10 Years Ago
Cestus III was known by many in the sector as the hell planet. A small colony planet that had been cut off from many of the Federation and Starfleet trade routes after the Dominion War. Due to its isolation and remote locations, it was often prone to attacks from rogue factions that plagued the region. Orion Slavers, Nauscian Pirates, True Way cultists were some of the biggest culprits, but by far the only. Being placed on the razor edge of Beta and Alpha quadrant near the Gorn Hegemony it had long become a land that the Federation had forgotten.
History had always been bleak for this world, but for once since the war aid had come in the form of the USS Hartford under the command of Captain Julan Buresh. They were to establish food and medical supplies and reinforce defenses for the much-battered world. This had become a long term goal, as construction on the new Outpost to help govern the planet was not going as smoothly as Captain Buresh had hopped.
Months of throating raiders and pirates had caused the Hartford to begin to set up defensive turrets around the construction site as smaller patrol ships flew in with cargo vessels to build the new Outpost. This though wasn’t the only service rendered, as much of the crew began to become settled planetside as they began to give medical aid, security against ground assaults, and engineering and science assistance as they built back much of what was lost.
On the surface, life had been bleak when the Hartford came six months ago. People had gone to their basic carnal desires in some sectors of the planet, rape and murder had become a means of enforcing your will to get the limited resources they could receive. Nathan Harland had been one of the first officers sent down, as his medical skills and extensive combat training made him the perfect Doctor to lead the hospital that had begun to be built.
Time though hadn’t been easy on his team, or the crew as they found themselves fighting just as much against the people they were sent to help as the pirates who wanted easy plunder. Constant fighting and death could wear the soul of anyone, Nathan was no more immune to this as anyone else. Six months was a hard stay, but there were some signs of hope as people began to hope once more as the spine of Outpost Centari 7 could be seen from the sky at night. A sign that the people had not been forgotten.
Nathan Harland had just been on a small patrol, rumors of a group of civilians gone missing had brought Starfleet out. Leaving the Hospital was always something he hated as he felt he could do far more good in the walls they built. He knew though that his staff was more than capable of keeping the peace and fixing what issues they had, the wastes where were they needed Starfleet the most.
“Lieutenant Harland, I want you to point alpha and watch for any approaching hostiles. Petty Officer Nepal believes he has found the group, but this could end up like last week when that Nausican party came down to trick Hedrick’s team to try and rescue them. Keep us in your sights, if you see any signs of trouble… screw warning shots take them out. I am not losing another squad.” Commander Kepler said as he he began to wave his two fingers in the air as his team began to group upon him.
“Ensign Trigon, stay with Harland and watch his six,” Kepler said as he patted the trembling Ensign on the back. The last venture out had him lodged with two ounces of deuterium that nearly killed him. Harland’s hospital ended up serving their own men just as much as the people of Cestus most times. As the men nodded confirmation Trigon came settled next to Nathan as he placed his phaser back to his hip as he pulled off the TR-116B Sniper Rifle as he dug into the dirt.
“I hate these moments…” Nathan said to Trigon as he began adjusting his scope as he kept an eye on the team. The quiet was near deafening as they always waited to find out just what was going on. Either the team got into a firefight and Nathan gave cover fire or he rushed down, medkit on the hip as he tried to save lives. This always felt counter to his oath, do no harm. The truth was Starfleet gave all it’s officers oaths to protect and serve it’s people as well. The two oaths Nathan had to give didn’t conflict on the surface, but it was hard to see the line some weeks.
“You think it’s really going to be more Nauscians?” Trigon asked as he stayed on his knee, type 2 phaser rifle in hands as he kept an eye behind them for any movement. “I mean we are getting more and more ships through this area, who would want to keep taking the risk?”
“Lots of people, those freighters have no weapons and we only have their construction zone with defense turrets. Plenty of other spots to beam down and if the Federation wants to establish and reintegrate these people, it’s going to take a lot of resources. Resources any of the people in a hundred light-years would be willing to try to steal.” Nathan answered as the team began to get closer as he began to take slower breaths.
