First Officer's Log, supplemental. 4th April 2631
In two hours, Redemption will be departing Khitomer for our final jump to Laurentii space. By this time tomorrow we will have arrived at the border between the Federation and the Hegemony, where a group of Laurentii ships should be waiting for us to escort us the rest of the way to Onyx Station. Final checks on Redemption's systems show that every section is working at peak efficiency, which bodes well for the rest of the mission.
The same cannot be said for our bridge crew. I was informed last night of Captain Sarine's decision to remander Lieutenant-Commander Dax to house arrest in his quarters awaiting the result of an investigation into charges of purgury and treason. Although Captain Sarine has informed me of the key pieces of information behind these charges, I cannot discuss these here. Suffice it to say that I now find myself without a second officer nor an operations officer hours before the ship begins what may well be the most important mission in Federation history...
In Orbit of Khitomer
Prin stepped out onto the bridge, accepting a headset from the waiting ensign, her eyes drawn inexhorably down into the Pit, as if hoping to see Lieutenant-Commander Dax sat at Ops. Instead, Lieutenant Barani sat in his place.
She sighed. It hadn’t been a bad dream, then. When Ba'el had contacted her in the early hours of the morning, she had thought he was pulling a joke on her. By the time he had finished telling her some crazy story about past lives, voices in heads and treasonous Trill, she was convinced of it. Unfortunately, though, it turned out to be true.
What the hell was Dax playing at?
she wondered as she walked over to the steps that descended into the Pit. Why would he have hidden such a thing from them? She had not spent that much time with him since coming onboard Redemption, but she had seen enough of him to have recognised a competent, stable officer who seemed able to easily draw on his many lifetimes of experience. To discover that all this time he had actually been a raving madman...
You're losing your touch
, she thought as she finally stepped down onto the metal plates of the Pit's floor. Once upon a time, no one would have been able to hide something like that from you.
"Commander," Lieutenant Barani greeted her, though Prin noted that the younger woman wouldn't meet her eyes.
"All stations report ready," Barani replied, still not looking at Prin. "The other ships also stand ready for launch."
"Good." Reaching up, she tapped her comm badge. "Captain Sarine to the bridge."
Moments later, the door to the ready room opened and Sarine strode out. Though he was in uniform, Prin could see that he hadn't changed since the night before. His eyes were sunken, haunted. She bit back a sigh.
"Captain, everything is ready for our jump to Laurentii space," she said as he began to walk down into the Pit.
She saw his eyes dart to Barani and then away again. Could he be in this state because of Dax? She mentally shook her head. No. He had seemed certain of himself the night before, convinced that he had made the right decision. So much so that he had been reluctant to follow her advice and have Dax placed under regular medical supervision. Although he had agreed to it, eventually, the idea wouldn’t have crossed his mind.
But if it isn’t second thoughts about Dax, what is it?
There had to be something more to his attitude. What else could have happened to put him in this state?
Bay nodded to her, then walked over to his seat in the centre of the bridge. She stepped over beside him, using her body as a shield between him and the rest of the bridge crew, and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you alright?" she asked quietly when he looked up at her.
The shadows in his eyes seemed overwhelming. "I'm fine," he said gruffly, then looked away. "I didn't sleep well."
She hesitated, about to push him further, then shook her head and stepped away, taking up her place behind him.
"Status report, Lieutenant."
Barani jumped slightly in her seat at the sound of Ba’el’s voice, then turned to face him. She still wouldn't meet either of their eyes, though.
"All stations report ready, captain."
"And the fleet?"
"Ready as well."
Good thing I asked before him
, Prin thought wryly. She would have to have a word with him later about that. There was no point in having her report to the bridge before him if he wasn't going to trust her to do her job.
"Good," Bay was saying. He rested his elbows on the arms of his chair, making a steeple of his fingers and staring off into the distance. Prin waited for a moment and when he still didn't say anything else, she cleared her throat.
Bay blinked, as if waking from a dream. By the Prophets!
Prin wanted to scream at him. She hadn't seem him this out of it since Enterprise returned from the Gamma Quadrant. He needed his head in the game, especially now. He glanced up at her, frowning.
"I--" Suddenly he was on his feet. "I will be in my ready room."
Prin took a step towards him. "Captain, you--"
"I have total confidence in you, Commander. Please lead the fleet out."
