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Life's A Beach

Posted on Sep 14, 2015 @ 10:54am by Lieutenant Eve Dalziel & Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Sep 14, 2015 @ 10:54am

Mission: Civil War

“Life's a Beach”

(Continued from “Beach Day”)

* * *=/\=* * *


Stardate: 2.15.0913.2212

Scene: Sickbay

“Rise and shine, Major Pain.” Cade’s voice cut into Kassandra’s dreamless sleep. Her sensor nets began to come out of hibernation mode: first there was darkness, then there was light, and then out of the light shapes and colors began to emerge one by one. There was a grey blob underneath her, there was a blue blob hovering over here. Slowly the information on the blobs multiplied and she recognized the shapes and forms of a sickbay, and the conglomerate of information and measurements she knew belonged to the irascible doctor. The doctor’s arm reached out and he helped her to sit up, and she braced herself for the pain which never came. She blinked in surprise, and ran her tongue over her teeth, feeling the slimy fuzzy grime over her tongue and teeth. “Now, how do you feel?”

“That sounded suspiciously like bedside manner, Miss Congeniality, are ya gettin’ mellow in yer old age?” Kassandra teased as she tested her side and then trained her sensors on her arms and chest. The flesh was still raw and hadn’t finished keratinizing, but it was healed and there was no trace of radiation. “Hey, this looks awfully well healed…How long was I out?”

“Three days, three blissfully quiet days where I didn’t have to hear you complain or insult me, and you didn’t come in with any injuries. It’s not exactly like you’re a spring chicken yourself, I think we’re the oldest people on the damn ship.” Cade ignored her glare. “If you aren’t careful your face is going to stick that way, and it isn’t an improvement on your usual resting-bitch-face. Captain Kane gave the go-ahead after I pointed out that you’re incredibly bad at actually following directions. You know, like all the ones I gave you about *not* overexerting yourself and doing stupid things like fighting radioactive space aliens, almost getting yourself flung out into space, or loading heavy equipment.”

“Almost sounds like you’re worried ‘bout me,” Kassandra retorted, pulling the sheet from the biobed around her, and staring pointedly at him to move him into giving her some proper clothes. Cade pointedly ignored her stare.

“Well considering I’ve nominated you for most likely to die horribly on an away mission through sheer boneheaded stupidity, and I’m supposed to be keeping the crew alive, I’d say it’s purely professional interest in making sure I don’t look bad.” Cade ran the tricorder over her and handed her a set of scrubs to wear. Pink of course. She gave him a withering glare, and he smiled cherubically at her. “Besides, it looked like you could use all the beauty sleep you could get, not that I think it helped much.” Kassandra responded with a snort, and used one hand to inscribe profane gestures from a variety of worlds in his general direction as she began to walk towards the door. “I better not see you in here again to waste my time for several months!”

* * *=/\=* * *

Scene: Gym

“Computer, raise gravity to 1.5 times Earth’s, lower oxygen content by 10%,” Kassandra ordered as she re-racked her weights and headed towards the sparring ring. “I need one opponent, standard Klingon, male, unarmed combat, raise the impact levels to 50% of normal.”

[[50% impact may still lead to injury. Would you like to override this safety message?]]

“Yes.” Kassandra sunk down into a fighting pose and began to circle the holographic opponent. She bided her time, waiting for the attacks, using her superior speed to evade them and using the momentum of her opponent to add power to her counterattacks. The holographic opponent was more difficult than a flesh and blood one, the lack of corporeal form meant she couldn’t anticipate the attacks. The Klingon holograph’s blows rained down heavily on her, and she twisted and turned to avoid them. Even at half power they hurt, and her muscles screamed under the assault. She missed a feint and found herself flying heavily to land at the feet of one James Barton.

She froze and squirmed under his gaze, more due to the fact that she felt the inescapable weight of expectation radiating from him. He expected something from her, or he wanted to say something to her, or… Something. She didn’t know what it was, but she didn’t like people expecting things from her. They stared at each other- well, he stared at her, she directed her eyes in his direction while scanning him with her sensors. Finally he opened his mouth, about to say something, and then reconsidered. He reached his hand down to pull her up.

“Your weave is too exaggerated, inefficient, and you’re not light enough on your leading foot,” he pointed out in a helpful tone of voice. “Which I would guess is partially because of the ridiculous gravity you have in here, partially because that’s a bad habit that you’ve picked up because you’re used to being able predict people’s movements, right? That’s why you’re usually so fast-”

Kassandra grunted and picked up a pair of wrist wraps from the bench and tossed them at him. She killed the holographic program and stepped back into the ring, waving him in with a raised eyebrow and a crook of her finger.

