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No Easy Way Out...


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#1 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22011.23 @ 18:18 (06:18 PM)

==One week after arriving at New Talax. Ten Forward. 0300Hrs.==

 

Ten Forward was dark save for the dim emergency lighting that always shone when the main lights were out, the lounge having been closed for over an hour already - though the Replicator area was open for business twenty-four hours a day, there were only a handful of bar staff aboard and thus the bar was closed for the majority of Gamma Shift, when most off-duty crew on the Alpha and Bravo shifts would be asleep anyway. This meant that Jenny had the room to herself, as she often did on nights when she could not sleep, and could more-or-less guarantee she would not be disturbed until the staff came in at 0430 to start preparing to open for the day.

 

A half-empty beer glass sat on the table beside the couch she lounged on, the liquid inside vibrating with the heavy notes coming from the Ten Forward speakers as Jenny worked the fretboard on her newest creation - a teal electric guitar with a scale motif not unlike a mermaid on the body. She'd ignored the curious looks from the Engineers when she'd requested a workshop for her own use, and had deftly avoided giving the project away; only Cera and Elias knew that the instrument was a Christmas gift for Crawford, whose old guitar had been lost during the Megasphere battle - the older woman didn't play often, and was a fan of classical guitar over electric, but it was the thought that counted and what else could Jenny get her sister-in-law when thirty-thousand light years from the nearest mall?

 

Pausing her work on the fretboard to adjust the lowest string, Jenny took a long drink from her beer before placing the glass down. Testing the strings once more, Jenny took a deep breath and ordered the computer to play the backing track she'd selected for this particular test; using Ten Forward as her own personal amplifier was probably a misuse of Star Fleet property and certainly one of those quirks that the lower decks crew discussed, but who was going to tell her no?

 

"We're not indestructible
Baby, better get that straight
I think it's unbelievable
How you give into the hands of fate.
 
Some things are worth fighting for
Some feelings never die
I'm not askin' for another chance
I just wanna know why.
 
There's no easy way out
There's no shortcut home
There's no easy way out
Givin' in can't be wrong.
 
I don't want to pacify you
I don't want to drag you down
But I'm feelin' like a prisoner
Like a stranger in a no-name town.
 
I see all the angry faces
Afraid that could be you and me
Talkin' about what might have been
I'm thinkin' about what I used to be.
 
There's no easy way out
There's no shortcut home
There's no easy way out
Givin' in can't be wrong."
 
The strings were getting a thorough workout as Jenny broke into the solo part of the track, fingers flying up and down the fretboard before releasing the instrument with her left hand to flex her fingers and work the circulation back into her digits.
 
"Baby, baby, we can shed this skin
We can know how we feel inside
Instead of goin' down and endless road
Not knowin' if we're dead or alive
Some things are worth fightin' for
Some feelings never die
I'm not askin' for another chance
I just wanna know why.
 
There's no easy way out
There's no shortcut home
There's no easy way out
Givin' in, givin' in can't be wrong, no.
 
There's no easy way out, there's no easy way out
There's no shortcut home, there's no shortcut home
There's no easy way out, there's no easy, no easy, no easy way out
there's no easy way out
There's no shortcut home, there's no shortcut home
There's no easy way out, there's no easy, no easy, no easy way out
There's no easy way out
There's no shortcut home
There's no easy way out."
 
The backing track came to an end and Jenny placed the guitar on the couch beside her, finishing the beer in her glass and scribbling some notes in a small pad that sat next to it. With a yawn, Jenny rose from the couch and slid her feet back into her slippers; the lounge pants and loose hoodie she wore indicative that she was very much off duty. Padding over to the bar, Jenny refilled her glass and paused as she finally became aware of an interloper in her solitude.
 
"Can I help you, Beka?"

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#2 Mid Beka Sydesh

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Posted Star Date 22011.23 @ 22:11 (10:11 PM)

Beka’s relationship with sleep was a troubled one at best. She was so used to operating at full throttle that she often struggled to switch off at night, no matter how tired she might have been. That intensity was invaluable sometimes. It was where she found the energy to keep up her workout schedule plus her training plus everything else on top of a demanding day job. The price she paid, and paid gladly for the most part, was frequent insomnia and spending most of her days off flat out asleep to catch up.
 
