Party and Preoccupation
Posted on March 21st, 2017 by Benedict Wolfe and Kuari
By Major Benedict Wolfe and Captain Kuari
Major Wolfe watched as Kuari pranced around the Bridge, taking well-deserved pride in her promotion. He was glad she was preoccupied. Quietly, he continued setting up for her celebration in the Armory, clearing Marines from jobs they were doing and making sure everyone could be present. He paused a moment to think, I would have liked to be present when she was receiving her promotion, but he allowed that thought to pass. What was done was done, and there was no going back. He would just have to make the Marines’ celebration more badass than what the Admiral would normally allow.
Captain Kuari had shown Major Wolfe her new rank first. He should be the first to know, she thought, as her superior officer and department head. After his subtle yet congratulatory response, she quickly moved to Wright and then Harper, reveling in their smiles. Throughout it all, however, she couldn’t help but be preoccupied by recent events. She had killed a Gorn slaver, quite violently, in a way that she wasn’t trained to do by the Marine Corps. While “thinking outside the box” wasn’t frowned upon and she had only done what she felt necessary to save Wolfe’s life, Kuari was distracted by thoughts of the event, as if she hadn’t quite worked out how to feel about what she had done.
Wolfe watched as Kuari continued making her way around to the different officers, finally finishing with Ilaihr. He thought now would be a good time, before Ilaihr started musing about some old something or whatever that had happened to him, and began handing his station off to a Starfleet Naval officer. “Randen, Kuari. You’re with me.” With that, he rounded behind the console and made his way to the Turbolift behind Randen. All three of them arrived at roughly the same time and he followed the other two in before turning to face the doors. “Armory,” he called out.
The Turbolift ride began in silence. Kuari would normally be comfortable with it, but she knew that Wolfe still needed to speak with her about what happened and she wasn’t sure what he was thinking right now. Sitting on the lift floor with her tail curled tightly around all four feet so as not to get in the way, she asked conversationally, “So, how is the slave boy? The one that was afraid of me. I…don’t remember his name. I think I was in shock at the time…sir.”
Wolfe continued facing forward, but turned his head to acknowledge Kuari with something between a genuine smile and a smirk before returning to face forward as though duty required it. “Ah, Fik?” inquired Wolfe. “He’s aboard, under the care of Doctor Endilev until we figure out where he’s going next. You’re welcome to visit him. He wouldn’t allow himself to be separated from me until we had to leave. As much as he likes me, he’s absolutely smitten with you.”
Kuari raised her finned ears in surprise, awkwardness momentarily forgotten. “Smitten with me?”
“Smitten. Sorry, it’s British. He really likes you.”
She blinked her large eyes. “I’m surprised, after what he must have seen me do.” The corners of Kuari’s lips turned upwards slightly. “I’m happy he’s not afraid of me, though.”
Wolfe opened his mouth to respond, but at that moment the doors of the Turbolift opened to Deck 7, just a few meters away from the armory. They walked down the corridor to the door, and Wolfe turned around. First, he addressed Randen. “Get in there, you’ll know what to do.”
Randen followed his orders.
Next, Wolfe turned to Kuari. “Stay here a few moments. After I step into the Armory, I need you to face this door and guard it until I come out to relieve you, or give you new orders.”
Confused but willing to comply, Kuari nodded dutifully and lowered her tail to the floor. She sat erect and alert with her head held high in her normal guarding position, watching Wolfe disappear into the Armory. The corridor fell silent all but for the hum of the ship, and she waited.
Stepping into the Armory, Wolfe waited for the doors to close behind him. “Computer, lights.” When the lights powered on, there were all Atlantis’s Marines, in formation waiting at parade rest, just as had been ordered. He took a moment to inspect his Marines – it wasn’t often he got to see all of them in one place at one time. As he walked in front of the attachment and reached the centerline of the room, he turned to address them. “Marines. Thank you for being here. We are gathered for a very important occasion. It has been quite the day for one of our own. Some of you may have seen what I am talking about.
