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Chain of Command

By Lona Jennings

Word Count: 599
Date: 10/29/04
Series: Mini
Rating: T
Category: Challenge
Pairing/Focus: E

“Do you know how many we lost?” Tyrol’s voice is low, pitched only to reach his commander’s ears. He is in CIC still wearing his deck coverall. It is black with soot and Tyrol still smells the flames and charred flesh he just left down below. He has come to make a condition report on the port landing pod, but he cannot. He sees only death and he feels only rage. He burns.

“Yes,” his commander answers. “Set up a temporary morgue in hangar bay B.” He does not look up. He has no emotion. Why doesn’t he feel, Tyrol wonders? Doesn’t he know about the unfairness of time and the stolen forty seconds?

Tyrol tells him.

“Forty seconds, Sir.” Of the thousands of seconds in every day, Tyrol had needed only forty to save eighty-five lives. And they’d been taken, stolen, ripped away. “All I needed was forty seconds … eighty-five of my people. Now I told … I told that son of a bitch …” He stops. He cannot speak. Tears are running down inside his throat. At least they are not falling out of his eyes. Soldiers don’t cry. Not good ones.

And Tyrol has been a soldier his entire adult life. He respects command. He respects authority. But the chain of command has failed him and Tyrol knows why. It is the weak link that is Colonel Tigh. The laughingstock, the drunk.

Tyrol smelled the liquor on the Colonel’s breath when the bastard arrived in Damage Control. And still Tyrol asked him for orders, asked that sodden mind to save his people. The Colonel had just stood there, almost swaying, with nothing to say and looking back over his shoulder into CIC. Kelly had started to speak when the bastard finally found his voice and gave orders.

Tyrol wishes the Colonel had kept silent because, the Lords help them both, Tyrol and Kelly had obeyed the chain of command and eighty-five people had died.

The Commander looks up. He is angry. Tyrol has seen the Commander angry before but never at him, not like this. Stepping close to Tyrol, the Commander’s voice drops. It holds threat, rage. The Commander is a much shorter man, but he still seems to tower over Tyrol. “He’s the XO on this ship, and don’t you dare forget that. Now, he made a tough decision. If it had been me, I would’ve made the same one.”

Tyrol knows that the Commander has to protect the chain of command. He must protect the drunk. Tyrol is sure that if the Commander had been in damage control, eighty-five people would still be alive, but one man cannot be everywhere at once.

Tyrol thinks once again of the forty seconds that Colonel Tigh stole that can never be returned. He reminds the Commander one last time of how little it would have taken. “Forty seconds, sir,” he says. It hurts to think of it.

Tyrol vows that this will be his last cry of pain. He will cry hate for the rest of his life.

The Commander’s expression does not soften. He is hard. He is solid. “Resume your post, Chief,” he says and walks off.

But it is what Tyrol needs. He uses the Commander’s hardness to push himself away from his own suffering. To stand upright, to turn and walk toward the hatch. And when he must walk past Colonel Tigh, he is strong enough to only glare his hate. But the Colonel must feel it. He turns to watch him, and Tyrol is satisfied. In another second he is gone.