AN: Apologies for not updating sooner, FictionPress was not allowing me to log on.
The aliens have their reasons. They want to toy with them. It's all a game, they are so far above humans that they don't really care. In a way, they are testing them to see what they will do. This does cross Christine's mind a bit at the beginning, with the 'not what we thought it would be', but she's more concerned with saving her Crew and all the other issues.
No, Cryonics doesn't protect you from aliens, but either they all die because their ship is losing life support now, or they take the risk of dying in Cryonics later.
With the Captain going onboard alone, he already knew that his ship was outgunned. The 'request' wasn't so much a request than a demand. He didn't really have much choice, if he could go aboard and find out what the aliens wanted or buy his Crew some time to perhaps get out of there, then he's willing to make the sacrifice.
Earthdate: 0500 hours, 26th September, 2161
This is Captain Christine Roberts of the USS Kennedy.
All Crew are now in suspension awaiting rescue.
Captain James Anderson is dead. Time of death: 0434 hours. Cause of death: alien neurotoxin. As of now, as per Regulation 1, Clause 2, I am now Captain of the USS Kennedy. He leaves behind his parents, brother and a fiancé-
'Computer, delete last statement.'
He leaves behind his parents and a brother. I recommend a posthumous commendation.
Current power readings indicate that power will last until 0700 hours, life support systems only. Power remains only on the Bridge. This will be my last Captain's Log.
This is Captain Christine Roberts of the USS Kennedy. If you are hearing this, then you know what my fate has been. A Captain goes down with their ship, and a First Officer goes down with their Captain.
She stops speaking, her shoulders shake and the tears begin to fall. She cries, and cries, until there is nothing left to cry. She cries for every last life lost, she cries for herself, and she cries for Jim. She cries for the choices she's had to make, she cries for Priyanka, she cries because Lucy and David didn't know. She cries because she is alone, and only because she is alone.
Captain. The word is hollow. In her mind, 'Captain' will always be Jim. Him, only him, and no one else. It's a title that means nothing on a ghost ship, a dying ship, a Crew of one. It means nothing when your true Captain is dead.
'I miss you already, Jim. Believe me, there's no such thing as too soon.'
Her hands shift idly to the collar of her uniform.
'It's almost like you're here with me, you know.'
Talking to yourself, that's the first sign of madness.
'Do you think I'm going crazy, Jim? Or can you really hear me?'
Talking to a dead man, that's insanity.
Her hands fumble at the clasp of the fine silver chain around her neck, and draw it up. There's a ring on it, hidden beneath her uniform, on that long silver chain. A ring that she's worn next to her heart for years. She's been engaged four years. She's been with him even longer. Nobody's known. Nobody's suspected.
It's not as if they were ever the conventional couple after all. David, James, Christine and Lucy, the four friends, four of the brightest stars in NASA's deep space program. They'd been known as a four, not as a two. She and Lucy had been best friends from day one, and likewise for David and Jim. But then David and Lucy had met, and sparks had flown, and people did and will say that it was something special, something meant to happen.
But she and Jim? They'd been different. They'd been pulled together by their two best friends, whom almost everybody could see were going to be together. They were very different, you know, but they'd never fought. They'd not been two of those people that you could see would be together, from the way they fought and infuriated each other. No, they'd just been aware of each other, friends, with a healthy mutual respect and nothing more. Or at least outwardly.
They're both good at hiding their feelings. They're both good at isolating themselves from others, letting go. And that's necessary for command. Christine's skill of hiding and masking her feelings, applying cool logic and rational thinking to any situation, were what had her transferred from medical training to command training. Jim's charisma, natural leadership and impulsive action were what made him Captain. Christine's meticulous planning and logic were what made her his First Officer. He was to make the risks and be the poster boy; she was to keep him in check.
