A new entry in the Omicron Matter – Fallout and Recoveries. Eleanor Woodson is in the awkward position piloting John Smith’s ship since Neville Carter-Frasier is incapacitated. The teams have been interacting for months, but this the first that Eleanor has had to work closely with Smith. Eleanor is coping by burying her feelings of anger and loss. But that will only work so long.
For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the book home page is a good place to start.
A strict editor would probably (in the nicest way possible) tell me this story doesn’t move the plot forward and should be eliminated. Perhaps I will move it to the “Short Stories” category after today. But today’s story is one that I feel deeply.
First, I worry that some readers will feel that I am taking matters of sexual assault and rape lightly. I do not. I have spoken with victims who hold the trauma of that experience decades later. I know that some of those victims’ lives are ruled by the experience until they come to some resolution. That resolution may not be “forgiveness” as is conventionally understood as much as it is “letting go” – the willingness to not let the past rule the present.
Second, I do believe in redemption. That people who committed sexual assault and rape may come to recognize the grievous harm they did. And regret it. I think of the child soldiers who are trained or forced to become part terror campaigns. If they freed from their own bondage they must come to terms with the acts of violence they were a part of. There is a pain and loss associated with that – the realization that one has betrayed the fundamentals of humanity. And the realization that there may be no way to fully atone for those acts. One can only try to restore what was lost; seek to make things better now; and find a way back to being fully human.
Thank you for your support. A new chapter will start on Monday (it needs some heavy editing but it will start).
Eleanor sat stiffly at the controls of John Smith’s ship. Smith sat at the communications station. She looked at the controls and then over at the operations panel. She then looked straight forward and said, “Ship is ready for undocking…Sir.”
Smith continued his work at the communications station and replied, “Very good Miss Woodson. I’ll get clearance for our departure.” He tapped the console and said, “Tau Ceti Control. Uycarran Glory is ready for departure.”
The station replied, “Acknowledged Uycarran Glory. Releasing docking clamps.” There was clank and Eleanor sensed the ship move slightly. “We are controlling your ship. We will maintain control until you are in a departure zone. Good Trading Uycarran Glory. ”
Smith replied, “Acknowledged, Tau Ceti Control. Good Trading.” He leaned back and closed his eyes muttering, “Good trading until we are back.” He breathed in deeply, his eyes were still closed, “Miss Woodson, am I to expect you to be this reticent for the next seven days?”
Eleanor focused on the console, “I am here to help guide the ship. Other than that, I do not foresee pleasant discussion…Yes, I expect it will be a quiet week.”
Smith stretched and stood up saying, “So be it. If …when you live as long as I have, you may find there are actions and decisions you rue. For all of our wonders, we cannot go back and unring the bell.” He paused, put his hands behind his back and said, “I do not regret abducting you…it got Morgaine’s attention. But I had not anticipated Alfred Redman’s …thoroughness. That was a mistake. And I gave Winifred Stanhope and Findley Brown free reign in your captivity. I left them to their own agendas and that was a mistake.”
Eleanor’s eyes burned but she did not look up from the console, “Was that an apology, John Smith?”
Smith snorted, “I do not apologize, Miss Woodson.” But she felt him turn and bow slightly, “I will concede I treated you as a pawn. You deserved better.” He headed for the door. “There will be nothing for you to do for the next hour. The station is damnably slow in this process. Follow me. You will be the first to see my little surprise.”
Eleanor sniffed, wiped her face and followed Smith out the door. In the living quarters area, Eleanor passed the damaged doors that Stanhope and Brown escaped through. At another door, Smith pressed some buttons. There stood Neville Carter-Frasier, leaning on a cane, but otherwise perfectly healthy. Eleanor exclaimed, “You’re alive! You’re moving!” She glared at Carter-Frasier, “You aren’t even in the medical bay.” She turned to Smith and glared, “And not even a clue from you.”
Smith put his finger up as if to stop her, “Nor one from Morgaine or O’Hannigan. They knew as well.” He smiled thinly, “It was important that Neville be dead or as near to it as we could manage.” He looked over the standing Carter-Frasier and said, “He has been up and about for two weeks. I have to say he has been quite accommodating in hiding.”
Carter-Frasier rolled his eyes, “He says it like I had a choice.” He looked around the hall is if he were seeing if for the first time. “I do not know how Winifred and Findley stood it for all those months. I swear I am batty after two weeks.”
Smith turned on his heel and waved, “Get Woodson caught up on the details. Woodson…no discussion of this with Morgaine’s ship …not until we are out of the system. I trust you can hold your tongue on that?”
Eleanor crossed her arms and glared at the receding back. Smith continued walking saying, “Excellent. Now I need to prep for reviving our fourth passenger.”
Eleanor looked at Carter-Frasier and mouthed “fourth passenger?”
Carter-Frasier shrugged and said, “He is reviving Camille early. She will be running the Omicron Devices and coordinating with Charles. Smith explained quite a bit over the last two weeks.” He looked at her, blushed, and then started walking slowly towards the bridge. He said haltingly, “You and I will be copiloting the ship…I know it won’t be easy. I will stay out of your way otherwise.”
Eleanor took a deep halting breath and said, “Rachael spoke …speaks highly of you. I’ve been angry with her for months because of that.“ Carter-Frasier stiffened and gripped his cane harder, but continued walking. A breath heaved out of her shuddering, “Felicity forgives you.” He stopped. She turned away and clinched her fists, “Edward said you almost had no choice.” She shook as said, “I don’t understand that because he… he didn’t…”
Carter-Frasier said quietly, “He was stronger than me. And I was …angry. Edward never resented you scholarship types.” Eleanor looked at her hands. Carter-Frasier almost whispered, “The collar was there and the pain …it’s hard to imagine…but Simone probably told you that. You do almost anything to make it stop.” He choked out a laugh, “Winifred found my Achilles heel…my imperfection…I will never be as smart as you, or Jason, or Rachael, or John.” She looked over her shoulder to see his face. He was looking at the ceiling, “God …how we toyed with that giant of a man.” He breathed deep and said, “Winifred used my …fear…resentment…to hurt you and Simone. And bury me in my shame.” He raised his hands and stared at them. He wiped them on his shirt as is to clean something off. “Edward was stronger. His honor is intact.” His shoulders were slumped. He found a kerchief and wiped his face.
Eleanor whispered, “I can’t forgive you…not yet.”
Carter-Frasier made a wan smile, “It would have been nice, but I…can’t expect anything.” He returned the kerchief to a pocket and straightened and said, “But we have to function. I can only ask that you will be civil. You are more adept at piloting. I would ask you let me know what I need to know.”
Eleanor’s eyes were wet. She rubbed her face with her hands and sniffed deeply, “Oh …that I can do Carter-Frasier. I can certainly tell you what you need to know.” He nodded …hesitated and headed toward the bridge. She watched until the corner. Then she collapsed, crying, wailing and letting the waves of pain and loss cover her.