Star Trek ENTERPRISE ___
FILLING IN THE BLANKS A Short Story in Two Acts and Perspectives By T.L. Shull
This short story is a fan written work and is not intended to infringe upon the copyrights of Paramount Pictures, CBS Corporation, or Pocket Books. It is provided free of charge to all fans for your enjoyment. Unauthorized copying or reproduction is prohibited. “Star Trek” is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures and CBS Corporation.
COVER ART by Alan Anderton (Kirok of L’Stok)
FILLING IN THE BLANKS A Star Trek: Enterprise Short Story in Two Acts and Perspectives By T.L. Shull
ACT ONE Earth North America Colorado Pike National Forest Cheesman Lake Private Residence of Major M. Hayes, MACO He stood in front of the small cabin in the middle of the large, forested and snow-covered hillside on the edge of a serene mountain lake. He was freezing his ass off. He breathed in the crisp air and the comforting scents of pine and aspen and stared at the plain wooden door, trying to build the courage to knock upon it. His stomach was tied in knots and it frustrated him. He had been through battles, faced the enemy headon and killed others to protect his captain and his ship, but this particular mission was proving to be more than just difficult. He stared at the door…breathing…trying to force his hand to rap on the golden-grained surface. His heart began to pound heavily in his chest… 2
Come on Malcolm…you can do this! You have to do this! It’s only right! His mind traveled back…
Delphic Expanse U.S.S. Enterprise NX-01 Sickbay “What? What do you mean he was married?” Reed asked incredulously. Phlox huffed with frustration. It was no secret that Reed and Hayes didn’t get along but it had become increasingly obvious that they had begun to make amends before Hayes died. Phlox was surprised Reed didn’t already know; especially since Reed seemed to take the take the Major’s death so hard. He had assumed they had made certain strides in their friendship. Obviously, he was wrong in that regard. Phlox had approached Reed to help with the letter to his wife, knowing that the captain’s letter would be formal and respectful, but Reed was the head of security on the ship and was technically Hayes’ CO. “I meant what I said Lieutenant, Major Hayes was married. His wife resides in their home in Colorado and it would be appropriate, I think, for you to send a letter too. His team-members have already begun to record their own
messages, but since Major Hayes was technically under your command…” Reed was flattened. “Married?” he whispered, “He never told me he was married!” Phlox attempted to smile but it was useless, “I’m not sure why you didn’t know, but in any case, he was. I have made her contact information available so you can forward your correspondence directly to her.” Reed grimaced. “Who notified her?” “The captain.” Reed swallowed hard. “Doctor…” “Yes Lieutenant?” He was almost afraid to ask the question. “Are there…any…” “Are there any what Lieutenant?” “Children?” Phlox broke eye contact. “I’m sad to say that no, Major Hayes had no children.” Reed was confused by Phlox’s answer. Surely not having children lose a father was a positive, not a negative. Then Reed let the tenor of the answer roll over him and he saddened even more. “Thank you Doctor.” He turned and walked out of sickbay. It took him the rest of the evening to build up enough courage to sit at his desk to begin the recording. How did I not know this about him? “Dear Mrs. Hay… computer, end recording. What if she didn’t take his name?” He buried his face in his hands. “I don’t even know her name!” he blurted out. “How the hell do I not even know her name?!” 4
He stood from his desk and walked around his room blindly then shot back over to the comm station on his desk. He pulled up Hayes’ personnel file and was about to begin reading when his doorbell rang. He stood to answer it and Commander Trip Tucker, smiling, walked in. “Ready for dinner?” Tucker asked brightly. Reed shook his head. “I’m not sure I’m up for eating.” “Why, what’s wrong?” “Commander, did you know that Major Hayes was married?” “Yeah why? Didn’t you?” Reed growled in anger. “Apparently not.” Trip seemed to comprehend Reed’s predicament. “Ah, maybe I should tell the Cap’n that you won’t be joining us?” “No. I really must complete this letter to her.” “That would be best I think.” Trip concurred and turned back for the door, then stalled. “Malcolm…her name is Michelle….Major Michelle Hayes.” Reed sucked in a shocked breath. “She’s MACO?” Trip nodded. “She serves at NORCOM.” “Commander…how did you know?” Trip set his eyes down in an almost guilt-ridden stare at the floor. “Look, I know the two of you weren’t the best of friends, but Hayes and I talked every-so-often.” Reed felt stung but not with Trip; he was beginning to get angrier with himself. “It’s okay Commander, I’m beginning to realize how resentful I was of him. No wonder we didn’t talk.”
