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Log of the Month for August, 2004
CPA Muse Award Winner

Drinking Away Your Inner Demons
Posted on August 17th, 2004 by Douglas McKnight and Ian Blackthorne

Douglas McKnight and Ian Blackthorne

Seated in a half full Ten Forward, gazing out at the comforting starscape, Douglas McKnight was feeling uncharacteristically introspective, and he wasn’t sure he liked it. For one thing, he wasn’t entirely certain what had put him in this mood, and he’d always found that a touch on the annoying side. Perhaps it was the view, perhaps it was the pint of beer he clutched in hand, or perhaps it was the music, some piece of Jazz issuing forth from the speakers, a pleasant number, if unfamiliar to his admittedly moderate repertoire. In all likelihood, however, it was just more free time on hands. He’d had plenty of it over leave, and it had resulted in many a musing as he sat in a small rowboat in the middle of Lake Koocamusa. His schedule had picked up again of late, what with settling in on an unfamiliar ship, meeting a new officer, trading small talk with some of the familiar ones, and all the other minutia that came with showing up to work. Now, however, things seemed to be calming back down. The biggest thing going on was an annoying series of technical glitches, but seeing as how the replicators seemed to be working fine, it honestly had precious little to do with him, at least for now. He had planned some training drills for his department, which he was planning to submit to Major Zinthys later on, but until either the Constitution stumbled into some irritable Orion Pirate’s backyard, or his duty shift started, there was nothing for a marine to do but kick back, and let Drake’s warp plasma monkeys do their thing. And, of course, to think about a familiar subject.

What was there to say about Amythyst Crystals? He’d followed the Admiral’s advice, and had a drink in her honor during leave. Actually, he’d had many, as he’d processed at length the character shown during the Atlantis’s last mission, and the character that had been lacking. In the end, McKnight had come back from his lakeside cabin feeling refreshed in many ways, ready and yes, even eager to do his job again once the fatigue of constant conflict with an enemy he didn’t even have a proper name for had faded. But the disappointment he’d felt toward the rest of the crew…well, he supposed that wasn’t going anywhere. Sure, he understood why most of the Atlanteans had kept Amythyst at arm’s length. She had a face at least reminiscent of their enemy, and McKnight had certainly shared the sentiment that the mind reading thing was just creepy. But the character was never lacking in her, as she had shown in the end, and precious few had recognized it. The Federation’s worst foot had been put forward. Maybe given more time, once certain emotions had become less raw, that could have been corrected, but it was, like most hypotheticals, something it wouldn’t do much good to dwell on.

The bottom line, however, had ended up rather different than he’d imagined it a month ago. The actions of the Atlantis crew had been, in every aspect, perfectly human. Fear, anger and prejudice may not be emotions that humanity was proud of, but they were real, and they were relevant. Maybe Amythyst Crystals had come looking for what must people liked to think humanity was, and found a grittier reality. Maybe McKnight was working with a bunch of schmucks. He didn’t really know. What he did know is that the whole thing had ceased to bother him quite as much. And that, of course, was something to feel bothered by.

Ian Blackthorne entered Ten-Forward, intent on drowning his melancholia in a lake of gin and tonic. It had been over a month since Amy’s death, and a sense of emptiness had settled into his gut. He’d mostly kept it to himself, but when you needed someone to listen, alcohol was the ideal companion. At least he wasn’t on the Atlantis having to associate places with memories of her.

He noticed Captain McKnight sitting alone with a beer, and recalling conversations before the shoreleave, Ian walked over to his table. “Captain, may I join you?” he asked, gesturing to the bartender for his usual.

Well, if that wasn’t auspicious timing, he didn’t know what was. Given that they were the only two present in the transporter room when Amy had beamed down to her less than enviable fate, it followed that the two of them were the closest to friends she’d found during her short stay on the ship. But if the same rumor mill that had circulated the news of Amythyst Crystals’ almost certain demise was to be trusted, then Blackthorne had gotten a good deal closer to that point than he had, and some dared speculate that it didn’t stop there. McKnight didn’t know the whole story, and he wasn’t about to ask; what a man did in his off hours was his own business. But nevertheless, it was clear that the passing sense of respect and camaraderie McKnight had felt for her, and what his CO had felt for her were hardly the same thing. If McKnight had had some trouble making peace with the events that had unfolded last month, then it almost certainly went both ways. Once again, McKnight would never pry, but if Blackthorne did indeed have something to get off his chest, then it might as well be in the presence of liquor. With a grin, McKnight gestured to the opposite seat.

“Hey, if I was dead set on being alone, I’d be drinking something a fair sight stronger than this, trust me.”

