* * *
‘The Why of Why'
"The why of why you really joined Starfleet." The question hung in the air, the vacuum of space rather. A heavy pregnant question filled with a minefield of problematic answers. Sebastian did not rush to answer it. McGregor stood placidly awaiting the answer.
Attempting a degree of bravado Sebastian shrugged. "I dunno, the pay, the frequent air miles, the company."
"Hee, hee." McGregor laughed to placate the ensign wagging a finger as he grinned with mirth. "I do like your sense of humour. However, I have asked you a question and I expect a real answer. You hardly think it is the norm for me to conduct personal chats with the newbies now do you? So, why Mr. Templar, did you join Starfleet?"
Sebastian turned away fractionally to look out upon the vista of the ship's lines and the passing torrent of stars. He cleared his throat and sighed heavily. McGregor watched like a hawk reading the young man's body language. His discomfiture clear. McGregor cared not but pressed, "Why did you join Starfleet? Why did you lose your path once part of Starfleet? Why did you throw it all away when you had supposedly realised your dreams and the dreams of your family?"
The ensign turned quickly at the mention of his family looking at McGregor sharply. McGregor knew he was striking home and continued. "Your family, with its long history of service in Starfleet adorned with decorated admirals and captains throughout the generations on your Mother and Father's side. You're the product of two brass lineages and yet you tossed away a promising career. You Mr Templar had the makings of a fine officer. The temptation was there to become a Starfleet brat expecting and currying favour because of your familial links. But no, you were not content to become a mere Starfleet brat but an out and out vagrant and malcontent who killed others in the course of his duty. If you resented it all, why join at all? Why not run away and become a space age hippie like your sister? If you did in fact seek to become yet another stellar officer in your family histories, why squander and throw your career away on drugs and risky behaviour? Why Mr Templar did you join Starfleet?"
* * *
His mother's voice is cool and even. He looks up from his sandpit and toys. He knows wearing his good suit he really ought not to be kneeling on the grass or have the sleeves of his shirt rolled up to his elbows. He sees her holding his jacket, awaiting his approach and taking the jacket to wear. He expects her voice to be a little angry at his despoiling of his suit, at the very least for her to be disappointed. Yet she is not.
Once again, it hits him. The realisation that grassy knees and ruffled shirts are the least of her concerns on this day. Her own Starfleet dress uniform is crisp and faultless. Her back is ramrod straight and she holds his jacket out unflinching and solid as she awaits his arms to slip into the sleeves.
He sets down his bulldozer and standing dusts off the sand and any superficial mud or grass. Looking down at his hands, he checks they are clean enough before touching the white of his sleeves. He started pulling them down as he walked across the back lawn towards the house filled with many visitors. However, for all the visitors the atmosphere is hushed and conversations and body language stilted. An air of awkwardness permeates, as does an expectation of waiting for something.
Silently and diligently, he slips into the jacket. His mother turns him round to face her and she bends to one knee even though he is getting taller now, in fact almost as tall as Tom Gantry. As his mother bends to one knee, she is careful though to avoid touching the ground lest she spoil her uniform. She affixes his black jacket buttons. She buttons all of his collar buttons and pulls up his black tie. Then she pulls on the cuffs of his shirtsleeves and buttons them too. Standing she brushes the shoulders of his jacket. It, the jacket and the fussing, is making him squirm until her forefinger cups his small chin. He knew the sign and stands still. He stands with arms at parade rest, unmoveable at his sides. His mother nods fractionally, approvingly. She reaches down and grasps his hand.
"Come. Katie's been asking for you." Her tone is flat. Almost uninterested. He looks up at her and sees that she is a million miles away. Sebastian finds himself shepherded through the crowded kitchen. He sees Aunt Imelda talking about ‘Frankie' as a boy. Her sleeves are deep in a sink of suds. Cups and plates sit glistening in the drying rack. The kitchen table is laden with goods one normally isn't allowed to eat. Various cakes, buns, biscuits await distribution. Trays of sandwiches lie covered in clear wrap to stop the fresh bread going hard. On a counter a large thermos steams. The old warhorse has poured out hundreds of steaming kettles of tea and coffee. The fridge is opened to reveal it jammed with all sorts of goodies too. Desserts such as trifles, cream cakes and various pre-cooked meals stored in Tupperware ready to he reheated in a stove.