Trip pressed his lips together, trying to find some way to console Reed, but the statement was built entirely of the truth as he saw it as well. “I’d be happy to tell you more about her if you’d like Malcolm.” “No. It isn’t necessary…nor would it be right. I’ll see you tomorrow Commander.” Trip nodded and quietly left the room. Reed’s nostrils flared with a new heartache. “Computer, resume recording. Dear Major Hayes, my name is Lieutenant Malcolm Reed and I’m sending you this message not only out of duty but out of necessity.” He swallowed hard. “You see, I need to tell you some things about your late husband … no really, about me so you can understand how deeply Major Hayes’ presence aboard the Enterprise will be missed…” He recorded the thing twelve times before sending it. Each time the letter got shorter and shorter. By the time he sent it, it was the shortest letter of condolence he had ever done. He was ashamed of it. He was ashamed of himself. The Xindi crisis had come to an end and weeks later the Enterprise crew were welcomed home as heroes. Archer speechified then went hiking. Trip went to Vulcan with T’Pol. He and Mayweather went to a bar in San Francisco with Doctor Phlox and while they were there, Phlox politely informed him that Major Hayes’ remains had been cremated and were returned to his wife where a memorial was to be held the following day. Every time Hayes’ name was mentioned, Reed felt a stone sitting in his gut. His anger had been boiling since 6
Hayes was killed, so when some jack-ass at the bar decided to verbally attack the good doctor he was more than ready for a fight. He couldn’t wait to take his rage at himself out on some poor fool…but the doctor revealed a certain Denobulan trait that had shocked them all and it deflated the fight before it even really began. Malcolm stewed on the ship; he was grouchy and bitter and hostile. The following day he sat in his room, letting his underlying fury eat at himself when the doorbell rang. He stood to answer his door and to his utter surprise it was Corporal Chang, one of the MACO, returning to the ship from his short leave. “Corporal, what can I do for you?” Chang’s face was serious and stone-cold. “Lieutenant,” he stepped in and the door closed behind him. He shot to attention. “Permission to speak freely sir.” Reed was instantly put on guard. “Granted.” “Why weren’t you at the service sir?” Reed sat in his chair with a defeated thump. “I’m senior officer on board, I’m on duty...” “That’s bullshit and you know it!” Chang bellowed back, still standing at attention, refusing to look Reed in the eye. “You should have been there sir! You were his CO!” Reed was hollowed-out, empty … tired. “You’re right Corporal,” he said softly, “I should have been there.” Chang snarled, “I’ve said my peace. I’m going to leave before I say something I might regret. I wouldn’t want to endanger my career over this. Hayes wouldn’t 7
have approved.” He turned and left Reed’s quarters in blinding speed. Reed closed his eyes and set his head in his hands. That’s when he decided to see if there was any way forgiveness was obtainable… Earth North America Colorado Pike National Forest Cheesman Lake Private Residence of Major M. Hayes, MACO And that’s how he found himself there…at the small cabin in the mountains of Colorado, trying to find the courage to knock on the damned door. He blindly lifted his hand and rapped on it. It was only a few moments before the door swung open and a wave of heated air washed over him. She was beautiful. Tall, statuesque with copper-tinted hair and duskygreen eyes she stood at the door and perused over him in his Starfleet uniform. She was dressed in a moss-green lounge suit which outlined her athletic figure. He could tell that she had been crying. Her eyes contained the telltale puffiness of sorrow. Malcolm was torn. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. He shook his head in regret and actually began to turn away, “I’m sorry, I’ve come at a bad time. I’ll come back…” Her soft, mellow voice sliced through him, “Lieutenant Reed?” 8
