me questioning things. Little things. Big things. Just about everything I do, I wonder if what I am doing could hurt someone. And now every time I look Maddix in the face, I can’t help but feel this rage building up inside of me… I wish the Captain would have just flogged me. No, flayed me. Or just plain spaced me. I’m serious. At least then it’d be done and over with. But now, I see the Captain, and Maddix… I just want to hurt... I want to put my head through a wall. It isn’t rational but the thought is there. If I could take on their pain that I caused them, I’d take it all on myself, because I deserve it…”

 

It was the last few words that got caught up in his throat, and inside he cursed himself for getting upset about it all over again. The more he thought on the subject, the more twisted him and made him feel weak, which is why he generally avoided it unless he had to confront it.

 

A fresh swig from the glass passed by his lips, while he roughly dried them off with his arm.


Edited by Mid Nathan Ramius, Star Date 21902.05 @ 07:59 (07:59 AM).

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#6 Mid Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 03:30 (03:30 AM)

"You mean the contents are for you and me now. I'm complicit, remember?" Ramius retorted with a little chortle. Benjamin couldn't help but smile.

 

"True enough," he said, "if you're going to want some." Nathan had taken another sip, so evidently he liked the fire it gave.

 

After that small interlude, Benjamin settled back and just listened. As promised, it was definitely heavy. "What happened has me questioning things. Little things. Big things. Just about everything I do, I wonder if what I am doing could hurt someone. And now every time I look Maddix in the face, I can’t help but feel this rage building up inside of me… I wish the Captain would have just flogged me. No, flayed me. Or just plain spaced me. I’m serious. At least then it’d be done and over with. But now, I see the Captain, and Maddix… I just want to hurt... I want to put my head through a wall. It isn’t rational but the thought is there. If I could take on their pain that I caused them, I’d take it all on myself, because I deserve it…" He could see Ramius get choked up, the anger coming back to the forefront. Fortunately he took a swig of the proffered alcohol rather than actually putting his head through the wall.

 

Benjamin leaned forward into the silence and took a deep breath. It was worse than he'd thought, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to try and help. It just meant that it might take more than he could offer. But I still have to try, he knew. He couldn't do anything but.

 

"Well first off," he said into the silence, "don't actually put your head through the wall." He smiled at his roommate, trying to lighten the mood at least a bit. "Given my own standing within the department, I'll likely be the one who has to fix it.

 

"Second of all, fixing your mistakes doesn't have to mean literally making the broken things right again. Sometimes you can't do that, like evidently this time. You got people hurt. They'll heal, or they won't. Not a damn thing you can do about it. So look at what you actually can fix, rather than dwelling on what you can't.

 

"You think you have something to offer Starfleet and this ship. You're right, you do. You're young, you're bright, and you're driven. That's a good combination." He smiled and took another sip of his drink. "You're behind the eight ball now, but you can get out of it. Work on getting back their trust, and you'll get there."

 

He chuckled. "Yeah, I know it all sounds trite. But that doesn't mean it's not true."

 

"Look, the captain didn't summarily drum you off the ship. And from what I've seen so far, I have no doubts that if you had screwed up beyond any ability to be saved, she would've dumped you on that planet without hesitation." He sighed and scratched at his eye. "That means she must see something in you worth salvaging. If she can see it, and I can see it... why can't you?"


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#7 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 18:38 (06:38 PM)

"…don't actually put your head through the wall. Given my own standing within the department, I'll likely be the one who has to fix it.”

 

Nathan was glad to not be drinking at that point, as this brew would not doubt sting anything it touched with its relaxing venom. He laughed, freely, knowing of the ‘maintenance’ work Benjamin had been handed. The bulkhead and console McKenna had fried, along with all the other stuff that didn’t close properly after the mission.

 

As for the drink, the young officer was enjoying the stuff, despite the taste. It made him feel just a bit more mellow than he had been, and it was welcomed. A certain caution though crested his consciousness: too much of the stuff, too often, would invariably be bad. Still, it was welcomed respite from the more powerful emotions that were ruling him far too often these days. Enough that others were starting to notice. Despite initial misgivings, this talk was needed.

