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Log of the Month for March, 2024

Behold a Pale Horse, Pt. 1: Man in the Mirror
Posted on March 22nd, 2024 by Scott Ammora

1st Lieutenant Damien Hill, Security

While the away team did their duty down on the planet, things onboard the Atlantis had slowed measurably. However, there was no such thing as slow in Security. Reports still had to be filed, training continued on their proper schedules, and standard maintenance of their equipment took a top priority during the lag. That was the way it was. Damien Hill had gotten used to moments like this over his tenure in Starfleet.

This time was slightly different in that he was in charge of the department this time around. His workload, always manageable, had taken on a more complicated facet of his day-to-day routine. Damien wasn’t worried about it much, he’d done it a time or two before, but he was always third in command, he just helped the department lead.

He tossed his duffle bag on the couch as he entered his quarters. The day had gone smoothly, it always did when he was running things, but he still felt oddly tired. Not physically tired, but mentally. Moments of his shift triggered him for some reason. They put him on edge for a split second and then would dissipate. The gathering storm of it was they happened too often about too many different things that it just grew into a weight he was glad to be free from for the evening.

For one, he was immensely bored of hearing about the party this evening. Yes, there’s people getting together. Yes, there’s going to be food and drink. Yes, people are going to screw. Hell, he was probably going to be one of them. It’s just a party. Two, he wanted people to just go to the holodeck if they wanted fresh air and water. He didn’t think the planet seemed that remarkable. To top it off, you could never beat the sights of Malibu, and he wasn’t talking about the surf.

Stripping down into his boxers, Damien headed to the sonic shower. He grabbed his towel and hung it on the rack next to the enclosure and activated the console. An awkward tone sounded, and nothing happened. “God, damn it.” This was just his luck. All he wanted was to sit in the shower and roll through his thoughts. Was that too much to ask?

Stepping back out of the shower and bathroom, Damien donned a pair of sweatpants and threw on a tank top. He pressed his combadge on the table, “Lieutenant Hill to Engineering.”

“Benevente here, Lieutenant, what can I do for you?”

“My sonic shower stopped working.”

“Oh, sorry about that, sir. We’ve been having trouble with them all day. I’m working on it now. Should be another fifteen minutes or so. They’ve been rolling, so you got lucky. Others have been without them for a couple of hours. We apologize. Benevente out.”

“Thanks.” He said to no one.

Fucking grease monkeys, get your shit together. Damien thought to himself as he sat down in front of his communications terminal. It had been too long since he had checked in with his girl on Earth. Tonight, he had planned to use the excuse that he was in the shower at their slotted attempt to make contact, but that went out the window. Instead, he’d feast his eyes on the lovely Nadia.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Right on time, as usual. Damien activated the console and her picture appeared on the screen. “Hello there, darlin’. How’s the homeworld?”

“Evening Stud. Same beautiful blue-green marble representing the center of humanity.” Nadia was working with the Federation Council. She was low on the totem pole: transmitting reports, analyzing language in speeches, and running errands. It sounded dreadfully boring to Damien, but Nadia loved it something fierce.

“I bet.”

Nadia tied her hair back in a ponytail, “So, what’s going on with Atlantis these days?”

Damien dropped his head a bit, “It’s been fine, I guess.” Take the bait, woman.

“Oh, honey, what’s wrong?”

Hook, line, sinker. Damien knew that Nadia was always going to be compelled to offer the shoulder to cry on whether the person really needed to cry or not. It was her Achille’s heel. Since she was always trying to get Damien to open up, which he strictly refused to do – or, rather, deliberately made the conscious effort not to do – he had long since turned it into an easy way for him to avoid having to listen to her political diatribe for the umpteenth time.

“Oh, it’s nothing. I got passed over for a promotion. Kind of. They moved me into second-in-command of the department, but the guy that’s leading us… God, I don’t know where to start.” Damien ran a hand through his hair and exasperatedly sighed. “I don’t want to bore you with this.”

Nadia shook her head, “No, no, don’t worry about it. Who is it?”

“You know that Scott Ammora guy I told you about?” He really hadn’t told her anything about Ammora and their history since Scott’s arrival. There was a fine line between what information was necessary to stay involved in the conversation, and what could possibly be saved for bombshell ammunition to fix a complex predicament. He was going to use this one this time.