“I am,” he said, more as an admission of guilt than anything and he stood there, awaiting sentencing. To his surprise she laughed slightly. “Well, I’ll be damned,” she whispered. “I’m surprised you’re home,” he answered, “I wasn’t sure if you’d actually be back on duty.” She sighed with audible frustration. “MACO forces a month leave on spouses in the system. Supposedly it keeps the remaining spouse from killing people out of anger,” she said acridly. “Please, come in out of the cold.” “Thank you,” he said politely as she stepped back to allow his entrance into the cozy home. She shut the door behind him then moved into the living area of the house. There was one main room filled with overstuffed, wood-trimmed furniture laden with wool blankets. A wood-fire burned in the room’s stonelined fireplace. Malcolm watched her as she made her way towards a small kitchen. “Would you care for a cup of tea? I was just making some for myself.” Reed was a little confused. “Major…I’m afraid I don’t deserve…” “Shut up,” she said brusquely. “My name is Michelle, Lieutenant. Now, tea or not?” Reed felt like a deer caught in a hunter’s light. He didn’t know which way to turn. “Yes … please,” he replied, “Michelle.” “Good,” she retorted. He watched her as she prepared two cups of strong tea. He kept his mouth shut and glanced around the room again trying desperately to keep from running out the door. 9
The wood-paneled walls were barren except for a singular photo near the far end of the room. Reed was immediately drawn towards it. The picture was of Hayes and Michelle dressed in obvious vacation wear, standing on a remote beach, silhouetted by a spectacular sunset of orange and yellow. Hayes’ hands were holding her face gently and she was embracing him – their love for each other was obvious to anyone who would have seen the photo. “That was taken on our tenth anniversary,” she said matter-of-factly as she approached Malcolm from behind. “We went to Tahiti for an entire month.” She handed Reed a cup of tea and he took it from her and somehow, found the courage to look her in the eye. “I’m surprised you let me in the house.” She took a deep breath in, turned and sat in a large chair near the fireplace. “Please sit.” Malcolm did as he was asked and took a seat in a large comfortable sofa. “I won’t lie. I thought about telling you off …” “You’d have every right…” “But something Jer once told me about you stopped me from doing it.” “He spoke to you about me?” She laughed brightly. “I’m his wife. He recorded a message to me every day, even when you were in the Expanse. After he died, Ensign Hoshi had them sent to me. I’ve listened to them all. As long as it didn’t break the confidence of a mission, I know everything that happened on that ship,” she said, “…everything.” Reed scowled. “Major…” he led. “Michelle,” she corrected him again and Reed shifted hard and he took a sip of tea, appreciating it warmth. 10
“I’m here to apologize for my deplorable behavior.” “I know.” “Why are you being so kind to me?” She laughed again. “Because believe it or not, Jeremiah told me he liked you.” “I don’t understand,” Reed said. “Malcolm? May I call you Malcolm?” He dipped his head. “Of course.” “Malcolm…Jer told me that you and he butted heads all the time. You frustrated him. You ticked him off like very few others had before.” Her smile was honest and almost mischievous. “…but he respected you…” “I’m sorry?” “You may not have been the best of friends Malcolm. It sounded like you were anything but. Yet Jer still talked about you with respect. He told me that at first he thought Starfleet personnel were too naïve and too soft…that they played loosely and didn’t follow the known rules of combat.” Reed grimaced and she smiled. “But he also changed his mind about that. He said that he was beginning to understand that our rules didn’t apply out there; that there was a bigger picture and that you and the captain understood that. He liked you and he admitted that the only reason you pissed him off so much was because you and he were too much alike…neither one of you liked giving up the reins.” “I don’t understand,” Reed stated. “I didn’t show to his memorial service. I could have…God knows I should have…but I didn’t. I still don’t really know why.” A short time passed with silence between them but she lifted her head and spoke softly, “You’re here now, and to tell you the truth, somehow this means more to 11
me. I knew that your letter was hard. I could hear it in your voice. Honestly? I wasn’t really surprised not to see you at the memorial.” Malcolm let her words sink in and he fought hard against his rising emotion. “He was a fine officer Michelle,” he whispered knowing it was such a trite statement, but he meant it with every fiber in his being. “Hell, he was a god-damned hero.” She lowered her head and sipped her tea. She remained quiet for a long time and Malcolm found himself wanting to fill the space with conversation but didn’t, knowing it would all be superfluous fluff. He sipped his own tea. And sipped once more. Then sipped again. Soon the long period of silence felt like one of the comfortable blankets scattered about the room. He watched her for a little while. Her eyes glittered with the flickering of the fire. He could tell that they had filled with moisture and she fought the sliding of the tears down her cheeks. He turned his eyes so not to stare at her and looked down at his cup. It was empty. Something came over him that he didn’t expect. It was a strange knowledge that he had already been forgiven. That he didn’t need to ask it from her. He just wanted to be here with her now and he felt that she wanted him there as well. No questions, no hatred, no bitterness. He stood from the sofa and walked to her and without saying a word he took her own empty cup from her hands and walked into the tiny kitchen where he prepared more tea for them both. He walked back out 12