“Besides, True Way was spotted a few days ago. I can hope the USS Seawolf arrives before they get cocky. This was Dominion held a few years back, the remnants of the Cardassian/Dominion alliance don’t take kindly to our rebuilding. If the Seawolf can show we have a chance, they are delivering new crew and three new freighters, and they are not some small patrol escort.” Nathan said as he squinted as he saw Kepler’s arm shoot up as his men paused. He felt his breath tighten as this was often the moment of no return, they found a trap or bodies.
As Nathan watched Trigon could sense something that wasn’t there before as he narrowed his eyes narrowed past the crumbling building to their left. “Sir, I don’t think we are alone,” he said quietly as his dark betazoid eyes focused behind the rubble. “I can’t be certain…” he said softly as he pushed lower to the ground as he pulled his rifle into an aiming stance.
“What…” Nathan said as he looked over, his gut suddenly felt like lead as he turned slowly around looking in the direction Trigon’s eyes were darting over. It was always the silence Nathan thought, the silence was what let you know there was danger. The silence was calm before the storm. “Incoming!” Nathan shouted as he quickly shifted his position over the rubble to the other side as Trigon followed suit before the first purple stream came past them.
Trigon wasn’t one to wait as he began to fire back, phaser bolts streaking past the top as he returned fire. Kepler’s team though had little chance to support as surrounding them appeared six-armed Jem’Hadar soldiers as they began to converge and attack their position, leaving Trigon and Harland to settle keep their flank back protected.
“Blasted True Way…” Nathan said through gritted teeth as he pushed his head back over as he began to take a few shots. He didn’t have the suppression of Trigon’s rifle but if he could get some well-timed shots he could get past the defenses faster than he ever could. “Keep them pinned, I only see three of them but there may be more. I am more worried there could be some up high…” Nathan said as he rolled to the side as he began to look at the tops of the buildings to see if more were coming.
Pressing his combadge as the chirp echoed in the zone as energy weapons echoed, Nathan knew he needed to alert the base. “Lieutenant Harland to Veron base, True Way on the surface… our team is under fire… repeat we are under fire,” Nathan said as he looked over at Trigon as he felt his stomach drop. The comm signal came back with static, it seemed uncertain if anything was reaching back to base as he looked over as he saw the shimmer Pulling his sidearm out he aimed right above his head as he fired, no one could see the Jem’Hadar till they attacked except for brief moments of light shimmering off their refraction they created to shield themselves.
“Sir… thanks,” Trigon said as he peered behind them as he watched the other team fight, so far no one seemed downed but it was much harder to fight hand to hand against the Jem’Hadar than an open firefight. Few possessed their strength and prowess in this quadrant outside of perhaps the Klingons. If they didn’t get support no one would come back alive
“Sir we have to get to them,” Trigon, the heat searing as each shot flew past as the air became ionized. The pair knew their time was limited, and their squad had little chance to win without supporting fire. Despite this, Nathan couldn’t help but shake his head no at the idea. Rushing to their aid just gave them a bullseye on their back and leave the squad open to be pecked off from afar.
“It’s not gonna work… we can’t abandon this spot, we have to push back regain this area,” Nathan said as he looked down at his phaser pistol as he cocked his head slightly. “Ensign, you remember how to overload a type 2?” Nathan asked as he looked over at Trigon with a small smirk. “Big boom… maybe only chance we have… thing you can toss it right at their heads? I can pick a bird’s wings off from 300 meters… if you have good aim,” he said as the Ensign stopped firing for a brief second as he looked over at Nathan with a wide-eyed expression.
“Sir… for a Doctor you sure know how to make things explode… this isn’t the first time I heard a mission with you ended with a bang…” Trigon commented as he pulled his phaser sidearm off his hip as Nathan began to take some shots at the cover the Jem’Hadar were using. They only feasibly had two shots, Nathan and his pistol. If they failed twice they didn’t have a backup. Pressing a few buttons the phaser began to glow hot as he looked back at Nathan and nodded as he stood up, much to Nathan’s chagrin.
