Mornings Suck - For Each in Their Own Way
Season 2: Episode 3: Determination is not always a good thing
Location: Deep Space Nine - Quarters
Timeline: during the Elysium's return trip
Rhodes was, as expected, the first one up, brewing himself a cup of actual, non-vegan, non-low fat, non-organically sourced, no bullshit coffee, the type Marines had adored for centuries. As his old style percolator began to drop the dark brew he visually checked to make sure all his gear was good to go, Elysium arrived in a few hours and he wanted to be settled in and inspecting his Marines before dinner. The magic liquid now available, he filled his SFMC-BDSM mug to the top and took a long drag of the hot ambrosia, “Not bad.” He nodded, wondering how something as simple and perfect as this had managed to go out of style.
Jessica had slept phenomenally well in the luxurious bed she’d been given, and when she walked into the common room still wearing her shorts and T-shirt, she looked as refreshed as her clothes were wrinkled. “Good morning”, she said cheerfully.
“Morning.” The old Gunny replied, “There’s coffee if you’re interested. We’re expecting the Elysium at around 1300. Hopefully you’ve got your stuff ready to go.” He surreptitiously looked over the dark haired woman, happy to see her condition was improving; the Ambassador had big plans for her, “What are the chances that shiftless cadet is up and getting her act together?”
“I don’t know, should I check on her?” Jessica offered. “And yes, all my stuff is ready. There’s not a lot of stuff to get ready.” In this universe of plenty, Jessica certainly intended to keep it that way. Why hoard things?
“If you want to.” Rhodes shrugged, it would save him the trouble of going in there in a half an hour or so and dumping her out of the rack onto the deck.
“There’s plenty of time before 1300”, Jessica said. He didn’t seem to think it was pressing, so why not let Ludmilla rest? She got a mug of coffee. “I just hope they’ll take me.”
“That’s not going to be as big a problem as you think.” Rhodes chuckled, apparently this woman had no idea how high her connections went, “Pretty sure there’s a job there waiting for you. If not, hell, you can always join the Corps. From what I saw at my last outfit we’re takin’ damn near anything...”
“I’m not sure if that’s a compliment”, Jessica said. “But I am not much of a fighter, I’m afraid. I’ve survived mostly by not fighting back.”
“Think that was the strategy they were plannin’ to employ, too.” Rhodes said, pushing a chair out for her, “And that wasn’t meant as a slight. You’d be a hell of an improvement over most of that bunch.”
Jessica sat down with him. “Please don’t take this as criticism of your chosen profession. I know it’s hugely important to have people who fight to keep how perfect this world is. I just… I don’t think I can do it any more. I get so scared…”
Rhodes placed a hand on her shoulder; in that moment he flashed back to a frightened Bajoran child he comforted during the Dominion War, an image he had to shake free from his mind, “I know you’re scared.” He said, “But you’re safe now. You’re safe here, you’ll be safe on Elysium, and you’ll be safe anywhere I am. Remember that.”
“Just make sure to spend a lot of time at the bar, then”, Jessica joked. She got what he said, on an intellectual level. But she also knew she couldn’t shake her subconscious, and it would take control in a crisis.
“How I know you’re from outta town.” Rhodes laughed, “Or you’d know you don’t have to encourage a Marine to spend a lot of time at the bar.”
“That’s good to know”, Jessica said. She took a sip of the coffee and made a face. “What is this, machine oil?” It was so strong, even raktajino seemed mild by comparison.
“That is the Parris Island Eye-Opener.” Rhodes replied, smirking a little at her scrunch face, “There’s sugar, milk, creamer, all of that over there in the fridge.” He wasn’t surprised at her reaction, very few people could take it the way he did. He drained the potent brew and poured himself another cup, taking a deep pull and remarking, ”Like mother’s milk.”
“You’re a worse masochist than I am”, Jessica concluded, going to the replicator and getting a sandwich. At the very least, she couldn’t take this on an empty stomach.
“It’s a Marine thing.” He laughed, “We’re all masochists. Otherwise we wouldn’t do this stuff on a bet.”
“Explains what your mug says”, Jessica smirked. “Why do people choose such a rough lifestyle, if they could have it comfortable and easy instead?” It was something she couldn’t understand. With her history, at any point, she’d have jumped at the chance to just go somewhere and be safe and lazy.
“Because if people don’t choose to live like me, it’s not possible for people to live in ease and comfort.” Rhodes explained, “The way of life you aspire to, someone has to make it possible.”
“I know”, Jessica said. “But it’s a sacrifice.”
“It is.” Rhodes nodded in agreement, “But, like my dad always said, people sleep in peace at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf. Somebody has to do it.”
It sounded like a rehearsed statement, and it probably was. Jessica decided to drop the issue. “I think I would have enjoyed being an engineer”, she said instead. “I was pretty handy with what basic tech we had.”
