Good night, Meru, part II
Torpedo Platform 12, Deep Space Nine
1050 hours, MD01
Authors: Cmdr. Timothy Rouse, Lt. Jason Beauvoir, Lt. (JG) Sera Williams, Ensign Gregory Rathcliffe (played by Eilis Ross), Lt. (JG) Delainey Carlisle, Lt. (JG) Luka Mahone, Adm. Washington (played by Alenis Meru)
Last time on Star Trek: Portland
"Don't worry," replied Washington, holding up a hand. "It's just a few questions, I'm sure you'll conduct yourself well." Tugging his uniform again, he looked around the torpedo bay-cum-funeral parlour. The crew of the Portland had begun to file in. "I best take my seat, Commander. You just get ready for your speech."
And now, the continuation
Jason and Jena walked into the makeshift funeral parlour. Jason was dressed in his dress uniform, which was immaculate, as was his hair. Out of respect for the Captain and her heredity, Jena wore a Bajoran style funeral robe and her mother's earring.
Jason's expression was stoic, while Jena's sorrow appeared on her features.
Despite Jason's stoic expression, inside the Chief Science Officer was a maelstrom of sorrow, guilt and anger. The father and daughter took their seats and waited for the ceremony to begin.
Sera walked through the door into the room. In her previous role, she was sure she had done some kind of maintenance or another in this room a number of times. She wore her dress white dress uniform, her hair was pulled back in a ceremonial Bajoran style was she wore a traditional Bajoran earring that she borrowed from one of the Bajoran crewmen aboard. Sera had spent a lot of time, much to the annoyance of her roomate Nikki, making sure that she looked perfect for the funeral. She had been on the surface when everything had happened.
Sera managed to keep herself from crying by not really talking to anyone. The new pip on her collar felt as though it was a stone weighing her down, as she still doubted that she deserved the promotion. As she slid down the row of chairs, she laid a hand on both Jason and Jena in a reassuring gesture. She took her seat beside the other two as quietly as she could, trying not to look at the torpedo tube that now serve as the final resting place of her very first Captain.
Nikki debated whether to go to the funeral or not. She didn't really know the captain, and never got to meet her. But seeing how distraught Nikki was as she was changing and getting ready sealed the deal for her. She would go there, if only to support her friend and give her a shoulder to cry on. As soon as Sera left, she quickly changed into her dress uniform, smoothing out the wrinkles and removing any errant pieces of lint as best she could, and quickly ran onto the station and into the torpedo bay where the funeral was being held.
"Sera!" she called out, instantly identifying her friend and roommate's hair. As soon as she blurted out the word though, she covered her mouth in embarrassment. Way to go, Nikki. Embarrassing yourself at the Captain's funeral? What are you thinking?. Quickly, she darted over to the side of her friend, trying to avoid the stares on the way. "Is this seat taken?" she whispered. "You looked like you might need a shoulder to cry on."
Leave it to Nikki to come in at the right time, Sera had needed a bit of a laugh. She didn't vocalize the laugh, though a small smile crossed her face for the first time in a few days. Sera nodded at Nikki as she picked up the PADD containing the funeral program from the seat beside her. "Thanks Nikki," replied Sera.
Gregory moved through the door as his dress uniform pulled at his body. The last time he had had to wear this uniform in this setting had been for....Shaking his head to knock away the memories, he forbid himself from going back there. The journey with the prophets had been enough to reopen old exposed wounds, today wasn't the day to revisit them more.
Looking around, he didn't recognise anybody, the only reason he had come was because he had been then for the end and he felt it was his duty to honour the woman he had seen die. News had reached him that his old boss had resigned from the ship; for what reason no one knew but everyone knew that the same thought had crossed their own minds after all that had happened. Keeping himself to the back of the room, he leaned a shoulder against the wall as he waited for the service to begin.
Luka had sat himself silently toward the back of the room, clothed in a freshly replicated dress uniform. Though he knew little about the Captain, it didn't seem appropriate of him to not attend. She had to have been quite a woman, especially with the number of people currently gathered around them. <i>'Definitely someone amazing to have served under.'</i> he thought as he observed the other members of the crew. He could only imagine the grief they were going through.
Delainey entered and tried to push away her own mixture of emotions, at least for the duration of the ceremony. Her dress whites felt more uncomfortable than normal, but Carlisle had to acknowledge her mood had something to do with that. The whole situation was surreal. The counselor had never actually met the real Alenis Meru, and yet her encounter with the holographic version of her made Delainey acutely aware of the woman they'd lost all the same. In addition, as cliché as it sounded, Carlisle was still reeling from the suddenness of it all. One moment, her captain was alive and just out of reach for the moment, and the next, she was never going to meet her.
The counselor knew if she was feeling this way, the crew, and especially those on the fateful away team, had to be feeling a hundred times worse. Scanning the room, she was searching for anyone who seemed particularly upset or distressed at the moment. She knew the full weight of the crew's grief would hit them later, and she'd arranged appointments with the away team and cleared her schedule accordingly, but that didn't mean she could rest easy here or consider her own grief, however unusual it might have been.