“Don’t expose yourself, Ensign!” Nathan shouted, but the moment was deflated as shots fired into his chest right as he he finished the throw. Nathan had few moments to think as his comrade’s body began to fall, he had a few seconds to take out their assailants as he readied his aim and fired, the sound of the blast echoing as the Jem’Hadar went flying back into the rubble as Nathan felt his ears beginning to echo as he felt the shockwave knock him back.
Fighting could be heard in a muffled haze as Nathan began to regain his footing, feeling a sense of nausea as he looked over at Trigon as he laid on the ground bloodied and broken. Crawling slowly to his friend he began to take his pulse as he quickly began to search for his Med Kit. Pressing his fingers against his skin he could feel a faint pulse as he pulled out the tricorder to get a better idea. Nathan knew he has little time to help, more lives were at stake as he could be heard footsteps behind him.
Turning behind, more True Way stood just behind them in a mix of Cardassian and Jem’Hadar troops as they pointed their weapons firmly at Nathan. This wasn’t the first time Nathan had seen the end of a rifle this close, but he suspected it might be the last. Closing his eyes he felt himself choking back a tear as his mind drifted for a moment. Chloe. he said to himself as he thought of his fiance’ flooded him. They had been separated since he proposed to her, and it looked in this moment that would be all the time the couple would have gotten was one magic Christmas.
Five minutes Earlier on the USS Seawolf
=/\=Lieute.... rland .. ..ron bas., True .ay on the .ur..ce… … team .. under ...... repeat .. … un… fire=/\= blared across the bridge of the USS Seawolf as it snapped into orbit from warp. They had heard the request for extraction from Kepler’s unit three minutes ago which is why Captain Henry performed the highly dangerous but extremely effective maneuver coined from ancient paratroopers. HALO was high altitude low opening which Captain Henry and his crew turned into WENI or warp entry no impulse. This allowed a ship to appear as if it was beamed into a spot instead of flying there and gave the crew precious seconds to do what they were required to do. The moment the ship dropped out of warp the comms officer began relaying the messages from the surface for the bridge crew.
“Sir I am reading an engagement two clicks from the city,” the tactical officer reported, “in the old industrial area. There were are a dozen life forms. Six-armed Jem’Hadar soldiers are in engaging Kepler.” With a flick of his finger Lt. Smoak brought up a three-dimensional image of the topography on the main screen. “There are three on the rooftops here and here and three on the ridge here attempting to cut off their flank,” Smoak activated the sections of the holographic screen showing the exact placements of everyone involved. The image was also being simultaneously sent below decks to the marines and security forces assembled for deployment. The USS Seawolf might not have the punch of a Pendragon but it was a honed weaponed in itself.
Knowing the men he was about to send dirtside had as much information as possible, Captain Henry gave the order. “Get our men out of there Major Reynolds,” the Captain said firmly followed by the soft tinkling sound of the transporter moving the troops and support staff to the surface.
The surface of Cestus III was in stark contrast to the shining metal bulkhead and floors of the Seawolf. The acrid smell of burning electrical charges filled the air instead of slightly cold recycled air. The deafening sound of explosions throbbed around Chloe like a heartbeat as her team materialized on the surface replacing the eerie calm of the transporter room. Before the Jem’Hadr could fire on the men they had pinned to the ground before them, Captain Henry’s team struck. There was no hesitation in their movements. Smoak’s intell was precise allowing the security teams and marines to exact weapons fire with surgical precision. The beams sliced through the unsuspecting Jem’Hadr. From Chloe’s vantage point the men collapsed like a tower of blocks with each section falling either left or right. The Marines did not stop after the strike. Pushing forward they secured the area taking up sniper positions on the ridge as the two injured men had earlier. The soft pahzing of phased energy bolts slipped out of their guns providing suppression fire for the teams below.