For the most part, I don’t miss alcohol at all. I don’t miss the loss of control, or the hangovers in the morning, or the ideas that seem great after 20 pints then career-threatening in sobriety. But I do miss being able to get tanked up and passing out for a guaranteed 8 hours. That’s also a damn good reason to stay off the booze too, I guess. If I can’t sleep without alcohol then that’s a serious problem I need to address.
 
Tonight was a special case even by her standards. The redhead had tried to sleep but just couldn’t switch off. The last few days had certainly given her a lot of reasons for unwelcome late-night introspection, thinking over the mistakes she’d made in the last month and how to do things differently. She had been up and down in her quarters, tried a couple of ‘home remedies’ from her roommate, but none of it had worked. 
 
Eventually Beka had given up. She had gotten dressed in whatever was nearest - a cropped grey tank top, lime green tennis skirt, orange sneakers, fiery red hair left loose - and just set off for a walk to try and clear her head that way.
 
Her erratic path had taken her round the recreation decks, through Sickbay, past Security and eventually back up to 10 Forward in search of a quiet corner to look at the stars, have a drink and something to eat from the replicators. Whereas before Sydesh hadn’t warranted a second look, her apparent infamy had spread far enough that people she didn’t know had greeted her by name with a knowing smirk as she passed. 
 
I mean, I get that I’m not exactly shy and retiring. The ginger hair, the bright clothes, the muscle and the tattoos are pretty distinctive. But damn. Sometimes I miss when nobody knew who I was. 
 
Beka’s hope of a quiet corner in 10 Forward were dashed by the thunderous noise that got louder as she got closer. She couldn’t stop a grin settling on her lips though. The doctor was a closet rocker and she very much approved of the track that was being played, and the guitar work that she could hear loud and clear. When she entered and saw it was Jenny Braggins working the fretboard like a woman possessed, she chuckled quietly to herself and headed for the replicators, ordering an iced coffee with extra whipped cream and watching the show.
 
I heard about her at the Halloween party. Didn’t actually see it because Nathan and me and drama, but now I’m half tempted to see if there’s any videos floating around on TheTube.
 
When the FO finished playing and headed over to the bar, she didn’t seem to notice the redhead until the two women were only a few feet apart. 
 
"Can I help you, Beka?"
 
Sydesh shook her head and took a sip of her coffee. She managed to get cream on her nose but didn’t notice.
 
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to gatecrash,” the doctor replied. “Just a screaming case of insomnia I’m trying to walk off. There’s nothing like 0300 hours for my broken brain to decide to go back over all my mistakes. And damn, there’s a lot to cover.” She wasn’t morose or down about it, just matter-of-fact with a disarming grin.
 
Suddenly she realised about the cream and hurriedly wiped it away with the back of her hand. 
 
“Can I just say, if someone told me you were amazing with an axe, my mind wouldn’t have gone to guitars,” Beka said, risking a joke. She still didn’t really know how to relate to off-duty Jenny, the awkward conversation on the holodeck not really helping, so she went with what she knew. 
 
On the bright side, she’s not likely to swing for me in pyjamas and fluffy slippers...
 

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#3 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22011.27 @ 19:56 (07:56 PM)

Jenny raised her eyebrow as Beka spoke, complaining of insomnia caused by critical self-reflection and low self-esteem; these were all things that had been noted in her psych profile, and that the younger woman was actively commenting on them showed she at least some self-awareness regarding her situation. There had, however, been no conscious effort to rectify it that Jenny had seen - though she had performed admirably in assisting the Talaxians, she had seemed hell-bent on undoing her hard work by pursuing Nathan Ramius who had only recently clawed his way out of the hole he'd dug himself into professionally.

 

"Can I just say, if someone told me you were amazing with an axe, my mind wouldn’t have gone to guitars,”

 

Jenny did not laugh at the attempt at humour, only shrugging.

 

"Everyone has to have a hobby, just because I'm a senior officer doesn't mean I stop needing to have fun now and then."

 

Jenny sipped her drink, considering her words; they might have sounded a little snappy, and perhaps they were, her sanctuary had been intruded upon and by a junior officer who seemed hell-bent on not making Ensign. Still, they were both off-duty and Beka had as much right to be in the lounge as she did, probably more in fact as she wasn't a mother with a sleeping infant back in her quarters. Taking another sip, Jenny took a deep breath.

 

"Come sit."