“On the away mission at the slaver station, after we had secured the prisoners, their leader, a Gorn, decided he hadn’t had enough. In fact, he had faked being stunned and did a decent job playing the part. Next time, remind me to take a Klingon pain stick.” The Marines laughed.” As I was taking care of an issue with one of their prisoners, a child, the Gorn attacked me. I had no time to react. With no warning, that Gorn had me pinned on my back, and he was atop me. I was a moment away from being killed by that bastard.
“He didn’t get a chance. With even less warning than he had given me, First Lieutenant Kuari took him out, and when I say, ‘took him out,’ I mean it was rather amazing to behold. She jumped on his back, took his head in her mouth, and twisted his neck. Technical note – when you break a Gorn’s neck, it’s a lot louder than a humanoid’s. Or maybe I was just that close.” There was more laughter and a few Marines hooted.
“Shortly after we arrived back on Atlantis, Admiral Blackthorne called First Lieutenant Kuari into his Ready Room, and that is why we are gathered here today. Marines. I want to present,” Wolfe pushed a button on his PADD to open the door, “Our new Captain Kuari. Captain. Please come in here.” Wolfe gestured grandly to Kuari.
Surprised once again, Kuari stood up, having heard herself announced to the room, and promptly came inside.
As Kuari entered, the Marines whooped and cheered for her; even Wolfe was clapping and smiling. She approached him, and he grabbed her around her long neck and pulled her close, pointing out the new emblem on her collar. A moment later, he backed off and put out his hand for a handshake as the cheers continued.
She couldn’t help the broad toothy grin at all the positive attention she was receiving. Kuari tried to meet everyone’s eyes, to acknowledge all of her fellow Marines who were congratulating her, but Wolfe had hugged her in a familiar way she wasn’t used to from him. He was waiting with his hand out, however, so she put her paw in it and numbly had it shaken. Was he that proud of her? It then occurred to her that perhaps Wolfe was just that grateful for her saving his life from the Gorn. Her mind was still awhirl over it, but she was doing her best to enjoy the moment.
“To Captain Kuari!” called out Wolfe.
“OO RAH!” the Marines responded.
“To Captain Kuari!”
“OO RAH!” This time louder.
“To Captain Kuari!”
After a second of silence in which you could hear a pin drop, the Marines charged Kuari. A moment later she was riding a wave of hands, and Wolfe watched on, stepping back a bit toward a wall.
Kuari laughed as she floated above the Marines on her back, but was mindful to keep her dorsal plates from flexing and the horn on the back of her head away from them. She was never one to spoil a good time, and she didn’t want to start now by injuring someone. At some point, she managed to tuck her right wing in enough to flip over, and as their grip moved to support her searching feet, she managed to stand on all fours. Judging them strong enough to hold her meager weight for her size, she pulled her forepaws free and reared up, flapping her wings animatedly and bellowing loudly in celebration.
Wolfe hadn’t ever heard of someone standing while crowdsurfing before, but then was there anything Kuari did that would seem normal to the average humanoid? He smiled at the thought.
At that moment, Zaxiven pushed his mobile bar into the Armory and placed it to the side of the door. Wolfe broke away from all that was going on and took a couple Marines from the edge of the crowd with him to assist in setting up the bar area. It didn’t take long before Zaxiven and his mobile bar were ready to go.
“You set?” asked Wolfe.
“Of course, Major,” replied Zaxiven. “Quite a celebration you’ve got here.” He gestured to Kuari. “Can I offer you the first drink?”
“Nah,” replied Wolfe. “I think that should go to our Marine of honor.”
“Ah! Of course. Probably something with chocolate, then.” Zaxiven grinned as he began pouring ingredients into a shaker tin.
From her high perspective, Kuari easily spotted Wolfe and Zaxiven near the door, so she flapped purposefully enough to pull her feet free from the Marines. The ceiling of the Armory was taller than that of a single deck, and she was able to glide a short distance away and settle back to the floor near the makeshift bar. “Zaxiven! I made Captain!”
The Marines watched as Kuari took off and landed next to the bar. Their attention now there, they were still interested in celebrating Kuari, but now drinks were on the mind as well.
Zaxiven finished making Kuari’s sweet chocolate drink and handed it to her just in time. “Congratulations, Captain. This is a drink I just made up, especially for you. I’m calling it The Rucara. I hope you enjoy it.”