 

Of course, not everything Elias said had a positive effect on Nathan. The Engineer had a way of talking straight to the point, and cutting to the heart of the matter. No sugarcoating, which was better, though it was sugar Ramius craved at the moment. Something to take the edge off of his frustratedly angsty state.

 

“Second of all, fixing your mistakes doesn't have to mean literally making the broken things right again. Sometimes you can't do that, like evidently this time. You got people hurt. They'll heal, or they won't. Not a damn thing you can do about it,” Bens words caused Nathan to sigh, his fingers pressing into his temple. It was the truth, but the truth sucked.

 

I just wish I could fix it. Make it right. Somehow…

 

Taking another sip, Ramius listened through the belching inferno that ran down his gullet. Elias wasn’t wrong, but he made it sound all too simple. Far too simple. It just… wasn’t though. Everything felt so heavy, and he was tired of carrying it around. But there had to be a better way to offload the dark cargo, because stinking up the joint was no longer an option.

 

“I hear what you are saying, and it does sound trite, and honestly it sounds simplistic. No offense intended, truly. But right now, though, it feels anything but simplistic,” another slight sip was called for before getting deeper into things.

 

A deep groan snuck out, dripping with his inner turmoil.

 

“I’m more than just behind the eight ball. I’m in the pocket, after a scratch, with nothing left to shoot at. My chances at redemption are so small, that if you were to start a pool Ben, you’d probably get a nice payday.

 

It isn’t just that I messed up the once, or that I’m still messed up… because I am still messed up from it all…”

 

What am I trying to say here?

 

Nathan’s eyes glazed over for a moment as the memory struck him hard, like a car into a concrete barrier. As he spoke, the pain in his face was evident, but his eyes closed.

 

“Admittedly, I didn’t see the incident occur. We: McKenna, Thorsdottir and I. We came upon it after the fact. It was gruesome. One Officer was folded in half, like those s***y banquet chairs that they still use sometimes. Dented helmets lodged into dented heads. The feeling at the time was so overwhelming I barfed like a graduate after prom. I felt like an adolescent too, because McKenna and Thordottir just moseyed around like it was no big deal. Maybe they’ve seen thousands of bodies before, I don’t know. But the smell and the sight, the mixture of it all was too much for me in that moment. I just… I’ve never seen that s*** before. It frightened me. As you can imagine, probably not a good f***ing trait for a Security Officer to have.”

 

This time around, he took one sip, then decided to go back for a bit of a swig. It was a magnificent way to pull him out of the memory and back into the moment – and it was alluring, and gravely so.

 

“Have you… ever had to deal with something like that? Seeing carnage up close? Did you freeze or yak like I did? Did you do anything stupid afterwards?”

 

Another sip, another swallow. He looked to his glass, wondering what to do when it was empty.


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#8 Mid Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21902.06 @ 21:47 (09:47 PM)

"My chances at redemption are so small," Ramius said gravely, "that if you were to start a pool Ben, you'd probably get a nice payday. It isn't just that I messed up the once, or that I'm still messed up... because I am still messed up from it all..."

 

Benjamin watched his eyes grow distant, the look that only comes from vivid memory. He could see the pain on his friend's face and in his voice, even as his eyes closed. And it was a gruesome picture he painted, enough to make Benjamin take another sip from his glass as Ramius did much the same before slugging himself with more from the glass. Benjamin grimaced, suddenly wishing he'd taken the time to issue a warning before handing the glass over. Not only was this stuff a good deal harder-hitting than Ramius was likely used to, but there wasn't any more where that came from.

 

Though right now, that looked to be a good thing. I don't want to be responsible for him climbing into a bottle, he thought, remembering how much it's taken for him to get this far out of his own. If you call running an illegal still on a starship 'out of the bottle'.

 

"Have you..." Ramius continued after a moment, "ever had to deal with something like that? Seeing carnage up close?"

 

Now it was Benjamin's turn to remember, but he took a sip from the glass to keep himself from falling back into it before deliberately setting the glass aside. There was still about half a finger of it left, but it was more symbolic than anything. He wanted to stay grounded.

 

"I have," he said, "though it's been a little while, and it wasn't quite as bad as what you described. It was just before I joined Starfleet, actually.

