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Dear Mr. and Mrs. Madison:
Your son Joshua did not serve on the Enterprise for long, but in the few short months he was here he made an impact on me and my staff.
I remember coming into Engineering one day when Ensign Madison was on duty. I was concerned about the energy readings from the warp core, but Chief O'Brien was off ship. Your son stepped up, found the problem and …
Captain Va'Kel Shon set aside the PADD on which he was writing. How many of these letters had he already written? How many more were there go to?
Five from the skirmish in the Proxima system; two last week from Jouret. Lieutenant Carr was still in critical condition, and Doctor Savel said the outlook wasn't good. They were surviving, and had even pulled out a victory or two since the war began but … every win came at too high of a cost.
Shon couldn't remember the last time he'd gotten more than three hours sleep. Sam kept hinting that he needed to take more time, and Philipa did more than hint. She and Savel would gang up on him soon – start quoting Starfleet regs and force him to take some downtime.
They didn't understand. None of them could. They wouldn't understand until every life – on the ship, on a planet, in a sector – was their responsibility. When every death was on their conscience.
Like every Starfleet cadet, Shon had had his turn in the holodeck for the Kobayashi Maru test. He'd sacrificed his holographic ship to save the freighter. He'd done the same with the Belfast last year when the fate of the Federation had been at stake. It was the burden of command. Some would live, some would die, and it was up to him to make that call.
But it never got any easier.
He pushed aside a cup of raktajino that had gone cold hours before and picked up the PADD again. He had a job to do, and it was best to do it now while he had the time.
It wouldn't be long until the next battle.