“So learn to be an engineer.” Rhodes suggested, “It’s a job that will never go away, never gets stale because they’re constantly improving the tech we have and developing new stuff. Hell, there are times I wish I’d gone into engineering…” He did wish that sometimes, though he knew he never would’ve made it as an engineer; once a Marine, always a Marine.
“Back on Turkana, we had those farming drones”, Jessica said. “Kinda cone-shaped, but with a round top, and they had one arm sticking out front. Before the potato harvest, they would go around spraying a chemical that would cause the potatoes to drop all their greens. They would constantly say ‘exfoliate, exfoliate’ in this ominous, mechanical tone of voice. Horrible for the land, not healthy to eat, but all we had. Maintaining them was my work.”
“Damn things sound irritating.” Rhodes said bluntly, he hated talking drones, “But, if you can maintain something like that, you should be able to learn higher tech stuff. Elysium has schools on board, you can probably learn it there.”
“I did manage to take one of them apart, and use the pieces to make a subspace transmitter”, Jessica said. “Wasn’t smart enough to make sure they couldn’t find us… those who we didn’t want to find us. I was trying to call for help.”
“So you took a piece of obsolete farm tech and made a subspace transmitter?” Rhodes raised an eyebrow, “That’s what we call adapting and overcoming. Damned ingenious of you, too.” More and more he thought she’d make a damn fine Marine.
“But if I hadn’t”, Jessica admitted. “If I hadn’t, my family would still be alive.”
“Maybe.” Rhodes shrugged, “But there’s also as much chance they’d still be dead anyway, and so would you if you hadn’t gotten off of that rock.”
“No way to know for sure, either way”, Jessica said. “But it’s a nagging thought.”
“Nagging thoughts haunt us all.” Rhodes said, “But you can’t let them eat you alive. You’ve managed to make it this far, your parents would be proud.”
“I didn’t do anything to get here”, Jessica said. “I just got lucky that I was rescued, that Gleg didn’t want to become my next owner.”
“Stop sellin’ yourself short.” Rhodes encouraged, though her inability to see the big picture was starting to annoy him a little, “You survived shit in your life before you were even a teenager that would’ve killed a lot of people in minutes. If you won’t take credit for some kind of skill, at least give your heart the proper respect.”
She nodded. “I’m not whining about being totally useless. And I do intend to make something of myself now.”
“That….” Rhodes said, pausing as he sipped his coffee, “I never doubted for a second.”
“If I can help rescue some people, that’ll be good”, Jessica said. “I do not want to become their leader, no matter what the Admiral said.”
“Admiral?” Rhodes raised an eyebrow, ~Maybe she means Zhukov….~
“Her name’s Halliwell”, Jessica said. “She talked to me in the replimat last night. Very nice woman, she promised to help, put her weight behind the rescue plan, too. But she said I’d have to become the political leader on Turkana, or wherever the refugees resettle. I don’t like that idea.”
“Nobody ever likes the idea.” Rhodes shrugged, hiding his fury at the fact that Cheline Halliwell, a nasty piece of business to say the least, was now poking her nose into Jessica’s, and by extension Ambassador Zhukov’s, affairs, “You adjust eventually. Hopefully if it’s something you really don’t want in your life it ends quick.”
“Well, if there’s one thing I can do without fail, it’s getting into trouble”, Jessica said. “So a little scandal here and there, and they’ll want to be rid of me soon enough.”
“Wait a second…” Ludmilla said from the hall, “Did you just say Halliwell?”
“Well, shit, here it goes…” Rhodes sighed, he knew where this was going.
“Yes, do you know her?” Jessica asked.
“You could say that…” Ludmilla hissed, the very name of that evil bitch made her body shake with rage to the point where she could barely function.
“Did I miss something?” Jessica wondered.
“That was the woman who ruined Anje.” Ludmilla replied, “The reason we don’t talk anymore.”
“That’s her?” Jessica blinked. “But she seemed so nice. She was compassionate and kind and promised she’d help. Are you sure that’s the same person?”
“People change.” Rhodes shrugged, finishing his second cup and fully expecting Ludmilla to disagree forcefully in mere seconds.
“Not her.” Ludmilla shook her head, “She’s pure evil…”
“Look, kid, sometimes things between people just don’t work.” Rhodes advised, “Trust me, I know that from experience.” He sighed and shook his head, thinking about Janet never did anything for his mood.
“I’ll be careful, I promise”, Jessica said, if only to appease Ludmilla. “But I can’t turn down help from anyone, not for this.”
“I don’t know what to say… I mean…” Ludmilla stammered, “I guess I understand and all, but, still, knowing that woman is around makes me want to…”
“Get dressed and pack your gear.” Rhodes interrupted, “We need to have our crap together when the Elysium arrives.”
“I won’t mention her to Anje”, Jessica said. “I don’t want to re-open old wounds. That sort of thing sucks.”
“Thanks.” Ludmilla replied, even though she knew that wound had never closed.
Rhodes drained his cup then poured another, this was not the start of the day he'd hoped for, ~Swell...~