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Where Were You When Mars Burned

Posted on Sat Oct 30th, 2021 @ 5:14pm by Lieutenant JG Valerie Novis

Mission: Episode 0: No Day Shall Erase You
Location: USS Tucker, Security Firing Range
Timeline: April 5th, 2385

"I'm not going to leave my wife and kids for you." Lieutenant Commander Parker Magellan blurted out nearly halfway through the speed-test of accuracy by his Assistant Chief of department.

"I wasn't going to ask you to." Valerie took a second to shake her head at the unexpected comment. The rules of this test were that she had fifty shots, with one minute and ten seconds to take them all, including two forced reloads of the phaser pistol she preferred over the 'ergonomic grip' that most hand phasers used. She resumed her one shot a second pace, actually speeding it up as she aimed over the sight.

"You can blackmail me all you want, Lieutenant, it won't help you." He cleared his throat, "My wife is a doctor on the Brunhilde, in Earth orbit, and she's well aware of my occasional infidelity." The tremor in his voice gave him away.

"Bullshit." the Trill began the second forced reload, even though there was plenty of energy in her weapon, it was just part of the test. Twenty shots, reload, twenty shots, reload, ten shots. She looked straight at him as her hands went in automatic, "She doesn't know, but it doesn't matter, sir." Her reload complete, she began her last ten shots, with twenty seconds remaining, "I'm not going to blackmail you, ask you to leave her or anything." She spoke as the remaining shots went downrange. As the last shot left her weapon, she pointed it at the ceiling and engaged the safety, ejecting the power pack and placing it and the weapon in front of her, turning to him, "We were drinking, I had an itch that needed scratched, you needed something to take the edge off. We had fun. It was fun, wasn't it?"

He gave her a skeptical look, but her eyes demanded honesty from him and he nodded, "It was... And it can never happen again, as I said, I've got a wife-" He was interrupted as she bounced up and planted a kiss on his lips.

"Shut up!" She admonished him, patting his cheek, "You're right, it won't happen again. Unless it does. Don't worry, I'm not going to fall in love with you, not a chance. Now, how did I do, sir?" She pointed downrange.

"I, um..." Parker waved to the range sensor and the target from ten meters away appeared closer, "Four hundred ninety-eight." He said quietly, "All in the X ring except this one." He pointed to one mark on the outside in the eight ring, "I'd say you... Qualified, Miss Novis."

"Of course.. It only took three weeks and First Contact Day on Earth to get me in here, sir." She looked smug, "What's next?"

"Situational Awareness test, holodeck. We'll do that one in about an hour.." He looked uncomfortable, "Go grab something to eat and we'll-" He was cut off by the flashing yellow lights and the hushed voice of Ensign Jameson, the bridge tactical watch officer, "Sir, we've been issued an emergency recall. I gotta go."

"Bridge." Valerie stated.

"Security." Parker said at the same time. "We'll get the teams on alert, find out what's going on, then figure out a response. The Captain will be on the bridge and she'll expect us to keep everyone settled."

Valerie nodded and the two officers half-jogged to the door, which happened to be the main security offices where the bulk of their security team was now clustered around the main screen, where a briefing officer of Lieutenant's rank was speaking in front of a video of Mars, where explosions were clearly visible.

"Mars has been attacked, the ships appear to have been piloted by Synth pilots, who opened fire without any warning whatsoever after the Defense Grid was brought down by sabotage. Tens of thousands are confirmed dead, the casualty count rising even as forces respond. The Utopia Planetia Shipyards have been confirmed destroyed, dozens of ship confirmed destroyed, including ships under refit, including Welles, Broadway and Carnarvon with all hands on board. We will continue to update confirmed casualties as we have them."

Valerie went a deathly pale, nausea coming on strong as the name of her former ship was announced. A month before, well, six weeks, she'd been on her security deck, playing poker with 'the guys'. Some of them had been reassigned, like her, but the security detachment was mostly staying on board to keep the ship safe. Her friends, dead. She looked around in haste and made for the Chief's office, making it inside and to the waste basket barely in time to vomit noisily, the door having slid shut before it could be heard. She replicated some napkins and cleaned her mouth up before also getting a glass of water as the door opened.

Parker walked in, ashen face as he also saw Valerie recycling the waste basket into the replicator, "You okay?" She just nodded as she sipped water, "Carnarvon?" Another nod, "I'm sorry about that... Brunhilde is part of the response force, I... I think I'm going to be requesting a transfer back Earth-way. I just feel the need to be closer."

"I understand, sir..." Valerie said weakly.

"I can arrange some leave time for you if you'd like, I'm sure with what happened, you'd be able to qualify for some..."

"No, sir, I don't think so. My family is here, now, sir, my parents are on Trill and... I don't talk to them at all." She gave him a smile, "I'll stay here, I think."

"All right. I'm going to back out there, make sure everyone knows to be on guard." Parker gestured to the main room, "Stay here as long as you need to, Valerie, and if you need to talk."

Valerie nodded with a half smile, which vanished as he left the room and the door slid back shut behind him. She looked out at the main screen, a replay of the explosions with everyone huddled around it.

It was then, and only then, within the privacy of the one-way windows, that for the first time in a very, very long time, Valerie Novis laid her head on her arms, and cried.


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