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Legacy of War

Posted on Tue Oct 20th, 2020 @ 3:37pm by Captain Shran dh'Klar & Lieutenant Commander Estella Stratton

Mission: Sabotage
Location: USS Washington

Shran made his way from stellar cartography to the counselor's office. He was not one to openly discuss the past, certainly not the material he knew was on his mind, but he knew he needed to do so and he had great respect for Estella. He had broached the topic with her on one occasion several years prior, back when she was a fresh-faced lieutenant and still relatively new to the ship, and he had far more trepidations at that time. He needed to delve into this, especially if this mission was going to take them where he thought it might.

The short rest over, Estella settled back into her office and focused on getting into the usual ebb and flow of things. Her brief visit to her home planet might not have given her peace or much in the way of healing, but it had given her some clarity. For now, that would have to suffice. She glanced up when she observed Shran and she stood. "Captain," she gave a nod. This was a bit unexpected.

Shran had a look about him, of a person with something on his mind who wasn't quite sure how to express it. He was obviously trying to hide it behind that calm and cool exterior but he was certain Estella was going to see through that fa├žade. "Counselor, hope your time home was restful and refreshing."

"A good time for reflection, and some clarity." Estella nodded, but she doubted that the captain was there to share pleasantries. There was something in his eyes. Something behind that resolve. Something was bothering him. "That isn't why you're here though, is it?"

Shran grinned ever so slightly. "If I didn't know better, I'd swear you are a telepath." Shran sat down across from Estella. "Tell me, counselor, how well do you remember the Dominion War?"

"Thank God, I have no such ability," Estella chuckled, "or our thoughts would no longer be our own. Nor would there be any secrets, and therein no mystery." The small smile that had touched her lips vanished at the mentioning of the war. "Gruesome," the counselor whispered, the one word carrying the weight of her thoughts. "Is this something you need to discuss, Captain?"

Shran had a sober look about him. "I served through the entirety of the war. I was aboard the Jupiter, first as XO and then later as captain. Spent a lot of time in and out of Cardassian territory. It was a conflict like nothing I've ever seen before or since."

The Counselor gestured for the Captain to take a seat. "Wars have a way of marking us, changing us too." She took a deep breath and let out a collective sigh. "Be they political, religious, or personal. Does your experience still haunt you?"

"Honestly counselor I think haunting might be the exact word for my memories. On the Jupiter we destroyed many enemy vessels. We were boarded twice, once by Jem'Hadar and once by Cardassians, repelling them bin each instance. We fought in several major battles, including the retaking of Deep Space 9 and the Siege of Cardassia Prime. The war was a bloody affair."

Estella nodded and a small, almost knowing sad smile crept to her lips. "Ghosts of things seen, the weight of past decisions, the question of what if. Those are cruel shadows to be left with." She understood those feelings, the ones that hid beneath the surface. The ones that lingered and threatened to consume, drowning in a vast sea of doubt, regret, and guilt. "Do you have an outlet, a release?"

Shran sat quietly for a moment, a blank expression upon his face. "I have my duty. And the memories of war that I know shall always be with me. Did I ever tell you about how I became captain of the Jupiter? It was during a combat mission, but unlike anything they train us for."

"Duty is good, keeps you morally grounded, but how do you manage the pain?" The Counselor was touching on an area she was struggling with herself. Similar to Shran, she put her obligation to the Washington and its crew first. Even now, though she'd promised she'd be more open with others, she'd done the opposite almost instinctively when Sachzny had left. Outside of the recent session with Sam and Jon, Estella had been quite reserved. Her thoughts, feelings, and struggles all her own. "No, I do not believe you have, but I would be honored if you'd regale me with the tale."

