317: The Art of Caring

by TC Blane
Following Gains and Losses

-=Bridge and Afterthought Cafe, USS Serendipity=-

"Very well. Thomas, you have the bridge," Zanh announced. "I'll be in Sickbay, looking in on our Counselor."

"Aye Sir." TC nodded as he returned to the center seat that he had promptly vacated once the captain had stepped onto the bridge from her ready room, as was proper protocol.

It was not all that long ago that he would not even sit in the big chair, even when it was proper for him to do so. Now however he felt it would have been an insult to the officer who continually showed unquestioning confidence in him not to take the chair when he was needed to.

He smiled, a formerly rare occasion, but one that had started to become commonplace for the man with the stone face. He thought about how far Zanh and he had come over the short time they had served together, how far all of the crew had come. Many events had happened to the crew over the short lifespan of the Sera, as well as the Alchemy, both joyous and sad. However he could not help but to think that they had gained so much more then they had lost.

He knew without a doubt that he had gained more to his life serving under this captain and with this crew then he ever had in all of his previous years in Starfleet. During his time here he had become a big brother, a commander, and a trusted compatriot. Most of all his faith in what Starfleet could be had been restored.

He glanced around the bridge at those gathered at their stations. This was his family for lack of any other appropriate term, and he was happy about it.

"Excuse me Commander Blane." A young ensign broke TC from his thoughts. "Can I ask you a question?"

TC frowned at the young woman. She was new to the crew or at least to the bridge staff and he did not know he name.

"Certainly Ensign…" His voice tailed off indicating that he was clueless of how to fill in the blank.

"Dell sir, Missy Dell."

TC nodded. "What can I do for you ensign?"

"Well sir, I was just wondering if it was true. If we have a sentient robot on board." She asked timidly.

TC though about how to respond. As far as he knew that fact the Mim was onboard was no secret although no formal announcement had been made. The robots status also had not been decided by the captain yet.

"That is what I've been told ensign." He shifted his position in the chair and gaze calmly on the ensign. He took notice of her yellow collar.

The young ensign shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. She looked as if she suddenly was regretting asking the question. "Well, I only ask because I studied advanced robotics specifically artificial intelligence at the academy and I was wondering if I could be considered to be assigned to any team that might be put in place to examine it." She stammered off.

TC smiled slightly to help ease the ensign's nervousness. "Well Ensign Dell. I don’t think the captain has had any time to really think about it as of yet. But if this robot is indeed sentient, don't you think we should ask him for his permission before we go poking around inside of his brain?"

The ensign cheeks flushed red in embarrassment. "Oh, OH jeeze. Of course, I can't believe I did not think of it. I am so sorry."

TC held up a hand to silence the woman. "No harm done. It is a hard thing to wrap your mind around. This is not a humanoid android like commander Data was. From what I understand it looks like a small box with pinchers. It can be hard to put an air of emotion to it."

TC relaxed back into the chair. "But we always have to remember, seek out new life. It is part of our job description." He raised his eyebrows. "Then again sometimes it seeks us out."

The ensign nodded. "Aye sir"

"I am sure that if the Captain puts together any sort of welcome team your qualifications will land you on it." He offered.

Ensign Dell's eyes lit up. "Thank you sir." She spun on her heel and headed back to her station.

TC returned his attention to the forward screen and shook his head.

* They seem to get younger every year. *

=^= Later in the Afterthought =^=

TC sat in his favorite chair sipping his coffee and staring out at the retreating stars. His feet we propped up comfortably on the other chair that was at the table. He had just finished his duty shift and had turned the bridge over to Commander Salvek.

This was his favorite part of his daily routine. Like clockwork he would show up here in the Afterthought coffee lounge to get his typical cup of extra dark Andorian bean with two sugars and one cream. Fleur always had the cup waiting for TC even before he arrived, handing him the hot cup in stride to his table. He was continually impressed by the woman's efficiency, no matter what shift he was on, she had the coffee ready.

As he took another sip he heard quiet foot steps approaching the table from behind him. He glanced up at the stars again the smiled. He kicked the chair that his feet were resting on out from under the table.

"Have a seat Captain." He offered.

Zanh smiled as she took the offered chair. "How do you do that? Some kind of secret advances Spec Ops training? You know like, memorizing what everyone's footsteps sound like on carpet."

"I'm psychic." TC replied. "Plus I can see your reflection in the window." He nodded to the large observation window in front of the table.

Fleur showed up at the table and place a hot cup of coffee in front of the captain and then promptly departed with out saying a word.

"Thanks." Zanh called after her.

"How our new counselor?" TC asked. He had planned on stopping by sickbay to see for him self but the captain's presence here was a good indication that the prognosis was not good. She normally did not bother TC on his downtime unless it was to vent. She knew he always offered an attentive ear.

Zanh had just taken a sip from her cup. "Am I that obvious?"

TC simply smiled and waited for her to continue.

"He will be fine physically but emotionally," she shrugged. "who knows. I've asked Jariel to look in on him."

"Good idea." TC offered.

Zanh sighed. "It seems that I just can't keep my crew safe Thomas." She took another sip from the cup and stared into the dark coffee.

TC watched his captain for a moment to see if she was going to continue.
"It is the nature of the beast." He replied. "I could tell you that we all knew the risks, that we all understand the dangers of a Starfleet career." He took a sip from his cup. "But you already know that."

Zanh nodded. "Yes I do. Still does not make knowing people under my command are getting hurt any easier."

TC smiled. "The fact that it is not getting easier for you is what you need to hold onto. When you reach a point where you can rationalize the injuries and loss of life to yourself is when you stop caring. When you stop caring for those under your command is when you truly fail them," He took another sip. "and yourself."

"The crew knows you care and that is why they go into harm's way without hesitation. Because they know you would do it for them and that it kills you every time one of them gets hurt doing what you tell them to do. That is why you need to never to allow it to get easy for you." TC added.

Zanh nodded her understanding but continued to stare into her cup. "What if it does ever become easy for me?" she asked quietly.

TC turned his attention back to the window and the stars beyond. "That’s when I show up and kick your ass until you do care once again." He took a sip from his cup and offered a thin smile.

Zanh smiled and turned to stare out at the passing stars in silence with her second officer.

Commander TC Blane
Second Officer
USS Serendipity NCC-2012