Posted By: Vickt<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 12 August 2009, 9:59 pm
summary: A young Miranda Keyes struggles with accusations of nepotism and climbing out of her father's shadow.
You have a message waiting.
The greenish notification light blips on the screen at me; I'm to lazy to open the message from the computer. No incentive. I have to stare at viewscreens every damn day on the bridge of the Liberty and Justice. Besides, the silver double-bar Lieutenant's pin I'm twirling in my hand holds my attention longer than the blip does. I remove the old horizontal Junior Grade pin on my uniform, and it's replaced with a full Lieutenant's insignia.
You have a message waiting.
The computer nags for my attention again, like a mother nagging her daughter to clean her room. The analogy is hollow for me, as there was no maternal influence in my life. Likewise, being the daughter of an OCS Academy Instructer meant that my room had to be clean before I was told, as it is now. Out of habit, I keep my quarters clean, and there aren't other officers I have to share it with. That's the good part about being a bridge officer: you get your own quarters.
I lug my drained body off the bed to the computer. "Open message," I tell it.
Normal words greet my eyes, not decimals and vectors like the bridge moniters.
[ >>Shore Leave
Join us on the surface for some moons and drinks. Pelican leaves in 20.
I glance at the time-stamp. Ryan sent the message ten minutes ago.
Damn. If I run, I get can down to the hanger in five. I hastily change, donning my Helljumpers track jacket (courtesy of Dad and his obsession with soccer), and I double-time it down to the hanger bay, ignoring the surprised looks of crewmen wondering why an off-duty bridge officer is sprinting through the ship.
Ryan's baritone bellows throughout the hanger and he waves at me.
I make my way to him and he gives me a pat on the back; a heartfelt, brotherly swat that knocks the wind out of me.
"I was beginning to wonder if you'd show," he rumbled.
"Yeah, just in time," I breathe with the last of my air.
"It'd be a shame if you didn't 'cuz we're buying your drinks."
"Really?" It strikes me that he's not my superior anymore.
"Yup," he tells me through a grin, his pearly whites contrasting with his chocolate skin, and gives me another knee-buckling swat. "You earned it."
"Alright, but just one."
"Just one, huh?" I think I feel his low chuckle more than I hear it. "We'll see if you hold to that when we're down there," he said as we both entered the pelican.
"Where the hell did you learn how to play moons so well, Keyes?"
Raydee shakes his head in amazement as I shoot a five and eight ball into a side-corner pocket to win the game.
I grinned at my peer coyly, but I attribute my sudden adeptness at this variation of pool to the slight buzz that mingles in my head. Because only through inebriation would I understand how to properly play this game; repulser bars on the table make light hits move balls fast and strong hits move balls slower.
The Liberty and Justice's communications officer knows I'm horrible at Moons. He knows this because we're the two amigos; Lt. Junior Grade Quijano's mother also taught at Luna OCS, and he's like my little brother more than anything (something I would never tell him without fear of a punch to the arm).
And so, the Two Amigos play moons in a bar on Reach after graduating from OSC together, earning top honors that got us handpicked by LJ's Commander Morgan to serve on his ship.
"Raydee, I've always been good at moons," I crack at him, which, coincidentally earns me a playful punch on the arm.
"You wish, Rand. I've beat your ass everytime we play," Raydee corrects me, which earns him a punch from Sinjin.
"And that's the last time you'll be punching Keyes, Quijano," she jokes, and Raydee massages his sore arm. For good reason, too; more than anything, at six feet and built like a tank, Sinjin looks like she should be in a HEV plummeting to a planet's surface and ripping methane tanks off grunts than sitting at the LJ's Operations station.
I always thought the Australian blonde was better suited for the battlefield, but we all fight the Covies in our own way, I suppose, whether it's with a gun in our hands or ship controls at our fingertips. With Sinjin though, I can hear the console keys screaming as she punches in commands; literally.
