Emotions make us stronger
Location: Commander's Quarters
Timeline: PCH-15 1930 Hours
For the first time since the fleet had gathered and the Solaria had departed from the Twelve Colonies in search of peace and freedom, Commander Hanson had found himself to have a relatively free day following the conclusion of the mornings ‘festivities’. Crew rotations were well underway, the Air Group was being reconfigured and the CIC was under the watchful gaze of their new Officer of the Deck. So as to allow Major Kilmartin to get used to his new role in the CIC, the Commander had spent most of the day buried in a book in his quarters and following the doctors orders to relax somewhat.
But with the evening having closed in, he could bare it no longer. Empty cardboard boxes had been piled in the corner of his quarters and he could no longer out it off. At some point, he had to pack up the belongings of his predecessor and it was never going to be easy. Out of respect for the man, he had left it this late, but it couldn’t go on forever.
He had spent much of the early evening packing up boxes, folding clothes and gently wrapping belongings before putting them in their protective homes. He had found a CD, a collection of instrumental music and had put it on the wireless machine in the quarters, saying a little tribute to the fallen Commander as he did so and declaring that he hoped his predecessor wouldn’t mind. It was then that he had found the journal he was now reading through as he was perched on the edge of the desk. He hadn’t intended to at first, opening it simply to see what was contained inside due to the lack of any meaningful label. He had soon figured out why. This was the man’s journal of his early career right up until the “glorious day he had been given his first command”. It gave him a clear insight into the man and he somehow felt closer to Commander West, even though the man had been many years his junior.
It was on the next page that the Commander found something that worried him. Upon turning the page, a photograph tried to slip out of the book and he was only just able to grab it before it hit the floor. Once he looked at the picture, it was clear that its image sparked some curiosity but also concern. He had to talk to someone, someone who would almost certainly know about the content of the image.
It had been a very stressful few days, and Amaris had barely taken time to relax. Thinking better of it, she took a brief nap and was now stretching on the floor in preparation for a jog around the ship. Since she was stationed on Solaria before the fall, she was fortunate to have all of her clothing and personal belongings. She changed into a black sports bra and red shorts, then trod out into the hallway to begin the job. She’d left piles of paperwork on her desk, but she would soon return to it.
She walked quickly for five minutes, passively noting the glances from those around her both military and civilian. As she began jogging at a moderate pace, she shook her head in frustration for the presence of civilians aboard the Battlestar. They lacked formallity and discipline; she’d even found herself pushing through groups of civilian men and women chatting casually. Her breath sped slightly as she moved and an unknown voice echoed around the ship via the internal communications grid. “Pass the word for Colonel Kendall. Please report to the Commander’s Quarters. Repeat, Colonel Kendall please report to the Commander’s Quarters.”
She’d only begun to relax in the familiar route when she’d heard the announcement. Stifling a groan, she turned and began to jog toward the Commander’s quarters. She arrived in under 2 minutes and was greeted by the opening door. The marine standing guard had anticipated her arrival. Slowing down, she stepped down the stairs and into the main level of his quarters, looking over at Hanson, her chest heaving up and down gently.
“You called for me, sir?”
Hanson turned at the sound of the woman's voice and was taken aback by her appearance. She was… stunning. Even in her exercise gear. He had been so busy of late trying to work alongside her and limit the friction between them that he had almost forgotten that under the uniform, there was a woman. Now he knew it. Even if she was old enough to be his daughter…
“Yes, Colonel…” he eventually spoke, snapping himself back to reality as he reached down to pick up a shiny piece of paper. “I was busy packing up some of Commander West’s belongings when I found something I think we need to discuss,” his voice was low, quiet, direct. He then showed her the picture that he had found, gently holding it out in her direction.
The picture showed Commander West and the Colonel, each in civilian attire, in an embrace. A somewhat intimate embrace. It was the Commander’s assumption that Commander West had never meant for it to be found by anyone, but now he had, and now it was down to the XO to explain.