and handed her the fresh cup of tea and she smiled sweetly when she took it from him. “Thanks,” she said softly. He sat back down on the couch. “Michelle?” Her eyes lifted to his. “I need to confess something to you.” “If you feel you must.” “I do,” he answered honestly and gripped the mug of tea in his hands, “I didn’t even know he was married.” Her gaze returned to the fireplace. He continued, needing to slough off the final remnants of his reasons for being there. “I didn’t even bother to get to know him…or any of the MACO for that matter.” He growled. “I was so angry they were there to begin with…I didn’t even bother getting to know those who would work on my team.” He caught himself choking with the anger of it all. “I didn’t even bother to get to know any of them…and they died for us.” He shut his eyes and tried to stifle the rising of his own pain and guilt, his eyes watered but he refused to let the tears fall. “I insulted them and I have insulted you and I don’t deserve this.” She lifted her head and Malcolm could see the streaks of shiny, glittering tears on her cheeks. Malcolm squeezed his eyes but couldn’t keep the tears from falling from his own eyes. Again, there was an intensely long period of perfect silence in the room. Malcolm buckled himself against his own emotion and he could tell that Michelle was doing the same. He was almost done with his second cup of tea when Michelle sighed heavily and he connected his gaze to hers once more. “I can’t fix your guilt Malcolm. You’ve 13
come seeking forgiveness…well you have it. The moment you knocked on our…” She cringed. “…on my door, you earned it. That took the courage Jeremiah told me you had, but I think you’re here for more than forgiveness. Why else are you here?” For the first time since he arrived back on Earth with the intention of seeing her, Malcolm smiled. “Will you…can you?” He seemed ashamed he was even going to ask her. “Will I what Malcolm?” He pressed his lips together tightly. “Will you tell me about him? I’d like to know more.” Michelle smiled and her tears slipped from eyes again. “What would like to know?” Malcolm leaned back into the sofa, “Everything,” he said “I want to know everything.” Michelle smiled and nodded. “Okay.”
“Geez where have you been?” asked Mayweather when he returned to the ship. Reed only looked to the young ensign and smiled. “I had some unfinished business down on the planet.” Mayweather only nodded as he accepted his superior’s excuse for being gone for more than twentyfour hours. “Well, the Captain’s back and was looking for you.” Reed thanked him and moved into the lift to head for the bridge. He checked in with the captain who confirmed with him they still had several more days in orbit before they would be departing Earth once more. 14
Good. I still have time. He thought and moved to the mess hall. It was lunch time and he was hoping that the regulars were there; he had something to do. Upon his arrival in the mess he was pleased to see two MACO, Sergeant Kemper and Corporal Chang sitting at a table. He remembered that Major Hayes always ate lunch with them. He moved straight for their table. “Excuse me,” he said briefly. Both men looked up to him. Chang’s scowl was hard for him to hide. “Sir?” He began to stand in respect but Malcolm waved him back. He lowered his voice so only the two men would hear. “I’m sorry to interrupt, and I will understand if you don’t wish me to, but would it be all right if I joined you for lunch?” Kemper’s face reddened and Chang’s face took on an expression of distaste mixed with confusion. Reed nodded with comprehension. “Look, I have many apologies to make to every one of you.” “With all due respect sir,” Kemper rumbled quietly, “you only owe apologies to Michelle…” “I disagree, Sergeant.” Reed interrupted, “I’ve just come from speaking with her and rest assured I have apologized to her…in person.” “You saw her?” Kemper asked. “Thanks to a polite and completely necessary reminder from Corporal Chang,” he said. Chang nodded with satisfaction. Reed nodded stoically in return. “Is it all right then? I’d like to talk to you both if you don’t mind.”
