It’s not often that I struggle with doing something to a character. I didn’t get the moniker “King of Character Torture” for nothing after all; characters-mine and others-share a particular dislike for me simply because I come up with new and horrible ways to torture them. Conflict breeds a good story (along with other things) and conflict often involves people getting hurt, in one or another, in real life. So, when I write conflict, somebody is usually going to get “tortured” in one way or another; physically, emotionally, mentally, ect. Characters get tortured in my stories and that’s the way it goes.
One in particular however, my very first fanfic character Captain Henry “Hank” Harrison, always gives me trouble when I try to torture him. Now, I could utterly spoil everything I’ve done to him but that’s literally a few stories in of itself. Basically, I’ve made this guy go through a lot of different kinds of hell. Romantically, he’s always pining for a girl he never quite seems to find the courage to go all the way with. In his career, he’s a bit of a black sheep and Starfleet doesn’t really like him, but doesn’t exactly hate him. When he manages to land his posting aboard the Pearl as her captain after serving a few years as captain of the science vessel Galloway, things seem to be looking up.
And then I throw him into a nasty storm of events that has a lot of political, social, and other ramifications at stake. A battle happens, people die, he gets captured, he gets tortured (in more ways than one), and generally his life is complete hell for a few months. All this I do to this guy and I find it hard to.
Which is why towards the end of Star Trek Chronicles: Old Foes and New Allies (the second book of the Chronicles series) I was going to finally do away with Hank Harrison. My valiant captain. My first fanfic character and easily the most likely character I had…he was going to die. His head was going to be on my mantle…he was going to be the first “major” character I had ever killed and it would be a moment that would echo throughout the cosmos.
Okay, maybe not the cosmos, but certainly the story itself. I was dead set on ending Hank Harrison. Why, do you ask, would I kill off my most likable and popular character? Well, the answer is in the question itself. Hank was (and still is) SO likable and SO popular. It frankly annoyed me when I was writing the second book how often people would read a chapter and focus solely on Hank-even when he wasn’t in the chapter.
Book II of the Chronicles series shifted focus on a number of fronts; lots of different perspectives and characters were seen. In retrospect, probably too many were seen, but at the time I thought it was a good play. Hank wasn’t in every chapter; in fact, he probably appeared in about a third of the book. Which is why when people left feedback on the story and the first sentence usually pointed out the obvious fact (to me anyway) that Hank wasn’t featured in that chapter, it got me angry.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love feedback. I love reviews. You could completely trash my chapter and my story as a whole and I’d love the feedback anyway. But as a writer when you focus on other characters and plots in a story and people gloss over them to ask you about one character and plot…well, it gets tiresome. This was a situation where a character had grown to overshadow the story.
Which meant the character had to die, in my mind. Hank had to die in order for the rest of the story to live. So deadset (ha?) on this that I actually wrote the ending of Book II with Hank dead. I committed to it. He was a goner. Don’t believe me? “Oh, trekfan’s not really serious” you say. All right, fine; read about it. Be warned, it was written nearly three years ago, so it’s rough, but here it is:
The death of Hank Harrison-End of Book 2
The bridge was in shambles as the fire around him made his skin burn. Maxwell was still alive but that didn’t matter.
The massive vessel was ahead of them still, destroying Romulan ships without so much as a thought. The Pearl was barely holding her own against the onslaught. Her hull was blackened by burn and hull breeches, but she still fought on. She wouldn’t give up. No one on board would give up.
Hank reached over and rolled Maxwell over. Breathing and awake. “Still…going?”
Maxwell coughed blood. “I can keep going…just the same…as you.”
Hank smiled. “Any ideas?”
Maxwell struggled to his feet. “We’re weaponless with barely any propulsion.”
Hank gripped the arm of the captain’s chair and pulled himself up. “The battle is raging around us…” he winced as he put weight on his leg.
Maxwell noticed. “Maybe you should sit.”