I took another swig from my glass, and Ryan comes up behind me, surprising me with yet another swat to my back (and causing me to dribble some alcohol down my chin). I swear, there's going to be a bruise tomorrow, and the LJ's standard-issue seating doesn't provide the best lumbar support to its bridge officers.
"Keyes, we're not buying your drinks anymore," he points to my half filled mug, "if you drink a measely half of a pint. I don't care if you get promoted to Captain of the LJ next time."
"Alright, alright," I held my hands up in defeat and gulped the rest of my drink, ignoring the burn in the back of my throat, and slammed the empty glass down. "Second promotion, second pint," I concede.
"Only two?" Sinjin asks. "Hell, order a round of shots."
Another glass filled to the brim finds its way to me and I shake my head. "You guys will have me drunk as hell by the time we leave."
"Good thing we're not doing first shift tomorrow, huh?"
Yeah, good thing, I think, because the entire first-shift bridge crew was here (minus Chief Engineer Lt. Delaney currently over-seeing the LJ's repairs) to celebrate my promotion. Ryan was weapons, Sinjin tackled Operations, Raydee on Communications, and me on navigation (no surprise there).
It wasn't quantum physics that I would excel in navigation. Even that civilian Doctor, Halsey, that Dad speaks so highly of could calculate it in her sleep: Father taught navigation, Daughter would know navigation.
It seems like I can never get out of his shadow. To prove my point, someone at the bar changes the channel on the vid-moniter to a soccer match; HellJumpers vs. the Galaxies, and by the look of the score, 2-0, it looks like Dad's team will win.
Ryan follows my eyes to the vid-monitor. "What's with you and this team, Keyes?" he asks, tugging on my crimson jacket.
I grinned sheepishly and shrugged. "Family tradition, I guess."
"Rand's dad saved a whole platoon of ODSTs back when he was a Lieutenant. Admiral Cole promoted him to Commander for it," Raydee cuts in. "He's even got a HellJumper tatt on his arm...oh..." he trails off after catching my glare that would have him in ribbons if my eyes could actually pierce through human flesh.
"Forgive Quijano's history lesson, which he got wrong. He idolizes my dad."
That's an understatement as Raydee has worshipped my dad since we were kids, something I hate because my father is the last thing I want to be reminded of in regards to my career in the UNSC. When the War's over, my dad's gonna have a biography written about him and Raydee will be the author. That's how bad his obssession is.
"But anyway," I continued, "the Helljumper soccer team got wind of what he did, and they send him tickets to all their matches."
My back takes another beating from Ryan's palm. "Alright, I believe ya.'" He stood up from the table. "I'll be right back. Gonna grab us some more drinks."
We all hand him our empty glasses, except me because I haven't finished mine yet. I'm hoping it will escape his notice.
"That better be finished when I get back, Keyes," the six-foot, five-inch bridge navy officer tosses over his broad shoulder at me.
"That's a pretty sweet deal."
The three of us turn around at the voice that joined our conversation, to the blond-haired second-shift bridge officer playing moons next to our table.
He landed a ball into a corner-pocket, then leaned on his moons cue. "Getting free tickets to games and all that jazz."
The smile that graces his boyish features is a mocking smirk to me. Lieutenant Joseph Lucas has had it out for me since the day he found out he was transferred to second-shift and being replaced by a female junior officer. Which is understandable; I would be pissed too if it happened to me, but it soon became personal when he brought "Daddy" into the picture, whispering nepotismic accusations in my ear.
So when I hear his even voice tell me, "Congratulations on your promotion," I know he's lying through his teeth. Him being a superior officer has always meant that I had to endure his bullshit quietly, but I decide to hold my tongue tonight now that we're equal in rank.
I sucked in a breath and held it. "Thanks," I exhale after three seconds.
"But it's like what Quijano was saying earlier about your Dad. If you save a whole company of ODSTs, maybe Hood'll promote you straight to captain," he "jokes."