Amaris’ large brown eyes looked down at the picture, dancing from face to face; she felt a wave of many feelings: anxiety over the fact it had been found, fondness for the memory, sadness for the loss, and even a little anger at Hanson for presenting her with it. None of these feelings were betrayed in her initial reaction, but when she looked past the picture and looked at the Commander, the anger came through very subtly in the twinkle of her eyes. “I don’t see anything worth discussing, sir.”
“Really?” Hanson queried, a look of incredulity on his face as he lowered himself onto the sofa nearby. “You don’t see anything in that photograph that you think warrants discussion?” the older man asked again, giving her another chance to reveal all.
“Commander West is dead and he isn’t coming back to do that anymore.” Amaris retorted, indicating the picture in a jab-like fashion. “So, sir, you have nothing to worry about.”
“Shall I tell you what I see, here in this photo?” Hanson responded in frustration at the woman. He failed to wait for a response from her. “I see two people who commanded a Battlestar of the Colonial Fleet. I see two young people who were clearly happy in each others presence. But most importantly,” he rose from his seat and brandished the photo at the woman again. “I see two young people, very much in love…”
Amaris’ steely gaze held for a split second longer, but cracked and pain forced her eyebrows to express her innermost feeling. Her full lips parted slightly as she looked again at the picture. “It’s...it’s alright.” she said with a tone that was less convincing than any she’d used while aboard this ship. “It’s the end of the world and everyone’s lost people they cared about.” the pain in her face melted away even as her eyes began to fill with tears. “So, as I said. There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Of course there is,” the Commander frowned, but this time with much less anger and a bucket load more sorrow in both the tone of his voice and the eyes that he looked at her with. “Colonel…” he let out a sigh, “Amaris… you lost the man you loved on the day you were given the most important job in the history of our people. You can sit here and pretend that it is fine. You can pretend that the world hasn’t destroyed you. You can bottle it all up and that’s fine. We all deal with things differently,” he told as moved away from the sofa and table, and her, leaving the photo on the glass surface. “But for god’s sake… you have to acknowledge him. You have to talk about him, remember him… to ignore his loss is to dishonour his memory.”
Amaris listened to the man’s words and, as she did, she felt her heart strangely warmed. She’d been going through a lot of emotional changes since the fall, just as everyone else had, and she found it difficult to stay in one place. By the end of his statement, the warm feeling had gone away and she was filled with a strange resentment. Since birth, she was instructed that feelings got in the way of what needed to be done; her father taught her this lesson and, once she was in the fleet, had hand-picked her assignments to ensure that she would continue to learn it well. When Commander Hanson spoke of letting it out, she became very angry with him. She wasn’t used to it; at least, not from officers who didn’t hate her. Most of the time, when someone had tried to shake her worldview in the past, they did so with a lack of love and a lack of respect.
“Is this what you called me down here for, Commander?” she asked, her eyes narrowing. She was responding out of pain and habit. “To take me through this little therapy session? Well, I don’t need that. I’ve been getting along just fine and I don’t need you to pretend like you care.” she said, then paused, the anger had mounted and she had started to breath heavily again as a result. “I’m not going to be cracking up over my grief any time soon. I can do my job.”
“Do you remember what I told you, fifteen days ago, as we prepared to begin this journey?” the Commander asked, looking over at the woman from a somewhat safe distance. He closed his eyes as he recalled the words he had shared what felt like a lifetime ago. “Emotions are not something to be scoffed at or disregarded. In situations like ours, emotions can be powerful allies. Remembering people of importance to us is important as we try to make sure we honor their memories and ensure that we do not become a simple memory for someone else,” he opened his eyes slowly and looked back at her. “We are no longer military officers, Colonel. We are the last hope of the human race. Not the people on this ship, not the people on the Achilles. You. Me. We are the only people remotely qualified to do this. To guide our people to safety. Brute tactics and blunt force trauma will not work anymore. We need to show emotion, tenderness, concern. We need to show these people that yes we have lost everything, but there is still SOMETHING worth fighting for!” he could sense his own tension levels rising as he took a step towards her. “Life… friendship…” he whispered before concluding with a single word. “Love…”
“WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!” she bellowed suddenly, her eyes flaring to life and her hands gesturing out and to the side. “You want me to sit here and cry over Martin?! Do you want me to droop my shoulders and admit my defeat? I can’t do that, Commander!” she said, turning her head slightly, her anger increasing once more for several seconds, and then transfering into a face filled with sorrow. As soon as her eyes welled with tears again, she turned on her heel and faced away from him. Within seconds, her face was covered in silent tears. She could be seen shaking but, miraculously, not a sound was made.
