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Counting The Cost

Posted on Dec 27, 2017 @ 2:59am by Commander Jacob Crichton
Edited on on Dec 27, 2017 @ 3:00am

Mission: Fear Itself

= Counting The Cost =

(cont’d from “Priorities”)

SCENE: Arboretum
STARDATE: [2.17] 1226.2303

Three small headstones had been prepared and installed in one of the arboretum’s more conservative gardens. They were more like plaques than headstones, each bearing the name of the one of the PHOENIX’s most recently fallen. Petty Officer Carter, whom Jake didn’t know, and Arak Schad and Chaucer, whom he did. Jake stood a few feet to one side of the small row of stones, his hands clasped behind his back, his lips pressed into a tight, thin line.

Jake hadn’t known Schad all that well, though they’d shared an interesting time in the holodeck along with most of the rest of the senior staff. That had been almost a year ago, Jake reflected. So much had happened since then. He’d worked alongside Arak Schad through it all, but they’d never spoke much on a personal level. And now, they never would. Jake stared at Arak Schad’s small stone and thought of missed opportunities.

Jake had known Chaucer rather well. He’d commanded him for almost two years in Engineering. The big Gorn had saved Jake’s life once, during Arthur Embry’s insane mutiny. Jake had been a hair too slow, had wound up on the wrong end of a disruptor… if Chaucer hadn’t been there, Jake wouldn’t be standing here now. Jake sighed.

Captain Kane stood to Jake’s right, equally stoic. Jake wondered how Kane was taking all this. It was hard to lose crewmates, but it was even harder when you were responsible for them. Jake was feeling some of that responsibility now, as he thought about how helpless he’d felt as the Phobophage had ripped its way through the crew. Jake supposed that, for Kane, it was even worse.

Friends and colleagues of the fallen took turns coming to the fore of the small assembly. They spoke of times gone by, of fond memories they’d shared with those now departed. Jake felt the sting of tears in his eyes as Asta Elgin had stepped forward to talk about Chaucer. They’d all been on his staff - Asta, Chaucer, John Maynell, and Cindy Rochemonte. Now Cindy was gone, her life destroyed by the destruction of Paris and her family, and Chaucer was dead.

Now Jake’s thoughts turned to everyone they’d lost along the way. Solomon Arn, Thomas Varn, Sam Perry, Russ BaShen. Even Sofia Andersson, though the mystery surrounding the discovery that she’d been replaced with a Romulan agent still hadn’t been solved. Then there was Barton, who wasn’t dead but who had still disappeared. Jake doubted if he would ever see Barton again. And now, after the Phobophage, even more names to add to the list. Jake suddenly felt very lonely.

Now it was Malin-Argo’s turn to step forward. The Grazerite didn’t look at Jake, but Jake thought he could feel Malin-Argo watching him from out of the corner of his eye.

“Ensign Chaucer could be… a challenging person to work with,” Malin-Argo said. He had his usual haughty tone, but Jake noted that the Grazerite’s eyes were on his feet. He looked uncomfortable, something Jake hadn’t seen on him since he’d taken over the job in Main Engineering, and in that instant Jake felt a sense of kinship with him that he’d never felt before. Whatever their differences, Malin-Argo cared about his team, even if he couldn’t show it.

“Being limited to only four sentences made it difficult to interact with him,” Malin-Argo continued. “But even so, he was among the most gifted mechanics I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. His understanding of hardware seemed almost preternatural. Chaucer will be missed by everyone, whether they knew him or not.”

Jake spotted Eve Dalziel and Aerdan Jos in the crowd. Tears ran slowly down Eve’s cheeks. Aerdan looked on with a solemn expression. Jake didn’t know how well the Andorian doctor had known Chaucer - or Schad or Carter, for that matter - but Jake knew that Aerdan had suffered his own loss in the death and subsequent unmasking of Sofia Andersson. The Phobophage had left few of the PHOENIX’s crew unscathed in some way or another.

Now it was Jake’s turn. He left his position next to Kane and stepped in front of the crowd. He hadn’t prepared any remarks, though now he wished he had. For a moment, he only looked out at the assembled faces, most of whom he’d known since the PHOENIX had first fled Edgerton’s regime years ago. He wondered if they were feeling the weight of everything they’d lost along the way, just as Jake was.