I gave a humorless snort. Lucas was taking advantage of Ryan not being here, and pushing his luck too, as I see he brought two of his buddies (whose names I forget, but I know them by face because both are built like Sinjin and taller than her). They're definately for show, but even still, we'd lose a fight if punches got thrown, no matter how good Sinjin could throw some.
Raydee joins in the tense conversation to correct his earlier mistake. "It was a million civilans he saved, not a 'toon of Helljumpers that got him promoted."
I inwardly cringed. We need to stop talking about my dad right now. Raydee's only giving Lucas more fuel to burn me with.
Lucas shrugged. "Either way, you don't have to do much, I'm sure," he says almost casually, as he shoots another ball.
I glance back at Ryan at the bar, trying to telepathically tell him to get his ass back now because my patience is wearing thin, so thin my hand is numb (not because of the chilled glass, but because I'm gripping the cup so hard my knuckles are white).
"I do the same damn thing everybody else does, Lucas."
"Oh yeah, I forgot," he dismisses. "It just garners more attention because of your dad."
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Sinjin clenching her fist around her cup and I shook my head at her, trying to tell her it's useless to do anything.
Another glance back at- Ah hell, he's chatting with someone, unaware of the escalating situation here at our table and it really makes me hate his personable loquaciousness right now.
Lucas is right behind me and I'm pretty sure he's positioned himself that way at the moons table just to pester me.
I was right.
His elbow "accidentally" nudges my back.
"Whoops. Do you mind scooting a bit? I gotta tricky shot here."
I sighed, but moved anyway. I'm so sick of his bullshit, but I'm tired too; the slight buzz from earlier is turning into a throbbing headache. Ryan just needs to get his ass here so I can drown in another beer.
The one in my hand is suddenly very empty, I notice, and because I want more booze, I reflexively bring the dry glass to my mouth to lap at the trickle of dregs.
Lucas's foul words creep into my ears as the foamy residue in my glass reaches my tongue.
"How do you do it? Are you sleeping with Admirals?"
Hunched over in "concentration," his voice is low as he tries to calculate his shot.
"Or is daddy doing it so his princess won't have to?"
The three-ball sinks into the pocket the same time his words sink into my brain, but he's only watching the ball; he doesn't see the empty glass in my hand coming down hard on his face.
Lucas cursed up at me from the ground, his eyes bulging at the streams of crimson flowing down the left side of his face, but for a brief moment I'm amused that he's so dramatic, because he doesn't know most of the blood on him is mine.
My sadistic amusement is short-lived as my face explodes in pain when my cheek collides with the metallic corner of the moons table; one of that bastard's "bodyguards" slammed me into it. As I crumpled to the floor, I tensed up for the kick that was surely to come next, but I was showered in glass and beer instead. My vision is blurred, but I think Raydee just smashed his glass into my attacker's head.
My head is killing me, but I know there is no turning back now. This will end one way or another, but frankly, for the three of us, it looks bleak. Whatever upperhand Raydee may have gained with his attack is soon to be lost when Lucas's friend starts throwing punches, and I'm already dazed on the ground. That sadistic humor from a few seconds ago is back when I see Sinjin punching the other guy into submisson. Apparently she decided to strike first while his attention was on me and Lucas. I'm just glad I'm not him: on the recieving end of her fists.
The blue eyed, blond bastard grabs my hair and hooks me square in the jaw. I'm not gonna lie. It fucking hurts like hell, but I'm not a defenseless jodie and so I jab him in the mouth.
Fire lances up my arm as glass embeds deeper in my hand. Immobilized by pain, I braced for another hit, but he flies back. Dark fists pummel his face and I exhale my relief as Ryan finishes what I couldn't. There's four of us now, and three of them; an even fight. Perhaps we could win this, but really, all we'd win would be four shiny court-martials.