“Yeah, I think so.”

Liar, but I’ll run with it. “He hasn’t been onboard as long as I have, he has a terrible temper, he should’ve been booted off the ship for insubordination on his first damn mission, and somehow he bounces past me to Marine Captain and Acting Chief of the Department. I don’t understand. Why am I not good enough?” He almost faked tears, but he hadn’t ‘cried’ in front of her yet. He’d save that one.

“That doesn’t seem fair.” This was Nadia placating Damien, which he knew. He was fully aware that she was fully aware that there was a plethora of requirements that went into promotions. In this particular instance, however, Damien was flabbergasted that Scott had been promoted ahead of him. Nadia was right this time around.

Damien leaned back in the chair and put his hands behind his head, “No, it isn’t. I feel like I’m going to be stuck in second place my entire career. You know, Nad, I worked my ass off at the Academy to get top 25 percent of my class. I was better and smarter than the people above me. I played second fiddle to them too.” That would be a pity party, table for one.

“You shouldn’t be so down on yourself. Think of it this way: baby steps.”

“Baby steps?”

Nadia nodded, “If you really analyze your thoughts and what you’ve said, you are progressing. It’s just not as fast as you’d like. You moved from third-in-command into second-in-command of the department under the Chief, right?”

“Yes.” Then it struck him. “No, not the Chief.”

An inquisitive look came from Nadia, “I don’t follow.”

“He’s the Acting Chief of Tactical and Security.” Damien stood up and started to move around the room, his mind racing about what that meant. He knew that from Nadia’s perspective that he was wandering in and out of the viewframe, but he didn’t care. Who would’ve thought that a random engineering mistake would alert him to something so obvious through someone he intended to avoid?

Some barely audible grunts and coughs came from the computer’s direction, “Damien, sweetie, I am only getting half of you every ten seconds or so. Come back.”

Whoops, back to the show. “Thank you, Nadia, you’ve been a great help and I appreciate you more than words. You are right. I just need to take it one step at a time. Day by day. I’ll get there. I’m good at what I do and I’ll get recognized for it someday. I just realized that, as acting chief, I need to have all my reports in by 2100. I think I still have one left that I should check on. It’s probably Bennett. And then there’s this party tonight for a bunch of the junior officers that I’d like to swing by and make an appearance at and I don’t know how long it goes.”

By the look on Nadia’s face, Damien could tell that his lengthy, energetic, and fast return to the screen she had been surprised. “Oh, oh, okay. Uh, I’ll try you again at the second time.”

Yes, Nadia had insisted on two call times. Obviously the second call would be if they missed the first call, right? That would be half correct. That was a given in Nadia’s eyes, her left eye anyway. Her right eye wanted to take the time, being so far away from each other, to attempt to talk twice. Damien referred to that as the ‘post shift wrap-up’. He had used the ‘I fell asleep’ excuse up for the rest of the month, but the party provided perfect cover.

He perked up the left side of his mouth, tightening his lips together in his trademark smirk. “I wouldn’t wait up. You know how these parties get.”

Nadia blushed, she always did, and then shot him puppy-dog eyes.

Oh no, red alert, she’s got the head dip! Of all the girls that Damien had been with or was with, they each had that one special quality. That one weapon in their arsenal that had gotten him a time or two, although he’d never admit it. These talents possessed by these women were the ones that took Damien the longest to register. It was the hardest to defend against.

“I hope you have a good time tonight. Be safe. I love you.” The batting of the eyelashes was the death knell.

“You too.”

Communication Ended.

She had thrown the hardest and fastest pitch that Damien had ever witnessed before from her. He had been prepared, however, and knocked that one out of the park. He didn’t want the back and forth that he knew was coming and his mind was still pacing circles in his living room about the promotion and position conundrum he was facing.

As he stood, he noticed his work PADD sitting on the glass table. Per was routine, Damien checked his assignment list on the regular to make sure nothing new had come in. When he activated it, he saw he had two notifications.

“Three pending reports, final notice?” His voice rose in pitch with each word. “Fucking Bennett. I’ll just be late to the party.” He wasn’t concerned, he had plenty of time. And, it was Anthony Bennett, the guy was down there right now doing reports.

What could number two be? “Monthly physical report.” That one was deadpan. “Damn it, Damien. Oh, it’s just Bennett I was waiting on. Figures.”