This was Chloe’s first time in the field. All the training exercises and holoprograms paled in comparison to what she was witnessing. A hand on her shoulder pulled Chloe forward to engage forward movement. If they hadn’t she might have just stood there making herself a target. The rubble made it hard to move quickly as the few steps she took resulted in her ankles going soft. If she hadn’t been prepared for it, the action could have produced a sprained ankle or torn ligament. At least this was one thing she was trained for. Keeping her eyes on her target, Chloe and the doctor approached the two men lying on the ground. One was prone while the other seemed to be trying to help him. His actions were slow as if he were moving in water.
“Take the one sitting up,” the doctor ordered immediately recognizing that his wounds were lesser than the man lying down.
Nathan felt the dust in his eyes begin to make them water as he tried to clear them as he began to focus on what happened. He wasn’t dead, and it seemed like Starfleet officers were in front of him. He couldn’t understand that though, it was no more than a few minutes earlier than he called for help. It took around ten minutes to make it here from the city center. As the forms began to form he couldn’t help but focus on one of the officers who looked quite a familiar face. It had to be the trauma, it couldn’t be who he thought it was.
Moving on pure instinct, her hand reached out clasping the shoulder of the man. “I need you to lay bah,” Chloe froze at the moment looking at the face of the injured man. The skin was smudged in grime and blood with thick streaks across his forehead, neck, and the bridge of his nose. The precise lines looked like a bizarre warpaint; however, the precision of the stokes indicated it was from wiping his eyes and ears instead of from gashes or wounds. It was a nameless face as they all were except for the eyes. Chloe would know who the icy cobalt blues belonged to.
“Chloe Bell?” Nathan said softly through a corse muffled voice as he looked away from her at his squad. The suppressing fire had begun to take out a few of the Jem’Hadar as his squad began to take the advantage as he tried to get up before sliding back to the ground. “I need to help…” he said as he began looking frantically for his medical kit as he dug in the rubble and dirt.
“Nathan,” she said before a stray bolt of fire lanced across the area exploding a cloud of dust and debris into the air peppering the group. It was not close enough to hurt anyone yet the shock factor made Chloe let out a sharp strangled yelp as she turtled her neck leaning forward to protect Nathan’s body as he looked for the medical kit.
“Kendrick,” a fellow medic snapped at her loudly. His voice was hard and firm as he pushed the other man off of the one lying on the ground. If he could sit up, this guy was doing better than the one currently splayed out among the rubble. “Focus on the injuries, not the surroundings,” he barked an order trying to help her as he set to work triaging Trigon. “I hate Betazoids,” the medic grumbled prying open one of his eyes flashing light in them. “The black eyes make it hard to tell pupil reactivity. We need to evac to sickbay,” he said while simultaneously activating his comm badge. “Sit rep,” he called out to Chloe.
The signs were grave as they began to check on the young Ensign. The shots had hit him directly in the middle of his chest as they burnt fist-size wholes through the armor. The blood was seeping in the ground as his breath began more and more faint. Time wasn’t going to be on his side as Nathan turned to look over at the young Ensign being looked over.
Snapping out of her daze, she ran the tricorder over her patient’s body. “Pulmonary contusion, mild tinnitus with stapes fracture, presence of hypovolemia indicating blood loss however I am not seeing any direct point of entry would from debris or shrapnel indicating abdominal injury. His spleen is ruptured and he has a concussion probably due to blunt force trauma. Pulling out a tracer beacon, Chloe slapped it to the man’s chest while laying the tricorder just below that readying him for extraction. “Send him,” Chloe called out. “Nate you are going to be okay,” she placed a hand on his cheek wanting to do more but not having the time. Others were hurt and Nathan would be patched up and resting by the time she got done.
“Of course I’m fine…” he mumbled as he moved over as he took the tricorder from the other medic’s hand. “Move aside now,” Nathan said. He didn’t care who was here this was his friend as he tried to fight the tunnel vision. Chloe was here, but it didn’t mean he knew who the rest of these people were or cared. This was his squad. Commander Kepler would be over soon and he wasn’t going to let another one from their team die for some God-forsaken resources on this forsaken rock.
“Nathan you are not okay. You are suffering from shock wave injuries.” Chloe put her hand on his arm. “You need to,” Chloe snapped at Harland.