 

It was an invitation Beka was welcome to refuse, but even in her pyjamas Jenny knew she had a reputation of being one to be obeyed; she knew the stories, knew how the story of bruising Jaxx Crandell's finger on his first day had been blown out of proportion. She did not encourage the stories, but also did not stop them; they kept the more unruly members of the crew in line, and the officers and enlisted crew who truly knew Jenny had always publicly dismissed them as fictitious anyway. Even the ones that were actually true. Taking her seat again, Jenny placed the beer down on the table and once again picked up the guitar; it was nearly finished and would be ready for wrapping once the last few aesthetic touches were added, but it still didn't sound quite right. Disconnecting the instrument from the lounge's speakers, Jenny began to absent-mindedly pluck at the strings.

 

"There's something special about music, it can soothe the soul or ignite a fire in the spirit. You have that fire all of the time; your passion does you credit but it will be your undoing."

 

Tweaking the tension on the low E string, Jenny settled on a rhythm that was simple and melodic, though it carried a mournful tune to it.

 

"I've been a soldier a long time, Beka; I've seen what that kind of fire does to people. It will consume you and everyone around you; it will spur you to acts of heroism, but it will also get you killed. The Federation has enough dead heroes."


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#4 Mid Beka Sydesh

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Posted Star Date 22011.29 @ 16:38 (04:38 PM)

"Everyone has to have a hobby, just because I'm a senior officer doesn't mean I stop needing to have fun now and then."
 
Beka took the rebuttal with a wry smile. She hadn’t been expecting Jenny to respond in kind, but she took it as encouragement that the senior officer didn’t take offence or take her to task for trying.
 
"Come sit." Braggins was already walking away, back to her seat with drink in hand. 
 
For a moment Sydesh considered making an excuse and walking away, but the thought was a fleeting one and gone again in an instant. She was always going to take up the invitation and moved to do so, trailing behind and settling down on a seat at the same table. There were plenty of rumours about the Commander, and some of them had reached the doctor, even through her openly hostile and arm’s-length relationship with gossip. As to whether she believed them… That was a surprisingly easy question to answer.
 
I mean, she’s such a daunting personality sometimes. It would be so easy to say yes, I can absolutely see her losing patience and breaking a guy’s fingers on his first day. But the thing I get from her most of all is… control. I believe she would have wanted to, but knew she couldn’t, so she didn’t. I could be wrong here, and probably am, but no, I don’t believe the stories. It doesn’t make it any easier to sit here and ignore that whole ‘fight or flight’ reaction though.
 
"There's something special about music, it can soothe the soul or ignite a fire in the spirit. You have that fire all of the time; your passion does you credit but it will be your undoing." 
 
Jenny spoke as she coaxed a rhythm from the guitar. Beka stayed silent, knowing the senior officer wasn’t done yet.
 
"I've been a soldier a long time, Beka; I've seen what that kind of fire does to people. It will consume you and everyone around you; it will spur you to acts of heroism, but it will also get you killed. The Federation has enough dead heroes."
 
Now the silence had an expectant quality, that the redhead was supposed to fill it. Taking a sip from her drink, she laid the glass down. 
 
“You have no idea how much I’d love to sit here and argue you’ve got me all wrong. Rewind a couple of weeks even, and I tried. You were right to call me out then and you’re right now,” Sydesh said calmly, remembering the last time the two of them had had a frank conversation sat here in 10 Forward.
 
There was a moment’s pause as she tried to find the words she wanted to say.
 
“When I came aboard, I didn’t even think about it,” the doctor continued eventually. “I’ve been relying on the fire, on that drive, for years. You’ve seen my file and I have no doubt you know that’s not even half the story. I’ve had to push hard every minute of every day to go from where I was to here. But now I am here… I need another approach and I don’t have one. Put a problem in front of me, or an unfamiliar situation, and the only thing I know how to do is throw myself at it full force because that’s all that worked before. And boy has it not worked here. I’ve pissed off people from the junior nurses right the way up to senior staff and whenever I try and fix it I just make it worse, because I’m just doing more of what pissed them off in the first place.”
 
Beka sighed. 
 
“So yeah,” she added. “Even I can see the straight line that leads from this to picking a fight I can’t hope to win, and it either kills me or sends me back home in disgrace. The amount of times I’m sat there at 0100 hours and it’s that that’s keeping me awake. I want to change but I know it took something special to get me assigned here of all places. Whatever that was, whatever the edge I have that keeps me one step ahead in surgery, I don’t want to lose it. Your song was kinda prophetic there. There really isn’t an easy way out of this.”
 