“Come on then, Jebediah Chastity, school me,” she said flatly, sizing him up. Most of her conclusions she’d reached long ago. He could probably beat her in a by-the-book practice fight, and in an unfair fight he’d be hard to beat, but she also knew a body that size and that weight didn’t have nearly the endurance she did- each move each fist thrown required more energy, each pump of the heart spread proportionally less oxygenated blood around the body. The extra gravity would probably favor her as well, since the additional strain on her muscles was less than on his bulky frame.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, I just came in here for a workout before I started to help them set up the security and law enforcement center down on Elandipole.” His voice was dubious, hesitant, much to Kassandra’s surprise.

“Why isn’t it a good idea?” She demanded, narrowing her eyes at him.

“It’s not a good idea because it’s not a good idea-” something flickered in his eyes, and she thought it might be fear. She felt her face crumple.

“Dammit, don’t tell me you’re scared of me too,” she glared at him to conceal her dismay. “After Limbo, ain’t a single person on the crew that don’t seem to look at me like they don’t think I’m some sorta boogey man in the back of their head. Doesn’t help that Cindy seems to have shown everyone that damn promo for the fight. They look at me and all they see is me executin’ that woman. Thought you would have been different, all things considered.”

“Uhh,” Barton looked at her warily as though he was trying to decide if she was going to do something as stereotypically girly as bursting into tears. “It’s not that at all, Kass.”

“Then what is it?” She glared at him. It bothered her to no end that she couldn’t figure out what was going on in his head, she felt like he should be far more understandable to her, as he reminded her a bit of herself. He met her ‘gaze’, and he held it awkwardly, the galaxy’s lamest staring contest that neither particularly wanted to take part in. “Well?”

“Coming on board the Phoenix- it drug up a lot of - things. You know? And I feel like I’m...” Barton trailed off and he shook his head sharply. “You know what? It doesn’t matter. If it’s that important to you, we can spar.” He began to wrap his hands with the practiced ease of someone used to fighting in the ring. Kassandra relaxed. She’d been worried for a moment that he’d been going to say something, that it would be even more awkward, and that there were going to be feelings involved. Talking it out was hard, fighting it out she could manage.

He entered the ring and took up a fighting stance, and Kassandra and he circled each other slowly trying to take the measure of each other. She could tell at once that their fighting styles would be at odds. He was going to be aggressive, using unrelenting assault and advance as his main tool; while she would fight in the style the Marine Corps taught all its small, light framed members, relying on avoidance, retreat and counter striking in order to use his own strength to augment hers.

But someone had to strike the first blow, and irritatingly he was not going to be it. She bunched her muscles and closed the distance between them with a leading kick and followed through to a knee strike. Not full strength, but hard enough for him to know she meant business. He fell back out of habit took up a loose stance against her, throwing a few tentative punches. They went back and forth for a couple minutes before Kassandra began to get the feeling that he was holding back, forcing her to hold back as well. To test her theory she stopped dead in her tracks, right in the line of his punch. His incoming fist stopped immediately a good couple inches from her face.

Her temper flared.

“What the hell, Jebediah Chastity! I asked you to help me train, not to throw shapes at me and make me look fuckin’ good! I already have loads of people who I could fight if I wanted to look good doin’ it. I need someone who ain’t gonna hold back, I need to fight someone I can test myself against an’ find all my weak points so I can eradicate them, and right now you’re the only one on the damn ship who can give me what I need, and you’re holding back!” Kassandra was frustrated, she had this feeling like something was broken, or at least he thought it was, and she had no idea how to fix it. It was much as she’d felt with her children and some of her old friends ever since she’d hit that rough patch, like things had been put back together, but not really fixed. All the damage was still there. So Kassandra did what Kassandra did best in this sort of situation- doubled down and made the situation worse. “After all you’ve seen me do you still think I’m some sort of bleedin’ china doll? I’ve beat people that would have given you a run for your money, you musta been seen me fight Kalenda on Limbo, else you wouldn’ta been there to save my hide, so you saw me kick that Klingon bitch’s ass into the ground. No fuckin’ delicate creature coulda pulled that one off. I knocked that cunt out, I gave as good as I got- DO YOU REMEMBER THAT? Or wait, maybe you do remember that. Lemme guess, you scared I’m gonna whip yer ass? A big strong man like yerself? You didn’t strike me as a yellow, lily livered chickenshit. Or maybe it was Barnes who wasn’t a coward, and Barton is a momma’s boy, and he’s scared of a woman half his size. ”

She sprung forward, slamming her elbow into his solar plexus with all the force she could muster. The attack surprised him more than anything else, but she took the opportunity to shove him, hard, before sending him flying over her hip, clocking him in the sternum with her the heel of her palm on his way down. For a moment he seemed as though he was going to take the cover and escape approach, but when she sent a foot flying towards his groin, something seemed to snap in his face. He was up on his feet and swinging at her, finally at full force, and the two of them engaged in a brutal street fight. Unlike a show competition or Kassandra’s fights in the bar on Limbo which were meant to impress and look deadly, this fight had a slow, staccato rhythm, an economy and gracelessness to the motions which focused on causing pain with the least energy possible, and lacked any sort of flourish. There was no bouncing from heel to heel, no weaving and bobbing when not being attacked, nothing but taking a punch or a kick and dealing out another.

