Jack's Quarters The Persian Water clock

Posted Aug. 28, 2020, 1:47 a.m. by Commander Ardashir "Jack" Creed (Executive Officer / CIO) (Steven Sigle)

Posted by Commander Ardashir “Jack” Creed (Executive Officer / CIO) in Jack’s Quarters The Persian Water clock

Posted by Lieutenant Celina Rodriguez (Chief Tactical Officer) in Jack’s Quarters The Persian Water clock

Posted by Commander Ardashir “Jack” Creed (Executive Officer / CIO) in Jack’s Quarters The Persian Water clock
Posted by… suppressed (6) by the Post Ghost! 👻
Celina sat in her and Jack’s quarters feeling like a tightly wound coil ready to snap.   Her eyes were glued to the door in almost a hypnotic stare.  The only sound in the room was the soft tick of an antique clock which acted as a metronome both containing and fueling Celina’s emotions.    

The clock was not something that kept precise time as did digital ones but it did keep time.   When Jack had shown her how it worked years ago, Celina marveled at its simplicity and genius.     For those that didn’t know it’s true function, they would only see two bowls, inside one another sitting on a block of wood.    Without the ornate mosaic patterns, a guest might just assume it was last night’s dinner set aside in the coffee table instead of back in the replicator.    Like all things about Jack however, this was far more than its simple appearance.   

The clock measured time through the funneling of water.   The large bowl was filled with water and the smaller empty bowl was placed inside it.   The smaller bowl bore a tiny hole in the bottom.    Over the course of an hour, the smaller bowl would eventually fill completely and submerge to the bottom of the larger bowl.  

In ancient Persia, a man called the khaneh would then empty out the submerged bowl to start the clock again.   Depending on the size of the bowls and the width of the wholes, ancient Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, and Native Americans used it for a multitude of purposes.   Ones as small as the specimen in Jack’s quarters were used mainly in political debates to ensure everyone had the exact amount of time to speak.   Jack said he bought it for them as a reminder time was always resetting itself when you needed it to.  The gift was meant to be symbolic for them.   That the universe might keep its own pace but this clock was for them to set their own pace. 

Like the sentiment of the clock, this one was built with a surprise.   Water clocks were basically aqueous hourglasses.   The soft ticking of this one was due to an apparatus in the box manually raising the bowl to reset the time interval.  It was a clever innovation someone in the ancient past has developed to preserve the ancient past but keeping it modern as the age of pendulum clocks became the more common way to mark time.  Jack said he selected it to always keep them on course even when they both might have forgotten the direction.  

“Two,” she said aloud tightening her grip on the mug as the clock marked another passage of an hour.  The silence of the room was filled with the steady drip of water emptying the smaller bowl.   Celina had mentally given Jack an hour to find her.    Already it had slipped into two hours.   There would not be an hour three.   
In her hand was a mug of coffee that had long since grown cold.   It was made out of habit as she returned to the quarters after her shift.  The color was dark brown with strange pockets of tan beginning to creep across the edges indicating she had never stirred it or sipped it once it was made.   Only osmosis was beginning to mingle the colors.   

Looking down at the mug, Celina gripped it tighter and tighter until the ceramic threatened to shatter.   Her hand ached as her knuckles turned whiter and whiter.   She had been in this position before and it almost killed her.   In the days and weeks following Jack’s falsified death, she lost countless hours staring out a window waiting for him to return.   On Orion, she had the sun and moon to mark the passage of a day from her seated position next to the window.    On the Manhattan, she only had the damn water clock.   The view from her window now was perpetual darkness.    Absently thinking back on those days it was probably good she had not been stationed on a starship.     Orion wasn’t the most picturesque of spots but the cold isolation she felt then as she did now was amplified by a never-changing view.    

Directing her gaze back to the door, one thing crystallized to perfect clarity in her mind.   Life with Jack was going to kill her and she could not let that happen again.  

Lt. Celina Rodriguez

It wasn’t too much long after that Jack entered the quarters as he came in with a sullen tired face. The day had been long, far longer than he had experienced in a lengthy time. Entering it wasn’t hard to miss Celina as she was very prominently in the middle of the room. Jack felt a tilt of his head as he wondered why she seemed to be sitting and waiting right at this moment, coffee in hand as she seemed to stare right through him with icy knifes. The day had been insane and now it seemed happy wife happy life wasn’t on the table from the way she was looking.