Emerald green eyes locked onto Jenny’s cool violet gaze.
 
“If you’re still feeling truthsome, I could really use your advice again,” Sydesh said. “How did you reconcile what made you, you, with what you needed to be to make it in Star Fleet? I’ve had the lecture about professionalism so many times, and I still don’t know how I can ever meet those standards without losing something I can’t get back.”

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#5 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.03 @ 15:05 (03:05 PM)

The second string of self-deprecation from Sydesh was pretty much expected, at this point; the young woman knew she was making mistakes, alienating her peers and distancing herself from prospects of promotion, but she'd yet to figure out how she was doing it. To say it was because she threw herself at her tasks was a mistake, she may have ruffled some feathers among those who were workshy by doing it, but it was not the real reason. The question of how Jenny had reconciled who she was with what Star Fleet expected was a surprise, though it shouldn't have been given Sydesh's penchant for speaking her mind.

"With me...it was a different time. We were losing the war with the Krynar and needed every officer we could get, so people were a little more...tolerant. That said, I constantly rubbed the Chief Tactical Officer the wrong way; guy named Shelmer, spent more time staring at various parts of female anatomy than doing his job, and really resented having a Marine Helmswoman that neither obeyed his orders or swooned every time he walked into a room. I made sure that while he slacked off, I practiced; not just my job, but his. End result, I transferred into Tactical and took his job from him."

 

Pausing her plucking to adjust another string's tension, Jenny continued.

 

"That's not to say I didn't make mistakes; I'd been given training that few others aboard had been given, and it took time for me to realise that not everyone was suited for the kind of missions I found normal. My way of thinking was also vastly different because of my experiences, and in some ways still is; this caused it's own issues further down the road, which we won't get into."

 

Satisfied with the new tuning, Jenny went back to plucking away at strings in a tune that was slightly move lively but artificially subdued by the lack of amplification and volume.

 

"The professionalism lecture isn't for everyone, because not everyone is capable of meeting the expectations of their superiors in every way. If you want to succeed with this crew, you need to know your limits and the limits of those around you; not just their skills, but their physical and emotional limits as well. Push them beyond those, and you'll either get pushback or someone will get hurt."

 

From her tone, it was clear that Jenny spoke from experience; the events of the New Kanto mission were tightly classified, but she'd got Aegis Monroe killed by not understanding that the woman wore her heart on her sleeve and ended up getting herself riddled with duranium when she tried to save a prisoner of war, and not realising that Thike Ch'ezhyrraq was a sociopath who liked slitting throats rather than ensuring wounded enemies got appropriate medical care. Those were lessons she had learned the hard way, and it had nearly cost her her career, but she had grown from the experience and it was a major reason why she now assumed most Academy graduates were incapable until they proved otherwise.

 

"Not going around picking fights helps, too. I know what people call you, and I know there are some people aboard who really deserve an ***-kicking, but the more asses you kick in your spare time the less friends you'll have when you need them. If anyone is a consistent problem, and I have a few ideas already, you deal with it properly not with your fists."

 

Hypocrite...


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#6 Mid Beka Sydesh

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Posted Star Date 22012.05 @ 18:40 (06:40 PM)

There was a respectful silence from Beka as she listened to Jenny. 
 
The doctor didn’t know a huge amount about the First Officer’s career beyond what was public knowledge. Any kind of personnel or medical file was behind the sort of security that could be career-ending if messed with. Whilst Sydesh was fascinated by that and had her own suspicions about why the restrictions were there, she wasn’t stupid or reckless enough to risk tangling with it. Normally she would have asked people she trusted, but she hadn’t told anyone about Braggins’ apparent interest in salvaging her. Not even Eli, Robin or Nathan knew. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them. Far from it - she would have trusted all 3 with her life in a heartbeat. It just didn’t feel right talking about it, like it was somehow breaking the Commander’s confidence.
 
There’s just something about Jenny. I believe her completely, every word she says. When she talks, I can almost see her reliving the memories. And this coming from the ultimate cynic. Normally I don’t believe a single thing anyone tells me, unless I can somehow vouch for them personally. Look how that messed things up with Coleman. I wouldn’t even take the word of the Chief of Security. 
 
