Charon's Opus ::
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Entering orbit

Posted on Fri Jan 29th, 2021 @ 10:42pm by Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue

Mission: Stories From The Expanse

It had felt like forever since they came into port again. This trip was especially harsh. Between finding that they weren't smuggling weapons but people, accidentally shooting at a VRM ship, nearly getting destroyed by a ConFed cruiser, and being saved by a UNN spook ship, Ken was tired. He was rung out. Exhausted, drained, done. He was very much over it, at least for the moment. He'd never admit it. This was something he couldn't talk about with Mickey, or Wulf, or Allegra. Mickey would shrug, tell him that he'd relate and that would be the end of it. Wulf, well Wulf was Wulf and he'd try to cheer Ken up, but Wulf couldn't really understand. Allegra would understand, but tough love was not what he needed.

What Ken needed was time to himself, and a little peace in his life. Just some time in a small hotel, away from his surrogate family, time to grieve for the man that gave a washed up marine a second chance. Time to process what had happened. In the past Ken had gone high speed before, sometimes for weeks on end. But this was going high speed for months now, ever since that Eros freakshow. The old man... Wait, did Ken really think of himself as an old man now? When did that happen? But the old man needed a little time for himself.

He was grateful for the few hours of peace he had enjoyed in his bunk. Just before he swung his feet off his couch and into his boots his terminal beeped. They were in range of the Rhea comms system, which meant his hand terminal could now query the local comm traffic. It did, as it had done a thousand portcalls before. Except this time there was a personal message. Those were rare, his parents sent him the occasional letter, and he answered those. Once in a blue moon he'd get a UNMC newsletter that managed to track his hand terminal down.

Ken opened the message. His hand terminal fell to the ground. 22 years in the Corps, years as a civilian on the Tross. He always had steady hands. Now his hand was shaking. His breathing came faster. His heart rate sped up. Ken's mind was reeling from what he had just read.

Dearest Ken,

It is with the heaviest of heavy hearts that I am forced to write you. I know we haven't spoken for a long time, and it pains me that our first communication in decades has to be me bearing bad news to you. Your parents have both fallen ill two months ago, a form of the Dune virus. The doctors caught it early, but your parents were getting up there in age and their immune system wasn't what it once was. We both know how stubborn the McTigue clan can be, they held on for a good seven weeks, when the doctor gave them less than seven days. They didn't make it, Ken. I'm so very sorry. If it's any comfort to you, they went in their sleep. I think your mother knew when your father went, because she died within the hour of his passing. They're in Heaven now, of that I am most sure.

By the time you'll read this the funerals have been taken care of, and their affairs are in order. In their will they asked that we liquidate whatever assets they had and make sure you got all the money. So this message contains a money order that you can complete whenever you're ready.

Know that they always thought of you, Ken. Your mother, especially, spoke about her little Kenneth at the slightest excuse. Your father always made sure that the pictures they had of you were always dusted and hung straight.

With love and sympathy,
Aunt Ciara.


Wet droplets slowly ran down Ken's face. Silent sobs raked his form as the feeling of being alone now truly set in. Ken swung his legs back onto his couch and curled up. He cried. He had not cried after Anderson Station, he had not cried after losing a dozen marines in the failed boarding of the Callisto's Dance. He had not cried after Soto died. Now his tears were for all of them. He had tears for the poor fools on Eros, the poor fools on Deimos. For a very long fifteen minutes Ken sank deep into that pit of sadness, of loss, of pain. He embraced it, was swallowed up by it.

Slowly Ken's control asserted itself over his emotions once more. His tears stopped flowing, the pain was beaten back into that little corner. He would embrace the pain again soon enough, but for now it was enough. The marine... no, the XO swung his legs onto the deck again, wiped his eyes and settled himself with five deep breaths.

 

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