What have I done? Jack asked himself as he began to play out all the scenarios in his head. It wasn’t her birthday, that was October 23rd he knew that for certain. It was the day she first arrested him, a sort of anniversary until they get married they often celebrated. That was May 5th, did his sister call and yell about something? Or maybe he pissed Nadia again. He often clashed on religion with Nadia, taking a more open approach to faith, while she was very strict in hers. But his lost conversation with Nadia was about the churo cheesecake she loved so much as a kid, which he had been planning for next week as a surprise date for the two of them.

Maybe she just had a bad day too, ship on lock down… who knows what she had to run around and do while the damned plan Faye and Cochrane cooked up. came through Jack’s mind. His head still spun a little, as he hadn’t really approved of any of the plans they had done today. Faye and Cocrahne seemed out of their element, but as Cochrane was the Captain Jack’s hands became literally tied up. “Everything okay Moosh?” Jack finally said to break the silence in the room. “You will never believe the day I had.”

Creed, XO

Celina was at a loss for words. Things were not okay. How could Jack even think they were in the ballpark of acceptable. Her grip on the mug became so strong her bicep began to tremble as a knot formed in her throat preventing her to lashing out the first thing that sprang to her mind to answer his question or reply to his declaration. “I am sure I can take a guess. My day was not stellar either there Ardashir.” Uncharactersitically, Celina did not reply with a firey tone intersperced with blurbs of Spanish. Her tone was strained but in a slightly lower than normal volume.

Ardashir? Jack thought to himself as he looked her up and down trying to gauge why she was seemingly so angry. She never called him by his first name, not since she learned his real name at least. When they first meet he went back Maz Jarbroni but after his return she always refused to call him Ardashir. She claimed it was too hard to spell, she would stick with just Jack. An idea he did find amusing seeing as her full name had more letters and syllables than his did. “Okay… something’s off here… you never say my first name.” he finally said as he stepped fully in the room as he began to unzip his uniform jacket as he tossed it at the chair to the left of Celina.

Staring at Jack in the doorway, Celina slowly released the death grip on her mug. Her years of tactical training prevented her from lobbing it at him the second the door pneumatically slid open. Nailing him in the head with the coffee mug would only make him mad. It would not make him sorry. The only thing that might make him sorry was when she explained why they were over. Probably not permanently but definitely in the short term. Seeing Jack however was not spiking her anger. Seeing him was diluting her anger into a well of regret.

“Baby…” Jack said in a soft low tone, his face contorted as he was trying to discern the look of Celina. This was not a side he felt he had ever seen of her. Anger, jealousy, lust, joy, happiness, sadness… all of those she had at one point or another thrown at him. Right now though it felt much more than anything like that, it felt like something new and raw as he waited for something else to come from her.

People spoke all the time of emotions that destroyed relationships: Jealousy, angry, fear, spite, loneliness…the list went on and on. Just about everyone forgot about regret until that was all you had left. “I can’t do this again,” she stated firmly and with conviction as she rose from the table.

“Do what? What the hell is going on?” he asked as he began looking around as if to see if there was some clue to these words as she stood up, his day had been hell and coming home was one of the few luxurious he had to look forward to this day. There was so much to do and talk about, but so much he couldn’t talk about either. His position as both XO and CIO tied his hands more often than not. It could be hard in any relationship when trust and honesty is something that is striven for in all things, but the job often forced you to stay quiet and keep things hushed.

“And before you start to give me all that blather about rules and regulations remember I forgave you once. Once,” her voice rose sharply until it cracked. Closing her mouth she let her tongue peek out over her bottom lip to moisten it. It also bought her time to regain her composure. Looking into his eyes, she realized this was not the time or place for this conversation. Maybe there was never going to be a time or place. The gentle click of the water clock resetting to the next hour felt almost symbolic to her as the barely whispered whirls and clicks of the clock emptied out the bowl of water. “We can talk later,” she instantly shut down pressing her fingertips to the edge of the table as if trying to regain her balance. “I have bridge duty in thirty minutes. You’re right. A lot has happened today. Good bye Jack.”

Lt. Celina Rodriguez

She wanted to say more but in her mind the conversation was over before it started. Watching Jack look at her with his confused expression made her want to fall into his arms or deck him on the way out. The jury was still out on how she would say goodbye as she left the quarters. Moving away from the table, Celina headed to the door. Unfortunately, Jack was squarely in her path.

“Just wait a minute… what regulations?” Jack said as he put his hand in front of her, trying to understand just what had happened in this moment that seemed to destroy all they had rebuilt. They were engaged, planning a wedding that felt perpetual and never ending. “What are you talking about? Bridge duty can wait, if you want I can get Ensign Bolye to take over, he has been wanting a chance to helm tactical for awhile been begging me to let him on the bridge… this isn’t going unsettled here… that is one thing I learned with you is to always talk things through and fight it out if needed… so hit me with it, what are you so angry about?” Jack said, his tone firm but there was still that look of love mixed with confusion on his face as he stared her over unsure of just what to make of this moment.

