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Hunter Matheson



Excalibur’s training gym was silent except for one dark haired 6’ 2” helmsman pounding with a vengeance on an Everlast. With only a few layers of tape to cushion his fists, you might have wondered why he didn't ditch it all and go raw.

With the ship underway and most of the crew elsewhere, only one other person occupied the ship’s massive tactical fitness space, and that was Marine Field Training Officer and 23 year SPECOPS veteran Lt Tim Glasco. The heavy, rhythmic thumps had drawn him from his work in the briefing room to lean against the doorframe and watch the gunnery sergeant’s merciless attacks, all the while wondering who would crater first: the gunny or the bag. He wasn't sure if he should approach or let the helmsman get his frustrations out, but when the pounding didn't stop within a reasonable time, he pushed off and began a slow, measured walk in that direction. Arms crossed, he stopped at a discrete distance.

“Bro,” he said in a fairly laid back manner, but direct enough to catch the fighter’s attention.

Matheson paused, but didn't turn. “Yeah?” His hands steadied the bag before continuing his assault.

“Been watchin’ you a while. What's goin’ on?”

“Nothin’,” he muttered, giving the bag another round.

Glasco’s arms dropped to rest on his hips as he moved in. “Cut the crap, Bro. Twelve miles full ruck this mornin’, twenty miles two days ago, and now this? So I’m gonna ask again, Marine. What’s goin’ on?”

Kal stopped mid-swing and settled the bag on the rebound. “Had a talk with the commander,” he muttered, staring at the bag.

“So… Commander Strait, Commander Atkinson, Commander…?”

Stepping away from the bag with a sigh, he began to pick at the tape on his left hand, “Ex Oh. Hawthorne.”

“Um.” Glasco considered that for a minute as Kal began a slow, methodical peel. “So, whatever happened made you want to kill something. Or someone? Not exactly a good sign, Bro. I'm gonna say we need to talk.”

Kal continued to peel, and by the time he looked up, Glasco was standing in the door of his office, towel in hand, waiting. As FTO, the man was patient, but insistent—not exactly someone you could ignore, rank or no rank—but rank didn’t count in training. When he said, “We have to talk,” everyone knew he meant business. It was his way of oiling the gears so things moved smoothly in the Marine detachment, and reaming out anyone that deserved it was well within his ROE.

As Kal closed in, the towel hit him center mass. Glasco moved away from the door, kicked out a chair, and settled into his own, hands folded easily in his lap.

“I let her get to me,” Kal began as he dropped onto the chair and began to towel off. “Pretty much violated every rule in the book.” He looked up, but Glasco remained passive, just listening, so Kal finished with a vigorous rub on his hair, then tugged the towel around the back of his neck.

“When we're assigned outside the teams, everything goes out the window, right, sir?” Leaning one hand on his thigh, he gestured, frustrated, with the other. “Never mind the nondisclosure we signed when we joined up to do ‘Fleet’s dirty work. Never mind that we go places and do things no one else can or wants to. Never mind that you watch your buddies sliced and diced because of some miscalculation, a messup with command, some hot shot in the head shed that’s got a big idea that’ll get ‘em that extra star, or a block from intel that never got through. Never mind that if you open your mouth, and let anyone outside the circle know what you’ve done, you end up in some penal colony for the rest of your life. Hell, just put all that aside and spill the beans to some ship’s counselor or Ex Oh, right, sir?”

The lieutenant’s lips pursed, but he still said nothing.

“I told her about Bull and Scrap, sir,” he sighed, resting his head in his hands.

“Bull and Scrap? Damn heavy, Gunny,” Glasco replied with an easy forward lean. “What exactly did you say?”

“Don’t rightly remember, sir. I was seriously pissed off. She thought I was asserting some kind of ‘manly bravado’ because I wouldn’t spill anything to the counselor, which is why I was talkin’ to her, not the counselor.”

“You recall if it was sealed information?”

“Hell, no!” Kal’s head snapped up. “I mean, yeah, I recall, but there was nothin’ sealed. Nothin’ sealed, sir. Nothin’ at all. It was all about the guts and glory, like she wanted to know about it all, so I told her. Damn, sir, she wanted to hear that? She doesn’t understand. No one does.”