Barton hadn’t been slowed down as much as she thought he might have been by the additional gravity, and after a while, and some serious focusing of her sensor nets she saw why. Apparently someone had foreseen the problem of his comparative bulk and the extra use of oxygen his enhanced muscles would need, and had enlarged his pulmonary system to compensate. So her smaller size didn’t give her as much of an endurance advantage, though the difference in size, plus her sensor nets still left her a decent speed advantage, which she needed, because Barton had really let loose. His swings were coming at break-bone power, and his face was eerily still and impassive, as though the lights were on, but no-one was home.

Finally, Barton seemed to hit on a winning combination, and Kassandra found herself in a position where she was faced with choosing which of his attacks she wanted to avoid. She chose, but quickly found out that Barton had managed to fake her out, and the kick she had avoided had merely been an extra bit of kinetic power to add to his already formidable punch. She threw herself backwards and managed to move enough ahead of the attack to avoid his punch breaking a rib, but found herself flying through the air, landing well outside the ring, the air knocked from her lungs. Barton began to approach her and she thought for a moment that he was going to help her up, but her sensor nets picked up the coiling and tensing of his muscles and she realized that rather than help her, he intended to finish up the job.

Panic seized her as she gasped for air, and suddenly she was back on the floor of the Arena of Limbo, and Rawyvin Seth was standing over her. **Tell me, Counselor, are you still scared of the dark? You really will have to tell me what it’s like, having the people who rely on you die while you like helpless on the floor not once, but twice. If you manage to survive, of course, my dear.** She choked as Barton’s shadow fell over her, adrenaline pumping in her ears. Her arm moved like it had a mind of its own, grabbing a weight from the rack behind her, and sending it spinning like a deadly discus towards the oncoming man. He grunted in pain as it grazed his shoulder, and a dawning horror filled his eyes as though he’d suddenly woken up from a sleep. She noticed this but her body was already in motion, swinging a much heavier weight with both hands towards his head to smash it into pulp. He reacted just in time and swung out of reach, the metal narrowly missing his nose. He smacked the weight out of her hands and held her firmly around the waist, and she was vaguely aware that he was yelling something into her ear, but she couldn’t tell what it was. She kicked and squirmed until her body and her mind finally reached an agreement that they were no longer in danger, and Barton set her down gently, pushing her away from him as though he had suddenly entered into a game of hot potato and she was it.

The two of them stared at each other. Sheepish, even more awkward, things even more jumbled and confusing. He didn’t seem to want to explain, and she knew she ought to, but couldn’t find the words for it.

And so Kassandra did the only thing she did better than making the situation worse. She ran away from it, trying to ignore the man’s stunned and wounded expression.

* * *=/\=* * *

Scene: Deck 12, Sickbay

Time Index: Two hours later

Eve Dalziel adjusted the tote over her shoulder as she breached the entrance to Sickbay proper. Normalcy wasn’t something the crew of the PHOENIX had been given, except in small increments, and this was one of those times. Final repairs were still in the works, but the area looked completely functional and was, more importantly, free of radiation. There were at least a couple more empty beds than the last time she had been there, and that eased her mind. Suvek gave the Counselor a blank look which Eve decided was the Vulcan’s best attempt at pleasantry. “Do you require assistance?” he asked.

She removed her sunglasses, tucking them into one of many utility pockets in the olive green romper she was wearing over her bathing suit. “I thought I might lure that boss of yours to the planet’s surface for some R&R. After all, I’m his mental health advocate.”

“He’s busy,” was the aCMO’s clipped response.

“Doing what?”

“Performing necessary repairs.”

Eve looked around, where the Ameratsu had ravaged the main space, which now had a semblance of order, but the old curmudgeon wasn’t there. So what was Suvek talking about? “Where *is* he?”

He didn’t answer at first. He just stood there, stoically checking the steady vitals of Lieutenant Phia.

She sidled up next to him. “I didn’t think Vulcans were capable of keeping secrets.”

He was clearly making rounds, suddenly doing his best to ignore her… or keep her at a discreet mental distance. He walked around her, next stopping at the bedside of Storm Bomba.“Your theory is flawed, Lieutenant.”