Speak of the devil, four blue-uniformed Shore Patrol officers scramble to us, peeling Sinjin and Ryan off of their punching bags. This time, I laugh out loud as I see that most of the blood now on Lucas's face (and Ryan's fists) is his.
Semi-conscious on the ground underneath the moons table, my head is swimming, like all the faces that have gathered around us, and my eyes lock onto the ignored vidmoniter, displaying the last plays of the HellJumper/Galaxies game. No one but me notices that Dad's team wins 4-0.
I laugh to myself, letting my body relax on the glass covered floor.
The traditional message he sends me about their seasonal progress would not come once he gets wind of this. No, something much worse.
Bright lights. Everywhere.
Who the hell decided Medbays should be painted blindingly white? I feel like I'm in Gandalf the White's house. How's that for an ancient literature reference?
I massaged my temple.
How did that even pop into my mind when I have the worst migraine? I want to shoot myself through the eyes. My head is throbbing from pain, alcohol, god-- and those fucking lights. Even the butcher paper I'm sitting on sounds like Niagra Falls.
Everything was a blur since the bar. I'm not fully sure how I got here, (The only thing I'm sure of is how bright those lights are), but someone dragged me here. I must have looked worse than I thought. I think I'm alright, save for my hand and my headache, which has been steadily getting worse as I'm sitting here waiting for a nurse to see me.
Why is it taking ten years for a person in the medical profession to see me? Perhaps there's a cryo bay in the waiting room I must have missed? This is Reach's most advanced medical center, surely everyone is not busy.
Finally, someone walks over, an older ginger-haired nurse with a dour pout that thins when she smells the alcohol on me. Her eyes go over my clipboard, stopping at my name (undoubtly making the connection), then at me.
"Keyes, Miranda Catherine?"
"Miranda," I correct, cringing at my full name, and her scrutinizing glare.
"Well then, Miss Keyes, let's get started on you."
"I'm fine, ma'am." Though I gestured to my head and added, "Just a migraine and my hand."
She glanced at my hand. "You'll need the Doctor for that," she reported pitilessly as she opened a drawer and put on gloves. "But right now he's busy."
For some reason her lack of sympathy angers me. I get the feeling that she wants to make me suffer for my actions.
"Can I get some asprin at least for my headache?" I asked, spying a pile of single-dose asprin when she opened the drawer.
The drawer slammed shut. "No. Since you've been drinking," (when she said this her eyes roamed over me again in scrutiny and her nose flared), "I cannot give you anything."
I was right. She doesn't bother to tell me that whatever antiseptic she doused the cotton ball in will sting when it makes contact with my open wounds. I force myself not to wince as she dabs at my cheek and eyebrow. After she slaps on (literally) a few butterly bandages, she leaves to fetch the doctor, and that's when I make my move.
As soon as she passes the white curtain barrier, I lean over to the drawer and snatch a handful of asprin. There's not enough time for me to down any, as I hear footsteps approaching, and I shove the five single-dosage packs into my jeans.
"Good afternoon, Lieutenant, I'm Dr. Franco," a middle-aged doctor greets, a genuine smile on his face, "Let's take a look at that hand."
Despite my horrific headache, I muster the best smile I can, because I feel he deserves it.
"How are you feeling?," he asks, doing the routine check-up on me; the light in the eyes, the pulse-checking.
"I've got a terrible headache," I confess, as my eyes flutter shut (his penlight is like a lighthouse to me).
He shrugged and rolled his eyes. "Well of course you do, with that hand, and the bruises on your face. The adrenaline you've been running on is wearing off. Here," he rolls back in his chair, grabbing a cup of water from the sink and asprin from the drawer.
I looked at it like it was an alien artifact. "But I have been drinking."
"Oh, well then you're fine," he shrugs again. "If you can express concern over how much you've been drinking, then you can take asprin for your headache."
I knew I was right to like him.
"Alright, now let's take a look at your hand."