Creed, XO

The fact Jack seemed to rational was making her more irrational. “You…you…you,” she stammered as her mouth moved faster than her mind could form sentences. “You can’t just change a duty shift ten minutes before someone has to show up for work,” Celina crossed her arms over her chest. “Duty schedules are set for a two week peri,” her sentence was sharply cut off as Jack’s hand moved to his comm badge.

=/\= Ensign Boyle, this is Commander Creed. Chief Rodriguez is having female issues and just can’t make her shift today, I want you to take over her shift and give me a full report on your first time manning tactical so I can go over your progress with you.=/\= Jack said as he looked back over at her as if to say it was now her move. “Well… let’s go over this. What’s wrong love?” he asked her, his tone firm but still have the overwhelming love in his voice he always had when alone with her.

Throwing up her hands, Celina moved back into the apartment. Jack was going to force this conversation. It was probably for the best anyway. She was never going to let it go. Spinning to face him, all restraint collapsed in her demeanor. “Why didn’t you contact me today?” Her eyes were back to throwing icy daggers as she spoke. “Do you know what it was like to hear over the comms that you were shot? I died inside Jack. For ten minutes I thought I loss,” she stopped talking and pressed the tips of her fingers over her lips. Even seeing him standing here, in front of her eyes, hours after the event, did not suppress the waves of nausea and devastation from resurfacing. It took everything to continue the thought and push past the emotions. All anger had drained from her face and body as she moved a few steps backward from Jack.

“I didn’t really have a chance. I knew Jasmine would keep you up to date on anything serious… trust me today wasn’t exactly what I had in mind either… I can’t go into it all but…” Jack took a deep breath as he walked over, wanting to try and give her any comfort he could as he knew just how hard this all was. He remembered that day, the music still echoed in his mind as he closed his eyes and thought back to a time he seemed to always find himself stuck in. A single moment that he couldn’t escape at times, haunted by the echoes of a past that seemed to never let him go.

Four Years Ago, Orion

**Jack looked down at his pistol, began inputting the sequence to overload it as he placed it deep in the power unit. He knew this was the only chance, take them all out and give the rest time to run… his last great sacrifice. Still, as time seemed to slow Jack couldn’t help but think back on all his time with Celina, and smile… even if it was bittersweet.

”…I’d never dreamed that I’d meet somebody like you
And I’d never dreamed that I’d lose somebody like you”

Celina glanced over at him. They had spent the past 12 hours cramped up in a vehicle surviving on bad coffee and surrounded by burger wrappers as they staked out the building the syndicate was occupying. Her hair was a mess. A sloppy ponytail held it off her face. The conversation had not been about the stakeout or the success of the mission. It had been more personal. Setting her cold coffee into the drink holder Celina leaned over the armrest between them. “You know Jarboni you picked the craziest time to tell a girl you love her.”

Smiling she pressed her lips to his. “Just so you know. I have loved you since you said “Officer Celina come on… there has to be bigger fish in this sector than some guy with a Starfleet tricorder and a jerry-rigged type 2 phaser,” she quoted him. “And there has never been anyone more interesting.”

“No, I don’t want to fall in love (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
No, I don’t want to fall in love (this girl is only gonna break your heart)…”

Jack heard the feet coming, why did they have to be so slow he wondered, he wanted this to all be over… he wanted to taste Celina one last time… why didn’t he kiss her?

”…With you
With you (this girl is only gonna break your heart)”

“Oh come on Jarbroni, my brother is not into petty theft,” she threw up her arms. “I am not saying you are lying but I doubt that he is the head of a maruani gummy candy ring. Now are you gonna tell me the real reason you both ended up in my jail or are we going to do this all night” she crossed her arms and waited for his response

“It’s negative,” she said with a weird expression. “This is for the best right? I mean we are so not ready for that, Celina asked him looking for an answer

“What a wicked game you played to make me feel this way
What a wicked thing to do to let me dream of you…”

Jack saw the men in front him, the first fired quickly, there was no more hesitation. The force made Jack fall back and as he did he felt the crack beneath him as the floor gave, his blood pouring as he fell what felt like hours. The men had little time to prepare, as the blast went off, the heat traveling down as Jack fell.