“How so?”

“Omission is not the same thing as secrecy. I would not have advised you he was repairing anything otherwise.”

Eve looked puzzled. “You know I’m going to look for him, right?”

Suvek shot her an expectant glance. Cade would never admit he needed help, and there was only so much he could do for his friend. “Precisely.”

* * *=/\=* * *

Scene: Research Lab C

The mystery of ‘Where in the World is Doctor Cade Foster’ had a quick conclusion, thanks to the ship’s Computer. He was less than a hundred yards away, in one of the empty labs. The data she had indicated no damage had been done to that area of the ship, so Suvek’s cryptic comments hadn’t done a lick of good at making her understand what he was driving at. The only option was to go straight to the horse’s ass himself.

The door opened, into what should have been a build-to-suit research laboratory. But the empty room wasn’t anymore. There were several pieces of machinery, carefully arranged to take up every corner of the space. They were dormant. The good Doctor was fiddling with some kind of spammer, trying to bring something in the corner online. He stiffened and stood up upon Eve’s approach, fully caught red-handed. The only question was, in what?

Eve shrugged. Best to begin with the original reason for her concern and work her way out from there. “Cade Foster, I’m supposed to escort you to the beach, no excuses.”

“You aren’t supposed to be here.”

“Then maybe you should lock the door.”

“Nobody knows where-” the revelation hit him like an arrow in the heart. “Suvek, that sonofabitch.”

“He wouldn’t say it in so many words, but I think he wanted me here.” She examined the closest device to the entry, and realized while it looked like a solid rectangle, it was actually two opaque walled handrails with a treaded walking path down the center, and an elaborate console along one side. There were also the beginnings of an anti-grav harness suspended directly over the contraption.

“Well... I don’t. The door’s right there.”

Eve ignored him. “Where did this come from?” she gestured to the filled room.

“Suvek procured it on LIMBO before all our bridges were burnt there. Let’s face it, nobody was going to miss a few bars of that massive Latinum haul Crichton and BaShen managed to get away with.”

“You can’t expect to fix all this rehabilitation equipment all by yourself.”

“No, but I did expect Suvek to keep his big logical mouth shut. We have an arrangement.”

“And you’re going to help Phia recuperate.”

Cade went back to his tinkering. “Thank you, Captain Obvious, for your astute assessment of the situation.”

“Someone needs to slap you. Maybe that would put some sense into you.”

Foster snorted and glared from tired eyes. “If a broken nose- or two- won’t do it, then I fail to see what slapping would do.”

Dalziel crossed her arms. “True… you’d only enjoy it.”

Foster stood up and reached across the piece of equipment he was working on to switch to a different tool. He stopped to look her directly in the face. “Someone needs to grab you and passionately kiss the crap out of you. Then you wouldn’t be in my business to begin with”

“I’m surprised you noticed I was kissable.”

Cade looked up from his work with a haggard, sarcastic expression. “A man would have to be blind, deaf, dumb, and drunk not to notice.”

“Survival’s been far more important than my love life.”

“...Says someone who doesn’t have any love life.”

Dalziel feigned irritation. “That’s none of your concern.”

“Ha!” he exclaimed, pointing with some kind of wrench at her. “The shoe’s on the other foot now, Counselor. See how *you* like it?”

Eve sighed. “So you’re not going ashore?”

“Not right now.”

“Fine. But if you don’t take some time off while we have the opportunity, I won’t hesitate to send Kass to drag your ass down there.”

“You wouldn’t send *her* to escort me anywhere,” Cade grumbled.

“Don’t dare me.”

* * *=/\=* * *

Location: Elandipole

Scene: A nice beach

“Hello Gunny Bellecotte, have you seen Major Thytos?” Eve asked Kassandra’s giant second-in-command as she approached him. Horatio turned around carefully so as not to dislodge any of the children hanging off of his enormous arms. He smiled widely at her, waggled his fingers at her, and said something to the gaggle of children who ran off giggling into the water.

“Over there helping to set up the encampment, and call me Horatio, or Harry if you like,” he gestured to the area and then frowned. Kassandra was talking to a graceful Deltan woman, dressed in a tight leather outfit typical of the dress of the denizens of Limbo, as Horatio and Eve watched, the Deltan leaned in and whispered something into the Marine’s ear, one finger grazing Kassandra’s collarbone. It must have been quite something because Kassandra’s face turned bright red. The Deltan smiled, and leaned in once more. Eve couldn’t see what she did, but the end result was that Kassandra laughed, allowed the Deltan woman to kitten up to her, one hand gently on her hip, and they disappeared into the underbrush. Eve turned to Horatio and raised an eyebrow. He shrugged ruefully, his eyes still fixed over in the direction where Kassandra had disappeared. “Kass plays for whichever team she can hit a home-run for, and her number one rule is ‘never turn down a telepath.’ So, you’re out of luck on seeing her for the time being.” He paused, then looked askance at her. “Was it business or…?”