Glasco’s brows knit, head tilted. “What exactly does she not understand, Gunny?”

“What we went through, sir. What kind of hell it is to work in the teams.”

“Of course she doesn’t understand.” Glasco shrugged as he rocked back in his chair. “How could she? She’s never been in the teams, Gunny. How the hell could she know what it’s like? There’s no way she could understand. But it goes both ways. She has things you’ll never understand either.”

“Yeah, I suppose she does, sir.”

“You suppose she does? Tell me, Gunny. You ever been in her shoes? You ever been a career Starfleet officer in command of an Akira that runs constantly on the edge from one quadrant to the other?”

Kal’s head slowly lowered, a slight smirk forming. “Uh… no, Lieutenant.”

Glasco bristled, smacked his hands on the desk and closed in on Matheson, his eyes narrowed as his signature ream-out tone rallied for attack.

Kal recoiled; his smirk disappeared.

“You ever been in charge of the lives of 550 plus on board a starship, Gunny?” he hissed. “You ever been responsible for a couple thousand dirty, ragged, half-starved refugees, stacked like cordwood and shuttled like cattle here and there several times while they try to get somewhere safe in this galaxy, Gunnery Sergeant Matheson?”

Kal took a minute, then swallowed hard.

“Well, have you?”

“No, sir,” he mumbled, eyes diverted from his piercing stare.

Look at me when I talk to you, Marine, and speak up!” his hand slapped the desk, snapping Kal into ramrod attention. “Have you?”

“Sir, no sir!”

“Then you cannot understand her, can you, Gunnery Sergeant Matheson?”

“No, sir! I cannot, sir!”

“Has she ever been in the teams, Gunnery Sergeant Matheson?”

“No, sir!”

“Could she possibly understand what it’s like to be in the teams, Gunnery Sergeant Matheson?”

“No, sir!”

After a moment of continued glare, Glasco relaxed and settled slowly back into his chair. “Damn straight,” he said quietly as he straightened his uniform. “You both have demons to deal with, hers no less important than yours. Of course she doesn’t understand, and you can’t expect her to understand any more than you can ever understand what she's been through. So. Now that we got that straight, take a deep breath, relax, and siddown so we can sort through this mess you got yourself into.

“Let’s take this one step at a time. I’m gonna say you were sent to the counselor for somethin’ important, and the counselor didn’t get much outta you so the commander took over, and you got in her face with some ‘guts and glory’ crap. Am I right so far?”

“Yes, sir.”

Glasco’s grunt melted into a silence that lasted a minute or two while he studied the ceiling, thinking. After a while, he ran his hands over his face, dropped them to his desk, then looked at Kal.

“How much do you like flying Excalibur, Gunny?”

“Oh, I love it, sir. She’s a sweet lady, easy handling, smooth to the touch, and maneuvering? Handles like a PCF, sir. Hell, sometimes I have to remind myself she’s Akira.”

“You want to stick with her, Gunny?”

“Oh, yes, sir.”

“Then it looks like you got a choice to make. You got demons, I got demons, everybody has ‘em. If you don’t get those demons under control, you’ll be relieved of duty. If you're lucky you might be reassigned, you sure as hell won't ever rejoin the teams, and you might end up in some looney bin.

“On the other hand, it sounds to me you must have some exceptional skill set for Commander Hawthorne to take you on for counseling. But you can be damn sure that’s going away if you don’t cooperate.

“So here’s the choice, Gunny. Either you let those demons rule your life, or you deal with ‘em when they pop up. You got a problem on duty? Ask for relief, take a deep breath, and get your butt to the counselor. Off duty, same thing. Your life, your choice.”Hands spread, he waited for that to sink in. “Think you can handle that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Damn right you can. But not on your own. Now get outta here.” The FTO pushed himself out of the chair to usher him out. “I got a team comin’ in ten. And next time you’re down here, go easy on the equipment. Gamma Quadrant’s a little thin on replacements.”

Edited by Hunter Matheson

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