Chang adjusted his chair to allow more room at the table for Reed who pulled a chair from another table and sat between them. “Thank you.” Reed said and he began by telling them the truth. And the truth worked. Reed knew it would take awhile for the trust to follow, but eventually it would. Reed would make sure Hayes would have been proud of how the teams worked together. He owed him at least that much.
PART TWO Earth North America Colorado Pike National Forest Cheesman Lake Private Residence of Major M. Hayes, MACO When I first saw him I felt sliced open – splayed wide like a victim of a hunt. It didn’t help that he was looking so damned cold. The fool had forgotten that Colorado in March was snow-bound, especially here in the higher climes, and on a lake no less. He didn’t even wear a jacket. I could tell that he had shuttled directly 16
down from the cozy warmth of the Enterprise. His redtrimmed, blue Starfleet uniform did nothing to protect him from the elements. What’s so frustrating Michelle is that he never really does think about himself. He really is duty bound. He really does think about his crew first…it’s just that he doesn’t consider the MACO as part of the crew…yet. It will be. Come hell or high water, it will be. He looked miserable, standing on the snow-encrusted porch of the cabin, the place I had taken refuge since learning of Jeremiah’s death. His dark hair puffed with the cold, biting wind and I could tell he was trying desperately to keep his freezing hands at his sides instead of stuffing them directly under his armpits for warmth. He noticed the swelling of my eyes and I could tell he was overflowing with guilt. In a strange sense I took enormous pleasure in that, like he deserved to feel more, but Jeremiah’s voice broke into my head once more. Maybe it’s because he reminds me of me. We’re both such stubborn jerks Mitch. We fight all the time. I want to bust his head in, but then I have to ask myself why. Is it because he’s right? Is it because I can’t seem to get it through his thick skull that I want the same things he does? “I’m sorry,” the dark-haired man said and I immediately noticed his English accent. “I’ve come at a
bad time, I’ll come back.” He turned to move back down off the porch. “Lieutenant Reed?” I asked in confirmation. I mean, I knew who he was from the newsnet reports of the Enterprise’s homecoming and all; it’s just that I had never met him in person. “I am,” he answered with such hesitation I was forced to smile. “Well I’ll be damned,” I hushed. “I’m surprised you’re here. I thought maybe you’d be back on duty…” “MACO forces a month leave on spouses in the system. Supposedly it keeps the remaining spouse from killing people out of anger,” I said bluntly. While it was a fact, I knew I was playing the card to frighten him a little and I immediately felt a sense of power – which was immediately followed by a sense of guilt and dread and I thought briefly, maybe a month’s leave wasn’t long enough. Apparently my anger hadn’t subsided like I thought it had. The Xindi crisis was now over and Earth was beginning to learn that the bigger universe may not be as friendly as they had allowed themselves to think. The Enterprise had only been back to Earth for three days. Maybe it was because I got his ashes two days before… I held back the anger again and looked at the poor wretch of a thing freezing in front of me. “Please, come in out of the cold.” I moved back to allow his entrance into our… I mean my…my home. I’m convinced I’ll never get used to that. 18
After Jeremiah died, my first reaction was to move out; to leave this place and never come back. I actually packed a bag and began to think of warm weather locales to set my spine in but when I made two steps for the front door I crumbled to the floor and began scratching it with my nails, trying to dig at the only tangible thing I shared with him. Our escape we called it. Our paradise. Our cabin. I forced myself to focus on my visitor and I moved into the small kitchen. “Would you care for a cup of tea? I was just about to make some for myself.” It wasn’t a lie…really. I was about to make a tea and spike it with a shitload of rum to help me sleep but Reed didn’t need to know that. “Major, I’m not sure I deserve…” “Shut up,” I snapped, almost too forcefully. “My name is Michelle, Lieutenant.” Only Jeremiah called me Mitch, a nickname that he used when we started dating. “Now, tea or not?” I realized that my tone might have seemed a little brusque but it was either that or try to feign politeness and after yet another funeral for Jer, I was too tired for politeness. I was tired of formality. I was tired of people being nice because he was gone. Reed didn’t even show to Jeremiah’s memorial. What was more amazing was I wasn’t even sure how much that bothered me. In a strange, almost secret way, I actually envied him for being able to make that choice. If I had my way there wouldn’t have been a memorial at all, but the brass at Command wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. 19