“The Captain asked me to talk to her after her little blow up in Engineering…” Eve studied him evenly. He met her eyes squarely, something that she found most people avoided now that she was the ship’s counselor, almost as if they thought their eyes would somehow betray their deepest, darkest secrets. She decided she liked the Marine. He had the same plain speaking inclinations as Kassandra, but they were tempered with a preternatural patience, and more than a hint of mother hen. From his stance and the way he kept glancing at the spot where the woman had disappeared, she could tell that he was worried about Kassandra.

“Good,” he said at length, breaking eye contact, and beginning to gather up some tools from under a palm-like plant with leaves shaped like curlicued ringlets in a shocking tangerine color. He opened up a box and began to put together a sunshade over the pile of toys the kids had abandoned in their rush into the water. “The Captain’s a perceptive man. I was worried I was going to have to be the one to order her to talk to you, and that would have been a pain in the ass. Kassandra’s as stubborn as a mule, and she hates being told what to do, especially by me. Her ‘nagging old lady’, she calls me.”

“You two are pretty close?” Eve held the pole of the structure as he drove it into the ground. He made it look easy.

“Close as Kassandra lets anyone get, which is to say, she’ll occasionally tell me what she’s thinking and maybe ask my opinion when the mood strikes her, and close enough that she won’t tell me what’s really important if she thinks it’ll worry me. If she even knows what the problem is, which to be honest most of the times she doesn’t.” He scowled at that thought.

“She doesn’t seem predisposed to much deep introspection,” Eve agreed.

“She’s willfully avoidant of deep introspection, in fact, I’d say she goes out of her way to do as little of it as possible.” Horatio snapped, and then looked apologetic. “Sorry, I’m just a little worried. She’s been out of sorts since she got back from Limbo, but she won’t say a word about it. Now that the refugee crisis is done she’s literally spent every free moment she’s not working in the gymnasium, and one of my Marines told me she went nuts on the guy that saved her life on Limbo during a friendly, nearly clocked him in the head with a weight with no real explanation. I suppose it’s fine as long as she’s keeping herself busy… Except for she’s not keeping herself busy so much as finding more way to avoid whatever’s bothering her. Do you know, I actually saw her bottle a fight in Shantytown? That’s why she left patrolling to us. She lost her nerve and didn’t trust her own judgement on handling a situation. Never seen that before.”

Horatio grabbed another pole and placed it next to a pile of rocks and began to drive that pole in as well. Two of the children, a little Bajoran boy and Buttercup, the human girl who the Marines had been taking care of ran up to him and tugged on his pockets. Horatio listened gravely as they chattered at him, and solemnly allowed them to put a crown made out of flowers and some rather smelly seashells on his head. After some discussion the two children handed Eve a flower and demanded that she put it in her hair.

The dark-haired woman didn’t hesitate as she tucked the fuchsia blossom behind one ear as the children seemed pleased with themselves and ran off again. “I seem to have gotten off light on this one,” she remarked, examining the head wear Mister Bellecotte- Harry- was now wearing. Given the seaside setting, and his stature, it was easy to imagine him as Poseidon or Neptune.

The sunlight played with the simple structures that Gunny put up, and Eve dug her toes into the warm sand. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, taking in a breath of salty air and hearing the faint happy sounds of children’s voices as they played. It wouldn’t be difficult to lean back on the towel and drift away for hours.

However, as much as she wanted to, her mind wouldn’t let that happen. She’d spent hours after the rejoining of the two halves of the ship helping attend to the wounded, which for a while felt like a never-ending stream of radiation poisoning, broken bones, and a few burns. Those that had escaped injury had been racked with stress and panic. The look on Sylvia Warren’s face was one of many expressions of pain, grief, and uncertainty she wouldn’t forget.

And now, there was this piece of news about Kass and Barnes, no, Barton, Eve corrected herself. The revelation of the real identity of the man who had intercepted Kass as she lay gravely injured on LIMBO answered a few old questions, and generated several new ones. So, instead of a peaceful repose, Dalziel kept her eyes open and trained on the shore and the undergrowth that the Marine and her companion had disappeared into.

* * *=/\=* * *

The sensation of warmth permeated the space between the sand and the low lying shrubbery that obscured the two of them. Kassandra had slipped out of the windbreaker she was wearing, revealing a one piece black swimsuit with a high neckline and a pair of tan cargo shorts. The Deltan woman stretched her lithe frame over the more muscular woman, straddling her gently. Kass hadn’t realized at first that her guest had shed her skimpy leather outfit in favor of an equally bare sky blue bikini.