Kuari approached, dipped her narrow tongue into the tall glass, and grinned at him. “Thanks! I love it!”
Zaxiven looked back and forth between Kuari and Wolfe with an eager expression that only a Denobulan was capable of making. “Well then. I guess it’s time to get to work. If you’ll excuse me, Captain, Major. Always nice chatting with you.”
Wolfe backed away and stood next to Kuari. “Congratulations, Captain. You deserve this.”
Kuari had picked up her drink carefully with both paws and stepped away from the bar as it got swarmed and was now standing with Wolfe. “Thank you, sir.” She took a moment to tip her drink to the point of her edged lips, enjoying the synthehol and chocolate beverage. The moment dragged on, though, as she became lost in thought.
One thing was always true about Kuari – you never wondered how she felt about something. Right now, Wolfe could see that all was not right with Kuari. “Anything you want to discuss?”
The Rucara’s large eyes centered on Wolfe’s and her ears flattened backwards along her horn. “I’m…nervous as to what will be in my debrief. After…I killed the slaver, you said we need to talk.”
Wolfe squared his body with Kuari and looked her straight in the eye. “We do need to talk. We absolutely need to talk. Part of what I wanted to talk about was doing something like that,” he pointed to her collar, “but it seems the Admiral beat me to it. Would you care to be debriefed now?”
Kuari’s ears perked upwards. “Can we, please? I would like to get it over with.”
“Very well,” responded Wolfe. “Let’s head over to my office.” Wolfe led the way out the door. With the party in full swing, the departure of the senior officer and guest of honor went largely unnoticed. It was a few steps down the corridor to Wolfe’s office, and Kuari trotted along behind him on her rear inverted legs, still carrying the chocolate drink. While she situated herself once inside, Wolfe stepped to the replicator and ordered a raktajino before taking his seat. Kuari sat down on the floor in front of the desk opposite him and set down her beverage on its shiny surface in front of her.
Wolfe began. “When I first began my career with the Starfleet Marine Corps, I knew that I would meet and work with a diverse selection of people from across the galaxy. I knew there would be many that I found difficult to understand. Hell, I find many humans difficult enough to understand. As you know, there are very few members of Starfleet who are not Humanoid, Vulcanoid, or something similar – at least, in most cases they normally walk on two legs. There are even fewer Rucara. With all the ships and crews in Starfleet, the chances of working with one of your species, much less meeting you, are very low. It is my pleasure to have you in my regiment.
“I’d like to start by thanking you. Without your actions a few hours ago, we wouldn’t be having this meeting. The truth of the matter is I would probably be room temperature. That Gorn was out for blood, and there was no one in the room ready to react and take him down like you did. You saw what phaser fire did to him. We might as well have been massaging his sore muscles. I remember thinking as he apparently succumbed to the phaser fire that the fight had gone from impossible to over far too quickly. I thought he was secured. Next time, we won’t use such gentle tactics, and we’ll make sure any prisoner we think is out is, indeed, out. But none of that would matter for me today without you.
“Let me put your mind at ease about something. When I said we needed to talk, I meant that I saw a talent and responsiveness in you that few Marines have. As you probably know, when we look at your numbers with a phaser and a phaser rifle, you barely make the cut. I think we could make better use of you if we made phasers a secondary tool for you. I’d much rather develop the proper suit and tools to support your skills and talents. As we are now in a precarious position with the fall of Starfleet to extremists, your abilities are more important now than ever.
“We started working toward developing a suit that would allow you to fly, but now I am not sure where that stands, and we should assume we’re back at the starting point. Further, seeing what happened today, I think that the suit we were exploring is not nearly everything you need. It’s nice to have the ability to use your wings, but now I realize we should develop your MECU so that you can take it with you into any fight, be protected, and make full use of your non-humanoid body and abilities. I’d like you to take a bit of time and think about that, but first, I want to take care of something else.”
Kuari lowered her head for a moment as Wolfe paused in his monologue, mentally filing away his command disguised as a request to think about the development of her MECU suit. It was difficult to focus just yet on it, instead reveling in the fact that Wolfe wasn’t unhappy with her as she first thought by his request to talk directly after she had killed the Gorn. As he began to speak again, she gave her full attention to him, now able to at least put that worry behind her.