“…What a wicked thing to say you never felt this way
What a wicked thing to do to make me dream of you”

“What do you mean my Abuela needs to shave her upper lip? She does not have a mustache!”
“That is was your first thought after meeting my grandmother! Seriously Jarbroni,” she said walking away and locking the door to their bedroom.
Lying in his arms Celina looked up as him as he held her in his arms. “If this was the last day of my life, I would want to spend it right here like this for all eternity.” The day was one of the longest she and he had participated in. The syndicate was taken down. Jarbroni’s parents killers found and their future was wide open.

“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you
It’s strange what desire will make foolish people do
I’d never dreamed that I’d love somebody like you
And I’d never dreamed that I’d lose somebody like you..”

The song, it still echoed… was it in his head Jack wondered, or did it somehow still play

No, I don’t want to fall in love (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
No, I don’t want to fall in love (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
With you (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
With you (this girl is only gonna break your heart)…”

“What do you mean the lyric is not Rise up . Of course the guy is singing Rise it up not Risa. I mean who would sing a song about Risa like that.”
“Val Halen,” Jack looked at his girlfriend with an incredulous look. “Why would you think he would be singing rise up. It’s not a rebellion song babe.”
“No it is a song about a party animal and that is why he is Rising up. Rising uh huh huh huh up. Rye eye eye eye eye eye sa,” sounds stupid,” she rolled her eyes at Jarbroni
“Not any stupider than whatever the hell you are thinking. Face it love you are wrong. Admit it.”

”..No, I (this girl is only gonna break your heart)
(This girl is only gonna break your heart)
Nobody loves no one:”

Jack let those last words echo in his head as he felt the darkness surround him, he choked on his blood as tears fell down his face. He could feel the darkness taking him and he knew he wouldn’t wake to ever admit he was wrong again.**

Present Day

Jack opened his eyes, how much time had past, it felt like an eternity but it had just been seconds as he moved closer to Celina. “Moosh…” he said in a soft quiet tone as he felt his heart drop as he thought about how much that moment changed her too. It became a past they both couldn’t escape.

“Don’t,” she held up a finger extending her arm “Do not come near me.” Moving around the room, Celina placed the couch in the living room between them as a physical and psychological barrier. “I thought I lost you. Then a security officer announced that you were just stunned to those of us on the bridge.” Moving her hand to her chest she pressed her palm flat against her body. All the pent up frustration ebbed from her body. Her shoulders sagged slightly as if just saying the words had released a weight Celina had been carrying. Her rate of breathing increased evidenced by the ragged inhalations that punctuated her words as she spoke. Stuggling, she forced a deep breath to avoid slipping into the hysterical tears she was forced to swallow in the moment on the bridge. It was much harder here to remain in control. It was only her and Jack.

“I thought oh my god,” she looked up at the ceiling blinking back the tears. “I didn’t care about how or why but just how lucky I was you were safe.” Running her fingers through her hair, she pushed it off her face tucking it behind her ears. “Then the ship went into alert trying to find her,” Celina’s voice held nothing but contempt. Any trace of emotional distress was slowly sliding away as her facial features hardened into a tight grimace or pure anger. Her posture became more rigid, tense.

Lt. Celina Rodriguez.

“But I am safe… but you are right… I promised to never make you worry… but… how can I keep that promise love?” Jack asked her with a wonderment of where to go in this moment they stood in. “We are Starfleet, I am XO of a science vessel… and scientists are freaky unpredictable people that set loose telepathic beast that decapitate crewmen on the bridge…” Jack said, reminding her of the very odd scenario that had once played out when she was on duty once on the bridge. He often worried about her but, every second of the day. He couldn’t let that paralyze him, or he would fail her and the ship.

“You… are my fiance… hopefully soon my wife… but I am not in a position to give you a promise of complete and undeniable safety. I wish I could… but, that just isn’t possible. So… what do you need to feel safe? Cause I don’t know how to give you something that I have to battle every single time this ship goes onto red alert, or I go on an away mission, or someone fires a photon torpedo at us.” Jack said as he grabbed the chair as he sat down as he looked over at her as she stood wondering how much of this was going to make things better or worse. If he was honest, he didn’t think with her fiery nature she was just going to agree his job wasn’t safe and kiss him and move on.

Creed, XO

Listening to his calm description of thier lives caused something to snap inside her. It was the raw and primal emotion of fight or flight and Celina never ran away from anything. “You smug sonofa,” Celina slipped from English to her native Spanish spewing vulgar phrase after phrase at him. “You think this is about you getting hurt,” she picked up the nearest object next to her hand lobbing it at his head. Only a part of her was disappointed for a second as she realized it was the throw pillow and not something more solid like a knick knack or table lamp.