He stared at him with determination. “If you can stand, so can I.”
“Have it your way.” The old man moved towards the helm and looked over it. “We have 1/16th impulse. Barely. Don’t know how the hell we do.”
Hank grinned. “I managed to save some power.”
“Smart boy.” Maxwell turned to him and stood tall. “Only one thing left to do. We can save them.”
Hank nodded. “Yes, we can. The warp core will cause a huge dent in their hull. They won’t survive.”
Maxwell bit his lip. “Those assholes are dead.”
The two men turned towards the viewscreen and watched it as they approached the hull of the ship.
“Do we have shields?”
Hank shook his head. “Nope.”
Maxwell shrugged. “Worth asking.”
Hank slid into the captain’s chair, his mind racing. He was going to die. All the friends he hadn’t seen in months, all the family he wished he could have said one last goodbye to, all of that was wishful thinking. He would never see them again.
He would never see Nick’s smiling face at one of his jokes, never hear Bethany sing again, and he would never see Nick’s child. Boy or girl. Hell, he would even miss Ashley’s sister, Brittany. She did nothing but insult him.
He would miss so much. So much.
He looked at Maxwell. “You said you had family?”
Maxwell barely nodded. “Adopted, yes. Haven’t seen them in three years, but when I did…there was a little boy. It was their son, barely six months old. He was a looker.”
“Was going to get all the ladies?”
Maxwell smiled weakly. “Guaranteed.” He sank down into the helm’s seat and stared wistfully at the screen. “Been one hell of a battle.”
“Harrison, you ever think about getting married?”
Hank took a sharp breath. “One day. I hoped.”
“Yeah, it’s good being married. You’ll never quite feel as close to a person as you will to your spouse. It’s why I could never remarry. Things would just get…too messy.”
“I had a girl all picked out, you know?”
Maxwell turned to look at him. “Really?”
“She was beautiful. Wish I could have seen her one last time.”
A hail was coming through. Hank recognized the tone of the computer. Maxwell did too and he quickly put it onscreen.
It was Nick. He was bruised and bloody, but he was still alive. The Pearl was barely in any better shape than they were. His face lit up at seeing him.
“Hank?! You’re alive!!!”
Hank grinned. “I can see you are too. Go figure.”
Nick smiled. “We can beam you onboard. Just activate a communicator and we can hone in on you.”
Hank looked over to Maxwell. “And him?”
Nick shook his head. “We have enough for one. Just one.”
The screen began to fade and then it just went. It returned back to the view of the battle and Hank looked at Maxwell sadly.
The old man just nodded. “I got nothing to live for. My life’s pretty much over anyway. It’s okay Harrison.”
“I won‘t leave you behind.”
“You don’t have a damned choice. You’re leg is bum, I can outrun you all around this bridge until they beam you off.”
“You don’t have to stay, come with me!”
“You heard them, they have enough for one. One Harrison. You introduce another body to that transporter beam and we both die. Or worse yet become fused,” he huffed angrily. “Suck it up and go. Activate the damned communicator. The more time you waste the more likely we both die.”
Hank looked at the combadge on his chest and felt a heavy burden. He couldn’t leave him. He had never left a person behind before, and even though he didn’t like Maxwell a lot, he wasn’t going to condemn a good man to death. Maxwell was a good man. Hank had found that much out in his short time with him.
He struggled to his feet. “You have to come with me. We can risk it, I have faith in my transporter chief. She can do it.”
Maxwell walked to him, still coughing blood. “Damn you, it doesn’t work like that. I’ll activate the damned thing for you if you don’t.”
Hank was left with few choices. He took off the pips on his collar and gave them to Maxwell. He then extended his hand, a sad smirk on his face. “Good luck Captain.”
Maxwell stared at the pips in his hand and grasped them tightly. He extended his other hand and shook Hank’s. “Thank you.”
Karrie watched as she received the signal she had waited for. It was time. There was a battle going on around them and she had to be precise and careful. She only got one shot at this.
