Obsidian Command

Previous Next

Subspace Fissures and Other Marital Problems

Posted on 01 Jun 2023 @ 8:58am by Commander Calliope Zahn & Lieutenant Commander Lance Quinn (*)
Edited on on 25 Jun 2023 @ 3:23pm

Mission: M3 - Into the Deep
Location: Pathfinder, First Officer's office
Timeline: Immediately after the ship is underway, following "A Shadow Revealed"
2078 words - 4.2 OF Standard Post Measure

"Lance,” Calliope said with a weary tone, her hand twirling the loop of her necklace over and over and over as she turned everything around in her mind. Her eyes flicked a moment on his right arm in a case and a sling, before looking back up at him. Normally she would have worried how it had come about, but the injury was eclipsed by everything else that had just unfolded. “I called you in here because you refused a direct order."

The XO's office was half lit. There was nothing in it save for the furnishings and decor that had come preinstalled from the last occupant that had made any effort. Calliope's duffle bag was still on the floor beside the powder room. A little mobile on the side table whirled and balanced, as if it were hardly troubled at all by hurricanes, torpedoes, or imminent subspace fissures. Its own little orbits were perfectly fine.

Calliope turned as she came to the desk and looked at Lance who she had called in to speak with the minute the ship was underway, enroute back to Obsidian Command. “You refused a direct order from Dehavilland and from me.”

"I made the decision that neither of you could. Despite what the pompous Poster Child of Starfleet said. Bawdy, Bowels, Bowwow—"

"Captain Bowdler?" Calliope crossed her arms.

"Whatever. The one in those ridiculous, chrome foil, shifting holo-print, old adverts on campus. You had his picture, I believe. He hasn't aged entirely well."

Was he jealous of a poster she had displayed when she was a cadet? "I had a lot of recruitment posters. My mother is a recruiter, remember?"

"Well, be that as it may."

"What's your point?" Calliope snipped impatiently. "Be what as it may?"

"His charming little 'very well done', pat on the head. I watched him over the visual comm link, strutting around. Those are epitaphs. 'The best of us, they died well for a lost cause!' Was that what you meant to have engraved upon Obsidian Command's memorial wall in memoriam of this entire crew?"

"Son of a bitch, Lance." She landed a fist on the desk. "We weren't in the grave. We were still in that fight!" She aimed a pointer finger at him. "And every second you refused the order, you made that hill steeper."

Lance approached her, which forced her to look up at him, having the advantage of height as he did. With his left hand, he first tilted her chin and then pushed those messy escaped dark tendrils of hair back out of her face for her, tucking them behind her ear and giving her a knowing look, meaning to disarm her. Lance hated heated feelings, most of all bitter fighting. His own parents were much more sensible about it, using the silent treatment and occasionally involving solicitors. But he knew this wasn't a conversation he could petition her to have later. Calli disliked being put off. He needed to fix it, to make her see they could discuss this reasonably. Really, she needed to know that she was overreacting— another thing he had learned empirically not to say to her directly. Instead, he took a moment to look into her eyes. She always did find eye contact important. He'd worked out how long to hold her gaze to have her attention. Just long enough until it would make her shift her posture first. Then, at last, in just the same way he might have observed that she was beautiful, he said, "You're angry."

"Unbelievable," she whispered. "I wish Captain DeHavilland hadn't relieved you from duty."

Lance smirked. It was indeed foolish to have removed him, but he believed it would iron out. "Obviously she's not as sensible as I had given her credit for. Unfortunately—"

"Unfortunately," Calliope interrupted, sternly, yet still quietly. "She removed you before I got the chance."

Lance frowned at that sentiment, injured and tilting back verbally before checking himself. "It hardly matters in the grand scheme, now does it? She relieved you of your post mere weeks after we arrived, after all. For you, this entire mission has been a probationary trial."

Not appreciating the similitude as Lance obviously deflected from his own behavior to highlight her flailing career struggle— as if that justified him at all, or defanged the issue, or was in any way comparable!— Calliope exhaled heavily and put her hand up to deflect Lance’s wrist and keep him from touching her face as if she needed to be soothed.

"I can't do this, Lance.” She said with frustration as they stood close, herself loosely grasping his wrist. It felt as if the rest of what she had to say broke away from her, as though she'd been biting her tongue for so long and papering it over with her best optimistic spin but just couldn't keep it wrapped up any longer. “I can't be your superior officer. I can't run interference for you with your own department and the rest of the staff. I can't have a debacle with you in the middle of a fucking fire fight with an entire planet in the balance. You're an incredible researcher. And you're completely unfit for the field. The worst part is that I knew it. I knew it from the beginning and I let everyone tell me it was all going to be great, that this was some dream-come-true chance for us. I should have known better than to think you could work outside of the lab."

Lance harrumphed, his lip quivering as processed her diatribe against him. Was this his reward for sacrificing everything for her happiness? All of the tripe about following one's heart seemed to prove hollow after all, just as he had suspected. "How quickly a tune can change its key! This morning you were indebted to me a kiss for my quick thinking."

