Captains Table: Falling in the Night
The ship was cold, it was always cold; bitterness seeped into the bones of the crew, filled the very metal of the ship with fingers of frozen emotion. A breen ship that the feline captain had acquired as salvage, rebuilt and crewed now by those who were like J'soph. The forgotten of the stars, those who were left behind in the darkness to die before frozen salvation came for them.
Doors hissed open, giving the sound of serpents drawing back before snapping closed. J'sophs heavy feet fell against the deck, creating an echoing chorus in time with the workings of the weathered ship. Slowing before turning his head, the faint stirrings of music... something from Earth, he thought. It brought him back for a moment, to a time when youth and life still filled every part of him. Life was everything to him then; those days when the stars were the calling force, and the service in which he chose to continue.
Turning away from that music, trying to force it from his mind; from the warmth that fiddle and piano brought to him. His steps continued down the hissing dark corridor, till the feeling of fingers moving along fur alerted every sense in his body. J'soph spun, pulling his weapon free, looking around him to anything that was there or could be there. The weapon slowly returned to the holster, his hand moving to where he felt familiar fingers. The stirrings of memory, of feelings he once held dear; ice was there, though, trying to steal that feeling away into a frozen cage.
A long hiss emanated from the Caitian, before turning on heel to enter his private quarters. Stepping through he felt only warmth, the wash of laughter and the alluring scent of drinks that had not been tasted by the Feline Captain in some years. The door shutting behind him was not his, not his ships, not one that he could ever recall seeing. Around him a field of lifeforms, many known and so many more he had never encountered or seen. Darted among them, a few Klingons and Humans engaging in bouts of boasting.
Reacting as though he was still in the war, reaching for a phaser that had not been at his side in more years than the old Caitian would care to remember; The arm reaching out, though clothed, seemed the age of a much younger man; from a time when a badge sat on his chest proudly. J'soph found himself seeking the nearest reflection; finding what he feared, a younger mans face... one that was his when the heart was still warm, and he knew his purpose in things.
"Remarkable, isn't it?" Feline eyes darting to the source of those words, his head cocked a little to the side, finding himself staring at a human. One that every bit of his senses told him was not human, but not anything he could understand yet. Yet this man spoke softly, Irish tones lifting from his lips giving a light ease and comfort, an empty glass slowly being cleaned effortlessly set down before the feline captain. Soon something amber and sweet smelling filled the glass, as the man stood there watching J'soph. "Remarkable, this place... not what you want but sometimes just what you need, and sometimes, even a reminder of what you are." His lazy smile somehow easing J'soph, who nudged his paws forward till one hand slipped around the offered drink.
"Wha...." The question dying on the felines lips, as the barkeep held up one weathered hand. He smiled broadly, using that hand to motion around the gathering there. "The Captain's Table, just a place for stories and to find some respite, some peace or kinship. Drinks and time only cost a simple story, nothing more, nothing less. You came here, so something must be on your mind that wants to be told. Find a good ear to speak it too and enjoy yourself, Captain." Leaning back, the human looking man turned ,strolling down the long bar attending to others, as though nothing else ever need be spoken on the matter, no questions to reply to, just the simple answer.
Taking the drink, he walked towards what looked to be an empty table. J'soph felt some of that old age creeping into his bones. He looked and felt young, but the feeling was there, growing as he sank into a chair... That all too familiar feeling of age and pain, it was his frozen weight; what the feline captain dragged behind him, wore around his neck every day. The drink he carried was one that had been missing from his lips for long years, its taste pulling J'soph back to long nights. To a time that his uniform would adorn the floor, among other discarded clothing from the man that had been his lover.
Sitting next to him suddenly, a young human, joined by a battered old Klingon. It didn't take long for the table to fill with drinks and boasting being shared. Yet J'soph sat there silently, until the jovial hand of that Klingon rapped against his arm. His voice deep and resonating, almost operatic with its tone and ringing that lingered. "You look too young for such a dark and weathered presence... come, share a tale with us, Captain..." His words trailing away as the Caitian's eyes looked up to meet his, showing the age that lingered behind them before lips moved speaking softly. "A tale... stories, yes, I do have a few. Many good times with crew and friends, many times when all was calm and held the peace I once treasured... yet I can't recall them as I would want too. I can only think of a story from when I stepped down from the command of a ship, to take up a different role for a Captain that had become dear to me. It is not a kind story or one that many know about or should, but it is here on my lips and I shall share this story. My name is J'soph, my first command was the Pendragon... a Starfleet ship, though given those gathered at this table, I am sure many know that just by how I am dressed.” Looking around, those gathered offered a few nods showing acknowledgment, though one set of eyes, those belonging to a young human seemed more focused. He seemed familiar to the feline captain, though placing him, he could not just yet.