"Not going around picking fights helps, too. I know what people call you, and I know there are some people aboard who really deserve an ***-kicking, but the more asses you kick in your spare time the less friends you'll have when you need them. If anyone is a consistent problem, and I have a few ideas already, you deal with it properly not with your fists."
 
That drew a quiet chuckle from Beka. 
 
“Don’t worry, I learned that lesson already,” the redhead replied. “My days of getting baited into physical fights are over. It’s not just the idea that somehow you’re watching. I got my taekwon-do black belt last week, and when I put it on it felt like some kind of...  mystical experience.” 
 
She laughed softly, shaking her head at her own words. 
 
“I know it sounds corny,” she said. “But part of why I was so easy to draw into physical confrontations was because I felt like I had to put a marker down, that I wasn’t to be messed with. A hangover from being stuck on freighters for so long I guess. And now, I have a black belt, and it’s one of those universal standards. And it comes with much higher expectations, like not letting yourself get dragged into a brawl because someone else is interested in the same girl you are. I’m getting better at catching myself, ignoring that rush of blood.”
 
Sydesh took a sip of her drink. 
 
“From what you said earlier, the part I think I can take from that, is focus on what I do different or better,” the doctor added. “And yeah, I think there’s plenty there. It’s why I don’t have so many worries about acquitting myself professionally since the asteroid mission. I’ve rebuilt knees, shoulders and elbows. Carried out operations that had a tiny chance of success and they’ve gone absolutely to plan. Used my field engineering certifications to install equipment and then train the Talaxians not just to use it, but keep it running. And for all the grief I get from the rest of my department, I still led the medical team when we went down there initially.” 
 
She sighed.
 
“Yeah, I made a few mistakes. But I think my work the last couple of weeks stands up to scrutiny even if you take away how recently I graduated. It just shines that spotlight so much brighter on the things I keep getting wrong, and how I’m further away from getting that gold pip than when I boarded.”
 
There was a distinct edge of frustration in her voice. For all the redhead’s erratic confidence, the one area where she was rock solid was her ability as a doctor. Since leaving Earth, only 3 of the Artemis’ medics had racked up more hours in surgery than her, and she was the only one up to date on surgical reports and aftercare. And it didn't seem to helping her one bit.
 
“If I knew what to do, I’d be doing it,” Beka said. “So I guess I just need to front up and ask. What do you think I’m doing wrong, and how do I try and turn this around? I don’t expect a magic bullet to fix all my problems. And I’m not afraid of work. I just need some guidance from someone who’s probably seen dozens of me pass through.”
 
It wasn’t a question that she had wanted to ask and certainly not in such a blunt form. It was an admission that she didn’t know why she was failing, and in turn that she didn’t have the awareness to figure it out herself. But at this stage she had 2 choices. Either keep making the same mistakes and hope eventually to have some big epiphany before she was too far gone to be saved. Or ask for help from someone who was easily her best hope at finding an understanding voice.

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#7 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.10 @ 15:43 (03:43 PM)

Jenny continued to play as Sydesh spoke, really only half-listening and using her keen hearing and genetically-engineered intelligence to filter out the important parts from the flow of consciousness that seemed to define how the young doctor spoke. Beka was justifiably proud of earning her black belt, it was a laudable achievement, but Jenny was not sure the other woman truly understood what it meant. Not that Jenny did, either; martial arts, to her, were a form of exercise and meditation. To call anything relating to that a mystical experience seemed a little over the top, but then Jenny had seen and done things that Beka hadn't - experience would either temper the other woman's poetic descriptions, or inspire her to win a Pulitzer.

 

“If I knew what to do, I’d be doing it. So I guess I just need to front up and ask. What do you think I’m doing wrong, and how do I try and turn this around? I don’t expect a magic bullet to fix all my problems. And I’m not afraid of work. I just need some guidance from someone who’s probably seen dozens of me pass through.”

 

With the other woman having finally arrived at her point, Jenny continued plucking at strings in silence for a moment before placing the guitar down on her lap and shifting in her seat.

"You're overthinking things. The problem is in here."