Yes, Granddad and Grandma Templar's kitchen is something of a throw back. They have a small replicator stowed in the back of the kitchen. Grandma insists on doing real cooking and Granddad insists he cannot eat the replicated crap, for which he is then admonished for profaning in front of the children.
Their neighbours and friends are either of their ilk or know of their definite tastes and so have duly arrived with food and words of sympathy. Father's friends and colleagues are somewhat bemused by it all Sebastian senses. Some, like Kenner, have visited the Templar home before and know to expect this and come prepared themselves. The friends and colleagues of his Mother are less prepared but are equally perturbed by how withdrawn she has become over these last few days.
Sebastian imagines it will be better when the people all go away. Then they will have the house to family only. By family, he means Mum, Katie, Granddad, Grandma and maybe even Uncle Gareth. The others he just wishes away. The endless chatter. The endless offers of ‘tea or coffee?', ‘would you like a sandwich?', ‘you'll have biscuit surely'. The endless ‘I'm so sorry' with the sad and awkward handshakes to the adults and a keening look at himself and Katie. The look that says ‘poor sods, so young, whatever must they be thinking? Whatever will they do?' and of course the eyes have to quickly avert lest they upset the child. Sebastian knew the truth though. These visitors were less worried about upsetting the children than they were of upsetting themselves.
His Mother placed a hand on his back to steer him round a cluster of people and propel him onwards. Upon reaching the foot of the stairs, his Mother points upwards. Katie must be hiding in her room with her dolls and with Grandma and Granddad fussing over her. Slumping his shoulders and breathing outwards, petulantly he climbs the wooden stairs.
At the top of the stairs, he sees his own open room. Holo-posters of ships and space scenes adorn the walls. A baseball cap lies beside a glove cupping a ball on his rather bare bookshelf. Unseen is his dirtied baseball bat lying under his bed. His face puckers for a second and tears come to his eyes as he thinks about the last time he played with ... he shakes his head and instead crossly considers that it has been a week since he has been allowed to play with bat and ball outside. There have been too many preparations and too many visitors. It would not be right to pitch a few balls at this time and Granddad is too tired and sad to play at the moment. Once everyone is gone perhaps, he thinks to himself.
Turning the corner, he comes to Katie's room. It is gaudy pink and purple. Dolls litter the shelves and line much of the wall skirting. He pushed the door open wider and enters with his Mother close behind. Sure enough, Katie is atop her bed with Granddad and Grandma at either side, cajoling and vainly trying to comfort her. Granddad looks up and sees Sebastian has entered the room. His face lights up and Sebastian feels cheered in that moment but then he says, "Sebastian! Good boy. Talk to your sister Sebastian. Tell her it's important to go."
Sebastian is crestfallen. Once again, it is all about Katie. Once again, she is the centre of attention. He feels his fists curl up into balls. His shoulders rise and his chin juts out angrily. Mother taps him on the nose like a bold pup. This actually only serves to infuriate him further but he knows he has to control his temper and appear to heed her warning. He releases his hands and drops his shoulders. But his eyes simmer with anger. They burn away the tears that almost came unbidden as he thought of his baseball games and pitches he made with his Dad.
"Why should I?"
Grandma looks up horrified and then quickly angry. "Young man! How dare you speak like that? You know very well why. It is an important day. An important duty. It's ... it's ..." she begins to falter as she pulls a hanky from her black sleeve, "it's your father's funeral. Both of you should be there!"
Sebastian suddenly rages, "Why should we?! Dad's not even there!"
He is grabbed at the shoulders by his Mother. "Sebastian! That's not nice to say."
Grandma declares loudly over his Mother, "How dare you Sebastian? Whatever would your father think?"
"He would think it is ridiculous to stuff the house with people we don't even know and to travel across town for a funeral when there's not even a body!"
Katie begins to wail and crumples into a ball with Granddad removing himself from the argument by concentrating on hushing Katie and rubbing her back. "Look at what you've done now."
"I've done nothing. It's you who wanted this wake! These people here in the house and a funeral that doesn't even have a body because Dad was burned alive by those bastarding Cardassians." Sebastian turns and races out of the room as his Mother tires to refrain him. He runs into his bedroom grabs ball and glove and thunders down the stairs and out the front door.