“My Command there was long and fulfilling, the ship sturdy and steadfast in all she tried and needed to do. Though during those long years in command I trained, and became close to many young officers who went on to their own dreams and desires, one was particular to my heart; he served under me as a junior officer, later, my second in command until the day came for him to gain his own command. It was during this time he asked me to step down from command for a time, to join him as his chief medical officer. And as his lover. The Pendragon was a good ship of the line, but I had always been a doctor that was pushed into command when time came for it. I accepted his offer, the draw to heal again... to serve the purpose I found most desired rose so hard and fast. I stepped down from command, and became the chief medical officer of the Hopkins. Now as ships go she was not the sleekest, not the most armed...She was a hospital floating in the stars; armed just enough to hold out long enough, or clear debris and nothing more. An ambassador class starship, they were already pretty rare at this point, the majority of the class phased out for Galaxy or Nebula class ships, or newer ships of the line. Though old, she had history soaked into every deck. Five years she was home to us, days on duty... nights together, clothes rarely kept on when we were together in quarters.”
Taking up his drink, sipping slowly, whiskers dipping after a moment before setting the glass down to look among those there. “Many long, good years... times I spent the last twenty and more years of my life trying to forget, to leave in the past and never dredge up again... but they are there again, reminding me what warmth once felt like. Hmm, I digress I think from the point of things. The Federation had just left one long, devastating war, attacks by the Borg... then the destruction of Romulus. The Hopkins was there in the early part of colony evacuations along the path of destruction, part of Federation relief and aid efforts. The Federation lost Ambassador Spock in the effort to stop the wave of destruction, the Romulan Empire broke. Power struggles rising up quickly between the Tal Shiar and the Imperial Fleets, the outlying colonies where hit hard. But it was the mid range and inner colony worlds that were devastated; we responded to one of their calls for help. The colony world was deep into the Empire's territory, Star Fleet had ships throughout Romulan space assisting where they could. While most of the wave from the Hobus supernova was neutralized, fingers of it still traveled until hitting something.
This world had eighty percent of its surface burnt and scoured by what hit them, a hand full of farming communities and the remains of one city being all that survived. In all, maybe a million Romulan civilians. Our scans of the planet showed remains of planet side shipyards and military complexes. What remained of the planetary government informed us that the planet was a supply world for Tal Shiar ships and families of their crews. It didn't matter to us, they were injured, and dying down there. Our shuttle bays emptied running supplies and were temporarily turned into mobile triage units. The shuttle bay became a spare ward, waiting to receive the incoming patients. This is when the storm of these events rained down upon us. Klingon birds of prey decloaked, giving warning shots to the regions around our ships bridge. The Captain was injured from a power conduit rupturing, the first officer left pretty dazed with a good head wound.
Shields were raised and weapons made ready; granted, our weapons were stripped down to just turrets that would require a good amount of concentrated fire to bring down another ships shields, or enough to do any damage to them. My medical team arrived on a smoke filled bridge, damaged consoles sparking and my lover laying near the command chair, unmoving. We got him and the first officer stabilized quickly, before sending them down to medical to get them on their feet as quickly as possible. The second in command was so green, she looked as though the next disruptor bolt to hit us would do her in. Growling to myself, I assumed temporary command until the Captain was on his feet again. It worked in my favor that I outranked, and had the most experience of anyone else on the ship.
Getting the Klingons on screen to talk was easy enough, a little prodding and their angry wing commander filled the view screen. He promptly declared himself the head of House Mal'tOgK, and that they where laying claim of vengeance upon the remains of the colony world.
My reply, was every weapon the ship had firing at once upon his ship, as we put ourselves between them and the planet. Three birds of prey vs. us was not a favorable option, but we only had to hold them off long enough for help to arrive. Working on withering one bird of prey at a time down enough to inflict some damage, became a staggering wall to over come. Their weapons pounded into our shields and hull, my crew pleaded for use of more deadly force... I couldn't bring myself to the order, though... no lives taken under my watch. The order to only disable their ships stood.
We were holding on, reports of injuries piling up across the ship; engines were gone, shields were only a flicker of defense... the Klingon's weapon fire stopped. The Hopkins was heavily damaged; our shuttles had returned, taking up holding positions around the ship. The coms flicked back to life with a priority reply from Star Fleet command. The face of a smug admiral filling the screen, informed me that the Klingons agreed to hold their fire for the moment and would allow us to leave the system safely, but we were not allowed to render any help to the Romulan Colony. I won't bore you with the heated argument between this Admiral and myself, but his orders where relayed to the whole of the ship. Render no assistance to the Romulan colony, leave the system, and maintain our good relations with the Klingons. I told him to go to hell, and ordered battle stations with full deadly force. I knew, the crew knew, what would happen to those civilians if we let the Klingons by. Before the admiral could start saying anything else, he was removed from the screen. The bridge crew looked at me, a mixture of fear and questioning looks.
I hadn't noticed my mate... my lover, returning to the bridge. His strained voice cutting through to me, that voice I loved, telling me to stand down. I couldn't look back at him, I gave the order to fire. He shouted, 'Belay that order!' I ordered the crew to fire again, and again, he belayed me. I was enraged, my claws cutting into my palms; I hadn't turned to face him yet, to see his face. I looked ahead at the three birds of prey. They were damaged, a few good lucky hits would do enough to destroy maybe one, or at least disable them long enough. His voice was warning me to stand down to return to my station. I shouted at him....
