Glad you liked the unmasking. Early on I figured out that I wanted it to be the Cardassians and then I thought about including the Romulans since this story was inspired by the Enterprise episodes that inspired this story. And then I thought about doing a little foreshadowing to the Tal Shiar-Obsidian Order Fleet that was destined to be wiped out by the Dominion.
Captain Terrence Glover walked assuredly, but with an eye out for debris on the floor. His crew had done an admirable job patching up the ship in the hours since the Borg ship had been destroyed, but the cleanup crews hadn’t reached every deck yet.
And Terrence hadn’t expected them too. It was going to be a herculean task to get Cuffe shipshape again.
He had been heartened in his last talk with Admiral Salk. The staid Vulcan that the Enterprise did had returned to the Alpha Quadrant safe and sound, and with the culprit who had instigated the Rogue Borg attacks, but that also he had redirected the Matheson to assist them.
The crew from the Ambassador-class ship could provide much needed help in Engineering, Sickbay, and with other damage control measures.
Though he had been fatigued after forcing himself off shift, Salk’s communique had rejuvenated him. After a shower and a go in the recreation room, Terrence had taken to walking the halls, checking the progress of various repair efforts, lending a hand from time to time, but more so often words of encouragement.
Seeing his crew stressed beyond the breaking point, but seeing none of them actually splinter had been a powerful experience for him. For most of his career it had been all about his career, all about his ambition and needs, but seeing the grizzled and determined faces of the beings who served under him, served with him, it was finally hitting home to him that being a captain and keeping his crew safe was more than just a sign of a successful captaincy or even of compassion, it was simply what a comrade in arms did for each other.
He was their leader, but he was also one of them. They rose or fell together, in a sense no different than the other ships he had served on. Glover thought he had given his all in the battle with the Borg, and he was so proud to see that his crew had done so as well. They each had a responsibility to bring the best out of each other and they all deserved a supreme effort.
Even now he nodded and gave the occasional tight-lipped smile to the passing crewmen. Something had changed in many of their eyes. It was the first time Terrence felt like some of them had actually embraced him as the captain. Up until a few hours ago, this had still been Captain Diaz’s ship, but her ghost no longer walked the corridors.
Glover was buoyed by the acceptance in ways he hadn’t imagined. He hugged the reaffirming sensation, wishing he could bottle it as he reached his destination.
He sighed before pressing the door chime. “Enter,” Benjamin sounded forlorn even through the door. He must know it’s me, Terrence thought, with a shiver. He must be dreading this as much as me, the captain thought as he replayed Salk peppering him about the destruction of the Borg vessel and the role Sisko played in it.
Glover pressed the release mechanism by the door and it slid aside. He took a moment to compose himself, and then he crossed the threshold.
Sisko sat at his desk. Similar to Glover, he wore a fresh uniform, neatly pressed. Though Benjamin had returned wearing a black jumpsuit, with a red command band across the shoulders. The man was hunched over his desk, pecking absently at a PADD.
Terrence stood just inside the room. He cleared his throat loud enough to draw Sisko’s attention. “Benjamin,” he called.
The commander turned slowly, still holding the rectangular device in his hands. “I’ve been trying to compose a letter to Katie’s…Ensign Gallagher’s relatives,” he said, shaking his head. “For some reason, the words…they just won’t come.”
Glover grimaced. Despite the hardiness of his crew, there would be several similar condolence letters he would have to write himself. It wasn’t a task he was looking forward to, so he could sympathize.
“She was so bright. She was updating the station’s historical database you know, and tutoring Jake with his history lessons,” Sisko’s gaze took on a far off cast as if he was looking back through time. His lip up curled slightly, “Jake-O had a little crush on her,” he shook his head first in wonderment, and then the smile faded and the head turning became slower, funereal.
“All that promise, all that life!” Sisko threw the PADD. It cracked against a wall. Glover didn’t flinch and Benjamin seemed oblivious of what he had just done. “All of it, snuffed out…like a candle.”
“Benjamin, I spoke with Admiral Salk,” Terrence said gingerly.
Aroused from his anger, Sisko looked at him dead on, his mien combative. Whatever his fate would be, Benjamin would take it on his feet, metaphorically speaking. That was a glimmer of his old friend that Glover was glad to see again. “What did he say?” Sisko asked.
“He was most curious about your reaction and actions during our battles with the Borg ship,” Glover said.
Sisko’s posture grew more rigid. He didn’t pester Terrence to learn what wrath the admiral intended to bring down on him.