“Lilli-” she said, but before she could elaborate further the Deltan woman leaned in and kissed her. Kass arched her neck slightly, easing into the other woman’s affections. Lilliana ran her slender hands through the tangle of coppery hair that had been carelessly pulled back, eliciting a soft moan from the off-duty Marine. She eased her head farther forward, nibbling on the Deltan’s lip as they continued to kiss. Sweat and sand mixed as their hands explored each other.

Kass sighed with contentment, looking into Lilli’s violet eyes. The Deltan’s touch felt like pinpricks of electrical current running through her, washing over her like a mild painkiller. It was like the feeling of being drunk without the hangover afterward. Kass let it comfort her as she surrendered everything except the moment at hand. She willed herself to caress Lilliana’s stunning face, her exquisite bone structure and expressive eyes on full display without any hair to fall down into her features. Then her strong hands massaged Lilli’s bare shoulders, turning her so they were laying side by side, then finally with Kass mirroring the original setup, her sturdy knees and thighs touching the sand, careful to keep pressure off the smaller woman’s torso, but with her lips then roughly pressed against her new friend’s. They were taking short, gasping breaths, unwilling to lose contact for more than a split second at a time. Lilli, with the touch of a feather, massaged Kass’ temples, as the older woman stroked the Deltan’s collarbone and décolletage. A welcome breeze through the low hanging leaves almost made her shiver in the captive heat.

Without warning, Lilliana froze up, pushing and kicking like she were drowning. After a frantic fifteen seconds, Kass came back to herself, and rolled off to the side, still breathing heavy. “What’s wrong?”

“No. Bad mojo. I cannot fix.”

“I’m not askin’ ya to fix nothin’. No promises, just good times.”

But Lilli’s hands were shaking. She’d given up on wearing the flimsy leather garment, instead throwing it over her arm. “Sorry,” she muttered and pushed through the shrubbery, leaving Kass alone, except for the thoughts that she was trying so desperately to escape from.

“Goddammit. If there’s someone up there, Ah get the sense that yer jus’ fuckin’ with me now. Or not fuckin’, apparently.” the Major glared heavenwards and stood up trying to dust sand and leaves out of her hair, hoping that no one would have noticed her leaving and her ignominious, frustrated return. She slunk out of the undergrowth only to find herself nearly immediately pounced on by the rather unwelcome and inopportune form of the Ship’s counselor. She groaned, and muttered inaudibly: “Ah, Christ on a cracker. Just what I needed.”

* * *=/\=* * *

To her surprise, Eve’s rest and relaxation only lasted a matter of minutes. Without warning the Deltan woman that Kassandra had left with barged out of the undergrowth, wearing considerably less clothing than she’d gone in with, and looking more than a little… Not exactly pissed, but not exactly what Eve would have termed a ‘satisfied customer’ as it were. A couple minutes passed, and Kassandra reappeared, her lips pursed with frustration, trying her best to look casual and nonchalant. Eve saw the moment Kassandra’s nets registered her presence, because a scowl passed over her already irate face, and she quickly changed direction, pretending to be suddenly very interested in a set of garden beds that were being constructed in the center of the new refugee encampment.

Eve huffed, following the subject of her attention, icy stares and blinking sensors notwithstanding. Most of her young adulthood she had spent finding ways to look as nonthreatening, as “human” as possible, but her chosen occupation and the way she carried herself seemed to trump any attempt at presenting herself as unassuming and kind. But dammit, she was going to help people rather they wanted it or not. But it was beginning to look like today wasn’t going to be that day. “Kass? Kass! Please wait!”

“Sorry Counselor, busy, real busy. Lotsa stuff to do, whole lotta logistics and orderin’ people around to do- I gotta inspect the- I gotta inspect the- the- the secondary desalination containment units!” Kassandra’s words came out very quickly and rushed, and she stuttered over the last part, a look of relief coming to her face when she nailed the excuse that was almost comical and that Eve would have, under other circumstances, found rather amusing.

Eve rolled her eyes. So this was how it was going to be. “*Major*, not that I would ever take someone away from their duties, but I would say we all need some rest mixed in with our little pet projects.”

“Don’t be settin’ sights on me bein’ your next project,” Kass protested. “Maybe you should work your charms on ol’ Jebediah Chastity.”


“Mister Barton,” Kassandra corrected herself. “He’s got more secrets n’ a teenage girls’ slumber party.”

“James Barton isn’t attacking people in the Gym. He’s not giving inappropriate speeches in Engineering about the pissing contest we all know happens when the men get going. Besides, I’d like to think I was your friend too.”