“When you study the history of the Marines and Navy on Earth that inspired the structure and style of the Starfleet military, there was no option in a firefight to simply stun someone. When you shot them, it was always with the idea of injuring them so that you could create more targets as their comrades tried to assist them, or to immobilize them so that they would either die immediately or over the next few days. The ability to stun the enemy has revolutionized the way we fight, for both good and bad. In one sense, it makes it easier to shoot someone because you know you can take them captive a few minutes or a few hours later, and at least they live. You don’t have to be quite as careful who you shoot.
“On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where the time came to end a life and I’ve seen more than one Marine shut down because they could not cross that line and take someone else’s life. I’ve watched others break down after the fact. While it’s not easier, at least in those cases they ended a threat before becoming ineffective. I respect them for their respect for life, but in our line of work, that is a line we sometimes must cross. We must figure out a way to understand that when we do take a life, when we kill, we do so out of respect for life and the greater good. If you can make Major without it happening half a dozen times, then you can count yourself lucky up until that point. Today, I don’t know how many lives I’ve taken. Sending torpedos and phasers and seeing a ship with hundreds or thousands of people on board break apart doesn’t seem quite as real when you are watching it on a viewscreen.
“No Starfleet Marine has taken a life the way you did. It would be impossible. Many would have blanched at the moment, but there wasn’t a flicker of hesitation in you. I trust each of my Marines on Atlantis to have my back, but most of them are used to fighting with phasers set to stun. Many of them have never killed, and almost none of them have taken out a hostile in hand-to-hand combat. Most have never had to deal with the mental and emotional upheaval of the first few times. As we are a crew with very few friends out there, perhaps we’re going to have to figure out a way to make that kind of training possible. Because we could find ourselves fighting against other Starfleet officers.” Wolfe shuddered slightly at the implication.
“Judging by your demeanor since it happened, I am guessing this might have been your first kill.”
As Wolfe paused, Kuari realized he was waiting for her confirmation. “Oh, well…no. Like you, I’m sure I have killed some I don’t even know about for sure, but…” She furrowed her heavy eye ridges, eyes cast to the side and her head lowered. “There was one, the Rukagru. You would probably call it a Rucara because it looks like one, but we don’t consider it to be one. It is…the evil one. I didn’t actually kill it, but it died right in front of me, by former Chief Tactical Officer McKnight. I fully intended to kill it, though.” Forcing herself to relax her expression, she raised her head, determined to show her inner strength.
“Other than that incident, no, this would be the first time killing in close quarters, sir.”
“Ah, yes. Close quarters. That’s a beast all its own, moreso when it’s hand-to-hand. And how you engaged the Gorn is even more than hand-to-hand. Understandable.” Wolfe leaned back in his chair, turning to angle himself slightly away from Kuari, rested his elbows on his armrests and steepled his fingers in front of him in thought. Finally he lifted and turned his head to look back to Kuari. “What do you need to recover mentally, emotionally?”
Kuari lowered her eyes to her drink on the table, thinking. What did she need? Having both Wolfe and Blackthorne give their affirmation to her actions had removed much of the apprehension she had been feeling, but she still felt time alone would help her to sort her thoughts. She looked back up at him. “Perhaps just time, sir? If I need anything more, I will surely let you know.”
Wolfe looked into Kuari’s big eyes for a moment, thinking about what she had said before responding. “Very well. For the next 72 hours, you are off duty. Take that time. Talk to people you trust. Do things you don’t normally get the time to do. Reserve a Holodeck and spend some time flying. And make sure you get some physical movement during that time. I know we have a counselor onboard, Doctor Endilev, and she’s taking care of Fik. Visit her, and visit him. I know he’d love to see you.” Wolfe stood up and squared off to Kuari. “Captain, as of this moment, you are off duty. Were we not in Slipstream flight and near someplace you might actually want to go, I’d give you a bit of shore leave. Since that’s not an option, make the most of your time here.” He thought a moment. “Oh, and keep me updated. That’s an order.”