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Sad Clown

Posted on Tue Apr 5th, 2016 @ 4:23am by Captain Echo Solaris
Edited on on Tue Apr 5th, 2016 @ 4:42am

Mission: Secondhand Woes
Location: Marine Country, Starbase One
Timeline: Two Months Ago

“At ease, Lieutenant.” Lieutenant General Patricia Morris said from her desk as she regarded the first lieutenant standing before her. They may have shared a similar appearance at one point in the past, but for Patricia the decades of service had taken their toll. Too many years of sitting behind a desk had made her a bit soft around the edges, and her hair was almost fully grey. Her eyes, however, were among the hardest Echo had ever seen. The general gave the squinted glare of a soldier taking aim down the sights of her rifle. Which was not good.

The fact that Echo was wearing handcuffs wasn’t good either.

Unable to actually be at ease, Echo attempted a stand at parade rest, widening her stance and trying to make it seem like her hands were clasped, and not cuffed behind her back. Her snug duty jumpsuit stretched a bit at the shoulders and in front, showing off her trim, athletic figure. She was happy to be out of mud-crusted fatigues at least, that, and a strapped-on amalgamation of gear webbing and armor plates. By comparison, the Starfleet-issue jumpsuit was like going to work in pajamas. Echo tried hard not to think about how she might not get to wear it again after today.

The general did not seem impressed by the view of the semi-disgraced marine in front of her. She had a weird look in her eye, and it wasn’t exactly the look of someone older lamenting the sight of a figure they hadn’t had in years. “You know what, why don’t you sit down?” By her tone, it was an order. One of the MPs flanking Echo pulled out the chair facing the general and the other one all but corralled her into it. She plopped down with a sigh. She was eager to get this over and done with.

“I’ve just read your after action report, Lieutenant, and frankly, I’m more than a little disturbed.” Patricia threw the PADD in her hands down onto her desk. “Am I expected to believe this? Bloodthirsty panda bears and cats the size of shuttlecraft, rampaging about playing hide and seek? And all the while you’re holding scientists at gunpoint and shooting your own men at the first sign of panic? Is it too much for me to wish that you have the real AAR stashed somewhere in that uniform?” The general shook her head. Considering the cut of Echo’s jumpsuit it was obvious that stashing anything there was a physical improbability.

“That is an accurate summary of events, ma’am.” Echo said blandly, trying very hard not to wince at the way things were going.

“Is it now?” Patricia mused sardonically. “Well if that’s the case, then why don’t you explain to me why we shouldn’t just skip your court-martial and start with a conviction and sentencing?” The glare in the general’s eyes said she was dead serious, and she had no doubt that the pair of marines standing guard just behind her were fully prepared for the contingency of subduing her if Echo caused a scene.

“It wasn’t my fault.” Echo said, as if that were the simple truth. “I mean, their lives were my responsibility. I won’t deny that. But the whole thing could’ve been prevented…” Echo was cut off abruptly.

“That’s a cop-out Lieutenant, and you know it! You had one job! The burden of prevention was on…” This time it was Echo’s turn to interrupt.

“Those scientists knew about those things, and didn’t warn us.” Echo said bluntly, leaning forward to stare the general down. “Not even after people started dying.”

Patricia was silent for a moment, but by the way her hard glare eased up a bit, it was evident that she was at least considering what Echo had said. “That’s a pretty serious accusation, Lieutenant. Do you have any proof?”

Echo shrugged, her shoulders slumping a bit. “We caught them destroying some of their files once people started turning up dead. They said it was because I gave the order to abandon the field labs. That’s when I called bullshit. They weren’t intelligence operatives or embassy staff trying to keep their stuff out of the wrong hands… those animals can’t read. That’s when the phasers came out.”

“They drew on you?” Patricia leaned forward, looking surprised.

“No. I drew first… like I put in the report. But they all had hand phasers… those little Type-I pocket buzzers. They started getting really cagey and I wasn’t going to let any of my people get hurt because they didn’t want to answer to an ethics committee.”

“That’s the best you can come up with?”

“One of them talked after I waved my sidearm in her face. She said they hadn’t expected them to wake from hibernation so soon, and that they were afraid I’d call abort on their mission if we knew the risks.” Echo paused for a second. “I think they were hoping for a situation that would cause us to kill or capture one of the creatures in defense. To… expedite their research.”

“In that case they got what they wished for.” The general winced. Thirty-one people had died—ten scientists and twenty-one marines. “And naturally, aside from you anyone who heard that admission is either dead or not talking.”

“That’s correct, ma’am.” Echo said. Only two of the scientists had survived, but it was clear to her at least that they would rather see her career go down in flames than theirs. They also knew that for the moment the evidence was on their side.