But by the time their roles were assigned, they'd already been together. She'd been tempering his impulses; he'd been teaching her the value of taking risks. She'd taught him, he'd taught her. But nobody knew, absolutely nobody at all. Because when you've got such a good team of borderline geniuses, such a good pair, it's very hard to catch them. When you've got two people so capable of separating personal lives with public lives, it's very difficult. And as no one was expecting it, no one would see it. People only see what they want to see. They never see what they don't want to, or don't expect to.
So they'd kept it hidden for so long. And they could keep it hidden indefinitely. But now, they're not going to hide it any longer. They're both going to be dead, so does it matter anymore?
Hands shaking slightly, she removes the ring from her necklace and slips it onto her left ring finger.
'See, I kept my promise, Jim. I never break them, especially not ones to you.'
Talking to your dead lover, that's human.
The lights flicker overhead, before dying completely.
'See you soon, Jim. Not long left to wait at all.'
The consoles dim and the only light is from her chrono.
She looks fondly at the ring on her finger. It's barely worn, and that's a sad regret she has.
'I love you, Jim.'
Alarms blare. A computerised voice registers in her hearing.
'Life support systems failing.'
She swears she can hear him say it back.
Admiral Johan Himmel listens to the retrieved Captain's Logs of the USS Kennedy. That's an old, old ship, lost in space, presumed destroyed, about fifty years before he was born. That's makes it about a hundred years ago, give or take a couple of years. The ship has just been recovered, and its Crew are now exiting suspension. A young, dark-skinned young woman, perhaps of Indian descent, walks past, supported by a doctor, her ancient uniform indicating that she is an Ensign. It's strange to think she's older than him, he thinks, remembering the grey hairs he'd found that morning.
He allows the Captain's Logs to fill his ears once more.
The brass and higher-ups were reviewing the case of the mysterious aliens. That was a major concern. Powerful, sadistic, technologically advanced aliens who didn't give a damn about what happened to the humans they attacked? Big issue.
He was stuck reporting on what happened onboard after the attack.
Back to the Logs.
It's then that the pieces fall into place. They'd found several bodies, including that of Captain James Anderson and Commander Christine Roberts. They'd found a ring on the Commander's body the day before, and it had been puzzling him ever since. Now, as the Captain's Log cuts off, indicating the loss of power to the ship, he knows why.
They'd been in a relationship. A relationship not allowed by regulations. A relationship between a superior officer and a subordinate. A relationship that should have ceased and desisted or could have even been an end to their careers. Commander Roberts, in her last moments, had unwittingly revealed it to the world. She hadn't meant to, at least, not so clearly. It appears they'd intended to leave them an ambiguous puzzle in the form of a ring. But Commander Roberts had forgotten to stop the recording of the Captain's Log before baring her soul. That was her only, their only, mistake in what appears to be years of subterfuge.
He wonders whether to mention this in his report. It's not as if this relationship caused any major breaking of regulations, just some bending and minor errors. It wasn't really one that could have caused favouritism, Captain, First Officer, what's the difference? The First Officer does have powers over the Captain, and the Captain's power is obvious. No, he will not deny it happened if asked, but he will not report it. That's not against regs, per se. As he looks out the window, he notices a man and a woman, one in a Pilot's uniform, the other in a Doctor's, both Lieutenant Commanders, walking by, supporting one another. They are followed closely by a woman of about forty-five, who smiles at him, and watches for a moment, before hurrying off after her patients. NASA tends to turn a blind eye to such relationships now anyway, provided they do not get in the way of duty.
It is months later when he finds himself giving a speech to students about leadership, command and the sacrifices required. He finds his mind wandering, imagining what it would be like to spend your final moments on a dying ship, all alone.
'A Captain goes down with their ship, and a First Officer goes down with their Captain.'
AN: If you followed this story over from FanFiction, you will know that this was the second of three stories that I wrote for the purpose of adding a deeper meaning to my work, by setting myself some moral/ethical/social/philosophical issues to write from.
The third story will be published in a moment, and will be titled The Philsopher King.
The story on FanFiction is called Romeo and Juliet.
Thanks for reading!