In her quarters, she got out of her dirty uniform. Standing in front of the mirror in her tiny bathroom she looked tired, beaten.
Her temple carried a long cut from when a Draxx missile had hit the side of the Defiant, sending her flying against a bulkhead. Dr. Clayton had yet to treat it properly.
Her eyes were red, ringed with dark, puffy circles. During the journey to Starbase 6 King had done her fair share of grieving for Captain Singh. But she knew there would be more to come at some point. That loss was an open wound. Over time it might heal a bit, but never enough so you didn't know it was there.
She stepped into the shower and tried to wash the difficulties of the last week away. But they were in there with her. She stood under the stream of the water, bowed her head, her hands up against the tiles. She started to sob. In the shower no-one could see her. No-one could hear her. In the shower she had privacy to give freedom to the grief.
King could still see him lying there on the deck, dying in her arms. She could still hear his final words...
The mangled mess of his legs. The blood pooling from his mid-section. His face grey, washed-out. Tears streamed down her face.
Her voice cracked as she spoke. "Please don't go, please."
Captain Singh shook his head slowly. Smiled. "Jess... We each have our time. My own is at an end..."
"No..." she managed to say.
Singh reached up, stroked the side of her face. "Now it is your turn to do as much as you can with the time you have..."
He smiled again, then his eyes seemed focus on something far away. The light in them faded. Singh's hand fell away from hers and the sound of his last breath issued slowly from between his lips.
She felt the thud of the ship as it jutted up against the docking bay. She came back to reality, regained her composure and set about washing herself, then got out of the shower.
She walked to the comm. unit on the wall, pressed the button that opened a direct line to the bridge.
"Bridge," she said. "Equalise the pressure seals and reduce all systems to idle status. I'll meet all senior crew members at airlock four in fifteen minutes, so be sure to have your stations locked down. Please inform Chief Gunn and Dr. Clayton to be there also."
"Aye aye sir," a voice reported back to her. It was Lieutenant Banks.
Jessica closed the channel. Again she stood in front of the mirror.
Now she looked better. Not great, but better. Less tired and dishevelled. More like a woman. It felt good to be washed, wearing a clean uniform.
"Let's get this over with," she told her reflection.
Non-essential crew filed through the airlock. Her command team arrived quickly. First Lieutenant Kyle Banks, followed by Ensign Jack Boi and Lieutenant Lisa Chang. Then Ensign Olivia Rayne, and Dr. Clayton. Chief Gunn took a while to make it up from the medical bay, but Jess knew it was chaos down there. When she saw the dried blood on his hands she wondered whether she had made the wrong decision in pulling him away from his work.
"I just wanted to say a few words," she said. "Who knows what might happen in the next few days? I might not get a chance to tell you just how proud I am of you. All of the crew. The whole ship. I really mean it, from the bottom of my heart."
"I think I can speak for us all when I say how proud we are of you, too," Lieutenant Chang said.
"Thanks," King said. "I'm heading for a de-brief with Admiral Grimshaw. I want you all to know that I'm putting in a good word for you all. You've earned it. No ship has ever had a finer crew... no ship I've served on at least."
They each nodded their appreciation.
"Okay, you're dismissed now," she said. They stood to attention, and she matched their salute.
Dr. Clayton turned and headed back to medical. Chief Gunn left in the same direction, as did Lieutenant Chang. Rayne, Boi, and Banks thanked her before they stepped through the airlock. She watched them go, then turned in time to see two orderlies approach carrying a stretcher between them. King recognised the patient immediately. She found her spirits lift at the sight of Lieutenant-Commander Del Greene conscious and aware.