“You’re setting a dangerous precedent, Lieutenant. Employing violence as a preemptive measure to complete your objectives goes against everything Starfleet stands for…”

“Tell that to them!” Echo unwisely interjected. She was starting to get frustrated. She’d been taught to seize the initiative and act decisively, not to react passively to situations and squander opportunities to gain or retain an edge. She had no doubt in her mind that if she hadn’t done what she did, more would’ve died. Possibly all of them.

The general’s clenched fist slammed down hard on the sturdy desk, rattling everything in the room it seemed, including Echo’s nerve. “You shot and killed one of your own men! Because he was scared and tried to run away!” Patricia was nearly screaming, and it was clear that she was good at it. “Did you even think to use your phaser to stun him? Or have your men try to subdue him? Did you even think before you pulled out a ballistic sidearm and shot Lance Corporal Curtis in the back?!”

“I would’ve used my phaser!” Echo nearly snarled. “I would’ve if I hadn’t emptied its entire charge into one of those beasts! It kept charging... and with one swipe… tore Corporal Shi’kev… in half…” Bit by bit Echo’s composure broke until she started sobbing. It was not a pleasant sight, seeing a once confident marine now hunched over, trying to hide the pain on her face. If her hands hadn’t been restrained, she would’ve been sobbing into them. The general said nothing, and merely judged her in silence from across the desk. And waited.

“The only reason any of us lived is because those… things would stop to feed… feed on whatever was left of their kill. Giving us time to run and regroup… until they caught up with us again.” Echo shuddered. It seemed the weeping had stopped, but the damage had been done. Echo’s eyeshadow was smudged and she had dark tear trails running down to her cheeks. She looked like a zombie.

“Curtis had the isomagnetic disintegrator… the only weapon we had that could put a scratch on those things.” Echo said tentatively, once she’d recovered from her outburst. “He was doing well, but then suddenly got all jumpy, leveling his weapon at anything that moved, including us. He started babbling about some woman, and then tried to bolt into the woods. I thought he would try to vape anyone I sent after him, so… I shot him.”

“You shot him.” Morris repeated. ”Because if you hadn’t secured that isomag-dee, the rest of you would’ve been screwed. Is that it?” Echo nodded, and the general continued. “Well, the fact of the matter is, you had a choice between a gun, and someone’s life. And you chose the gun.” Echo nodded again.

“My god, woman. You didn’t even blink.” Morris seemed poised to say more, but was interrupted as a marine captain, her adjutant, abruptly came into the office. The man ignored Echo and the MPs, and moved to whisper into the general’s ear.

“What? No. Obviously stop them.” The captain left as quickly as he came, and the general fixed Echo with a level stare. “Well, it looks like your scientist friends will be joining you in detention until we get this matter cleared up. They were just caught trying to slip off the station.”

Echo would’ve smiled triumphantly if it had meant the handcuffs were coming off, but as it was nothing had really changed. She was still going to be spending the night in a jail cell… possibly many nights. She was not exactly a stranger to jail, but that didn’t mean she enjoyed being there.

“Before we wrap this up, let me get one thing straight, Lieutenant.” The general said, continuing her tirade. ”I don’t like you. I don’t like what you came from, or who you think you are. I’ve got dozens of reports here from doctors and psychologists saying that you aren’t deranged, but the fact is, the moment they let you off a leash you ran and embraced a career path that trains you how to kill people. Tell me is that a coincidence?” The question seemed rhetorical, and in any even Echo wasn’t given a chance to reply.

“For now you’re going to jail. Until we get to the bottom of this, I can’t afford to have you out and about. I’d get used to the possibility that you might be there for a very long time. This is going to end one of three ways, and while you’re in there I want you to think long and hard about all of them. The Corps could make an example out of you. In that case, you go to prison until you’re my age.

“The second is that they show leniency and simply give you the boot with a dishonorable discharge. This is the most probable outcome. The Corps doesn’t like to make a scene about bad eggs. In this case I’d get used to to going back to serving them, because that’s the most responsibility anyone will ever trust you with again.

“The last option, however, is the most interesting. A month or two from now… just when you’re starting to get used to life in a cage, someone from the Corps will show up and offer you a job. A really crappy job. And you’ll take that really crappy job because it’ll still be an improvement on your really crappy life. The Corps always has a secret need for birds of prey. The ones who will choose the gun every time.”

By that point Echo was glaring at the general, who sat in judgement and served up unpleasant futures with ease. Like she wouldn’t have made the same choices. Generals didn’t get to be generals unless they could stomach making those kind of choices. And why even bring up option three at all?

“Are we done?” Echo said sullenly. She was done being respectful for today.

“Absolutely.” The general said. She looked up to the MPs. “Get her out of here. And let her wash that shit off her face. She looks like a sad clown.”


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Comments (1)

By Captain Rohana O'Touvelli on Mon Apr 11th, 2016 @ 9:42pm

Really, really good. So.. you got any more of these posts back there? I need to know what happens next.