She stopped where she was, unwilling to make more of a scene than Bay already had. As it was, every single eye on the bridge was locked on the captain as he walked back up the steps, out of the Pit, and into his ready room. The doors closed behind him, leaving an uneasy silence on the bridge.
, Prin thought. Why does he have to fall apart now?
She shook her head. She didn’t have time to deal with this. She would handle Ba'el bloody Sarine later. For the moment, they had a mission to get underway.
Turning, she took a seat in the captain's chair. Dropping the viewfinder down over her eye, she spoke as loudly as she could.
"Lieutenant Barani, hail the rest of the fleet."
"Aye sir," Barani replied, her hands already moving swiftly over the holo command. She turned after a moment, eyes locked fixedly on a point just over Prin’s shoulder and nodded.
Prin took a deep breath, trying not to dwell on the other woman’s refusal to meet her eyes, and then accessed the transmission. "All ships, this is Commander Prin Ly'et aboard Redemption. Please confirm readiness to depart Khitomer space."
The view of space in her finder morphed to a split screen, showing the faces of the four other captains. Prin felt a deep sense of nostalgia settle over her when she saw Robau's face, but tried to keep her own face emotionless. One by one, the various captains confirmed that their ships were ready.
"Good. We will transmit coordinates and frequency harmonics in a moment. Lieutenant Barani will give the mark."
Once the screen had reverted back to the view of space, Prin looked over at Ensign Q'sar at his navigation station. The young Vulcan, his face emotionless, stared back at her.
"Have you made the calculations, ensign?"
Q'sar nodded shortly, once. "As ordered, commander."
"Good. Please transmit the information to the other ships."
He turned back to his holo commands, collating the various frequency integers and subspace pathways that he had drawn up into a single communique. She followed his progress in her viewfinder, amazed once again at the complex calculations required to travel anywhere using the quantum slipstream drive. Gone were the days when it was enough to point at a star and engage the warp-drive. Quantum slipstreaming required a whole new set of skills, which often seemed more akin to an art-form to Prin.
A few seconds passed, and Q'sar finished transmitting. He turned back to face her. "Transmission complete."
"Good." She turned to Astrid Williams at the conn. "Is the slipstream drive ready?"
Prin stifled a smile. The young lieutenant seemed to have come into her own since the ship launched, showing a professionalism and self-possession that surprised Prin coming from someone so young. Not at all how I imagined her from her file
, she thought.
"Alright then. On my mark, people."
A hush fell over the bridge, just like it did every time they were about to engage the slipstream drive. Prin allowed the feeling to persist for a moment, then she lifted her hand.
Using the calculations Q'sar had made, the quantum slipstream drive used a focused quantum field to generate changes in local space curvature. In lay-man's term - or so Prin remembered from her own reading on the subject - the drive twisted space-time until it ripped. That rip opened up a subspace tunnel, which now appeared in her viewfinder as a flowering of blue and white light, ragged around the edges.
Lieutenant Williams had already begun to guide Redemption into that aperture, followed swiftly by the other ships. Prin watched all of this, cycling through different views in her finder to make sure that no one was left behind. Every single ship in the fleet had its deflector dish working through the same modifications to the quantum field that Redemption was, at nano-second intervals, thus maintaining the cohesion of the tunnel.
Once they were inside the tunnel, Prin could see the tunnel extending before her, like a cylinder of blue-green cloud, broken every so often by rings of quantum filaments. Through her viewfinder, she watched as Redemption changed course, venturing into another corridor.
How many of these tunnels are there?
she wondered. How many paths that we could take? Where do they lead?
Shaking her head at her maudlin thoughts, Prin lifted the viewfinder away from her eye and stood up. Surveying the bridge, she made sure that everything was proceeding as it should, then turned to Barani.
"Lieutenant, you have the conn."
The attractive young woman nodded and stood, replaced at Ops almost immediately by a young ensign Prin didn't recognise. The two women passed one another, and for the first time Barani met her eyes. Prin was so taken aback by the anger she saw reflected there that she almost stopped stock still.
Barani lowered her eyes again. Prin hesitated, about to say something, to call the lieutenant out on her inappropriate behavior, then decided against it. One problem at a time
, she thought.
"If anyone needs me, I'll be in the captain's ready room," she announced to no one in particular.
One problem at a time.