Ian chuckled and sat down as a server delivered his drink. “So, just beer tonight, then? Wanting to kick back and relax, I’ll bet.”

“I can think of worse ways to spend an off shift, though I’ll wager I’m far from the busiest man on this ship, what with the underachieving computer and all.”

With that, Doug made a circular motion with the index finger of his off hand, roughly indicating the entirety of the ship.

“I’m sure this girl will be something else once all the bugs are worked out, but until then…eh, it’s like breaking in a new pair of boots. The first time you try it out, everything but that fresh from the box smell is intolerable. But I’m sure they must have gotten something right. How’s the bridge crew settling in?”

“Well enough, given the circumstances. That red alert klaxon really does get annoying after ten minutes with nothing going on, you know. And being stuck at warp five isn’t fun, either.” Ian took a sip of his drink. “But, I’m looking forward to really stretching her legs a bit.”

“Eh, long as she stays in one piece, it’s all good. It’s the interior I’m worried about. Speaking of which, you may want to make sure that some of the corridors are cleared of non-essential personnel in the near future.”

With that, McKnight nonchalantly slid a PADD across the smooth table surface before finishing off his drink, and calling for more of the same.

“From what I’ve seen of the specs, the security measures on this ship are more or less par for the course. Still, blueprints say one thing, soldiers trying to seize a ship say another. I’ve scheduled some boarding drills. If there’s something off about the intruder countermeasures, my boys will find it. That’s the report for Major Zinthys I’ve been working on. Feel free to take a gander, although I admit, whatever you’re trying to unwind from, light reading may not be the thing.”

“Honestly, I’m not really in the mood for it. Perhaps during tomorrow’s shift.” He slid the PADD back across the table and look a long drink. “Besides, I’m sure I’ll hear all about it from the Major.”

“Fair enough. If you don’t mind my asking then, what is on your mind? Not that I need an excuse to sample a pint of decent lager, mind you, but me, I’m celebrating. I’ve only come across a handful in my time who know, let alone care, but the New Phoenix Sentinels just edged out the Pike City Pioneers for the playoffs on Cestus. Do you have any idea what it’s like waiting for your team to come in first? It’s like falling in love with the wrong woman over and over.”

“Oh, of course I know the Sentinels! Great team. Glad to hear they’re in the playoffs.” He finished his drink and called for another. “I was just thinking about Amythyst.”

An appropriately poignant, but short silence followed as McKnight took a long drink of his second beer, having been waiting until the foamy head settled down. After a few seconds, however, the glass was returned to the table and McKnight leaned back thoughtfully in his seat.

“Ah. The wrong woman herself. And how does she play into your thoughts these days? Lord knows I was less than thrilled with the way that played out. And if those crystal bastards don’t honor their word to the letter, I’m just glad 3rd Fleet is the one who’ll make them pay for it. Still, from what I’ve heard, the fleet reports all quiet on that front. I’m sure Amy would be pleased to know that much.”

“I’m sure she would, so at least there is a bright side to the situation, such as it is. Sure as hell doesn’t feel like it, though.”

“Nor should it. What happened to her sucked big burning balls of canal scum, or at least, so I hear. I am a little surprised though. As you may recall, I was one of the less enthusiastic voices when the extension of the olive branch was being discussed. But then, that’s probably why people like me don’t tend to make policy anymore. But an Academy grad…I woulda figured you’d be the first to appreciate the benefits of a sacrifice like the one she made. Though in the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter whether you or I think what she did was worth it; it seems pretty obvious that she did. She showed up with an idea in that shiny head of hers about what she had to do, and from the start, she was doing it. All we were in a position to do was give her a ride there, and make sure she knew that what she did was appreciated. I’d like to think we did that.”

“Well said. I never fully bought into that ‘needs of the many’ Vulcan stuff they teach at the Academy, you know. With all of that evidence proclaiming how what she did was right, you’d think it wouldn’t feel so wrong. Nevertheless, it does, and we couldn’t have changed the outcome since the decision was hers.” Ian paused to contemplate his glass for a moment, then took a healthy drink. “I can’t shake the feeling that she would have made a different decision had her experience with humanity been more positive. I feel that we failed her, at least in that aspect.”

“Yeah, it’s food for thought alright. I don’t mind saying, it bothered me; I spent many an hour on that lake thinking that one over. And at length, I came to two conclusions. Take them as you will. First of all, though I’m sure most people would consider this short-sighted, I realized that people use the royal we too casually. I for one did my best to swallow certain less than charitable feelings I may have had. But even if everyone she’d met had done the same, I have to wonder, would we really have been doing her a favor? I mean, if she hadn’t gone back to Crystal Town, the obvious alternative would have been living with humans for the rest of her life. And whatever the Federation Council would have everyone believing, we humans come in all kinds. Was it wrong of us to transfer our hatred of our current enemy to her? Was it wrong of us to think less of her because we were creeped out by her mind reading thing? Probably.