 

"I was at a fairly low point in my life, and was on this tramp freighter running to a Tzenkethi border world. The profit we were making was way out of proportion for what cargo we were running, but though I realized it, I didn't care. I was so far inside a bottle that the transporters couldn't have gotten me. I needed the money, and I needed to forget, and it was easy to do out there in the black."

 

Ben sighed, head hung low as he leaned on his knees. He didn't like talking about this chapter of his life, but as dark of a place as Nathan was in, he needed to know there was something past it.

 

"So the Tzenkethi found out that the ship was running an illicit cargo, and attacked us. There were 20 people on that boat at the time. Luckily, I was actually sober at the time, and made it to the escape pod there in engineering. Looking back up the corridor, I saw what the boarders had done. There were these... ugly stains on the walls. Some kind of plasma burns, with little shadows in the middle of them. But the spread was small, and the rest of the victims just... fell where they'd stood. One of the crew was facing me as I stood in the pod's door, eyes still open.

 

"Luckily, I threw up in the corridor before diving into the pod and sending it into the void. It's only because the captain had ordered them modified to dampen lifesigns upon launch that I didn't get immediately killed, I think. Spent the better part of three days drifting through space, nursing the bottle I'd had stashed inside in case of needing it during work hours and wondering if I was going to ever be found." He sat back up and sighed, looking at the glass he'd set aside.

 

"Eventually I was. The USS Philadelphia found me on a patrol, and a kind man challenged me to do something better. And at that point, I mostly thought 'What do I have to lose?' Drifting in that pod, I knew that I'd run as far as I could, and this was the reward for my cowardice. Not the cowardice of running from the Tzenkethi, but of running away from my problems. Of thinking that they're so monumental that there's nothing left to my life and just leaving it all behind. Everyone's got something to offer. I'm just glad that someone finally showed me that, and that I was finally ready to hear it."

 

Benjamin grabbed his glass lightly and took a sip, savoring the burn. He stood and took Nathan's glass gently, noting that it was nearly empty. "I think fear is actually a good thing to have. It makes you pay attention, makes you cautious when danger's around. Letting it rule you is a problem. Hiding it is a problem. I'm sure McKenna and Thorsottir were scared, too. They simply had experience and training to fall back on, the former of which you didn't have.

 

"But say you don't think you're cut out as a security officer. Maybe you should move departments. Maybe you should change ships, if you think the guilt and shame is too much. No one can answer those questions for you. And they'll pursue you, no matter what you do. You can't exercise your demons out, vomit them out of you." He held up the glasses. "You can't find the answers at the bottom of a glass, either. I know, I've searched many of them quite thoroughly, and all I ever found was a hangover."

 

He set the two glasses back down and walked over to the replicator. Kneeling, he set the panel back in its place and made sure it was secure. "You can't control how others look at you, how they feel about you. You can simply control how you act." He stood, leaning against the wall and scratching his eye. "Sometimes, the best you can do is put one foot in front of the other and keep doing the best you can. And maybe, just maybe, given enough time and effort, you can make yourself a better person than you were."


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#9 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.08 @ 12:39 (12:39 PM)

Listening to every word of Benjamin’s story, he was surprised. And he didn't hide it either. The alien encounter was a scary prospect alone, but being the only survivor, and surviving with some pretty low odds at that... no wonder it worked as a wake-up call.

 

It was quickly becoming clear to Nathan that just about everyone, other than him, had past encounters with extreme darkness. This was Ramius’ first. Many of the things that he started reasoning weren’t necessarily incorrect, but he began to realize just how sheltered he actually was on Earth. His worst incident before all of this was a High School fight? What actually made him think that he had the minerals to be a Security Officer? The only thing that had pointed him in that direction originally was this imperious sense of righteousness.

 

Nathan laughed out loud. It started as a bit of a giggle, then chuckle, and proceeded to grow into a full belly buster of a roar. At some point in the solid two minutes that he spent hooting, he had started crying along with it, and the tears just streamed down his face.

 

I am naïve! I really am…

 

“You’re right, hahaha… I should have been in Engineering, or Science… anything but Security, hehehe…” he wiped away the tears from his face, still having little moments of spontaneous giggles.