She didn’t understand. Is this what he wanted? Why did he want to see her weak and broken? In her weeping, she looked up, feeling fortunate that the door to the room was closed and no one outside could hear the exchange.
Hanson watched the woman without word. He watched as she shook and he felt a lump in his own throat as she did so. “Someone once said that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” he spoke quietly, softly, as his gaze drifted away from her fragile form. “Everyone in this fleet has suffered loss on a scale we thought unimaginable, but no one knows the burden we face as leaders. We are expected to guide the human race to a new home. To show strength. To show commitment to the cause,” he remarked as he remembered a speech once given to him. “Strong leaders… the best military leaders… they show strength, courage. They fight battles against massive odds. But the best leaders of humanity… they show emotion, compassion, weakness. We aren’t simply military leaders anymore, Amaris. We are the leaders of our people. We need to show them that we care. We need to show them they can trust us and that we will get the job done. Emotion is not a weakness. Emotion is a strength that should guide us, help us.”
She didn’t want to be a leader of humanity, she wanted to lead the military. That was why she’d relented and handed over command to him in the first place. Now this man was standing here and asking her to be radically different than who she was. The tears continued, though she’d begun to force them back. She remained silent.
He hated silence and found it awkward. He’d usually ramble to fill any awkward silences, but this time his thoughts and words were coherent. Targeted. “I lost my family fifteen days ago. I lost people that no one left alive even knows existed. But to me, they are real. To me, they are worth remembering. It is their memory that spurs me on, that drives me to make sure that we reach our destination. I stand in that CIC every day, not because it's my job, but honor their memories. To make sure there is a civilization left alive to remember that there was an Anna-Marie Hanson that went to Boarding school on Picon. That there was a Samuel Hanson that played Pyramid in the colony leagues,” he smiled as he recalled his children, his loved ones. Then he let out a smirk and shook his head as his own tears began to roll down his cheeks. “Then there was a Rebecca Hanson, a woman who loved me more than any woman could ever love a man. A woman who put up with my military service and my constant refusal to muster out because I felt like the fleet needed me. I go to work each morning because if I’m not here to remember them, their existence, their lives, who is? Not only would they be forgotten, but their lives would have been worthless. I couldn’t live with myself if I let them fade into nothing…”
He rose from the comfort of the sofa and wiped away his own tears using the sleeve of his jacket. “You will hate me today. You will hate me tomorrow. You will hate me for as long as you choose to, Colonel, and I’m okay with that.But one day, you’ll learn to embrace those emotions you lock away, deep down inside. You’ll become Colonel Amaris Kendall, XO of the Solaria and the best damn leader this fleet could ask for. Until then, until you learn to live with your emotions, to let them help you and guide you, you’ll just be ‘Amaris Kendall, daughter of Atticus Kendall’ and you’ll spend the rest of your life living in his shadow, rather than becoming the leader, the woman, that you are destined to be. Until then, you can be damned if you think I’m going to leave the memories of my loved ones to someone who won't even cherish the memories of her own,” the man spoke, brutally honest in his opinion and for the first time, feeling like he didn’t need to stand on eggshells around her or be thankful that she had turned over command to him.