 

Jenny reached out and tapped Beka on the forehead, well aware that the woman could interpret it as an attack and move to defend herself. Jenny was smaller, lighter, and with a much shorter reach, so the larger woman being able to throw her across the lounge wasn't outside of the realms of possibility. Jenny doubted she would, though; few people were daring enough to try it even in the controlled environment of the ring, and that number was mostly made up of members of Star Fleet Security or the Special Forces.

 

"You're on your Midshipman Cruise, at the Academy they used to explain what that meant. You're meant to make mistakes, to learn from those mistakes. Barring a Court Martial offence, which I don't believe you've committed unless you're very good at hiding things, you'll make Ensign."

 

Draining the remainder of her beer in one go, Jenny continued.

 

"You want to be respected, you want to be liked; I get that. However, they can be mutually-exclusive at this point in your career; you can expect one or the other, but not both unless you are some kind of social genius. I'm not saying you need to start stamping on toes, but if you want to be respected you need to thicken your skin to what other people say - I had to do it, the skipper had to do it - we're the children of Admirals, she's married to an Admiral, and I'm married to her brother; do you really expect our peers believed we got our jobs based on merit? Once you've earned the respect of your peers, then you can work on making them like you."

 

Placing the now empty glass on the table, Jenny briefly considered getting up and refilling it again, but really what was the point? It wasn't like it was going to get her drunk, and after a few the taste became less and less appealing; this was probably why Tyra was a whiskey drinker, she reflected. That and the Gaelic influences that came with the name Crawford, it was probably genetic in some way.

 

"The Captain and I have the highest expectations of our Midshipmen, no matter how it may seem. Professionally you are meeting those expectations - you're doing your job, you've not botched a surgery or killed anyone. Personally, that's where your problems lie. You need to get a handle on what you want, who you want to be. Do you want to be the next Beverly Crusher, or do you want the reputation of an officer who can't settle down and picks a fight every five minutes?"


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#8 Mid Beka Sydesh

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Posted Star Date 22012.14 @ 18:16 (06:16 PM)

“You’re overthinking things. The problem is in here.”

 

When Jenny reached out and tapped Beka on the forehead, the redhead tilted her head but she didn’t make any kind of move. To her, the FO was just making a point. It certainly wasn’t grounds for a physical reaction. Quite whether she’d have been so sanguine had it been someone else, or taken place a couple of weeks ago, was a discussion for another day.

 

It was encouraging for the doctor to hear that she was heading for Ensign. Since the asteroid missions, Sydesh had had a nagging voice at the back of her head that she had somehow screwed it up, and that’s why she hadn’t seen any of the senior medical officers except in passing at parties. 

 

I mean, I’m glad to have gotten the pass for the Midshipman Cruise. There were a lot of mistakes and it’s a relief they’re not going to cost me that gold pip. Would have been nice to get some credit for the good things though... 

 

The more Jenny spoke this time though, the more confused Beka felt at the end of it.

 

"The Captain and I have the highest expectations of our Midshipmen, no matter how it may seem. Professionally you are meeting those expectations - you're doing your job, you've not botched a surgery or killed anyone. Personally, that's where your problems lie. You need to get a handle on what you want, who you want to be. Do you want to be the next Beverly Crusher, or do you want the reputation of an officer who can't settle down and picks a fight every five minutes?"

 

Sydesh replied instantly.

 

“I don’t want to be the next anybody,” she said. “I want to be the first Beka Sydesh. It’s all I’m qualified to be. All I’ve got in common with Admiral Crusher is hair colour and chosen profession and that’s literally it. Being her isn’t a goal I could ever hope to achieve, even if it’s the one the Academy seemed absolutely hell-bent on pushing me towards. I don’t want to be ungrateful here, but that whole ‘be her or be a disaster’ speech is the whole reason I came aboard with a chip on my shoulder. I needed to see officers like you and the Captain, people who started out like me so I didn’t have that inferiority complex before even stepping through the door.”

 

There was a frown on Beka’s face as she thought about what she wanted to say next. 

 

“As for dealing with disrespect… **** me, I’m getting a lot of practice at that,” she said. “Every time I set foot in Sickbay at the moment, there’s a new barrage coming my way about piracy and space trash and ******* whistling. I’m working on turning that around but there’s only so much I can take. Nobody seems remotely interested in what I’ve actually done, they’re much more focused on how many pins they can stick in me when my back is turned.”

 

The redhead rubbed the inside of her right arm, an old habit to draw reassurance from the words tattooed there. She was getting agitated now as old wounds were picked open. 