 

Afterward, once he regained his composure, he sat there for some time in silence. He studied his hands, and then the wall across from him. Shook his head and mumbled to himself with no discernable words. His face distorted itself into several different emotions over the span of a few minutes. Nathan hoped that, to Ben, he hadn’t lost his mind… but instead seemed to fighting some internal struggle. Which he was.

 

How could I have been that naïve to think we would just go out and solve Scooby-Doo mysteries like the holovids. Or that, I’d be the one to negotiate some system spanning treaty and usher in a new era of peace. That people would smile and thank me for watching over them with a flag of the Federation proudly waving over my shoulder. That I could protect… could try and protect… how could I have been so green?

 

Or at least, he had been green. Because on his first cruise out, he saw what the Universe had to offer. Conflict welled up within him on how to feel about it all. Within the crevices of each fold of grey matter was copious amounts of his own brand of idealism. Further in though, the neurons already started making new connections. Branching out into sectors of pain, resentment, pity, self-hatred, and cynicism, all surrounded by a new central cluster that held the memories of the incident that day. The transformation was still in progress, and it felt uncomfortable to see the Galaxy darkly shaded by his jaded thoughts. That, Nathan didn’t like. Not at all.

 

“How?” he started, finally breaking the nearly several minute silence, “how do you make a better person?”

 

It was the sort of vague question that he was wrestling with in his mind.

 

“How do you take someone, this person that saw the Universe in color and absolutely believed that every situation could be solved positively, or at the very least, amicably. This sheltered person. Incredibly protected, privileged. Who, believed every recruitment flyer and advertising campaign that Star Fleet published. How do you save a part of that person who still sees the beauty, and mesh that with this person who f***ed up? Who thought exploring was an adventure, and not carbon marks on a wall? A person that just sees shades of grey, and darker shades at that? Who just feels pain and anger and despises this new world he has been thrust into?

 

Maybe I wasn’t cut out for Security before, being so bubble wrapped and bright eyed. But now… now Security is all I can think about. Protecting the crew, my friends… the few I actually have… from psychopathic imposters and surely worse than them. Stuff I haven't dreamed of. Because psychopathic imposters didn't ever really pop up on my radar before.

 

How do I keep a little of each? Strong but tempered? Because if I’m going to stay sane and not turn to,” he eyed the glasses that contained a certain curse-cure, “…then I need something more, but what that is, I don't know... maybe you don't know... whatever had caused you to drink before the Tzenkethi; what would have done differently between those two life events to skip the crappy stuff in the middle?"


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#10 Mid Benjamin Elias

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Posted Star Date 21902.09 @ 03:22 (03:22 AM)

Benjamin was a little taken aback. There were many reactions he'd expected from his statement about becoming a better person. Incredulity was one; it's not like being better is a simple matter, or even one most people try to do. Anger for reducing his problems to a simple statement. Dismissal. Any of those would've been expected.

 

The several minutes of pure laughter, though. That was unexpected. Benjamin took the time to sit back down, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned back and just watched. For a moment, he remembered sitting with Mary and David back at home, telling stories over dinner while their father was at work. They used to compete for the most outlandish story they could tell. Benjamin chuckled, remembering one time that Mary had told a story about a duck and a bear in this mansion. He couldn't remember all of the story - it had been a long, rambling affair that he didn't think she'd be able to retell even the next day, much less fifteen years after the fact - but it had ended with the bear distraught over a pillow filled with supposedly the duck's feathers and the duck in shock wondering why the bear had his wife's spare clothes. It was stupid and childish, but the laughter they'd shared in those days, the simple joy of it, was a little bit of something that he needed, and seeing his friend laugh, long and loud, took him back if only for a moment.

 

Eventually the laughter died down and Nathan seemed to be lost in thought, emotions and expressions flitting across his face as he looked down at his hands. After what seemed to be an eternity, he simply said "How? How do you make a better person?"

 

And he let his heart out. Nathan finally asked the important question, the one that might actually help him in the end: "How do I keep a little of each? Strong but tempered?Because if I'm going to stay sane and not turn to..." he trailed off and gestured at the two glasses Benjamin had abandoned on the desks "...then I need something more, but what that is I don't know... maybe you don't know... whatever had caused you to drink before the Teznkethi; what would you have done differently between those two life events to skip the crappy stuff in the middle?"

