A subdued chime announced their arrival on Deck 1. Sandhurst straightened and gave an unconscious tug at his uniform top before the doors slid open to reveal Gibraltar’s
command center. The captain had to admit to being a bit surprised. He had almost expected the parting doors to open onto an unmodified 23rd century starship bridge, with subdued lighting and pre-LCARS control consoles studded with buttons and switches. This bridge, however, was every bit as modern as he could have hoped.
Laid out in the more traditional circular pattern that was seen with less frequency in more recent Starfleet designs, the main bridge was detailed in soft whites and muted grays. The color scheme gave the impression of a larger compartment than was actually present. The lower well area of the bridge housed a single semi-circular console bank which supported multiple work stations. The Operations and Helm posts were side-by-side, facing forward towards the main view screen. Flanking them on either side were stations for the Executive Officer and a mission specialist, respectively.
Ringing the upper level of the bridge were the Engineering, Science, and Security/Tactical stations, as well as two auxiliary consoles which could be configured for a variety of functions. At the aft-most section of the bridge was a small recessed entrance to the captain’s ready room, next to a large master situation monitor which displayed a cutaway silhouette of Gibraltar
and her major systems. A small stand-alone Tactical console stood immediately behind the captain’s chair, which was currently occupied by a petite, raven-haired, olive-skinned human woman who seemed engrossed in the contents of the data padd she held in her hand.
As Sandhurst stepped from the turbolift with Lar’ragos in tow, Lt. Commander Liana Ramirez glanced up from her padd. She stood from the command chair in a smooth, deliberate motion as she announced, “Captain on the bridge!”
Standing just a fraction over five feet, Ramirez was not the most imposing specimen of humanity ever to don a Starfleet uniform. However, despite her diminutive size, she projected an aura of confident authority that left little doubt that she was not one to be trifled with.
In response to the executive officer’s announcement, all activity on the bridge ceased simultaneously as crew members turned to get their first look at their new commanding officer. Sandhurst responded with a slight smile, designed to convey an easy self-assurance that he most certainly did not feel. “As you were.” He turned to Ramirez, who remained standing as ramrod straight as a cadet on review, her eyes locked on some indeterminate point on the far bulkhead. Sandhurst sighed inwardly, So this is how it’s going to be, then.
“Computer, log the following exchange as an official transfer.”
The computer accepted the command with a three-tone chime, and Sandhurst continued. “By order of Starfleet, I hereby assume command of this vessel.”
Ramirez responded formally, “As of this time, seventeen-thirty-seven hours, I stand relieved. Computer, transfer priority-one command authorization codes to Captain Donald Sandhurst, authorization Ramirez tango-sierra-charlie one-oh-six-four.” The computer verbally acknowledged the transfer of command authority, and Ramirez stepped aside as she swept her arm dramatically over the captain’s chair like a game-show host presenting a contestant with a prize. “She’s all yours, sir.”
Sandhurst nodded approvingly, but made no move towards the center seat. “Commander, please join me in the ready room.” He looked to Lar’ragos and intoned, “Lieutenant, you have the conn.” Sandhurst moved to the small hatch leading to his new office and triggered the door to slide open. He stepped back and motioned for Ramirez to enter, and then followed her inside.
The compartment that now served as ready room was, on the old Yorktown
, an airlock situated behind the bridge. Though small, it easily accommodated a medium-sized work desk opposed by two sitting chairs, a couch, and a replicator station recessed into one wall. Where the airlock hatch had once stood was a circular transparent aluminum view port, just behind the desk.
He strode into the room behind Ramirez and walked past her, then turned around and leaned against the front of the desk, arms folded across his chest. Before she could speak, he launched a preemptive, “Permission to speak candidly granted, Commander.”
Caught momentarily off guard, Ramirez blinked, and took a moment to consider her next statement. Finally, she asked, “Respectfully, Captain, what am I doing here?”
Sandhurst frowned, “I’m going to need you to be a bit more vague.”
Ramirez ran one hand through her hair in a gesture of exasperation. “I’ve put in my Fleet time, sir. Fourteen months as exec on the Tempest
. I worked damn hard for Captain Berkhalter’s recommendation, and my posting as Admiral Covey’s adjutant was going to be my ticket to a first-line ship, maybe even my own command!”
Sandhurst contemplated taking a conciliatory tack with her, but only for an instant. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep affecting his judgment, but he’d been primed for a confrontation with his new XO since he stepped aboard. Best to have it out here and now,
he decided, to clear the air.
“I’m terribly sorry if your being posted here has inconvenienced you, Commander, but I requested your transfer because I need
you here. You’ve spent a good portion of your career assigned to ships along the Cardassian border, serving under CO’s like Jellico and T’Sur.” He paused but refused to look away from Ramirez’s piercing gaze. “You’ve faced the Cardassians on the battlefield as well as over the negotiating table. You understand them in ways that I don’t, and to be perfectly blunt, I desperately need that insight.”
Ramirez broke eye contact first and looked away angrily as she bit back a reply that she was sure would constitute insubordination.
Sandhurst felt himself building momentum and continued, “You know perfectly well what we’re up against here. Starfleet’s attempting to render aid on a multi-planetary scale despite inadequate resources and too few people to do the job. We’re going to meet with resistance, if not outright hostility. I want to have someone by my side who understands their culture, their mindset, how they’re likely to react in a given situation.”
Still refusing to back down, Ramirez seethed, “Don’t think I’m unaware that you and Admiral Covey have a history together. I object to being traded between the two of you like a commodity. My career isn’t someone’s marker.”
Sandhurst smiled humorlessly. “If this post doesn’t jibe with your career plan, that’s too bad. I require you to do your duty, Commander. You can either be an asset to this crew, or a hindrance. I’d much prefer to have your cooperation. Either way, you’re staying until our mission is accomplished.”
He walked around the desk and took a seat. “Following the successful completion of this assignment, I might be willing to entertain the option of returning you to Admiral Covey’s staff, based on my assessment of your performance as XO on this ship.”
Ramirez seemed to deflate somewhat at this potential olive branch. She looked at least partially mollified as she inquired, “Will that be all, sir?”
Sandhurst activated his desktop computer terminal and deliberately turned his attention to the screen. “Oversee our immediate departure as soon as all remaining crew and supplies are aboard. Inform the senior staff we’ll be having a mission briefing at oh-seven-hundred hours tomorrow. You are dismissed.”
"Aye, sir.” Ramirez spun smartly on one heel and marched out.
As he called up the ship’s personnel roster, Sandhurst picked up where he had left off aboard Epsilon station. To no one in particular he remarked, “Yeah… that could have gone better.”