Jack ducked as the pillow came whizzing by as he looked back at her. This wasn’t uncommon in their house, things go flying all the time. It often lead to passionate love making just after but right now one needed to focus on survival. If he didn’t pay attention to everything she said clearly, it would make the time for him to fix this even longer. “Hey hey hey, your mom gave that to us…” he said as the pillow hit the wall and feathers can flying off all around him as he began to brush them off his shoulders.

“Yeah and you hated that pillow. You said is smelled gamey every time you took a nap on it,” Celina yelled reaching for another pillow. Tactically, she had chosen the upper ground. She had positioned herself on the side of the room with numerous projectiles. There were the soft objects like pillows. They were the first that would be launched in the assault. The next came the semi solids. Things like magazines which then thrown offered some wind resistance due to their non aerodynamic capabilities lessening the impact. The last but still used often enough in domestic disputes was the solid objects: Lamps, knick knacks, comm badges, etc. These objects held true when lobbed causing the recipient to engage in a zig zag pattern or prefect their backhand to avoid impact.

Jack however had been trained in several martial arts including the lesser known defensive manuevers Defensive Tactics of the Angry Latina. He knew his position was not going to be able to held for long with so many objects available to her.

“Look…” he said as he stood up grabbing the other pillows away from her as he also began to clean off the coffee table in front. He was making sure anything loose was out of reach. He did look briefly down at her shoes before he looked back at what could be called the sit yo ass down look as he put the items to his side as he sat down slowly, making sure to not take his eyes off her in case she decided to reach for the shoes he had been eyeing.

“Did you just give me your command stink eye,” her voice was filled with incredulity. Oh Jack was not clearly understanding this situation in any way, shape, or from.
There was only one option left. Celina flexed her finger slightly but froze realizing Jack was staring at her chancla. With him removing all the weapons around her, the only two options left were her right and left shoes.

“Look… I’m fine… you can inspect me even if you want.” he finally said as he lifted his shirt up, his hard chiseled bronze abs showing back to her as he put it down. “All good, not even a bruise love.”

“This is not about getting hurt. This is not about getting shot. It is about the hours,” she stressed the word and then repeated it for effect. “Hours between the event and when you strolled through that door with a sigh and ‘damn baby you can’t believe the day I had,” she badly imitated a man’s stride and a male voice that was a cross between thug and someone that was not the sharpest tool in a shed.

“The hours? Lord hon, I was forced to… well forced to do a lot of stuff.”

“One of which was not call me,” she crossed her arms over her chest. “Again top priority Jack. Top,” she began to lose control of her tone getting the higher pitched tone signaling males of any race this was on the verge of getting back alley nasty.

” We always come together at night and tell each other our days… you know like a normal couple. ‘Oh how was your day sweetie’” Jack said with a mockingly high pitched tone that sounded vaguely Hispanic as if he was trying to sound like Celina.

“Wait....did you just pretend to be me,” her mouth dropped open as if he had insulted her mother in church. The look of shock and surprise on her face was priceless.

“Oh my day was great love, well minus being shot at, am I right?” he answered himself, this time in a low timbre clearly like he was trying to claim this is his normal voice.

“Oh my gosh! Tell me all about it mi amor!” he answered, using that same high pitched Hispanic voice from before before looking at Celina dead in the eyes as he felt that maybe this moment, this moment here, this was the moment they began with when they headed into couples therapy.

As in any relationship there was two standards. Men were never to gesture or in tone like the women they were fighting with. This was solely a woman’s preogative and yet Jack not only stuck is toe into that pool but cannon ball leaped into the pool. There was only one response. Reaching down Celina grabbed her chancla. The problem was she had not really ever gotten undressed from her duty shift. This meant she only had the mid calf, regulation boot assigned to all Starfeet Officers. It would take more work to get off but it would serve her purpose. Raising one leg, she assumed the ostrich pose ready to rip the shoe off and take her shot.

“Jack I do not expect and have never expected you to drop everything in an emergency for me but an hour after the event,” her voice stopped in a pregnant pause before continuing. “Hell even two hours after the event you can’t take ten seconds to even type out a message…a…a a a smiley face to let me know things are okay.” Pacing around the room, she felt her anger surfacing red and boiling. “I know you are busy but I am struggling to accept that in the past three hours after,” she stressed the preposition,” you got shot you, Faye was apprehended, and placed safely in the brig you could not find ten seconds to message me. It is not like I am standing here demanding to be in the know of every decision you make but Jack,” Celina looked defeated, “I gotta know that I fit somewhere above random ensign or close friend in your life.” Celina looked at him ready to either storm out or break down crying. “You owe me more than an after thought or message chain.” Taking a breath she focused in on his face. His expression would tell her all she needed to know. Where she ranked in his life.