At the podium in front of the torpedo, Tim looked over the gathered crowd. It was larger than he expected, with the crew of the Portland, some other Starfleet officers who he didn't recognize, and a number of Bajoran civilians. Clearly, the death of Meru on that worthless rock touched more than just her immediate friends and family. He pressed a button on the podium, which began playing the Bajoran national anthem, getting the attention of the assembled crowd. While her last wishes called for a traditional Starfleet funeral, Tim thought that she would have wanted a bit of a Bajoran touch as well.
There was a moment of silence as the music stopped, and the gathered mourners all looked up at Tim, waiting for him to begin his speech. Nervous and overcome with emotion, he paused for a moment. His eyes locked with those of Ellen, who, seated next to her father, offered him a slight and subtle encouraging smile, giving him the strength he needed to continue.
He picked up his PADD that had a prepared speech. But instead of reading it aloud, he turned it over and placed it back on the podium. He would speak from the heart.
"Friends and comrades, we are gathered here today to pay final respects to our dearly departed friend. It is a testament to her spirit and the influence she had on those around her that so many of you are gathered here today. We knew her as our captain, leading us on our journey through the stars. We knew her as our protector, fighting off any who would dare to harm us. And... we knew her as our friend. Always there to open her office to us and offer a mug of tea and a bit of advice."
"Captain Alenis -- Meru -- was a complex woman, and I am truly blessed to have known her, even for such a short time as I did. She was uniquely dedicated to her duty as a Starfleet officer. She cared for her crew, and always did her duty with the utmost professionalism. She was the epitome of a dedicated Starfleet officer." As he spoke, Tim was struggling, trying not to cry, trying to maintain his composure. "But there was another side to her. Underneath that hard, professional exterior was a woman who was kind and caring. And... there was a woman who was feeling a lot of pain, who had her vulnerabilities." He looked over at Arvel, who was hanging his head in sadness. "She was a woman who lived through a lot of sadness -- the Occupation of Bajor, the battle of New Algiers. But through it all, she was a source of strength to others, even when she was struggling herself.”
"And Bajor. One can not talk about Meru and fail to mention her relationship with her home planet of Bajor. She was truly a child of Bajor, and, though she had only returned recently, I could tell that her love for Bajor ran deep. In her final days, she visited the planet for the first time in nearly thirty years. In the days leading up to her death, I saw her undergo a religious awakening. Her love for Bajor and her connection with the Prophets was re-invigorated."
"In a time like this, it is all too easy to focus on her death -- a courageous act of self-sacrifice, in which she no doubt saved countless lives. To focus on the loss, the pain, that we are all feeling. But more important is to reflect on her life, and the thirty-seven years in which we were blessed with her presence. The strength she gave us in our darkest moments, the courage she showed in facing down adversity, and the empathy she showed with all those who suffered."
"I think, in some sense, she knew in her final days that she was not long for this universe. She gave so much, in life and in death. And so, I am left with the following words, from Dickens, but which could have been spoken by Meru in her dying moments. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
With that, Tim pressed another two buttons on the podium. One of which activated the anthem of the Federation, which she had dedicated her life in service of. The other activated the loading sequence for the torpedo launcher, signalling four crewmen to remove the flags for the launch.
As Gregory watched the play of the funeral being acted out in front of him, he couldn't help but feel that this was all so serene. None of this was ever meant to end this way...no one should have died on their mission, least of all their Commanding Officer. It was evident by the number of people and the sound of quiet sobs that Captain Alenis was a well loved woman, honoured by her crew and friends. She should never have died...it wasn't her time yet.
As they listened to the ceremony, Jena reached out and clasped Jason's hand gently to comfort him. Jason gave her, what he hoped was, a reassuring smile. Closing his eyes, he saw the Par wraith that had possessed her smiling through her face as it inflicted pain and death. "Meru, I'm so sorry." He said in no more than a whisper.
With the Federation anthem blaring, the torpedo was guided down the loading rack and towards the breech of the launcher. Tim turned around and took one last glance at the black tube that was his friend's coffin as it slid into the breech. "Goodbye, Meru," he whispered, watching the hatch close behind it and trying to choke back tears until the music stopped.
Silence filled the room for a few seconds. "And now," said Tim, "we bid our friend and captain farewell, and wish her smooth sailing on her final journey." With that, he held his finger over a large red button and took a deep breath. With a tear forming in the corner of his eye, he pressed down on the button, sending Meru streaking across space on her final journey.
With a subtle nod, Tim indicated to the assembled crowd that the ceremony was over, before leaving the podium and walking over to a viewport, so he could watch over his friend one final time.
Standing at the window, Tim just stared out into space at the glowing torpedo and the ion trail left in its wake. "Goodbye, Meru," he managed to utter, before closing his eyes in an attempt to stop his tears from running down his cheek. When he opened them, he saw the yellow and blue swirl of the wormhole opening and engulfing the torpedo. He had never really watched the wormhole before. The only time he had seen it open was in a small restaurant on DS9, where he first met Meru prior to the launch of the Portland. Staring at it, it was one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen, next to Ellen, of course. It brought a slight smile to his face for the first time in days; perhaps it was only fitting that Meru's final journey would be her return to the wormhole.
As he stared out into space, he felt a hand on his shoulder. Turning, he found himself face to face with Admiral Washington, with Ellen not far behind. "Beautiful, isn't it?" asked the Admiral in a soft voice.
"Yes..." replied Tim. "It is."
Capt. Alenis Meru