“I don’t think he is going to,” the head doctor from Chloe’s team began to announce his prognosis as he waved the tricorder over the man’s wounds
“Back off baldie… I am his medic… you tried to take over again and I will make sure you end up like those Cardassians. I am not going to let anyone else work him.” he said as he looked over at the man with an icy cold stare that didn’t simply scream why don’t you try it. Looking to the side Nathan saw Commander Kepler and their men walking back. Two of them seemed to have major injuries as the other four were carrying them back to the group.
“Nathan you need to back off and let Doctor Lewis do his job,” Chloe snapped. Seeing Nathan here was almost as unnerving as all the chaos and death surrounding her. She had participated in training sims but this was real. No shout would end this melting the scenery into the mustard yellow lines of a holodeck returning to its non-programed state.
“Who is in charge here?” Kepler asked as he looked everyone over as they placed the two injured crewmen on the ground to be looked over. Both men seemed to have large blade wounds from impacts with the Jem’Hadar. “Thank you all, but… where did you come from? You aren’t from basecamp…” he said as he looked over everyone wondering where their saviors came from.
“Major Reynolds of the USS Seahawk,” he replied to Kepler’s question. “Captian Henry picked up your distress call from orbit. He forwent the check procedures and decided to check this out first. He is in orbit but something is now blocking transporter signals. He radioed ground control. They will be here in fifteen minutes.
Until then we hold the perimeter.” Reynold’s hated moments like this. He and Kepler were both of the rank to take charge of the situation but Kepler had the home field advantage right now. Kepler also was probably now not thinking clearly. His team was ambushed. Intell was bad. Casualties were taken. Reynold’s had been in Kepler’s position before so the odds were, now that his men were safe, Kepler would only be seeing red, ready to rip the heads off anyone that crossed his path.
“Harland,” one of the men called out in a groaning moan. The smell of burned flesh filled the air from flesh that bore cauterized whole. The sound of phaser fire was being replaced by the moan and cries of those injured.
Chloe Kendrick nurse
Pushing the others aside, Nathan rushed next to Trigon as he grabbed his hand. “Okay we are gonna get you fixed… you dumb bastard… you throw and duck… throw and duck,” Nathan said as he began wiping some of the grime and blood from his face as the blood began to soak more into the dirt and debris.
The ground began to change into a dark crimson mud around Nathan’s and Trigon as the life slowly seeped from his body. It was as if the Grim Reaper was marking the a grave before the individual was ready for it. Chloe edged back slightly as the first edges the pool seeped into the fabric of her knee as she knelt next to the men.
“I did it… perfect throw…” Trigon said as be began coughing as blood began to trickle down his mouth as he tried to keep his focus on the man before him. “Like the game… it would have been a strike right? It would have been an out.” Trigon said softly as he grabbed and pulled Nathan into him. “I… I don’t want to die Nathan… my… my mom… I don’t want to die.” the man said as tears began to flow from his face as he began to feel cold.
Chloe placed the tips of her fingers over her lips to hide the fact they were shaking. Chloe had seen men die before. It was something that happened being a nurse but all the moments in the ER, with all the death it held between its walls did not compare to the raw emotion she felt here watching the man die before her eyes. Her experiences were sanitized compared to this. No one died among dirt and sweat. They had always died in pristine rooms with glistening walls and white sheets.
“I am not going to let that happen buddy… just stay with me stay with me now,” Nathan said as he looked up, one of the medics had laid their kit down as he grabbed it and began to pull out some of the equipment as he began to scan the young Ensign. The scan showed much of what he had expected, the shots when through him like molten lava, polaron blasts didn’t leave much in the room for organs or tissue to be intact. Plus the shrapnel was scattered all in his chest and torso from being so close.
Normal physicians would have called it, ease their pain but Nathan had performed some miracles here. Life and death were always a knife’s edge and he can prove he was better this time. Just once Nathan though I need to be better. “He has some much internal bleeding, hemorrhaging… he is gonna go into shock soon we need to get him stabilized and transported back to my hospital, does anyone have anything to keep him strapped down… and do any of these damn kits have some real medication?” asked Nathan as he began looking through the one in front of him as he threw each vial behind, none would help stabilize such injuries.