Her hands flew over the controls and the transporter whined to life. The power was barely there, barely enough for one person. She had to be careful…
She saw a form began to take shape on the transporter pad and she quickly adjusted the confinement beam, bringing the transporter to its optimal condition just to make sure he got in.
She didn’t believe she’d ever see Captain Harrison again. She didn’t believe he would ever be back.
The transport was done and she looked up.
“Son of a bitch.” The old man sank to the floor his eyes hollow with horror.
“Transport is complete!” Bethany reported excitedly. Nick could understand. The entire bridge was brightened by the news.
“Shields are at 10%!” Mark called.
They had to leave. Nothing more they could do here. They had Worf and the rest of the Valiant survivors. It was time to pull out of this place and leave. He had Hank back. He had his best friend back.
“Sir, receiving a hail from the Hayes.”
Nick took a sharp breath. “On screen.”
The view changed from the battle to the eyes of a saddened man.
Nick felt like someone had punched him in the gut. He wasn’t prepared for it.
The rest of the bridge went silent.
Hank Harrison just grinned. “I’m sorry. It’s not right for him to have to die. He doesn’t deserve it.”
Nick quickly regained his composure and turned to Chris. “I need more power for the transporter!”
Chris just stared at the screen. “No more. We’re out.”
The realization began to sink in and Nick turned towards his friend confused. “Why?! Why?!”
“I’m sorry Nick. I couldn’t watch him die. The captain goes down with his ship.”
“No…” Bethany stood from her seat, her eyes tear filled. “Please, don’t.”
Hank’s eyes locked on hers. “I wish…” he looked down. “No time for regrets. You have to move on.”
Hank’s eyes turned towards the Walker brothers. “Mark, you’re going to make a great captain one day. You’re going to be the best.” He grinned happily. “Chris, run engineering anyway you want. Keep the ship alive.”
Both of them just stared at him.
“You’re the best crew I’ve ever served with. You’re my family. Goodbye,” he saluted and the transmission cut out.
Nick and the entire bridge watched as the Hayes plowed right into the middle of the massive enemy vessel. The hull of the Hayes tore away and the warp core exploded in a bright flash, putting a huge hole in the enemy.
The ship itself began to crumble from the impact and soon it exploded in a bright orange flash.
The day was saved.
Hank Harrison was dead.
See, there you go. He died. He was done there and he was never going to come back.
However, there was a problem with Hank’s death; though I had killed him off in the story and the rest of the series, leaving all kinds of things a mess and shifting the focus off him (finally) Hank Harrison WOULD NOT DIE. He kept going in my head. I killed him off in the writing but I could not kill him off in my head. He wouldn’t go away.
Days on end I tried and tried to kill him off in my mind. And for days on end Hank continued going on. It was like I was trying to kill a part of myself off and I couldn’t. I consulted with some fellow authors and they agreed; if the character was still talking to me, if the character refused to go away, it meant that there was still a story to be told there.
In other words, Hank couldn’t die then. He had too much to live for, so to speak. Unfinished business I guess you could call it. I don’t know what to officially name it but he was assuredly not done. So, I amended the ending and restored Hank back to life. I still ended Book II on a cliffhanger, simply because I thought it was cool-which in retrospect, again, may have been a bad call-but I generally felt better with Hank alive than dead.
And that was Hank’s near death experience. He was this close to dying for good. I was going to kill him for the wrong reasons really. I was tired of his popularity overshadowing the story. I was tired of him dominating the conversation when it came to characters in my story. But what it really all boiled down to was that I was jealous of one of my own characters; that’s messed up.
Today, Hank and I are cool. I write him often in various spots-challenges, weekly prompts, and even short stories here and there. But mind you, he was just a few clicks of the mouse away from being dead for good.Thankfully, he’s still alive and well.
But just because he’s alive doesn’t mean he misses out on a eulogy. 😉