* * *
Sebastian flexed his heavily padded gloves and tensed at the question and the memories unbidden. He looked up to catch McGregor's appraising eye through the visors of their helmets. McGregor was no fool. He knew Sebastian's record inside and out. He knew the truth of why he had joined up. Why bother then hiding the ugly truth. "You ask me why I ended up joining Starfleet. When I was a boy I would dream of flying among the stars, escaping the dreariness of home and Earth. I dreamt of captaining vessels and become famed and decorated like the heroes of the Federation and like the portraits of family ancestors on my grandparents' walls. I loved to make model starships. I devoured all the technical details and stats. I played soldiers as if I were an Admiral waging a war to defend the Federation."
McGregor added knowingly, "But all that changed one day. That wasn't why you joined Starfleet."
"Alright then, the truth." McGregor shifted to stand the golf club on the hull and lean on it like a crutch as he leaned forwards to hear Sebastian's answer. The answer would determine what he would make of the ensign. Gritting his teeth, Sebastian darkly informed his captain, "I joined up in order that I could some day kill me some Cardassians. Make them pay! Make them die a horrible fiery death like my father."
McGregor nodded sagely. "And when you joined you discovered Starfleet was going to avoid a war with the Cardassians like a plague and deny you the chance to kill any spoonheads."
"That's about the making of it."
"And denied your thirst for revenge you sought other avenues of satisfaction."
Sebastian snarked. "You a psychologist now?" McGregor's assessment was too close to the mark.
"Hardly. I have a habit of getting rid of the loony doctors." He smiled at his own humour. He placed a hand on Templar's shoulder. "However, I hope you understand there's no room on this ship for a vendetta. I've our quota booked up. But if you want to punish bad guys in the stead of Cardassians. Then you're made for the job."
Emplar shifted releasing himself from McGregor's hold on his shoulder."Just like that. You accept my desire to kill Cardassians and tell me I'm cut out for a career in the Border Service."
"You have a sense of justice. Rough justice. It'll stand you in good stead for what I require. We'll leave the judgement calls on whom we dispense the justice to, up to me." He shrugged as Templar gave an unconfident response to that decision making process. "Or Molls. Whichever? So long as we get to make things go boom from time to time."
Sebastian shook his head at the assessment. McGregor looked over his shoulder though and waved his club in the air as if in greeting. Templar went to look at who it was coming their way but McGregor caught a grip of him and asked, "So, are you going to channel that anger in the direction I ask of you?"
Half-hearted Sebastian responded."Of course." McGregor did not let up his grip. So Templar answered more genuinely this time. "I will."
"Good, good." McGregor patted him on the arm as he released him. "Ah Stanley, I wondered when you'd come and join us."
Templar turned to look for the mysterious alien that was Stanley. He wondered as he did, whether he too like ‘Fang' had required a specialised suit to fit his lanky frame, long ovoid head and webbed feet and hands. But as he turned, Stanley's bare blue webbed knuckles rapped on his helmet visor. Alarmed by what he saw caused Sebastian to exclaim, "What the ..?" As Sebastian exclaimed he backpedalled in shock. Unaware he caught his foot and tripped over the bag of clubs. He landed softly on the hull, legs and arms sticking up in the air.
Stanley approached in his normal uniform. No EV suit in sight. He bent over the fallen form of Sebastian Templar as McGregor creased himself up laughing. Stanley rapped on the visor of Templar's with his blue bare webbed hand. Stanley's combadge transmitted through the void reading the vibrations from Stanley's vocal processors. "Are you quite alright Mr Templar?"
Sebastian scuffled backwards along the hull retreating from the incongruous sight. "B ... b ... but you ... you've no ..."
Stanley quirked his head sideways at the odd angle he was inclined to do and studied the ensign curiously as if there was something odd about his behaviour and presence rather than his own miraculous space walk.
"Now, now, ensign. Stanley's not the most handsome creature in the world but that's a tad bit of an overreaction. Give him a hand up Stanley. We'd be best getting to the mess in a bit. It is Bountiful Bounty Day after all. Things to do and drink to be had. Not necessarily in that order, might I add. However, I think a little wager on a game of pitch and putt. What say you Mr Templar? A keg on hitting the window again."
"Harassing Eddie again Captain?"
"Golf might be a good walk ruined but wrecking Gardner's head that's a sport!" He smiled broadly wiggling his eyebrows as he set up another tee shot. He took aim and shouted, "FOUR!"
* * *