The things Harland was asking for would be wasted on this young man. None of it would help. Laying a hand on Nathan’s shoulder the Major attempted to intervene.
“Son you need to,” the Major said in a soft but firm tone.
“No you listen here… I am not going to lose anyone else,” Nathan said as he snapped at the Major with a fiery look in his eyes. Nathan couldn’t afford another a loss, not this time, not again. Each loss meant a letter, each letter meant he couldn’t just live with a letter. His honor always forced him to call, and to call meant he had to see those faces once more as they broke down. The letter’s where far too impersonal, command insisted at first that was the only way to give news like this out. It was protocol, after all, they said, what was expected. That was never good enough for Nathan, as he chipped away at his soul every time he was forced to make a call no one wanted, and no one expected.
“He is gone. You need to focus on,” the Major stated firmly.
“You are not a doctor,” she snapped out interrupting the Major desperate to help Nathan in any way she could. There was no way the young man would survive but if Nathan wasn’t ready to give up all she could do was support him.
“Stay out of this Chloe!” Nathan said as he looked over at his fiance’ as he looked back at Trigon. Nathan’s face turned white as he felt the young man’s arm loosen from his shirt as it dropped to the ground. The eyes, the eyes were always the indicator. They let everyone know the soul had left, even those dark wells that Betazeds had. “No… no no no.... fu..” sound of Nathan’s curses began to be muffled out as the shuttle began to land as more troops poured out. Everyone turned around to look at the arrival from the base, but Nathan stood simply staring at the eyes of his friend as he slipped away in his arms.
Standing up Nathan felt a raging boil as he looked behind the men at the bodies of the Cardassian and Jem’Hadar soldiers. Pulling the phaser from his hip he pointed at the ground as he fired right through the closest until it disintegrated from sight as shouts could be heard from the soldiers around them. “Stand down Lietunant!” ordered his commander as he walked up next to Nathan as he took away the phaser from his grasp as Nathan looked over at him.
“He…” Nathan said as he paused taking a deep breath. “He just graduated the academy sir… he wasn’t even in an officer for a year…” Nathan said as he felt the stinging of the tears behind his eyes. The statement might seem odd to anyone who wasn’t on this planet, but for his commander, they all knew what Nathan meant. Far too young was a common theme, whether civilian or military personnel. Far too young was the most common phrase Nathan had to spit out when he made the video calls, feeling himself choke every time he had to say them.
“I know… we will get his body back to base, but we still have others wounded and they are going to need you and your team… get with them on the shuttle… take the nurse too.” the commander said as he nodded towards Chloe. “She can help stabilize their injuries… then once everyone is stable you are relived for the day, blow off some steam… something besides thinking about today… that’s an order.”
Chloe stood up putting a hand on Nathan’s arm not sure what to say to him. This was not the meeting she had envisioned for the past three weeks. In her mind, Chloe would have strode into the hospital on Cestus III, found Nathan, and he would have swept her into his arms. Instead, she found the man she loved taking out his rage on the bodies of those that inflicted so much pain. Everyone had a dark side they kept hidden. Until now, Chloe thought Nathan’s was just angry brooding at the end of a bar complaining about politics or his family. “Nay,” she stopped not even able to get past his name because after that words were escaping her.
Nathan glanced over at Chloe as he simply shook his head as “Not now…” he said softly as he began looking around trying to find what might have been left behind. Kneeling down he gathered up his Medkit and rifle as he slung both over his shoulder.
“We have injured. Do your job or get off my battlefield,” Kepler ordered Chloe sharply. He had served with Nathan for almost a year now. The man was in pain and needed somewhere to focus that anger and frustration. Mollycoddling some green snot-nosed nurse was not helping the situation. This might be her first dirt side assignment but you were never prepared for assignments like this. She needed to be able to adapt or she would be worthless to the men and women that needed her help.