Lt. Celina Rodriguez

“You think this is hours after the event? Lord I /just/ got back from the damn brig. I have literally not had any seconds to myself. You have any idea what something like this? The fact you think I have had three hours of just down time is a bit insulting. I always come to you as soon as work is done, you are my place I find myself able to unwind and not have to be Commander Creed with, I can’t wait to just… BE with you in moments of crisis like this.” Jack said as he looked at her with a slightly insulted feeling. How could she not assume she was the first person he came to when things were out of the fire. He couldn’t get past half of his days as they were without her constant love care and affection.

Creed, XO

Celina opened her mouth to speak and then stopped. She stopped everything. The yelling, the silent treatment, the anger, the frustration, the tears, the plan to toss her boot at his head: None of it mattered because none of it mattered to Jack. He would never be able to understand where she was coming from in this confrontation. This was clear based on his reaction to her statement. Jack was a Starfleet officer first and foremost. When she first met him on Orion the job came first. He had gotten hurt and injured numerous times since then in so many situations only this time it felt fundamentally different.

Celina took a moment to figure out why. The answer came faster than she expected because she had been given this answer before. Jack was back into the game of secrets. He wouldn’t admit it and would spend the next hours denying her claim or making her feel crazy. “I can’t do this with you again,” her tone was soft but full of conviction. “I’m sorry.” Slipping the boot back on her foot, she became eerily calm. Her body felt thick and heavy as she moved towards the door.

Lt. Rodriguez CTO

“Do what again?” Jack asked her as he stood up to place himself in her path as he looked at her with a worried look. “What can’t you do? I feel like we are having some fight where I have half of the reason you are mad right now. Explain to me moosh, what is going wrong?” Jack asked her in a low desperate tone. He didn’t understand the anger and seemingly determination to just walk out and almost seemingly call it quits over something that had happened tons of times in missions.

“Come on Jack don’t sit there and play dumb. It is beneath you and insulting to me,” she said hotly taking a set to the side to move around him which he matched as if they were waltzing. She could not deny that he knew her well but she also knew him.

“You sit there and tell me you can’t do this, but I remember missions and events where little and Rodriguez got caught in stuff and I end up finding her next day at Moes licking wounds and ready to tell me all that happened.” He said, knowing that if it was the delay in telling her then she wasn’t really one to throw stones in her glass house.

“If it’s something else then just tell me, I don’t lie as long as something else isn’t tying my hands. You know you always come first. I pushed and pushed for a year as I watched you cry, mourn, and wail at the loss of me unable to do anything.” Jack said pausing as he tried to catch his breath before he continued.

“That,” she yelled stabbing a finger at him, “was your choice. Don’t tell me how hard it was for you because you did not live it. You knew the truth and you saw what it did to me but was ever the perfect officer. Why should I ever have thought that would change.” Her tone was laced with contempt and anger.

“Oh like hell it was my choice, when is anything ever /MY/ choice. I got dragged into everything cause my parents started playing God with a hydrospanner long ago and I have been paying the price for it ever since. You know as well as I do I had three choices, stay away as ordered to prevent harm to you and pray I get to find a way back to you… go to so dark hole for insubordination, and the people I play with don’t give nice cells where you can come visit me on the weekend, or run away and become a fugitive.” Jack said, he couldn’t understand how she ever thought anything was ever under his control. He tried so many times to break out and free but you didn’t just get to break away, not without the choice of having to run for the rest of your life.

“If you think you are the only one here who has issues with the orders we have you are sadly mistaken. I constantly felt a sense of nervousness and terror someone was going to be coming for you. They wanted me dead but I didn’t know if that was enough! Monsters like this, it often isn’t enough.” He said as he pointed her to sit back down. He wasn’t really asking as he knew she needed some guidance. She often let him take the lead even if she denied it in public.

“So, talk to me on what has eaten you… cause it isn’t me not talking to you, and it isn’t the possible injury. What has got your panties bunched up?” He demanded of her, tired of the back and forth and wanting a firm answer.

Creed, XO

“I told you that night at the starbase if you were ever back in the game I was out. I was over. I was done. Again you made that choice. You,” she stabbed him in the chest with her finger, “not me.” Celina paused long enough to catch a breath. The trembling in her cadence was not due to overwhelming sadness. That would come later. Right now it was because she was so mad. “I am not an idiot. Nothing about today makes sense. Do you think we are all stupid?” The question was rhetorical. Jack wanted her to spell it out so Celina would spell it out.