“Chaucer was an example of the Federation at its finest,” Jake said finally. “He came to us a refugee from LIMBO, a malnourished Gorn who didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. But he found a home here, with us, and earned his commission. He may have never gone to the Academy, may not have had the benefits of formal training, but he was talented and he worked hard. And he became one of the finest officers aboard our ship. I don’t know how Chaucer felt about the Federation - he wasn’t much of a conversationalist, as I’m sure you all know - but I know he loved this ship and he loved all of us. He might not have done it the traditional way, but Chaucer was a Starfleet officer through and through, and it will be my honor to remember him as such.”

Jake glanced down once more at Chaucer’s small plaque - too small, Jake thought - then returned to his position beside Captain Kane. Other came up, delivering the eulogies for Chaucer or Schad or Carter, but Jake wasn’t really listening. He was too busy thinking of everyone who hadn’t made it this far.


After the service ended, small clusters of attendees still lingered. Kane made his goodbyes and headed for the bridge, but Jake wanted to take a few more minutes. He noticed the ship’s latest addition, Lt. Crow, standing before Arak Schad’s plaque. Jake approached her.

“Lieutenant,” he said quietly. “Am I interrupting?”

“It’s doctor,” said Karrington Crow, without taking her eyes from Schad’s plaque.

“I’m sorry?”

“I suppose it doesn’t matter,” said Dr Crow. She turned and gave Jake a weak smile. “I’m sorry, Commander. Of course it is your prerogative to refer to me by my rank.”

“I don’t mind calling you doctor,” Jake said. “I’m sorry, you seemed lost in thought, I hope I’m not disturbing you.”

“No,” Dr. Crow said. “I was just looking at Ensign Schad’s memorial here.”

“Did you know him?”

“No,” Crow sighed. “I just hate coming aboard under these kinds of circumstances. I’ve read over some of the reports of what you people went through with that creature. What did you call it? Phobophage?”

Jake nodded. “That’s right.”

“Truly monstrous,” said Crow. “I’m very happy to be aboard the PHOENIX, Commander Crichton, I just wish it had been for different reasons.”

“The captain told me he’s been trying to get you assigned for months,” Jake said. “You earned your spot here before the phobophage ever came aboard. It’s just… bad timing.”

“Yes,” said Crow. “Bad timing. I suppose that’s right. Did you know Ensign Schad?”

“Not personally,” Jake said. “He was a good officer, and seemed to be a good man.”

“But the Gorn… you were close?”

“I used to be the Chief Engineer,” said Jake. “Chaucer was on my team. He saved my life once.”

“I’m sorry for your loss, Commander.”

“Thank you,” Jake nodded. “I share your wish that it were under different circumstances, but I’m glad to have you aboard, Dr. Crow.”

“Thank you, Commander. I’ll be going now. I have a lot to do in the science labs, and I haven’t unpacked yet.”

“Not used to officer accommodations?” Jake asked.

Crow smiled. “It’s been some time, Commander. I’ve grown accustomed to living rough, sleeping on bedrolls or maybe small cots. Even if I was aboard a ship, it was invariably a small affair, not much room to stretch out.”

“It must have been hard to conduct your research in those conditions.”

“Part of the challenge,” said Dr. Crow. “And anyway, when you’re behind Dominion lines, you want your vessel to be as unobtrusive as possible.”

“Sound advice, “Jake said. “Well I won’t keep you. Please let me know if you need anything.”

Jake watched Crow leave. He’d familiarized himself with her record - years of field experience, though not much time spent in the traditional command structure. Jake knew Dr. Crow’s expertise would benefit the PHOENIX greatly, and he had to admit he was curious to hear more about her time in the field, especially during the 2nd Dominion War. Jake thought about his failure to ever get to know Arak Schad, and resolved not to make the same mistake again.

Now Jake turned back to Chaucer’s small memorial. He read and re-read the Gorn’s name, trying not to picture the way his body had looked when he’d died. Jake wanted to remember Chaucer as he’d been in life, not that twisted, ruined mass the Phobophage had left behind. But the image wouldn’t quite leave him. It made Jake feel helpless… even though they’d managed to banish the entity back to its own dimension, it hadn’t felt like a victory.

“Goodbye, big guy,” Jake said quietly, reaching out to gently touch Chaucer’s plaque. “Thank you for everything.”


Shawn Putnam
Jake Crichton
Executive Officer


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