The Greater Duty
Posted on December 21st, 2001 by A.C. Zuriyev and Brooke Dolan
The desk of the ready room seemed to be a barrier to Alexi. It and the requirements of duty that lay upon it blocked the way to the door, beyond which was the bridge, the turbolift, and then his wife and children. Though Alpha shift was almost over, the distinct lines that divided personal time from work had started to blur. In times such as these, to keep morale high, some concessions had to be made. He considered summoning Commander Harper to her shift a few minutes early, but Alexi knew that she also had a significant other. It would be unfair to take away her allotted time with her loved ones so that he could have a few more minutes with his own.
Still, the remaining time passed as he finished the day’s paperwork, and the Admiral stood and took a moment to keep from bolting for the door. Making sure his command mien was in place, he strode out onto the bridge just in time to meet Commander Harper as she exited the turbolift. “The ship is yours, Commander,” he said to the red-haired Risan woman as he strode past into the open turbolift. “Deck eight,” he ordered the computer.
Once the turbolift arrived after what seemed like an interminable length of time, he walked the short distance down the corridor to the quarters of the Zuriyev family. Brooke had apparently been approaching their home from the opposite direction, since they met in front of their door. “Brooke,” Alexi said with a smile, “I am certainly glad that shift is over.”
Brooke returned her husband’s smile. “It’s good to see you too,” she said, tilting her head up to kiss him. “I just came to check in on the kids and hopefully call it a day, provided nothing too out of the ordinary comes up before I can get into bed. Care to join me?”
Alexi enfolded his wife in his arms and held her close for a long moment, before taking her hand and entering their quarters. “Are you hungry?” he asked.
“A … little,” Brooke replied with a yawn. “But mostly tired. It’s just one thing after another around here, isn’t it?”
The Admiral’s reply was cut short by the high-pitched voices of two children. “Mommy! Papa!”
Alexi adopted a stern look. “What are you two doing out of bed? You should be asleep!”
The children quickly stepped forward to defend their actions. “We made this for you! We wanted to show you!” Kenny produced a large piece of colored paper covered with dried glue and uncooked pasta.
“I found the idea in an old book of ancient art,” said Alexis, proudly.
Alexi took the picture from Kenny and held it out so that Brooke could see, too. “It is marvelous! What talented children we have!”
“Talented, indeed!” agreed Brooke. “I’ll put it up on the replicator so everyone can see it.” She bent down with her arm around Alexi’s back and they both gathered their children in for a family hug.
“Now, off to bed with you two artists,” Alexi said, thinking it too late for young children to be awake. “You both have school tomorrow morning.” Alexis and Kenny ran off to their rooms, leaving Alexi and Brooke with some precious time alone.
Brooke smiled, pleased with the display of affection and artistry from their children. She sighed contentedly. Mistaking her exhalation, Alexi asked her what was wrong. “Oh, no, sweetheart. Nothing’s wrong at all. I’m happy. We are so blessed. We have such wonderful children, and each other, and we’re doing what we love. Sometimes it all seems too perfect.”
Alexi held her tightly for a moment, and then nodded. “But do not forget, we have to contend with such things as temporal anomalies and undetermined threats to the safety of the entire galaxy. It is not all pretty pictures.”
Brooke sobered somewhat, and sighed a different sigh. “You’re right. We have to take the bad with the good, I suppose. But that just means that when we get moments of peace and quiet, or familial bliss, we’re all the more appreciative of them, yes?”
Alexi smiled and nodded again, then bent to kiss her. Their kiss was passionate as always, their love still strong despite the events of late. Afterwards, he led her over to sit on the couch. “Brooke, love, there is something I have been wanting to discuss with you,” he said with some measure of concern in his voice.
Reading the tone of his voice, she replied, “What is it, sweetheart?”
“The situation is getting exponentially worse- all of the powers in this quadrant have taken casualties from this, and Earth is getting to be threatened,” he said, his voice almost a whisper.
Usually, Brooke’s first instinct when her husband spoke of a grave threat was to make light of the situation, to try to retain an optimistic perspective. But something in Alexi’s voice worried her, and troubled her deeply. She swallowed. “I … I’m not entirely sure I understand what’s going on here, exactly what’s at stake. I realize that we don’t have a lot of facts, and there’s a lot of confusion, and there may be things you haven’t told me. But please, don’t hold back. I want to know exactly what’s happening, everything that you know, whether you feel I need to know or not.”
Alexi nodded, the classified information be damned. She was his Executive Officer and more importantly, his wife. Brooke deserved to know everything. “Most of the Trill symbionts have been wiped out in their latest attempt to figure out what this is- The Andorians have been all but eradicated. Intelligence even believes that Romulus has been evacuated to one of their colonies. It is only a matter of time before Earth is hit.”