'NO... WE ARE STAR FLEET, THEY CRIED OUT FOR OUR HELP; THEY ARE CRYING FOR HELP!' My voice calmed enough to speak firmly to the crew at hand, 'We do not turn our backs on those who cry out for help....'
'J'soph... my lo...' His sigh cut through me worse then my willingness to kill. 'Chief Medical officer J'soph, you are relieved of duty, we have our Orders and they will be followed. Return to your Quarters!'
I spun on him, coming to face him finally; finding a phaser shaking in his hand, aimed for me. There were no tears in his eyes, just the determination to follow orders to protect his command. 'No!... tactical fire on those ships...' His hand was shaking still when my voice cut out, pain flared through my head. I saw the phaser beam reaching out towards me... it filled my vision... then darkness.
I woke in transit to medical, one medic battered and bleeding pushing me along the hall on a hover bed. My rage took over everything; rolling up from the bed striking out, hitting him square. The poor kid hit the deck hard. He would be okay but I had to stop things; my thinking was not clear at this point, but it was focused enough to get me down to the Captain's Yacht. Not the best ship to go into a fight with, but she was armed as well as a runabout, so it would do. I had all the codes, the overrides and soon launched myself from the Hopkins.
The small craft turned in space lining up with the lead bird of prey; the Hopkins was thrusting out from orbit, their shuttles already docked. Emerald bolts of energy rained from the Klingon ships down to the planet. I lost it, phaser fire laced out from the Yacht, hammering into the lead bird of prey. Their shields buckled, most likely too weakened from the earlier fire fight. Its starboard wing tore away from the ship, sending it crashing into one of the wing ships. The third turned firing hard on me, my phasers streaking out to meet them head on. Their shields failed first, I was doing damage enough to make them peel away for a moment and cloak. I was already in bad shape when I took more fire, this time from the Hopkins. Shields failed, structural integrity was failing; engines flicked at best, leaving me caught in the planets gravity, losing orbit quickly.
The descent and damage done, left it difficult to beam me out if they tried, or if they even could still. The world went dark on me again. For how long, I really don't know... I woke a few times in the wreckage; screaming in the distance, flashes of emerald light, before darkness claimed my mind again.
The next time I opened my eyes, the world was silent; no flashes, no screaming... just one gruff voice telling me I was not allowed to die there. The visage of a Klingon I knew very well came into focus. My old ship's science officer, Groth. 'Come on, Captain, I didn't fly all this way to save your ass for you to die on me like this.' He was right, I couldn't die, not like that. 'Groth... am I dead... because you're one ugly mug to wake up to.... how bad is it?' His grin faded quickly, easing me up to rest against a bulkhead, or the remains of one.
'You seem to have taken a short range phaser hit to the eye; it had to have been on stun for you to live through it... but your eye is gone. The area around it is too damaged for any form of replacement. Most of your ribs are broken, along with both arms, and one leg is broken in multiple spots... could be worse, you could have lost that charming fur of yours.' I couldn't laugh, it hurt a little too much at that moment. Broken arm or not, I reached up, taking the badge from my chest. It was pretty burnt up, but held its shape still. 'I can't go back, Groth... Star Fleet... it's wrong, they have too much blood on their hands, and well, him... I think next time we meet, he will die.'
Groth got me off that planet, with a few unlucky souls who lived through the Klingon bombardment. It took some time but my health returned. I gained a new ship, a new crew, though I am no longer a Doctor, nor ever will be again. That died in me, my hope in Star Fleet died in me... love died in me. Now I am just what you see, one captain making ends meet for his crew in anyway that I can."
The table was silent for a long time; with the story finished, the drinks empty, and some faces looking grim. The young human's face looked the most shocked. J'soph stood, making for the door when his sleeve was pulled back. Turning on foot, the Caitian glared down at the human. His eyes were cold and hardened, though his lips moved still with a voice that surprised the old Captain, so much like his old lover's. That was what sparked recognition in his mind, the youth, even though sporting Captains pips, looked dead on for his old mate. "He's dead... he married, had a family... but upon learning you survived him shooting you... My father took his life soon after that." This young human, eyes cold still, began to shed tears. J'soph pulled his arm free before adjusting himself; his age had returned inside and out, showing the weathering of time and regret. The Caitian's lips started to move, but stopped when the youth spoke again; his words sharp and aimed well, "He still loved you... his last message to our family was his confession. He still loved you."
Coldness crept back into J'sophs veins again; replying before leaving the Captain's Table, "He died in my heart long ago; all he did was betray you and your family, because of guilt.” The door closed behind the Caitian captain in silence, the chill of his ship once more felt beneath him. A glance behind him, the edging of a tear that refused to fall. His body straightening, turning on heel, returning to the bridge.
( forgot the #WritingContest