ĒNow I Lay Me Down To DieĒ
When I signed up for Starfleet, I knew that the possibility of my death was always strong. Security isnít a very safe department. No, if I wanted to be safe, I wouldíve joined up for command.
Still, Iím lying here now, watching Dr. Crusher hover over me, thinking that my sacrifice for the Federation was supposed to be noble. Oh, it was an important mission, and it succeeded. Data Ėoh, to be as he is, impervious to phaser blasts! - was able to download the entire Dominion database before we blew the asteroid to pieces, and the Dominion cave hideaway with it. It was not considered by them to be a critical post, but the information we gained could hold the key to victory.
And yet none of that comforts me as I lay here dying. Data carried me out of the cave, but by the time we reached a level penetrable by the transporters, it was too late for me. He told Captain Picard how I took the hit for Capelini. How could I not? His wife is pregnant. I dove in front of him. Thatís noble, yes. But my death is still so void of meaning.
Capelini is here in Sickbay beside me. The guilt he feels as he watches my readings grows, and heís saying that he wants to resign from Starfleet. ďNo,Ē I tell him, summoning all the strength I can and projecting it into my voice. ďYou have to stay and save the Alpha Quadrant from those bastards. So the universe will be a safer place for your son.Ē
I think Dr. Crusher told him not to upset her patient, because heís silent now, just sitting beside me and letting the silence envelop him. Itís enveloping me, too, only itís silence of a more permanent variety. Dr. Crusherís voice is in the background, and Iím sure that sheís administering the best care Starfleet can offer, but itís not enough. I canít even make out individual words; I simply hear the cadence of her voice as it rises and falls.
The world is getting blurrier, passing me by already, as though since there is no hope for me to live, my role in life is already being absorbed and reformed by the form of society. It occurs to me that maybe itís best I didnít ask Kim Metriale out. She never has to know, now, and it will spare her pain. Thereís enough pain out here, in this damned war; I certainly donít need to cause her any more.
I can hear the captainís voice over the comm, but I donít know what heís saying. There would be a supreme irony if he was telling me that heís nominating me for a Medal of Valor. If I could still control my muscles, Iíd smile at the thought that what I wanted so much in life could be mine in death, and I struggle to make out the words to no avail. Whatever my captainís last words to me are, they are a mystery.
There is nothing left that I can control except my thoughts, and even this last stronghold of life is fast fading away. Voices, now indistinguishable, swirl around my consciousness and provide a kind of chorus. Iím thinking of the time when I was five years old and ate my chocolate Easter bunny. I liked it so much that I ate Sarinaís, too. She was a good sport about it- about everything I did. I was, in retrospect, an extraordinarily bothersome little stepbrother, always tagging along and getting into her stuff long after most of my friends stopped following their siblings. Sarina never complained. When I accidentally spilled chocolate milk on the PADD containing her essay written in Andorian, she just sighed and started over. I always told her that Iíd name my first son James, after her middle name, Jamie.
The chorus of amorphous voices is getting quieter now, slowly singing me into a final sleep. Mom told me the legend of King Arthur years ago, and I always remembered that the dying man faded into the mist to reappear when he is needed most. I suppose, in a way, thatís what Iím doing. Of course I wonít physically reappear, but after Iíve faded to nothing from this auditory mist, my memory will be there. When Capelini needs strength to fight another day, my memory will be there. When Sarina needs to remember that life used to be peaceful, without war, and that it will be again, my memory will be there. When Mom needs something to remind her that just because she didnít figure out a way to exceed current warp limits, she was still a successful person, my memory will be there. Maybe thatís the power of the legend, or maybe it is the jumbled thoughts of a dying man.
So I didnít die in a grand, spectacular way, but the almost inaudible chorus reminds me that people care, and I have not died in vain. I strain to hear the voices, but the many voices have faded into one. I can almost hear the words. Maybe if I concentrate just a bit harder, Iíll hear what theyíre sayingÖ.
ďRecord the time of death.Ē
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