Following Nathan, Chloe blocked out everything around her. Tunnel vision allowed her to assist Nathan as he barked out orders for mediations, osteo-regenerators, dermal regenerators and suctioning devices to remove blood and debris from the areas Nathan was treating. She worked in silence next to him finding a rhythm to the work. By the second patient, Chloe was learning Nathan’s speed of treatment, the way his body moved to retrieve the items he asked for, and where he needed her to be spatially to assist him. By the third patient, she had found her groove starting to predict what he would need a few times before he even asked for it. Every doctor was different and did things differently, yet somehow Chloe fell into place next to him as if she had spent her professional career there. People could remark it was due to her experience as a nurse. Chloe knew it was because she already knew how to read Nathan’s actions from their personal relationship.
As the last patient was patched up and carried off to the waiting transport, Chloe took a final second to glance about. The landscape was no longer filled with sizzling bolts of energy zipping past the people moving about. It was eerily quiet as the sun began to dip just below the horizon. The beauty of the setting sun brought goosebumps to her skin. Once the weather erased the pockmarks in the earth and the wind erased the acrid smell of burnt flesh and ozone discharge, no one would ever know what happened here. Those that mattered to Trigon would mourn his passing but no one other than the few people here would know where he fell among the arid rocks and scrub grasses.
Feeling Nathan’s fingers brush hers, Chloe turned letting Harland lead her wordlessly to the transport. Everyone here knew Nathan was engaged to the pretty brunette named Chloe from Connecticut. No one here probably suspected the blood, sweat, and grime coated woman next to him was the same girl. Taking a seat next to Nathan, Chloe’s fingers worked clumsily at the seat harness. Her fingers felt thick like she had been outside for hours at wintertime making it hard to work the clasp.
As the transport jolted to life, Chloe inclined her head towards Nathan. He was far to tall to rest her head on his shoulder. That only happened when he slouched down on the couch watching holos.
Chloe Kendrick nurse
Brushing back her hair gently Nathan sighed. This was a rough day, and this wasn’t quite the day he expected with Chloe. He had been dreaming of having her in his arms, but it was always away from the hell that had been created around him. “So…” Nathan said softly as he looked down at her he took a deep breath. “What brought you here?” he said, the words with simple but the spoke a lot. He wasn’t aware of her joining a new ship to come to deploy with him. This was a shock, and one he wasn’t really a fan of. He loved her, more than anything… but he couldn’t protect her and do his job here.
“You did,” she answered putting her head on his shoulder as they slide over the desolate terrain back towards base. Taking a deep breath, Chloe resisted the urge to wrinkle up her nose and sit straight. The scent of ozone and dirt did not cover up the stronger slightly iron scent of blood which has all over everyone’s clothes. It was far from pleasant, yet Nathan was next to her, holding her hand so she could endure anything.
“I did? Dollface… when did I ever ask you to come to this place…” Nathan said as he took a deep breath as he thought about all the events of the past 24 hours. He had enough to last a single day, but he did seem to have far more than normal as well. Taking her hand he held it in his as ran his thumb down her palm gently as he caressed her. He may be unsettled, but she did have an effect he couldn’t deny. The effect was making it so he had a mix of tense caring anger. Some might consider such a cocktail of emotions as impossible, but if Nathan knew anything it was that Chloe Kendricks could always make him feel impossible cocktails.
While they had not spent countless hours together as a couple, the time they had spent together forced Nathan and Chloe to be far more observant than most. She could read on his face that Nathan was struggling even though his expression was one of weary exhaustion. His jaw held a tension indicating he was holding back a simmering rage. Part of it was about the events that occurred on the desolate field which robbed him of his friend yet the other part was pure umbrage with her. His gaze was pensive when his eyes met hers flickering between adoration and fury. As a couple, they had had spats yet she could tell by the eerie calm of his demeanor this was an unchartered territory in their relationship.
