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Cptn Corizon

Burning Embers

Night had fallen on San Fransico. Corizon looked out the windows of the lounge he occupied with empty expression. Behind him sat a padd with an open letter on it from the President. It was, he supposed, a rather nice gesture considering. On the otherhand, it was a reminder that his career as a Starfleet officer was over. It had ended much more auspiciously than it had begun, and perhaps before its time.

For twenty-seven years he had dedicated himself to the sole purpose of protecting the Federation from any threat -- external or internal. He had fought the Cardassians, the Borg, The Dominion, and the Scorpiad. He’d twice been captured in the line of duty and imprisoned. He had been wounded in the line of duty more times than he cared to remember. During all of it, he had never waivered in his loyalty to the Federation.

It was his legacy.

He frowned. Listen to him. His legacy. When had he become so sentimental? Sure he didn’t want to step away from it all; he wanted to continue doing what he knew was best for both him and the Federation, but there hadn’t been other options -- or at least not ones he’d explored when they were still open to him. And so now he went to exile.

No, it wasn’t exile. Exile implied that he could one day return to his former place. There was, he knew, no return to glory in store for him -- not at least as Starfleet Captain. He sighed again, his ears falling to either side.

Recalling a story from his planets legends, he considered his place and the words the President had chosen towards the end of her letter. What exactly she meant wasn’t clear to him. Surely she hadn’t meant becoming a politician. The idea was amusing, but not really comforting.

Perhaps that was why this was so hard. His ego would heal eventually. Sooner or later he’d come to terms with the reality that he wasn’t going to be wearing the uniform everyday ever again. Instead, maybe it was the uncertainty of what lie before him. He’d always had a path way, a goal. Now he had nothing.

He considered his conversation with Victria as he’d left the lounge.

“Are you just going to let them do this to you?”

He stopped. He expected someone to follow after him. He hadn’t completely prepared himself for it to be Victria, though that shouldn’t have surprised him.

“I am not letting them do anything...”

“Are you not?”

“If you mean retirement,” he said still not turning to face her. “I wouldn’t call that giving up. It’s a trade off...”

“Is that what you are telling yourself?”

“It’s the truth.”

She stopped, looking at the man who she’d come to respect. Had he always been so... vulnerable? “Your sacrifice, though noble, is unnecessary. You know as well as I do, the crew is willing to stand up for themselves.”

“I am sure they are,” he said continuing to walk again. “But I am not willing to let them do that. I am not going to put them through that because of my inability to color inside the lines.”

Her icy eyes fixated on him as he resumed walking. She followed closely. “I never thought you the type to run away from your problems. A fine lesson for your crew.”

“Don’t lecture me about running away from my problems,” he said harshly. “If there was another way...”

“You have not even tried,” she hissed. “As soon as the Republic arrived, you gave up. Like a coward. You disappoint me, Ah-Windu.”

“I am touched,” he said sarcastically. It was easier if he pretended he didn’t care.

She ignored his tone. “What about the people who depend on you?”

He stopped and turned to face her for the first time. “I am sure they’ll find some way to get by without me.”

“Have you forgotten Ah-Windu? I am only here because of you. If you think I have enjoyed any of this, when I could be out helping my people...”

“I am sorry,” he said, his voice dropping to barely a whisper. “I am sorry. I know that I’ve kept you away from your people -- I suppose that was selfish of me. I just... “

For the second time in less than an hour, she was taken aback. She couldn’t recall him ever showing this much emotion. “No,” she said. “You do not need to explain.”

“Thank you,” he said, clearing his throat. “I will arrange for your commission to be ended, and see that you’re given transport back to the Gamma Quadrant. Unfortunately I doubt I’ll be able to aide your people with the resources I used to have available...”

“My status is no longer your concern. No matter what you wish, or what connections you might retain, they have no interest in releasing me. I requested to remain with the Excalibur. I only hope they see value in my appointment and keep their word.”

“I’ll see what I can get you before my retirement is official, I still know some people who owe me favors.”

She nodded, but didn’t press for details. “I thank you for what you have already done. It is more than anyone else has been willing to do.”

He smiled despite himself.

“And what will you do now?” she asked, moving closer.

“I don’t know. I really don’t. I suppose I’ll go back to teaching again. Obviously not at the academy.”

“They would not want your services?”

“Oh,” he said. “They might, but not right away. Eventually maybe, who knows.”

Her icy gaze seemed to penetrate his soul. “You need purpose,” she said softly.

He looked away, holding back his welling emotions.

Emotions remained elusive for her, yet she knew this was hard for him. “You will find your place, Ah-Windu. You are too resilient not to find your way.”

He shook his head, unwilling to listen to allow himself a measure of hope.

She touched his face lightly and turned him to face her. “I first saw true defiance in you on Al-Ucard. You stood amidst the lifeless bodies, claws and fangs dripping with the blood of your captors. I thought you my enemy, but even then I respected the strength you displayed.”

“I had no choice,” he said, meeting her gaze.

“There is always a choice.”

“These are different times. The choices I have are few.”

“But there are still choices to be made. I understand your willingness to sacrifice yourself for the sake of your crew. That day, when we were alone and you offered yourself to me to appease my thirst, you showed that there can still be compassion in strength. I did not understand it at the time, but now... I think I do. If you follow this path, you do not have to do so in shame. Though it is now but a smoldering ember, the defiance burns within you still. Do not let them extinguish it.”

He sighed and tucked the PADD into his brief case. Perhaps this wasn’t the end for him, but merely the beginning of a new adventure.

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