Jeremiah died a hero and they needed to canonize him. You see Michelle, he’s a hard-liner…straightforward military, just like you and me. He was raised with it too, he knows the territory. He gets it. “Yes please….Michelle,” Reed answered. “Good,” I replied and focused my sights on the kettle and the loose tea. What had begun in earnest as a way to make me sleep had instead turned into caffeine-laden pot of strong black tea. I noticed him walking politely around the living area of the cabin. Well, it wasn’t much, it was just our onebedroom…my. My. It was my one bedroom cottage in the mountains above Colorado Springs, and he made his way to the opposite side of the room before the tea had a chance to steep properly. He stopped right in front of the only picture we ever had time to put up in the house. I watched him as he studied it. His face softened and his posture weakened. It was the same reaction most visitors got when they saw the picture of us. I grabbed both mugs and walked up behind him. “That was taken during our tenth anniversary,” I said, handing him the mug of tea. “We went to Tahiti for an entire month.” So Mitch! When I get back, where would you like to go for our fifteenth? I say we tour the world’s most romantic cities! Paris. San Francisco. London. Moscow. Rio de Janeiro. Buenos Aires. Let’s go somewhere 20
romantic yet urban. You always let me pick the beaches but this time I think I’d like to spend time with you in the crowds…you always shine when you’re in the middle of crowds! I want to see you wear that pretty red dress that you got just before I left. I want to see you wear that dress on the Champs-Élysées… “I’m surprised you let me in the house,” Reed said calmly. It was an honest statement but I couldn’t bring myself to respond to it politely so I avoided it altogether. “Please sit.” I said as I retreated to the comfort of my big over-stuffed chair by the fire. I sipped from my tea then decided that I needed to be as honest with him. “I won’t lie. I thought about telling you off…” “You’d have every right,” he said. His voice was so thick with guilt that I almost found myself reveling in it. Reed is such an enigma Michelle. He goes out of his way to be one of the best commanders I’ve seen in a long time, but he’s so afraid that I’m out for his job that he’s forgetting to include us as part of the mix. It’s dangerous, and frustrating! A few times on missions I’m not sure he was thinking clearly. You know I’m not one to hold back my opinion, I want to give the captain all available options…but Reed seems offended that I actually offer them! Oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’d be pissed too if I were in his shoes. One thing’s for sure. If I were in his shoes, I’d damn well go out of my way to make sure the teams synched up! I don’t know, maybe we are too much alike… 21
“But something Jer once told me that stopped me from doing it.” I answered truthfully. “He spoke to you about me?” he asked, surprise lighting his eyes. “I’m his wife…” I said smartly, maybe with too much acidity, I still couldn’t bring myself to begin using past tense. I was his wife… “…he recorded a message to me every day, even when you were in the Expanse. After he died, Ensign Hoshi had them sent to me. I’ve listened to them all. As long as it didn’t break the confidence of a mission, I know everything that happened on that ship,” I said, “…everything.” “Major...” he led. “Michelle,” I corrected him yet again. “I’m here to apologize for my deplorable behavior.” “I know.” “Why are you being so kind to me?” I laughed and I meant to. “Because believe it or not, Jeremiah told me he liked you.” “I don’t understand,” Reed said. “Malcolm? May I call you Malcolm?” “Of course.” “Malcolm, Jeremiah told me that you and he butted heads all the time. You frustrated him. You ticked him off like very few others had before…but he respected you…” “I’m sorry?” he didn’t seem to believe me. Why was I not surprised by this?