“He started it, well, sorta. The boys definitely deserved it in the Engine room. They couldn’t stop bickering for one damn moment, and they made *me* be the reasonable one. I hate bein’ the reasonable one.” Kassandra said sullenly, running her hand self consciously through her hair and fiddling with the fastener on one of her pockets. “I like to think you’re one of my friends too… So why don’t we just go get a drink and not talk about this like I would with any of my other friends.”

“Because I have a particular set of skills I think you need the benefit of,” Dalziel answered.

“I don’t need a shrink, or a Spook neither,” Kass said aggressively. “A workout, some drinkin’ and some sun will fix me right as rain.” She glanced away from the Counselor, across the beach at Horatio. That was a mistake. His stare was openly full of worry and the sternness of a favorite uncle. There was so safe harbor.

“You could still use a friend, couldn’t you?”

There was a streak of vulnerability in Eve’s face. Whether the Cardassian born woman was working the situation or not, It only made Kass more uncomfortable.

“It’s… Not that?” Kassandra finally said, squirming under Eve’s gaze. “It’s not like I don’t like you or somethin’, you’re fine. I mean, you’re a nice person? I jus’ really don’t know what you want from me, at this point. Y’all seem to expect something from me, and I jus’ don’t know what it is. What is it that you think I’m so eager to get off my chest anyway? I mean, can’t I just lose my temper without it bein’ some whole big hullabaloo?”

“I could understand if I thought your tirades were about what’s happening right in front of you. But trying to take out Barton’s cranium with a free weight, that isn’t something he deserved. You’re trying to compensate for something else you’re feeling or thinking about. You’re smarter than people think you are. I can’t completely buy into the idea that you’ve lost enough IQ points along the way that you think you can just keep kicking asses and that’s going to make all your problems disappear.” Eve said pointedly.

“I’m a Marine. That’s how I make my problems disappear. Just ask the Cap’n. Blunt instrument and all that.” Kassandra muttered, her hands clenching and relaxing into fists as though she was contemplating making her current ‘problem’ disappear with them. “But just so happens that that’s exactly what’s going to help my current whatever-you-want-to-call-thems. I need to up my speed, try and add more power to my hits, bump up my cardio and get better at my footwork, problem solved. Barton was supposed to be helpin’ me with that, but then he jus’ went off the rails, like, real one flew over the cuckoo’s nest shit. OK, so maybe clubbin’ him in the head with the weight was overkill, but he meant to kill me, and I needed to do what I did to make sure I was the last person standin’. I get splatted, who would be here to make sure you lot don’t hosed when your next good deed lands you in hot water?”

“Nice try. You want me to drop this and go talk to Barton. I find it hard to believe that someone who carried your half dead carcass across that damned station without complaint, who went with you to try and save us from the Ameratsu and came back with enough injuries, contusions and radiation sickness for three men, suddenly has decided he wants to hurt you. Don’t get me wrong, curiosity alone has me wanting to have a word with the man. But you have to trust me, Kass, you can develop your physical prowess and hone your combat skills to a razor’s edge. But when whatever feelings you’re holding in decide to finally let themselves go, your body is not going to be able to save you.”

Kassandra started to walk away, her ears turning red with fury, Eve guessed. But the Marine was much smaller than she, and Eve was able to keep pace easily, even after the other woman’s pace had accelerated to a speed that had become rather unseemly and obviously haphazard. Kassandra let out a grunt of frustration, flung herself into a sand dune, and rubbed her cheeks with the heel of her palm in frustration. Eve stood over her for a moment, and then decided that sitting down would probably get her further than standing over her. Kassandra might view her standing over her as an aggressive action, and react accordingly. She smoothed out a place on the dune and sat facing slightly away from Kassandra, so that she could barely see her out of the corner of her eye, guessing that Kassandra might also be more at ease talking if she didn’t feel like she was being scrutinized.

“But that’s the problem!” Kassandra snapped finally, slapping her open palms on the sand. “My body wasn’t able to save me, or any of you back on Limbo. Barton had the right idea, gettin’ himself beefed up with genetic enhancements, and he probably didn’t even start out so useless. I shouldnta come back, they made the right call when they kicked me out of the Marines in the first place. These bloody fuckin’ useless sensor nets. My useless stupid height, my stupid useless strength. Oh yeah, I’m strong for a woman, fast too, but what bloody good is any technique and speed when I can spend all day pummeling some stupid Klingon bint and she acts like she don’t even feel it? When I was supposed to step up to the plate, kick ass, and take names where the hell was I? Lying on the floor, scared shitless, of no use to anyone.” She balled up her fist and took her frustration out on a tussock of purple dune grass, viciously pulling clumps of it up in her fists and ripping it to shreds until it turned into confetti then hurling it into the wind before repeating the motion.