“I don’t get choices, I haven’t had my own choices in five years… again, you don’t know half of the hell I am forced to do in order to keep this…” Jack said as he pointed between the two, “In a safe and happy place. I just work with the hand that I am dealt, always being told I can’t step away… it eats at you over time, so no I don’t find you all stupid… but I don’t think you all understand choices get made with or without my approval.”

“Faye is brilliant. She takes in every situation planning every action and reaction like its a game of chess. She can be social but also icliy aloof. There are so many rumors about her past whispered by the crew. Starfleet Intelligence, Tal Shiar, Obsidian Order, Maquis, Section 31…no one really knows anything her past was or what happened to her during her life but I can tell you that she didn’t grow up on some farm playing Euchre and learning to bake bread from a warm and loving family. She might have gotten a science degree at one time but that woman is far more than some chick that likes to plant things. Just for crap and giggles however,” Celina spread her hands wide mockingly, “let’s pretend that is all she is. Some rando botanist trying to get things to grow. So that begs the question of why did a science geek decide to randomly one day take out three officers on a Tuesday, with a phaser, on a ship that was going to register the shot half a second after she fired it.?” Celina mocked Jack to respond. None of this made any sense and the second he tried to make it sound like it was a normal occurrence, Celina would knock his teeth in.

“I haven’t once tried to spin you anything at all about her, you seemed to have your whole mind made up before the two of us ever even talked tonight. Must be mighty nice to be on such a high pedestal.” Jack spat back at her. He was growing awfully tired of the wounded puppy routine right now. Celina didn’t seem to give a damn about anything he said. He hadn’t even spoken before she had decided to be judge jury and executioner

“No answer. Maybe it is because Faye is too smart to make such a rookie mistake however even if she did,” Celina’s voice was laced with sarcasm, “why did she not have an alibi. Did she think no one was going to notice what happened to you and Cochrane? Why did she play hide and seek in the jefferies tubes instead of trying to escape? Why was her small talk to Jasmine about scoring a second date with Cochrane instead of asking if the Captain and XO were okay. Jasmine was livid that she seemed to show no concern or remorse for her action but II will tell you why. Faye wasn’t worried about you guys because she knew you both were fine. So many questions but you would rather strut in here claiming I need to be more rational as you shovel me another mouthful of the crap you have been shoveling to the rest of the crew in the three hours since the incident.” The venom in Celina’s voice showed how far she had slipped from mad. Celina was now in the loathing category. Throwing up her hands, she ran her fingers through her hair tugging it slightly.

“You were right on one thing though. This was not entirely about me being upset you got shot. I can take your job. I can take the risks you have to but I can not take getting caught up in whatever crap you are knee deep in again. You left me the first time. I am leaving you this time. Are you going to get out of my way or are you going to make me call security?”

Lt. Celina Rodriguez CTO

“Computer execute Creed lock-down protocol alpha tango.” Jack said, he wasn’t going and it was clear as the lights got dim as a hum could be heard around them that something was off by what he just did. “Communication lock-down, force-field over room and dampening fields… makes it so no one gets to see in or out… never used this protocol I am kinda excited.” he said with a dull sarcastic tone as he walked over to their liquor cabinet as he began pouring a drink.

“You might as well sit down chica, cause you are not leaving while this is up, and no signals can be heard but one…” he said as he pointed to the room that was sliding open, behind the sofa they had just been sitting in. “Or stand I don’t really care, but I am God damn tired of every person in this hell hole of a ship trying to make all the choices and assuming I am not doing my hardest to fix everything as best I can. Cochrane doesn’t wanna listen to my suggestions, Faye wants to run off like a wild goose… I don’t care about any of that anymore.” he said as he began to take a drink as he looked back over at her, the buzz and whirl of sounds coming from the room made it clear it was far more than some water closet.

“You want answers… then you need to start with giving me a little slack… cause I don’t do anything in my life without putting you first… I sacrificed my entire life, existence, career and chances of normalcy just to be with you… did you not think for one second us getting back together didn’t have a cost? Did you never wonder what freedoms I had to give up for the chance to touch you, hold you and just be with you again? I GAVE IT ALL UP FOR YOU!” Jack said as he throw the glass down on the ground as he stared at her with a icy stare.

“So don’t you dare sit there and spit back at me that you have had it hard, oh grow up. We all had it hard, I nearly died… cybernetics ran threw me to keep me alive as they pieced me back together, a comma for 6 months as I laid in a hellish nightmare unable to wake… wanting nothing more than to see you… only to be told I couldn’t… and after I searched and pleaded and tried every trick I could think of… I finally submitted… I sold myself… I sold my body so I could give you my soul.”