I shook my head and looked to the blazing fire, the only thing that had provided me any comfort since I received the transmission from Captain Archer informing me that Jer would not be coming home with the rest of them. “You may not have been the best of friends Malcolm. It sounded like you were anything but. Yet Jer still talked about you with respect. He told me that at first he thought Starfleet personnel were too naïve and too soft…that they played loosely and didn’t follow the known rules of combat.” I saw his face contort with the idea that someone would think his team anything less than being in top form. I couldn’t contain my smile. Maybe we MACO were a little big-headed, but we usually had reason to be. “But he also changed his mind about that. He said that he was beginning to understand that our rules didn’t necessarily apply out there; that there was a bigger picture and that you and the captain understood that. He liked you and he admitted that the only reason you pissed him off so much was because you and he were too much alike…neither one of you liked giving up the reins.” Damn him Mitch! He did it again! This time we actually came to blows! He can’t seem to get it through his brain that MACO is here to help! He constantly denies that the ship’s personnel aren’t even close to being combat ready! They look like fleas on a drowning dog Mitch! None of them can shoot worth a damn…well, a couple of them have some innate talent and they can be trued-up, but the majority couldn’t hit the side of an elephant in a lit closet! 23
A few of the team are actually becoming friends with some of the Starfleet crew and I was really beginning to hope that some real camaraderie would come of it, but I think Reed is giving his teams guilt trips if MACO even speaks to them… Oh Mitch…Michelle…love…do I? Do I act like that when Sampson gets on my ass? Am I really that overprotective of my troops? Shit, maybe I am…I don’t know. I just wish I could find way to resolve this before we kill each other. “I don’t understand,” he said. His voice seemed broken, like it lost all sense of power behind it. “I didn’t show to his memorial service. I could have…God knows I should have…but I didn’t. I still don’t really know why.” I could see it in his face. He really didn’t know why. I was no longer sure he avoided it out of fear. At first I thought it was but the look in his face was telling me something else, like he had already suffered the pain. “You’re here now,” I said, “and to tell you the truth, somehow this means more to me. I knew that your letter was hard for you. I could hear it in your voice. Honestly? I wasn’t really surprised not to see you at the memorial.” Another quite moment passed and I tightened my gut when I realized he was trying to hold his emotions in. “He was a fine officer Michelle,” he whispered so softly I could barely hear him over the crackling of the fire. “Hell, he was a god-damned hero.” I could feel the sincerity, the admiration, the respect and…oh my…was it love?
I didn’t know what to say. I had to keep drinking my tea to keep myself from falling apart all over again. I fell apart at regular intervals it seemed. Usually right when I would crawl into bed and reached for the empty pillow...knowing his head would never… …that my hands would never… …touch his soft hair… Before I realized it, Malcolm had removed my mug from my hands. Tears had fallen down my cheeks and I tried to wipe them away. He moved into the kitchen to make more tea. He was my guest, yet somehow I loved the fact that he knew what I needed…what we both needed to get through this bizarre conversation. It was a few minutes before Reed returned to stand in front of me to hand me a full mug of hot tea. I was so grateful for it…such a simple gift, but one that spoke volumes. We were both somewhere on the same plane. “Thanks,” was all I could muster. He sat back on the big sofa across from me. “Michelle,” he called and l looked up to him. “I need to confess something to you.” It was part of the reason he was here and I knew it. I wouldn’t deny him. Besides, I needed to hear it for myself. “If you feel you must,” I said, wrapping my hands tightly around the mug of tea in my hands. “I do.” I watched curiously as his hands tightened around his own mug of tea. “I didn’t even know he was married.” Of all the things that Reed could have said … this … this was one I was not suspecting. He didn’t even know he was married? How could that be? It wasn’t a secret. 25