Her eyes cast downward in thought and she released his wrist. He'd done all that excellent analytical work with the Korinn tech. And prototyped new weaponry to repel potential boarding parties. He had been invaluable- as an analyst and designer and propulsion engineer. It had been a bright spot when he had helped ready the away team. But in reality, it was a conclusion she probably could have arranged on her own. It had just... felt like they were sharing something. But the truth was that ever since they had first arrived on OC, she'd gone to great lengths to position the most highly educated, competent, and resilient individuals among his team leads to prevent constant friction and she'd done nothing but make pardons and excuses for him at every staff meeting and event they had, formal and informal. "Corvus wasn't wrong in bringing you on with this mission when she anticipated analytical work. And you were smart in setting me up with the Acamas. And then..." Her expression darkened again. "Then you took a shuttle after me—"

Lance tilted his head, his facial features forming a question mark. He hadn't debriefed as of yet about the ill-fated shuttle ride.

"—Oh I put the pieces together. The damage on the shuttle in the bay, the shell-shocked pilot who you wouldn't listen to, and Ensign Jup presently in sickbay, suspended in critical condition! I suppose that’s also where you ended up with that injury to your arm?"

"I did embark on DeHavilland's orders—"

"Ooh... ho!” She waved wildly. “So, you do follow orders, now? Or you just pick and choose?"

Lance put his hand around his wife’s shoulder, as if bracketing her like a shaky component in a prototype build could discourage her arms from the expressive display. "I needed to find you, Calliope. The situation had become complex and there was talk of abandoning your team behind on the planet. I went to collect you."

"To collect me?" She shrugged off Lance's hand. "What, you think I'm some school kid waiting for the hoverbus?"

"No, of course not. You're highly competent. One of the very best in your field. I've been making your case for months now. I simply wanted you to be accounted for before it was too late."

"I explicitly told you to stay with the ship." She jammed her index finger into her husband's chest. “You were smart enough to help me make better arrangements with the away team. You're smart enough that you should have found a way to accommodate Corvus' directions without putting yourself and those ensigns in danger."

Lance felt the stab as if to his heart. He had to admit that it had been a horrible mistake going on that jaunt, even if he felt the need to defend himself to some degree. He was unable as yet to keep the raw image of Jup’s blistered face from his mind. "I admit, it was the first away mission I had been assigned to, at least as such—"

"Well since your stubborn ass stunt in the engine room, it may be your last, 'as such'." Calliope broke away from him and paced, gesturing with both hands in front of her. "Can you even fathom what a stroke of luck it was for you that our sensor records and accounts of the rift were deep-sixed? DeHavilland is not going to be able to brig you or even bust you down a rank only because she has nothing to charge you with!"

"Naturally, that had occurred to me," Lance said smugly, letting himself down on the sofa and toying with a kinetic sculpture on the side table. Balance, and counterbalance, push and pull, a nearly contained little universe of kinetic and potential energies, a system quite predictable in all of its possibilities with even the mildest of understanding in physics. He prided himself on seeing scenarios out several moves ahead, akin to a chessmaster. Calliope had to know that he understood the consequences of refusing an order. "Although you can be certain I was fully prepared to stand whatever review or trial was necessary for my actions in protecting you."

"Me? Protecting me?"

Giving the sculpture another push and watching it dissipate the added energy to return to its original state of gentle lull, Lance shifted to sit forward, leaning his good arm on his knee and intently fixing her with an earnest gaze for a long moment. Did she not understand what lengths he would go to for her sake? Far more than just his arm, or his career. "Yes. You. And everyone else aboard, incidentally."

"I would risk myself, you, and everything I loved to save a planet full of people! I'd risk it all on even an ice cube's chance in hell that I could make it happen. This is my calling. This is what I was born for. The fact that you would give up on the fate of an entire world to duck and cover and protect me? You don't know me. We don't share anything in common that even matters."

"Calli, that is not it at all. I value life and the principles of the Federation every bit as much as yourself.” Now Lance’s one hand was sweeping, like a conductor to a symphony only he could hear. “It was purely the mathematics of probability—"

"Damn the odds!" Frustrated, Calliope yanked his necklace off, snapping the chain and flinging it in one motion.

Reflexively Lance's left hand went out as she whipped it at him, and the little loop of rhodium wire he'd twisted together, the one he'd made her after her graduation in order to reassure her that their relationship would survive distance and time, now dangled between his fingers. For a man who always seemed unwilling or unable to grasp metaphor, in that moment he caught the meaning; Lance looked gutted.

"Save your card counting for the casinos,” Calliope said through a tight throat, hurt tears welling up. “Get out of my office."

Lance came to his feet, his posture as broken as his heart.

“Perhaps—” he began to say, pausing at the door and looking at the necklace in his fingers, trying to ascertain which link on the chain was undone. “Perhaps we shall discuss later, then.”

Calliope didn’t answer.


Previous Next

RSS Feed