Gathering up scattered garments strewn across the room, Damien wondered about the whole situation regarding promotions. He knew for a fact that it couldn’t be performance-based. If it had, he would already be Major running this department or one better. It wasn’t seniority; Damien had more time in Starfleet and on the Atlantis. Nepotism? No, that couldn’t be right. He knew Ammora’s family didn’t pull that kind of weight in Starfleet, especially with Harper in command.

One thing at a time, Damien. Tossing his clothes haphazardly into his closest, he closed the door, narrowly getting one of his work pant legs in before triggering the reopen mechanism. Spinning past the table and the end table he snatched a bowl in one hand and a water glass with the other. “Computer, recycle.” And the replicator made them disappear.

Everything came together.

“Shit, Damien, you’re an idiot.” He stopped midstride, mid-room, halfway from getting to his boots. He had been thinking about it all wrong. Acting Chief. Damien had been worried about the promotion the whole time: Marine Captain. What he wasn’t thinking about was that Scott wasn’t officially the Chief Security Officer. He was acting. “Oh, now we’re talking.”

The boots were easily discarded under the bed, then he thought better of it because he thought it would create problems later. Into the cabinet. Taking one final look around the room, he was impressed at the cleanliness. Damien always liked to entertain after parties, that’s where the real fun was. That’s why he showed up late, he was still ready to go into the evening and would end up in the spotlight. Then people would talk. It just solidified his stature amongst the crew. Sometimes it would be a group of his boys, sometimes it would be a bunch of random people he thought were cool and wanted to impress, sometimes… it was someone else.

There was one thing he missed. He saw it from across the room, the stars outside the window reflecting in the frame. Damien walked over and picked it up, cradled it in his hand and looked at it. His reflection now overlapped the image. He smiled and kissed the front twice and opened the drawer next to the sofa. Placing the memento delicately in the drawer, he closed it, the faces of his wife and his son disappearing into darkness.

Back to the task at hand. His mind was drawing a blank.

A soft beeping came from the bathroom, and he heard the sonic shower turn on. Things were turning around today. With a bounce in his step, he moved double time to the bathroom, shedding his tank top and his sweats as he did. It was perfect timing for a mental roadblock removal. The easiest way to clear the road was with a deluge of heat and relaxation to cause a landslide.

This was Damien’s happy place. The sonic shower. There wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed without a hot shower. His mom had always told him that. He thought she was crazy when he was younger because that was just one of her many, many, many anecdotes and pearls of wisdom. It wasn’t until later in life that he realized that this one had worked for him. He missed her.

Cue the barrage. Acting Chief meant acting, temporary. This would surmise that Harper, in her divine wisdom, saw fit to only elevate Scott in the interim. In the interim another more suitable candidate could be found. Or promoted. That would be his only option anyway, he surmised, as he washed his face. Scott outranked him, and that wasn’t temporary. Or was it?

He needed to be a Marine Captain. He wasn’t due for an evaluation for a couple of months. He was sure that he was going to get promoted to Marine Captain then anyway, but he didn’t have that much time. Sure, he could get promoted, but they didn’t allow a Marine Captain to report to a Marine Captain. By then, with Scott made official, his promotion would come with a forced relocation. Possibly not of his choice.

Stepping out of the shower he toweled himself off and got dressed. Putting the finishing touches on his hair and finding the tightest pants and shirt he could find; he stood in front of the mirror, assessing. He dabbed a bit of Risan cologne on his neck and smiled. He looked like a Marine Captain.

Maybe this party was what he needed, after all. Little bit of work, little bit of play. Sounded like an imperfectly perfect evening in his book.

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  • Kathryn Harper Kathryn Harper says:

    Looks like Scott’s rival may be more devious and calculating than we’d seen before! Damien seems quite manipulative, even with his wife, but he does seem to at least superficially care about her, as evidenced by the kiss on the family picture, while he’s planning on cheating. Still, he seems shrewd and capable, so Scott’s got his work cut out for him. Quite the intro!

  •  Emilaina Acacia says:

    I love how you dive into the neurotic psyche, and I love Scott’s rival. This kinda gave me Lower Decks vibes, like I can just picture him standing in front of the mirror in that animated style. Excited to see where this goes! Great log!

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