Sure, he didn’t wear a ring. Neither of us did … it was a weakness to wear one. If we were captured, knowledge of a spouse could be used against us. But among our counterparts, it was no secret. It was so strange. His voice snapped me out of my stupor. “I didn’t even bother to get to know him or any of the MACO for that matter. I was so angry they were there to begin with … I didn’t even bother getting to know those who would work on my team.” I could tell he was angry with himself and I took a sense of justice out of it. He deserved this. He needed to feel angry. He should have felt angry because what he did was wrong – it was wrong, wasn’t it? He continued, “I didn’t even bother to get to know any of them…and they died for us.” I found myself staring at his ruddy face and caught my own throat when I saw his eyes fill. “I insulted them and I have insulted you and I don’t deserve this.” I couldn’t help myself, tears were becoming harder and harder to stuff back down anymore. Just when I thought I had gained some sort of control over my grief, it washed over once more. Granted the waves weren’t as suffocating as they had once been, but they still sucked the breath out of me every now and then. I didn’t know how to react to him. It was clear now that Reed had come to feel the same way about Jeremiah as Jeremiah had come to feel about him before they went after the Xindi weapon. It was love. No…not love like that. Not like the love I had for Jer. No – well, at least I don’t think so. No, more like the 26
unusual bond that forms with brothers and sisters in arms. That love of knowing exactly who you can trust to be there; who will watch your back; knowing they will die for you and you for them. It was the same love I carry for every single member of my own team – a team that I was about to take out for our own space mission aboard the Enterprise’s sister ship, the Columbia. That is, if the captain would ever agree to our presence. Jeremiah knew it was likely. He told me so. It was why he was so detailed in his letters about Reed’s reactions to the MACO team on the Enterprise. He wanted to give me every possible advantage to avoid the same problems. Little did Jeremiah know that those problems might just end up being things of the past…and so I think will MACO. Things are changing at a blinding speed. I can feel it. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe not; but I’m sure MACO won’t be around too much longer. The need for our services won’t change, but I’m sure that we’ll be answering to a different acronym. That’s okay…I think. They have no choice Mitch. Starfleet will realize … hell Earth will realize that we can’t go out there unarmed any more. Yes we’re exploring! I’ve never seen so many amazing things in all my life! I can’t wait to see more! But there’s no way we can go out there thinking that everyone wants us there. We know first-hand that there are species who will annihilate us if they even smell the faintest hint of a threat from us. So how do we
handle this? We go out. We explore. But we don’t let ourselves become the doormats of the galaxy! What we need most right now are friends Mitch. I hope we find them fast. I looked to Reed who remained sitting on the sofa, patiently awaiting my response to his admissions. Things started to gel. I understood him more now. I got it. It was my turn to be honest again. “I can’t fix your guilt Malcolm. You’ve come seeking forgiveness…well you have it.” I smiled. “The moment you knocked on our…” Damn! I’d better start getting used to this. “…on my door, you earned it. That took the courage Jeremiah told me you had.” I sighed. “But I think you’re here for more than forgiveness. Why else are you here?” I was comforted to see him smile. It was a pleasant smile, nothing too forward or condescending. It was a real smile, a simple smile and I knew I had pegged it. He needed something more than forgiveness. He had simply been too afraid to ask. “Will you…can you?” “Will I what Malcolm?” He leaned forward on the sofa. “Will you tell me about him? I’d like to know more.” Hmm, better late than never. Jer might have appreciated it. No, I know Jeremiah would have loved it. I didn’t even try to stop the stupid tears from falling onto my cheeks. I found I needed to tell someone about him. I needed to tell Reed as much as Reed needed to know. I laughed through my tears. Reed was about to get an earful. “What would like to know?” I asked. “Everything,” he said, “I want to know everything.” 28
Good, because I need to tell him everything… “Okay.” So you see Mitch, he’s really not such a bad guy. He’s just a military stiff like both of us. He wants what’s best for the crew, the Enterprise and Earth. So do I. So what if we come at it from two different points of view? We’re learning how to communicate with each other and trust me; if Reed and I can learn how to communicate, anything is possible. Well my Michelle, we’re on our way in. Wish I could tell you more. I won’t be able to get future messages out for awhile as we’ll be running silent, but rest assured we’re good to go. MACO always are. I love you Michelle, you know that right? Good. Good night. Goodbye my love.