 

I don’t know if she’s doing this on purpose but it certainly feels like it. Should have known that at some point my buttons were going to get pressed…

 

“The places I’ve been, it doesn’t bother me any more if people don’t like me,” Beka added. “Believe it or not I’ve made a couple of close friends here. I can spend time with them and we all make each other feel better. It’s the lack of respect that’s really getting to me. I feel like I’m being singled out a lot of the time for being different. Because I don’t fit neatly in that ‘future Beverly Crusher’ box. That’s why I came to you for help in the first place, as I figured the same would have happened to you. I’m trying so hard to keep turning the other cheek and let my exoscalpel do the talking for me. But it really bites that I’ve got to work twice as hard as some clean-cut replicated officer who doesn’t have half my skills, because I’m different and they’re not.”

 

Whether Jenny meant to or not, she had gone deftly right to the heart of Beka’s grievances. The redhead knew she was too polarising a personality to ever remotely resemble popular. But she did genuinely feel that her differences meant she had to work harder than anyone else to get to the same point.

 

“I’m here because I need to learn how to get past that. How to get the respect of my crewmates, not entrench the beliefs that I’m not worth the effort because I can’t conform.”

 

At that she lapsed into silence, draining her glass and then letting it thud against the table.


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#9 Cdr Jennifer Braggins

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Posted Star Date 22012.23 @ 05:25 (05:25 AM)

Jenny listened patiently and silently as Sydesh went into her tirade; it was a story she'd heard before from other crewmembers with 'personality' - people were out to get them, or didn't understand them, or didn't give them the right amount of respect. Ninety-nine percent of the time, those people were losers anyway; people who had somehow scraped through the Academy or Technical School and went out to pollute Star Fleet with their attitude and bitter mediocrity. In Sydesh's case, however, things were different - she had a chip on her shoulder the size of a Runabout and a skin so thin it didn't register on a micrometer. Worse, she was actually good at her job so the ego was at least slightly warranted. What Jenny found particularly worrying, however, was the young woman's attitude about where she came from - her world had been paradise before it had been devastated, and though her time on the Riftrunner hadn't been a holiday, it had been state-of-the-art compared to the junkheap Elias had served on prior to entering Star Fleet.

 

Is this what we fight for? An embittered and selfish generation of crybabies? 

 

Eyeing her empty glass, Jenny wished she'd gotten herself a refill; not for the alcoholic content or the taste, but so she had something to keep her hands and lips occupied while she thought about how to phrase what she wanted to say without hurting the younger woman's feelings.

 

"You'd be surprised how many of the Artemis crew aren't your run-of-the-mill clean-cut officers. Lieutenant Elias worked a tramp freighter before joining Star Fleet, for example. Lieutenant McKenzie flew Assault Shuttles in more conflict zones than I can count on both hands. Ensign Ramius...well let's just say he's a special case. There are others, too; especially among the senior enlisted personnel. You're not the only people who has 'been places' or 'done things'; there are crew aboard this ship who have seen wonders beyond your wildest dreams, witnessed atrocities you couldn't imagine in your nightmares, and who stuck together when the ship was literally flying apart around them. Nor are you the only member of this crew to have lost their home; I can think of at least half a dozen people aboard who lost everything during the Borg invasion of twenty-four oh-two, and another handful whose homes were destroyed by the Krynar."

 

Placing the guitar back in its case, Jenny leaned forward and placed her hands on the table that separated them.

 

"The issue isn't whether you conform or not, it's how you compose yourself. People whistle or call you space trash and you, in your own words, turn the other cheek. That's problem number one; you react. Sure, you're not letting your fists fly but they can see a chink in the armour and they go for it. You're both lucky and unlucky that you both entered and graduated Star Fleet Academy in a time of peace, something precious few of us have had the luxury of doing; this is a crew that's been bound together in combat, by the knowledge they're sacrificing everything for billions of civilians who don't even know or care that they exist - that hardens a person and, unfortunate as it may be, leads them to direct the anger and grief elsewhere - in this case, you."

 

Glancing at the doorway to ensure nobody was entering, Jenny continued.

