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Break Down

Posted on 16 Feb 2021 @ 4:36am by Lieutenant JG Nicole Taggert

Nicci had been debriefed, as was protocol after a landing party, and she gave her report in her typically detailed fashion. But her heart ached the whole time for the girl they rescued.

The officer in her hoped she gave them some useful info to relay back to Starfleet, and knew that Teela would find a way to decode the data recorder by having a jelly donut while looking at Van Gogj's Starry Night. Nicci had given up trying to figure out Aktevan logic and just went with it. It seemed the more abstract something was, the more brilliant they got in solving a problem.

In her quarters, Nicci undid her jacket and tossed it on the back of the chair, unzipped her tunic, and went to grab a drink from the replicator.

A warm mug of Gl├╝hwein wafted into her nostrils as she sat in the recliner she brought from Earth. She took a sip, and it warmed her up as it had done on so many winter days in Georgia.

She inhaled deeply, trying to enjoy the aroma. But she couldn't. She set the mug down, and her eyes wandered to a picture of her parents with her after she returned from her ordeal. A new face, new body, new DNA, but the same old person. Her parents said they loved her no matter what she looked like or became.

oO I love you, mom and dad, Oo she thought to herself, as she leaned forward into the chair, elbows on her knees. oO I don't know what I would do if I lost you. I don't know that I could make the call that girl did. I don't know if I'm that strong. Or if that makes me weak. Oo

That thought opened the floodgates of her emotions, the dam breaking, and Nicci cried like she'd never cried before. She wailed like a banshee, her sobs coming in waves after the painful moans of sadness. Her parents were getting older and she'd have to face their mortality some day.

oO I can't imagine what that girl went through, Oo she thought to herself, oO Hearing her parents telling her to transport them with the negative z-axis, her uncle being infected and screaming into the comm line. Could I have done that? Her parents were already infected and getting weaker. I bet Jackson could make the choice without a second thought. Maybe I could've before I was kidnapped, but now? I don't know. I don't know if I'm strong enough to make that call when my parents' lives are at stake. Does that make me strong? Or does that make me weak? Oo

Tears streamed down her face as the sobs escaped her lips, crying into her hands for several minutes over the thought of losing her parents like Jessie had or in a hundred other ways that prolonged her waterfall of tears.

oO does this make me weak that I couldn't stop crying, or strong that I can admit I love my parents this much? Oo she thought as she went to get some facial tissue. She blew her nose, a disgusting and wet affair that was the furthest thing from attractive, even in an engineered body like hers.

oO I wonder if Jamie has cried this much, Oo Nicci thought of her red headed 'friend', for whom nothing seemed to phase her.

After a few minutes and a handful of tissues, she got some control of herself, and washed her face. She looked at herself in the mirror, and scoffed a little 'hmph' of a laugh. oO Other than watery eyes, I look flawless even without makeup. Kind of cruel if you think about it. I can't even try to look bad. My tussled hair looks good, rather than unkempt Oo.

She walked back to her 'living room' area of her quarters, and sighed as she reclined, feeling a bit better having cried, which angered her a bit.

"Computer, personal log, stardate...whatever now is. I don't really care at the moment," she began with a sigh.

"We are investigating a planet infested with those bluegills, who somehow mixed with a pathogen or something on the planet and are now no better than zombies," she continued. She remembered the exact explanation given her eidetic memory but she didn't want to repeat the entire briefing into her log. It was a blessing and a curse for her to have eidetic memory. It made her an even better engineer, but it let her remember with vivid detail every horror she saw.

"We went to a so-called safe planet, and the town of about 8500 was completely abandoned. No life other than plants. I thought they had brought insects, livestock, and pets, but there was nothing. Teela tells me that the colonists were testing a subspace transporter, testing transport between two planets, and with a theoretical ability to transport between star systems. Over the last few weeks, most of the colonists were working on the other planet on sending and receiving, and more and more receiving happened, worrying colonists on the 'safe' planet. Jessie's parents were the last ones left, as everyone disappeared to the other planet, transported without their consent. Even lower lifeforms were transported, possibly for food," she shuddered at the thought.

"So they went and they had Jessie hide in one of the cabinets in the colonial administrator's office once they left with a PADD hard-coded to transport them back. His cabinets were transporter shielded to prevent theft of colonial secrets, something important when playing with subspace transporters, I guess."

"She left the door cracked a little to hear the comm line so she could know if her parents were alright and coming back, but she instead heard them get attacked and infected. They managed to hold off the bluegill zombies long enough to get to the comm station and lock the door. As the infection spread she heard them crying in pain, asking her to kill them. She cried in the cabinet," Nicci began tearing up but got control of herself, and wiped the tears with one hand as she recalled everything. Sometimes talking it out helped process, the counselor told her. "She begged them through the open comm line not to make her do it. But her parents told her if the bluegills got to that planet, where the main machinery for the system was, they could infect the rest of the sector. They begged her to change the z-axis minus 2 or 3 meters, as most people won't ever think to look, and then the doors were forced open, and they screamed at her to do it. And she did. Then she slammed the door shut and hid for nearly 16 hours till we got there."

"But it worked. She had transported over 72 infected from the station on the other planet into the floor in a recycling loop. Over and over it beamed people into the floor and ground till the bluegills finally destroyed its subspace array about 9 hours ago, about an hour before we found her. She got a lot, but there are no doubt thousands on the other planet. But they're stuck there. All we have to do is destroy them."

Nicci sighed and leaned forward in her chair, putting her face in her hands, as her blonde hair cascaded forward over her shoulders and around her arms.

"This is one of those days when I wonder if I can continue being a Starfleet officer. The universe isn't always wonder and excitement of discovery. There are dark places we shouldn't go, and there truly are monsters in the universe. But I guess that's why Starfleet is there, to protect us from the monsters. And that's why Starfleet put me here, even though being genetically engineered, (a) I didn't do it to myself intentionally, (b) my uncle is an admiral, and (c) it looked good for the fleet to have rescued its own officers and brought them back into the service. Even with all that, I make a damn fine engineer..." she rolled her eyes, "...both in looks and ability. Thank God the captain and this new colonel see me as more than a good-looking T&A set-piece. I'm going to get some sleep and hopefully feel better about things in the morning. This mission can't end soon enough for me. End log."

Nicci ended the recording, sloughed off her boots and socks, shimmied out of her pants and climbed into bed for what she hoped would be a full night of rest.


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