 

Now it was Benjamin's turn to laugh; nowhere near as deeply and nowhere near as long, but he still laughed for a moment. "Nathan... What would I do differently between them?" He sat back up on the edge of his bed. "About the only thing I could've done differently was give up everything I loved about my career to satisfy my wife that I wasn't cheating on her. Which I wasn't, by the way. But even then, I don't think it would've worked out, and I still would've found myself at the bottom of a bottle."

 

He stood up and went back to the desk. "She's the reason I drink now," he said, and picked up his glass and downed the rest of his glass in one gulp. Once he recovered, he turned back to his friend. "Starfleet gives me a reason to still function. The still helps me limit what I have available; I don't buy liquor, and since the still is so small, it can't make much. Helps keep me in check, though I wouldn't mind having someone else to keep me honest about it."

 

He sighed and rubbed at his eye again. "How do you walk that tightrope between the beautiful dream and the ugly reality? I don't know. I haven't figured it out yet, either. But then, I've lived a while in the darkness, and I figure the easiest way to stay there is to try and get out of it by yourself. So maybe part of the secret to staying sane out here is to not try and do it all alone." He smiled and stuck out his hand to Nathan. "Maybe for a little while, at least, we can try and figure out how to do it together."


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#11 Mid Nathan Ramius

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Posted Star Date 21902.10 @ 17:12 (05:12 PM)

Hearing Ben’s laugh at his comment made Nathan blush just a little, as he thought about the words and realized just how callow it truly sounded. Still, it was an innocent question, so he didn’t chide himself. After all, if he could avoid the miserable middle, then why not try?

 

The response that Elias gave, however, sounded much more like Fate than Free Will when it came to avoiding the outcome. Regardless of whatever Ben could have done to save his marriage, he even stated that it probably would have still fallen apart. That bit made the Security Officer’s heart sink slightly. If someone with far more experience than he, could know that the end was coming, and couldn’t avoid it, how could a youngling like Nathan steer clear of such obstacles?

 

"She's the reason I drink now.”

 

Shaking his head, more at himself than Benjamin, Nathan watched the Engineer polish off the last of the rot in one fell swoop. When Elias turned back, Ramius could only offer a sympathetic smile. That territory was unknown to him.

 

"Starfleet gives me a reason to still function. The still helps me limit what I have available; I don't buy liquor, and since the still is so small, it can't make much. Helps keep me in check, though I wouldn't mind having someone else to keep me honest about it."

 

Yes, keep you honest, and to share with me… socially, that is, a wry grin came with the thought.

 

“I’m sorry Ben, I didn’t know about you and your wife. With the ring, still on your finger, I had just assumed that you two were…” he trailed off a bit, but it was very brief.

 

Instead of lingering on the words of comfort, Nathan took up the hand that was offered and shook it firmly. It occurred to Ramius, that Ben was right. That perhaps Fate had taken its toll precisely because of the fact that there wasn’t someone on whom Benjamin could rely during his most trying times. Or if there was someone, maybe they didn’t do a good job. Perhaps they had introduced the drink, because that is what they knew, to cope with such things. Either way, neither of them had to be alone in their struggles, and perhaps that was the key. If they both had each other to look out for the pitfalls, mistakes, and relapses, perhaps the majority of the middle could be avoided. Even totally skirted if done so with the right amount of determination and flexibility.

 

“You are right, I think. Going it alone invites too much uncertainty and not enough perspective. It is a requirement to have a lookout when steering a boat through treacherous waters. Because, right now, I can’t see beyond the next wave. I just keep trying to do my best, and steer my course into the roughest parts because that is all I know, and all I can do.”

 

“Thank you,” the words were beyond earnest, “my friend, for helping me and for offering to continue to do so. I promise I’ll do what I can to help you... including not confiscating that still,” he winked.

 

“After all, I think I can help with reducing your intake by increasing demand on the product. Just a skim here and there… socially that is.

 

For now though, I’m going to get changed, and you should too. You started this with a friendly drink, it is time we seek out more booze and sustenance. Perhaps some rabble rousing while we are at it too. To Ten Forward?”

 

== FIN ==


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