"It was during the battle to retake Deep Space 9. We knew we were outgunned going in. We were supposed to have dozens of more ships, but as it seemed to constantly happen, time was against us. Sisko was leading the attack aboard the Defiant. We were outnumbered 2:1 but that didn't bother me. Simply meant it was harder for us to miss. Once the attack began we made a heavy push. We were taking hits left and right but the orders were to push forward no matter what. Our tactical officer, a Tellerite named Gamor was knocked unconscious by an exploding console. I leapt to take his position. I took over at tactical and the captain ordered for us to fire at will. I launched a full spread of torpedoes and a full phaser barrage, destroying three Dominion ships and a Cardassian Galor class. We started to make headway despite constant attack. Engineering was in chaos trying to keep the shields up and keep us in one piece. We were holding our own though despite things looking bleak when the Klingons appeared and blasted a hole in the enemy lines. We suddenly had new life. As the Klingons pushed the advantage we regrouped with several other vessels, the Akira, the Venture, and a few others as we began to make a push of our own. It was at this point though that our shields dropped and Jem'Hadar beamed aboard. I killed one that materialized near me, but I couldn't keep them from decapitating the captain. Suddenly I was in charge. We neutralized the rest of the boarders and I ordered Engineering to get the shields back up. A few moments later they were and we were back in the fight, as we fought a dozen Cardassian vessels. After what seemed like a barrage, unlike anything we pushed past the remnants of the Dominion-Cardassian Fleet we made our way to DS9. After that ordeal, I was officially captain of the Jupiter. She was a fine ship. Galaxy class." Shran looked somewhat relieved having told this tale, though now he was starring almost blankly.

The Counselor sat in silence, listening attentively, hanging on to Shran's every word. She made no comments, letting him relive the war and unload his burdens. Estella noted the slight changes in both his tone and features while he recollected the events of the Dominion War and the things he'd seen, the choices he'd had to make, and the weight of each. It was as he finished and a stoic expression etched his features that she addressed him again, her hands laced in her lap her thumbs working slow circles around each other. Recounting those scars, acknowledging their existence, it acted as a balm. Soothing them, offering temporary relief, for wounds that would never fully heal. Estella whispered in agreement, and in her own way, understanding. "Heavy are the crosses we all are made to bear."

Shran nodded as he heard her words. He had not recounted this experience in many years. Telling it to Estella was a burden of sorts, but somehow it seemed to lift a weight off him as well. "We lost 39 in that fight" he whispered. "I have wondered how we managed to survive at all. I still sometimes think that maybe we didn't. But then I see you, and Jon, and Celes and I know I made it through and have moved on to better things, better times. Still, the thought of dealing with Cardassians again, it forces me to think back to the war. I'm certain you have your own cross to bear with the Romulans. How do you manage it Estella?" he asked, stoic yet inquisitive.

Thirty-nine friends and comrades lost. The weight of a single life alone was immeasurable but so many, that was staggering. "That is always the question that remains, how to survive, how to endure." There was a sadness in her voice that almost echoed the hollowness in her heart. There'd been an emptiness there. One that no books could fill. A part of her that seemed untouchable, always kept out of reach, even to the one person she'd wanted to open it to more than anyone else. The Counselor kept that vulnerable part of her locked up. Her wounds she wore more as a form of armor. A means to guard herself against enduring the same pain again. Likewise, though, that practice had acted as a barrier between her and the people she cared for the most.

She closed her eyes and let a long silence pass between them. Had she truly managed? Perhaps, but the one thing she had never been able to do was to forgive herself. Even now, Estella still blamed herself for what had happened. She forced a chuckle. "I guess, it is all in acceptance. I can not undo what was done." Estella paused, more to keep her voice even so that it would not break, than anything else. "Nor can I bring back those that I lost. I can only accept it, and learn from it."

Shran heard her words, and they hit him like a supernova. They were sobering to him, forcing him to look at what had happened, accept that it was in the past, that he could not change it, and he had no choice but to move on. The loss would still exist, but so would everything else. He could no longer allow himself to live in the past. He leaned forward and placed his hand on Estella's shoulder and spoke softly, "I cannot carry your cross, nor you carry mine. But you have reminded me of my duty to myself, to life, and to others. Dwelling in the past serves only death, and I must let go of such pain to better serve life. I hope your words free you now the way you have freed me. You have my thanks." With that, he stood up and looked at her, as if unsure how to best continue.

Death had claimed two people she loved, and the next she'd opened herself up to and regarded like family had left her, without so much as a goodbye. Then, Jon had been assimilated by the Borg, and him and Sam endured cruelty at the hand of Romulan Tal Shiar and there'd been little to nothing she could do to help. It was too much. Her chest felt like someone had turned a phaser on her and fired. Her eyes opened with the Captain's placement of his hand on her shoulder, for one of hers to rise to cover his before slowly slipping away. "Happy to help, Captain."

"Think on better things. As you have reminded me, you are not alone on this ship|" he said, slowly taking his hand from her shoulder and slowly walking away, out the door. Estella had given him a renewed sense of self, and he hoped that she would find the same for herself.

 

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