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, I'll try again tomorrow.” Eve put on her best imitation of a Bajoran wise-woman, hoping to acknowledge Kassandra’s sudden flash of insight in a way that wouldn’t scare her off from making any more.

Kass laughed. “You don’t strike me as the poetic type.” Lysander would have approved, though, she thought. Her face fell again. “Asta and Lysander- Edgerton threatened to kill ‘em if I didn’t keep helpin’ him and his overthrowin’ ways. I guess that’s two more people I wasn’t there for when they needed it.”

“Your kids?” Eve asked quietly.

“My sister’s- but it’s been a helluva long time with only the three of us together. I knew I had to get offa that Neo-Essentialist bullcrap, but I don’t think I can live with the thought that they’re gone. But it had to turn out this way, I reckon. Their mother, an’ Lysander at least wouldn’t a forgiven me if I’d let Edgerton’s little coup take place. She was a pacifist, didn’t like my line of work at all, but woulda been even less pleased by the Federation turnin’ into some military empire.”

“I’m sorry, Kass.” Eve’s grey eyes softened.

“The worst part is, the last time I saw ‘em, they thought I was a fuck-up. It was either have ‘em believe that or put ‘em in more danger tellin’ ‘em bout what i’d been up to.”

“You can’t change what other people think of you, even your family. But I’d settle if you tried a little harder to stop thinking of yourself as just a dogpile of mistakes.”

“A little bit hard when that’s all that anyone is gonna remember, ain’t it? You seen the crew recently? Ain’t a single one of ‘em that can even look me in the eyes since Limbo. If they’re gonna be scared a’ me, I could at least be half as good as they think I am,” Kassandra shook her head slightly. “An’ I’ve made way more mistakes than you know, or will ever know, so I wouldn’t go givin’ me a pass. Funny thing about mistakes is they keep buildin’ up, don’t they? By the time you get to be my age, you’ll likely have your very own pile a’ regrets, though since you seem far more level-headed than I ever was, I’m thinkin' it ain’t gonna be that big.”

“And I’d say the same thing to you, I’ve made mistakes you don’t know about.” Eve gazed out at the horizon. The sunlight was lower in the sky, but the sky was still azure without a trace of haze. But it felt like the heat of the day had passed, in more ways than one.

“Well, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you ain’t got mosta your major mistakes thrown in your face recently.” Kassandra said dryly as she finished decimating the plant. She looked at the pathetic stubbled mound that had been the grass and wrinkled her nose with something akin to regret. “I’m gonna tell you something Eve, and if you ever tell anyone else I’m going ta hafta smack *you* over the head with a weight. I talked with Rawvyvin. Well, that’s a bit of an overstatement. He talked to me, well, he taunted me, at any rate. That bastard got under my skin in a way I can’t even explain. He knew exactly what scared me the most and he made it happen. I’m scared of The Dark.” Kassandra swallowed. Something in the way she said it conveyed to Eve that to Kassandra the dark to her was some sort of terrifying entity. “Kalenda stabbed me but it was Rawyvin that destroyed my sensor nets. He wanted to see me scared, he wanted to taunt me, because the last time I was blind everyone I was supposed to protect died, and that’s what he was going to make happen at the Arena. I can stand bein’ hurt, I can stand the thought a dyin’ but when I do go out, I don’t want to be helpless, useless, and in The Dark. I wanna go out fighting.”

Eve tugged at her sable ponytail, thinking. “Rawyvin Seth had the ability to push anyone’s buttons, to exploit everyone’s deepest fears. Even among villains, that’s a rare gift. I don’t know that you’ll see his like again. And I’d imagine you aren’t the only one who wants their lives to have meaning, and deeper meaning still in death. Because all of us have to die.”

“Sounds real upliftin’ Counselor… like a funeral march. Glad ta see you’re thinking my way.”

“Cut me some slack, Thytos. I’m supposed to be on shore leave.”

Kass smirked. “Promise me somethin else.”

“What now?”

“The next time we do this, and I’m not sayin’ we’re gonna do this again, but iffen we are, we go drinkin’ and start a barfight instead?”

“I’m beginning to think that would be easier,” Eve answered.

“Ah hah. I win.” Kassandra glanced over and smiled dryly at Eve, winking slowly. “I always win. Now if only I could manage to get laid.”

* * *=/\=* * *

NRPG: Look how uhhhh. Happy? and... Non grim? that was?
Next post I'll be availing myself of Jerome's big hard...copy of all the information on Elandipole.

Brought to you by:

Susan Ledbetter


Eve Dalziel

Kissable Saint, and Counselor


Alix Fowler


Kassandra Thytos,

Woman who hits boys she likes, and still hasn't gotten laid.


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