A painstaking forty-five minues later, Dr. Franco is closing up the gash. It was a bit tedious, but during that time, I learned that he is a HellJumper fan as well (although his wife's brother plays for the Galaxies), and I relayed to him how I grew up going to 'Jumper games.
"Well, Miranda," he sighs, and beings to wrap up my hand in gauze, "There are now five sutures holding your palm shut, one for each shard of glass I've removed."
"Thank-you," I say, but really he was just doing his job.
"You're welcome." Franco flashes another grin, but his face turns serious. "Just try to avoid slamming glasses into faces. You were extremely lucky you didn't completely sever tendons."
I looked down at my bandaged hand, the pain now blissfully dulled by medication, but also making me unaware of the damage I had done.
His smile returned again. "But you're gonna love me," he says cheekily, waving a signed prescription in the air. "You get a lovely prescription of painkillers."
The silence is deafening. Commander Morgan paces in his quarters, but my eyes dare not follow him; they're locked onto his empty glass of whisky that sits on his desk. It's been refilled twice.
When he finally speaks, his voice is strained.
"I've listened to six stories, Lieutenant," with this he begins to pour himself another glass (half-way only), "and now I want to hear yours, because three have said one thing, and three have said the other."
He downs a quarter of his drink in one gulp. I know it's not my turn to speak yet.
"Tell me," he continued, "why five of my bridge-officers were involved in a fight, started by an officer I just promoted." The Commander crosses his arms and bores his green eyes into my skull, which I take as my cue to begin my futile attempt to explain what happened.
"I let myself listen to Lieutenant Lucas's drunken rants, Sir," I state, because the Commander hates bumbling apologies.
"One comment is enough to get you riled up and smash a glass into another bridge-officer's face?"
My CO slams his drink down hard on the mahogony table, his own glass threatening to shatter itself.
He pinches the bridge of his nose and leans on his desk. "Tell me the truth, Miranda, because I know there is more to this story. What did Lucas do?"
I shift uneasily.
"Miranda," he barks, and it involuntarily makes me jump. I hate it; how he is the only other person to make me feel like I'm six years old again.
"Lieutenant Lucas was...," I gritted my teeth, "suggesting that my promotion stems from inappropriate relations with my superiors, Sir."
The Commander blinks at my explanation. "Miranda, I'm out of whiskey, and my patience is wearing thin. I know that is not enough to make you snap. I asked for the truth, now give it to me so I don't have to give you a damn court-martial!"
"He was making the same suggestions of...my father," I mumble.
"And is this on-going? Sure as hell, one drunken comment like that is still not enough to jostle you."
"Yes, Sir," I crisply reply to make up for that wimpy sputter.
He ran his fingers through his graying hair. "Well that changes everything," he sighs and finishes his whiskey. "Six of you have your father to thank for getting them out of a court-martial."
"With all due respect to you, Sir, and my father, I'd appreciate it if we left him out of the conversation." I've had enough of my dad for one day. That's how all this started.
The Liberty and Justice's CO stands up. "Too late, Lieutenant. You'll have to tell him yourself."
He walks to the door and that's when I notice there are two empty glasses of whisky on his desk, the other belonging to Commander Jacob Keyes.
"You look like hell," comes the voice of the other man who makes me feel like a child. His eyes take in the awful sight of me, roaming over my swollen face and blood-stained clothes; the smell of alcohol emanating off me reaches him and it sets him off.
"I don't even know what to say to you," he spits at me.
"Nice to see you too, Dad," I respond, a bit timidly.
"Stow it, Miranda," he chides, but his look alone is enough to silence me.
He starts to pace, rolling grandad's pipe around in his hands, and says nothing for seven seconds.
"I came here to congratulate you," he begins slowly; controlled. I can see his temple throbbing as he clenches his jaw. "But instead I'm cleaning up your mess."
My voice is back now, along with my anger. "I didn't ask you to clean it up." I don't need his damn help.
His voice is low and dangerous. "When I hear that seven officers were involved in a bar fight on Reach, I don't want to wonder if my daughter is the one who started it!"