“I told him you faced some emotional duress but performed admirably under the circumstances,” Glover said.
“You lied for me?” Sisko’s tone brimmed with disbelief and anger. “You don’t have to lie or cover up for me Terrence. I should have received a formal reprimand at the least for not following your orders.”
“Yes, you should,” Terrence said. “But since no one else was conscious except you and me, and I doubt Gul Dukat is going to send in a report to Starfleet Command, how about we just keep this between us?”
“That isn’t right,” Benjamin shook his head, “I disobeyed orders. I-I let my emotions get in the way of my judgment.”
“No,” Terrence corrected him, “Your emotions and your judgment were of one accord and both prevented you from carrying out my orders.”
“I suppose so,” Sisko replied after a few moments, his voice reflective.
“And I really wanted to bust you back down to cadet for doing so,” Glover said, quickly capping the embers that still hadn’t burned out.
“You should,” Sisko said, “You still can. I can talk to the admiral.”
“You’ll do no such thing,” Terrence ordered, “And this time you’re going to follow my orders damn it!”
“But Terrence,” Sisko protested, not wanting to back down. “A price has to be paid.”
“Don’t you think enough prices have been paid today?” Glover shouted. “Enough blood spilled; enough careers torn away! I’m not going to let that happen to you, I’m not going to let you sink into the mire again.”
“You need DS9,” Glover declared. “You need a life again, you need more people needing you,” he surmised, “I never really got it, until today that is, how important that is. I mean, having that relationship, that connectivity with your crew. It’s symbiotic and it can give you strength and purpose more readily than if you are tacking into the wind alone. And I’m not going to let you crawl back into a hole. I’m not going to let the Borg win.”
Sisko shook his head sadly, “I feel like it’s already too late. The anger, the rage…no the raw hatred I feel for them. I thought it had subsided over the years, but it all came roaring back. Even now, now that it’s over, my chest still constricts when I think about them, my skin burns with fever. I still want to make them pay.”
“It’s never going to be over for you,” Terrence said, “And I can’t really understand that. I lost colleagues to the Borg, but Jennifer…I can’t grasp that loss.”
“Every time I saw that Borg ship, I saw her face, and Jake’s face, tear-stained and sullen, his heart shattering, his soul wounded once he realized that his mother really wasn’t coming home. That he would never see her again. And then there was Ensign Gallagher…such hope, such promise…extinguished.” He paused and looked away from Glover. He hunched over and Terrence heard a wet, raw sob rip from the man.
When Sisko faced him next, he was composed again, and there was only a hint of moisture around his eyes.
“And that’s the thing, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t want revenge, and you got it, and it didn’t make you a better man, but I do think it will make you a better commander of Deep Space Nine. One even more eminently aware of the costs of hatreds stalking the Bajorans and Cardassians,” Glover reasoned.
Sisko was taken aback. “I-I never thought of it that way.”
“You understand the empty promise of vengeance now,” Glover said, “I wish it were a lesson you didn’t have to learn while disobeying my orders, but we can’t take back what happened.”
“To be honest,” Benjamin intimated, “I don’t think I would even if it were possible. I just couldn’t…Jennifer….” The man lowered his head, his chin touching his chest. He began searching the desk, “The PADD, what happened?”
Glover nodded in the direction of where Sisko threw it. The mangled device was resting in pieces on the floor. Benjamin looked chagrined, “So there it is?”
“I think you’re going to need another,” Terrence quipped.
Sisko stood up and approached him, “Terrence you’ve been a real friend, throughout all this; risking your ship and crew, for me.” He wrapped the man in a bear hug. Terrence returned the embrace. “I don’t know how I can ever repay you,” Benjamin added after releasing Glover.
“Yes you do owe me,” Glover wasn’t shy about that. “Three things: Continue doing what you’re doing on DS9, continue raising Jake as well as you have, and do your damnedest to make a new life for yourself. There has to be tons of beautiful women going through there all the time.”
“There…are,” Sisko admitted, his tone a bit sheepish. “I just don’t have the time. Things are so busy you know.”
“Promise me that things are going to be even busier, if you know what I mean,” Glover winked.
“I-I think I can work on it,” the commander gave in after steady intense staring from Terrence. “Alright,” he said exasperated.
“Seriously Benjamin, I don’t think Jennifer would want you to live like a hermit.” Glover advised.
“I know,” he sighed.
“And dwelling on the past, rooting yourself to all that pain, I think you understand now how not only unhealthy it is, but useless as well,” the captain added.
“I-I’m getting there,” Sisko conceded, and for Glover that was enough.