By now, the tears had stopped flowing and, for the most part, had tried. She turned around to face the older man, her expression one of uncertainty. She looked at him, remembering that they’d only known each other for 15 days. From her point of view, he was wrong about one thing: they were military officers. If they hadn’t been, she would have throttled him for saying what he had. He had been spot on in his assessment of her insecurities about her father and he was about the only person living who could still check her and get away with it. Some might resent that he had, but she didn’t. She didn’t want his job and was relieved to be where she was. If she was, things would be very different. There likely wouldn’t have been a fleet and they’d be taking it to the Cylons with everything in their arsenal; she was good at that last part.
Amaris walked slowly over to his desk and picked up the picture of Martin and herself. She looked down at it, remembering the day it was taken. They were on shoreleave on Tauron and she took him around the neighborhood where she’d grown up. She’d also introduced him to her mother on that trip; the woman wasn’t pleased. She remembered how difficult her father had made things for him socially, completely contradictory with the way that he seemed to throw his weight around to move obstacles out of Martin’s way. Anything his daughter wanted, he would get for her; well, almost anything. Nothing tender or human, but a shiny new Battlestar for her boyfriend? Absolutely. She looked at Martin’s smile and remembered how uncomfortable he’d been when the picture was taken. It almost made her want to smile. Almost.
She looked back up at Hanson, her full lips parting again, her eyebrows angled with concern. “I think I understand what you’re saying.” she said, after quite a long time spent in silence. “I’ll do my best.”
The Commander was about to remark, but stopped himself as he walked over to the box he had been packing when he had stumbled across the journal. “Would you like to help me finish packing his things? I can have them transferred to your quarters if you like?” he offered, a smile, a peace offering, on his face.
She smiled slightly, a very sad one and nodded, not answering verbally at first. “Yes, I..I would like that.”
The Commander smiled and lifted the journal he had been reading, handing it over to the woman as he started to busy himself with packing the last of the belongings. As they were working, the telephone in the Commander’s quarters began to ring. He wandered over to his desk and picked up the phone. “Hanson here… When?... Any casualties?... Set condition one throughput the fleet. I’ll be there shortly, Hanson out.” and with that he slammed the phone down and stared at it for a few seconds.
“What was that?” Amaris asked, rising to her feet. It was very strange to be in the Commander’s Quarters in a sports bra and shorts, but not because she hadn’t worn less in the very same room. She felt slightly uncomfortable, but was more concerned with what was happening on the other side of the telephone.
Hanson looked over at the woman, a concerned frown on his face. “One of the recon Raptor’s has reported back from the next system. They’ve found Colonial debris…”
Around the ship, including in the Quarters they currently shared, Major Kilmartin's unmistakable voice called out over the communications array.
“Action stations, actions stations! Set condition one throughout the fleet. This is not a drill. Repeat, action stations, actions stations!”
As soon as the words had escaped Hanson’s mouth, Amaris seemed ready to go. She turned and walked briskly towards the door, expecting that he would be right behind her.
“Colonel…” Hanson called out.
Pausing, Amaris looked back, a confused expression on her face. “Yes, sir?” she inquired.
Hanson smirked as he waved a hand at her. “I trust you are going to get changed before you show up in the CIC? I’m not sure the gentlemen in there would be able to concentrate with you in such attire…” he laughed a little, feeling somewhat happier than before.
She looked down and saw her smooth caramel-toned legs, her stomach, and the tops of her breasts and immediately understood what he meant. She looked up at him and smiled a beautiful smile, showing perfect white teeth; there was no hesitation in it and, surprisingly, it made her seem quite harmless and innocent. One can understand why her father, who wanted her to seem powerful and merciless, told her never to show it. “We wouldn’t want them knowing I was a woman, would we, sir?”
Hanson laughed as he walked in the womans direction and gestured for her to lead the way out of the quarters. “If you want to rock up to the CIC dressed like that, it’s fine by me,” he smiled as he then moved past her and out in to the corridor. “I’m sure they’ve all seen a woman before.”
“I remember how bold people are in the head, sir.” she said with a nod. “I think I’ll be alright.”
She stepped out into the corridor and immediately started walking in the direction of CIC. Perhaps tonight wasn’t the night for a jog...