Beneath my anger, I'm scared; I've never seen him this mad.
"And what?" my father continues, "Because he said something to hurt your feelings?"
The scorn and mocking that lace my father's words make me feel as pathetic and worthless as any drill sargent or Admiral ever could.
He scratched at the greying stubble on his head. "Damn it, Miranda, you need to stop doing this!" he yelled. "It's never going to stop the whispers."
His blue eyes go over my wounds again, from the gash on my eyebrow to the seven-shaped cut on my cheek.
"At least I don't have to slap some sense into you," he says, but the derisive tone of his voice is enough to have the same effect and I dropped my eyes to the floor.
"What the hell were you thinking? This nearly got you demoted. You're extremely lucky you know that? That you have loyal men who stick up for you, a good CO who-"
"Who probably picked me to be on this ship because of you!"
"Me?" Only he could state a question instead of ask it, and everything finally catches up to me. The months spent alone in the school dormitories when he was deployed, the lack of a mother's love, the lack of my father's love, the whispers of nepotism at every corner. Everything.
"Yes!," I finally admit, and everything floods outs; my words, my anger, my tears. "You. It's always been about you. I can't earn a pat on the back without a comment that it's given to me because of you. I deal with it, like a good soldier, a good daughter. But I'm sick of it," I spit, pausing to catch my breath.
In the silence, my father says nothing.
"Why did you come here?" The question is choked out amidst my sobs.
He blinked at me, the only sign of movement on his chiseled features. "You know the reason, Miranda."
"To lecture me about my actions?"
Commander Jacob Keyes, CO of the Lafayette, inclined his head to deem my answer.
"No," I correct him, angrily, for the audacity of his hollow and detached response,"To lecture me about my actions because it makes you look bad!"
I can't stand to look at his hardened face, which remains unfaltered to my emotional rant.
No more tears, just a weary sigh.
"I'm tired of drowing in your shadow, Dad, especially when you hold my head down."
"So why did you join the Navy then?"
His apathetic words sting more than the antiseptic in my wounds, cut deeper than shatttered glass, and pulse harder than Lucas's punches.
I'm not even going to say anything, because I can't. The shock that I was right in believing my father to be the cold-hearted bastard I once though him to be is too overwhelming.
My body moves closer to the door one step at a time, and also farther away from him as well. It can't come fast enough. I've had years of his emotionless bullshit hastening my retreat, but in turn, years of silent pining, childish dreams of garnering his attention and love, hold me back.
Suddenly it's not my dreams holding me back, it's his hand, about-facing my retreat straight into into his arms.
I want to push him away, my mind screaming at myself to stay detached from this statue of discipline and protocol, but, Little Rand wants to stay in Daddy's arms, to be pressed closer to his heart than the medals on his chest.
"Miranda," he croaks into my hair, his deadpan tenor breaking, "'I never told you it would be this hard."
Little Rand says, "It's okay Daddy, you don't have to cry," but I know that half the blame is mine. Can you blame a daughter for wanting to follow in the footsteps of a father she admires? Really, the only person she ever has or had to admire.
And that's why my cheeks aren't dry anymore, they're covered again by tears; tears as foreign to me as my father's embrace.
I finally pry myself away from him, to show him I'm still the strong Lieutenant he raised, but I can't stare up at his eyes for approval, only drop them to the new medals he's gained on his uniform.
Tears to match the stripes on his shoulder, and a bloodied seven to accent the Purple Heart.
We stand awkwardly in Commander Morgan's quarters now, embarressed by our display of emotions; his apology, my tears.
We have a lifetime of things to say and yet nothing to say. Our eyes dart back and forth the room to obscure things that catch our attention so that they don't have to meet.
"So, the Jumpers won."
Finally, I force my eyes to lock on his, just in time to see a chunk break off the Statue and reveal a stony smile.
"The Galaxies never stood a chance."