Stunned, Brooke sank back against the couch. The little information she’d already been given, confused bits and pieces, had been strange and terrifying enough. There was so much uncertainty; the Federation had no real idea of what was happening. And of course, the sudden appearance of a ship from decades past had been disconcerting, to say the least. The news Alexi had given her on the bridge, about the devastation of the Trill symbiont population, had been horrible. But to hear that other species were being wiped out, by God only knew what, and that Earth was likely to be affected at some point as well … it was just overwhelming. She turned to her husband. “And Starfleet really has no idea what’s going on? With all of our technology, all of the planets and species in the Federation, and no one has a clue?” The notion was absurd. That there could be some sort of enemy or invasion or mysterious anomaly or bizarre act of God that was wreaking utter havoc on the quadrant … and no one knew what was going on. She shook her head before he even answered. “I just can’t believe this.”
“It is hard to believe, da. But it is happening, and all that we have worked so hard to build is being destroyed, one person at a time.” Holding her hand in both of his on his lap, he continued, “If this gets to Earth- what good will Starfleet be?” He let the question hang in the air, to see if she would get his meaning.
Brooke searched her husband’s eyes. They were eyes she knew well, and truly a window to his soul. She had loved this man for so long, shared much of her life with him, borne his children, and pursued dreams with him. And as strong as their love was, it was matched by their shared commitment to duty, their honor and pride in the offices they held, the entity they served. They had sacrificed, individually and together, for their careers. But what they did was more than a job; it was a way of life. And it dawned on her that as much as he loved that life, Alexi was now considering leaving it. Part of her — the honorable, duty-bound part — was dismayed, even shocked. But another part of her understood completely what her husband was saying, the part of her that was a wife and mother. Alexi was the love of her life, but their children, she somehow loved them even more, and knew the same held true for him. And as much as she loved Starfleet, she knew that if she had to, she would give it up in a heartbeat. She would abandon her post, leave behind honor and duty, and maybe even watch from a safe distance as her entire world fell apart — as long as her family was safe. There was nothing more important than the lives of her husband and children. She felt almost traitorous as these thoughts burned through her mind, and knew that she could never give voice to them. But she didn’t have to. Her husband knew what she was thinking, and her thoughts were mirrored in his sad eyes. She felt tears threaten her own eyes, and looked hurriedly away. But he cupped her chin in his hand, as she desperately tried to blink back the visible signs of her turbulent emotions, and without words, he seemed to say that it was alright, it would be alright, somehow, as long as they were together with their children.
He reached out with his mind and embraced hers through their telepathic bond, sharing the closeness that only the touch of two minds could provide. He was grateful for his Betazoid blood in times such as these, when he can share a level of intimacy with his wife that nontelepaths could only describe with poetic words. “Starfleet will not matter, but our responsibility is still to this ship. I believe the ship is safe, though, and I will take Atlantis into the delta quadrant if I must. Of course, those who do not want to stay aboard are welcome to leave the ship, but I doubt anyone would exercise that option over relative safety here.” He paused for a long moment and caressed her thoughts reassuringly, and then continued, “My main concern is for the safety of you and the kids, you know- but if I can save this crew in the process, then I of course, must.”
Brooke was comforted somewhat by the touch of Alexi’s mind. But then she thought, “We could be court-martialed. If we just pick up and leave, with the ship, and Starfleet does come through this all right, we could be in serious trouble.”
“If Earth is wiped out, I doubt there will be anyone left to court-marital us. Though, it is possible that those aboard starbases and starships will be the sole survivors of this thing- shields seem to keep whatever it is out. So, Starfleet could be the only surviving entity of the Federation, and then what?”
“But what if we’re wrong? What if Earth isn’t attacked? What if everything turns out alright, but you and I have already taken off with the Atlantis and crew?” She realized that her thoughts were bordering on panic, and tried to calm herself. Taking a deep breath, she looked directly in Alexi’s eyes and then spoke aloud. “Whatever you do, wherever you go, I will be with you, and I will support you. No matter what. I love you.”
“And I love you. Ya tebya lublu,” he repeated, in Russian. “We will not leave until Earth is gone, but until then, we will keep a good distance from there and the area that has been affected. And if Earth is wiped out, then we can see what Starfleet Command decides to do in the eventuality that we are the only surviving part of the Federation. The Council has already moved aboard Starbase One and out of San Francisco to protect themselves. If it gets worse from there, though, we will take this ship as far away as we can, and I doubt anyone would or could do anything about it.”
She nodded, overwhelmed by grief at the thought of what the future might hold for them. Of course, it made sense to leave only as a last resort. They would not just take the Atlantis and run away as long as Earth was unharmed. She had not been thinking clearly, but she now offered a fervent prayer to whatever benevolent god might be listening, that it would never come to such a terrible end, that Earth would survive intact, and Starfleet with it. But if it doesn’t … she thought. “We’ll be alright, my love,” she said. “No matter what happens, we will protect our children, and each other. We’ll be all right.” She said the words to comfort herself as much as her husband. He nodded and wrapped his arms around her, as if he could singlehandedly protect her from all the unknown dangers of the universe. And for a brief moment, she felt that he could.