 

"Problem number two is that you have this sense of having to work twice as hard to get recognition from your peers; I've read your performance and psych evaluations, and they suggest that you're incapable of giving any less than your best. If that's twice as hard as everyone else, that's not what you need to do it's what you want to do. You resent others for not being as good as you are but being in positions of responsibility, but that's how Star Fleet operates - natural talent in surgery will only take you so far. Ask yourself, what skills do the Junior Lieutenants in Sickbay have that you don't - the answers might surprise you."

 

Straightening, Jenny rolled her shoulders and her neck with several audible cracks and pops - partly from slouching on the couch while playing, but mostly from sitting behind a desk for half a shift dealing with paperwork such as the aforementioned performance evaluations and psychological reports - several crew were being sent home aboard the Callisto for unsatisfactory performance or because they couldn't hack being so far from home. If Sydesh couldn't get it together, her name might also end up on the list to prevent a catastrophic and violent breakdown at a critical moment.

 

"Problem number three is the big one, however; the 'us versus them' mentality you have is going to get someone killed one day, because you and your colleagues cannot work together as a team. You're no different than anyone else on this ship, no more or less special regardless of homeworld, upbringing or difficult teenage years. You don't want to be the next Admiral Crusher, that's fine, but before you can get anyone to respect you for who you are, you need to know who that person is. Are you a Star Fleet Officer who has pride in her past but will put it behind her for the good of others, or are you a stubborn sawbones from a backwater world better suited to life on a frontier cargo barge? Because I'll tell you now, you can't be both."

 

Some might say that Jenny was being overly harsh, but they were thirty-thousand Light Years from Earth and Jenny had more that enough on her plate already than a Midshipman who chafed at being the new girl and bristled every time someone even thought something negative about her. It was an attitude she'd seen too many times, and people had died because of it; too many times, the attitude had gotten someone else killed as well as or instead of the offender. 


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#10 Mid Beka Sydesh

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Posted Star Date 22012.26 @ 22:26 (10:26 PM)

As she sat in the chair, Beka was starting to feel almost punch-drunk. No matter what she said or how she tried to defend herself, Jenny always had a new line of attack that landed square on the redhead’s chin.

 

If this was a fight I’d have been TKO’d by now she thought despondently. Whichever way I go she’s got another volley with my name on. I almost wish she’d just hit me and get it over with that way. It would probably hurt less.

 

She drew in a deep breath, paused and then exhaled to buy herself some time to string some words together.

 

This is making my Kobayashi Maru look easy. At least I got out of that with my career and dignity intact. Say the wrong thing here, and I’m off Artemis in disgrace.

 

“I don’t even recognise the person you’re making me out to be,” Sydesh said eventually. “But that’s not a reflection on you. You make your judgments based on the evidence that’s in front of you, and I’m the one that put it there. It’s on me. I have to show you what I really am.”

 

Broad shoulders rose and fell as she shrugged.

 

“Both Commander Tyrol and Lieutenant Coleman chewed me out for screwing up the military side of things, so I have holodeck 4 booked out for training for the best part of a week to fix that,” she said. “Communications. Away team protocol. Basic leadership training. Security tactics. Whatever it takes to learn from my mistakes and move on.”

 

Beka shifted uncomfortably on her chair.

 

“I don’t know if I’m trying to prove you right or prove you wrong,” she added. “I’m ashamed of who I was. I made bad decision after bad decision and it got me a 3-year sentence in deep space that I only barely survived. The only call I ever got right was joining Star Fleet and I’m going to keep working at it. Yeah, I make jokes at my own expense because I’m not in any way secure enough to risk making them at anyone else. But I’m not going to give up on me. If it takes me a year or 2 or 3, I will get to the point where I can sit here in these chairs having earned your respect. I know nothing I say now is going to do that. I have to show you. And I will.”

 

The redhead had sacrificed a lot to try and be a better crewmate to the rest of Artemis. She had cut out alcohol completely because it impaired her performance, and she wouldn’t tolerate even the slightest drop in her standards. There was a holodeck program hidden away in the subfolders that she called her ‘hypocrite’ program where she trained with knives, because no matter her own misgivings, if she had to use a blade to save lives or protect people then she was going to. And that didn’t even count any of the elective procedures she had carried out to help people like Eli McKenna get over their old injuries.

 

I’ve got work to do still. But I can’t let these workings-over knock me down. They’re doing this to make me better. If I don’t cling onto that and the good things I know I’ve done, then I might as well file my own resignation and go. That’s not how this goes down.

 


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