“Nathan,” she turned as far as she could in the seat to face him. The safety harness bit into her shoulder until she disengaged the clasp so that she was finally able to turn perpendicular to her fiance in the seat. “You needed me so I came. You have been distant and distracted. You look exhausted. How much weight have you lost? Ten pounds, fifteen,” she pressed the subject. Her expression was stormy with judgment clouding her ability to temper her words. Right now she was not his future wife but a scolding nurse to her patient. “That means you aren’t eating, you aren’t sleeping, and you are not taking care of yourself so I had to come,” she looked up at him. Her dark brown eyes darted between his as if trying to read what was going on inside his head. “After I saw what happened back there, I see why now.”
“I needed you… yes but… not here…” Nathan said as he looked down as he gathered his thoughts as he thought about what she asked. “What you saw was not something you were ever supposed to see, why do you think I would take every chance I could to spend even five minutes away with you… it wasn’t cause I wanted you here… it was cause I wanted away from here.”
His words struck her like a gut punch sucking the air from her body. Of all the things he could have said this was not what she expected. The thought that Nathan was living vicariously through her never entered Chloe’s mind. Nathan was using her as a tether to the life he wanted where at night her perfume lingered on his sheets and in the morning the scent of rich coffee woke him from sleep. Nathan wanted to be annoyed that when he moved in the shower an avalanche of soaps and shampoos fell around his feet versus phaser and grenades. Nathan wanted to make excuses about why he could not spend the night with Chloe’s sisters instead of lies about how a nameless face was going to survive their injuries. Chloe had misread the situation and Nathan’s needs badly but there was still a way to rectify the situation.
“I could not just sit there at home worrying about you,” she put her other hand over the one that was already holding his. Chloe’s tone was no longer reprimanding but full of emotion. “Besides I told you I was doing this when we were in Italy. I told you I was applying to a medical ship so that we were at least closer and had the chance to see each other more than every three months. I had hoped you would contact Micky to pull some strings to get us on the same ship but,” she stopped talking realizing her statement sounded accusatory. That was the last thing she wanted right now. Chloe had to make Nathan see why she was here.
“I also remembering saying that was a bad idea and in no way do this.” Nathan snapped as he looked at her sharply as he wondered how she could have ever taken his comments to show up here. “You were safe at home, it’s where you belong… not here.”
“I belong with you,” she snapped back as a shiver ran down her back. The uncharted territory was slowly being mapped the more they talked. Nathan was not discussing whether or not she should be here. Nathan was making it clear that he had for all intents and purposes set the course for them as a couple and Chloe disregarded his path for them.
Brushing a thick lock of hair behind her ear, Chloe decided to focus on the current situation and not the what-if situation. “Nathan I was worried about you,” she tone was desperate and her eyes looked like she would cry if they weren’t in a place so public as the back of a military transport. “What did you want me to do,” she said in a low voice. “I couldn’t just sit there. When you gave me my ring and I put it on, it became a promise that I would be with you every day of my life until the day I died. Staying home felt like abandoning you,” she bit her lip to keep it from trembling. “You wouldn’t leave me. We are a team…aren’t we?” Her question hung in the air desperate for an answer.
“We are always a team… but teams also have to work on two fronts. You… you can’t just assume it’s a good idea to come here. I don’t want you here… I don’t need you here… I need you on Earth. That is where you are safe…” Nathan choked a bit as he knew why he was so worried. This place meant he had to make choices, choices that could end up affecting her. He loved Chloe, more than anything but in this place that love could become a liability.
The truck stopped lurching them slightly in their seat. Chloe, no longer wearing her safety harness, tightened her grip on Nathan’s hand to use as leverage keeping her in her seat. As the back hydraulicly lifted open, the quiet space she and Nathan were sharing melted away. Shouts of hospital personnel, the rumble of vehicles, and the moans of those hurt cut through the air like a scalpel. “Kendricks,” a voice shouted making her jump immediately from her seat and head towards it. A pristinely dressed Crewman waited at the foot of the vehicle. “You need to follow through with these men. Get an idea of what you will be experiencing so stop staring at your friend and get to work.”
“Look, we’ll take later… we all have a job to do here,” Nathan said as he stood up and waited for her to make the first move out as he took a deep breath. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do here, but it made his duties a helluva lot harder.
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