Creed, XO

Jack paused as he took a deep breath as he couldn’t help but feel the weight of all that was going on. Walking to her he grabbed her hand, her stunned silence spoke a lot as he lead her into the small room which had monitors all over it. She would know this was almost the same set up as his one on Orion, as there was one terminal in the middle with a blinking underscore, ready to input a command. “So, you want go ahead and enter 6.17.2389… it will start a new protocol and you can be away, off this ship… they will help you integrate into a life without me… and I will go back to being someone you think is dead and we live our hellish lives apart. I built this protocol for you, in case you felt it was just too much if you ever learned more… but before you do… maybe at least hear what I had to sacrafice for you to even be here.” Jack said as took a deep breath.

Three Years Ago, One Month Before Celina’s Arrival to the Manhattan.

“Sir, I ran all the tests and have been working with the team as you asked. There is nothing that shows anyone from the syndicate even knows who I was or is hunting Celina. You promised me if everything was safe, I cold get the reigns a little loose… I’m begging you sir let me bring her into the fold and let her know I am alive. She’s been hurting, I don’t want her in mourning anymore.” Jack asked Admiral Perkins, as the squirrely man sat with the two members of intelligence beside him. The Admiral wasn’t directly in chair of the operations Jack had in the past, but he had supervised them from a interest he claimed he had in Jack’s parental technology.

“About that…” chimed in the man directly to the right of Perkins as he took a deep breath. “Your parents technology is still being found… your identity aside we still need you… you are a key we can’t replicate in stopping whoever found this, you going back to a normal life puts a great risk in us ever completing our mission.

“I don’t really care, you wanted me to give you my knowledge of what they had done… my technical skills aside I did what you asked, I fought, I bled, I killed, and I died… I don’t owe SI anymore than that. You stopped that ring, I got what I wanted in avenging their killers… it’s time we part ways… you won’t need me the data is good.”

“It’s not about the Data.” Perkins said as he stood up as he seemed to feel like he needed to impose himself as the highest ranked officer in the room as he began to preen like a peacock as he walked over to the window overlooking Starbase 1. “You know their workings, you know how to recreate the tech, and you are an assets to the SI. I would be a fool to let someone like you just come back to XO duty and loose all you have to over to stop some very dangerous men.”

“Well quite frankly sir it isn’t your choice. Admiral Azanti made the deal with me, I know he is dead but I expect that deal to be honored. He knew I only wanted in part time, the only person in the world I care about is Celina.” Jack said, not really caring to pretend to care what the Admiral wanted.

“Yes…” chimed up the other SI officer as he stood up and grabbed a PaDD from the table, “You were supposed to be part time… but we want you full. Secretly implanted on the Manhattan and help utilize the ship as a mobile intelligence base. You can’t have both, you can’t have the normal live and your undercover life, that life belongs to us… Maz Jabroni belongs to us.”

“Maz is /dead/!” Jack countered as he took the PaDD from the man and tossed it across the room as it shattered across the room. “But those connections, they were mine. Like hell I am going to let a bunch of jackals take that from me.”

“You will settle Commander!” Admiral Perkins ordered as two officers that had been guarding behind them grabbed Jack on both arms to hold him in place. “SI considers that live, property of them. That includes any bed buddy you had. You want her to stop hurting, then sign the damn paper and start playing ball like the good little patriot, or else we can find a dark hole for you and take away all privileges.”

Moving to place himself in the line of Jack Perkins was making certain Jack knew who was going to be making his fate. “If you think you can just waltz in here and demand anything from us, you have another thing coming. We own you, SI will be allowed to do what they want… you get your little Celina back and we all get to pretend all us good… you have never had a choice, nor will you ever have one… take him back to his quarters and lock him down… you have 48 hours Mr. Creed, either we cut you from all you know and love, or you work with us and you finally get to pretend you have any control at all in the world we made for you.

Jack felt the air seem to leave from his lungs as he felt the weight of all that was said to him, all he wanted was a chance to find a little place back on Earth and get away from the life he had been forced into. Have summers with the Rodriguez and Creed clans, kids running and screaming, but that dream of a life away from the trappings of the gray metal walls wasn’t going to be his. His heart belonged to only one soul, intertwined across light-years. If he was ever going to gain her back, he knew the price of getting to have her kiss once more.

Present Day

“So… here we are… you know it all… ” Jack said as he walked over and inputted 6.17.238 as he left off one last digit to start Celina’s escape from the life he had made for them, a hell he wanted desperately to be free of. “I’ll make it easy for you. Let me know your choice when you come back in.” Jack sad as he left the room, not even waiting to see what Celina picked.

Creed, XO

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