But every human does that to a degree, whether they care to admit it or not. And not all of us have it in us to bury those feelings. Amy would have run into the sort of reception the Atlantis gave her sooner or later. What she got here may not have been a pretty picture, but it was a complete one. Would you really have preferred that she only got the complete picture of what it was like to live with us after she’d already given up the option to go anywhere else?”

“That’s eerily similar to what she said to me on the bridge, before she left. And it’s a good point, but it doesn’t change how I feel. You… must have heard the rumors, about her and I?”

“A guy hears a lot of things on a ship this size, whether he means to or not. But I’ve never been one to actively pursue tidbits like that, not unless there was some professional reason for it. As far as I’m concerned, what a man does when he’s off duty is his own business.”

“Well, that’s a refreshing attitude to see. But, seeing as how my feelings for her are part of how I feel about the whole situation, I’ll talk about them.” He finished his drink and called for another, much like the Gambler wanting a cigarette before his final speech. “We spent her last night in the arboretum. I kissed her, and it was the only human touch she’d had. We kissed several more times throughout the evening, and she was happier than I’d ever seen her. She finally got a small taste of what being alive means, of why we go on despite the terrible things that happen in life.”

Another long pull from his glass. “But it wasn’t enough. She didn’t know what those feelings could lead to in the long run, because for her there was no long run, no future. For me, however… I know those feelings all too well. I could have loved her. Perhaps I did. I still don’t know and need to figure it out.”

At this, Doug refrained from any immediate response, choosing instead to lean back again, and take another slow draught, eventually leaving the glass about half full. He was hardly an authority on things like wounded hearts, so he wasn’t about to rush into any advice. He was, however, in a position to perhaps dispense some shitty homespun wisdom.

“Oddly enough, I have been there, kind of. You may have read about an incident that occurred at my last post; I’m told it’s become something of a running joke among circles in a position to hear about it. The Cervantes was out in the middle of nowhere, as was integral to its mission statement, orbiting some dismal lump of sand which I can only describe as Tatooine, minus the charm. We were just sitting out there, minding our own business and chumming it up with some giant talking lizards when out of the blue…WHAM.

“Some friggin virus sweeps through the ship, leaving the entire crew with the collective judgment and restraint of a drunken frat house. Admittedly, it beats the crap out of Ebola, but here’s the kicker. Pregnancies, guaranteed. That’s enough to complicate any relationship; it’s worse when the girl involved a Junior Lieutenant by the name of N’iaran brings forth the damnable sound argument that a long range scout ship in unknown space is no place to raise a kid. A few days later, off she goes, taking the kid in tow.

“Now, whatever it was I had going with Laurelle N’iaran, I haven’t the foggiest clue where it was going, where it could have gone. We were still at that stage where one’s reluctant to call the odd dinners we’d had dates, but I could tell…the girl was just bubbly. The idea of me settling down is weird enough; the idea of doing it with a woman who doesn’t have a temper that can compete with mine is a darn stumper to wrap my head around. Plus, she was a brunette; my dream girl’s always been a red head. But the only thing I do know about that relationship is that at this point, let’s say the rhythm of it’s been broken well beyond the possibility of repair. Maybe that’s for the best; I do tend to grate on most people. But I’ll always wonder about might haves and could have beens. That’s just life, I suppose.

“I look back on that now like I imagine I always will. There’s a sense of loss there; maybe not the same as what you’re feeling, but from what you’ve said, I do notice one parallel. I look back on it, and I can’t think of a thing I’d change, among the things I’d have had the power to change anyway. I couldn’t do anything about the virus that probably put my love life in dry dock into senility, and you couldn’t do anything about who and what Amythyst Crystals was, any more than you could change the sort of people this crew is comprised of. No matter what life throws your way, there’s never anything more you can do than meet it as the sort of man you are. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it leaves a damned bad taste in your mouth. What that means for you, I can’t say; I think it’s painfully clear that I’m no counselor. About all I can do is suggest a good drink for remedying that aforementioned taste.”

“Better advice than I’ve ever gotten from a counselor, that’s for sure.” His mind wandered for a few moments to the fiancĂ©e he left behind to go fight in the Dominion War, then back to Amythyst. Raising his glass, he said, “So I might as well take it. To Amythyst, Laurelle, and all those other might-have-beens.”


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