Author's Note: I revised the previous passage as I said I would do. There isn't much change, though Dendron is now an Andorian (with Aenar heritage). And I also changed the doctor's name and species to Narsan and he's now a Halanan.
Captain’s Ready Room
The captain’s smile was askew. “You picked a hell of a time to continue our session counselor,” Redfeather remarked, lifting one eye from the padd she held in her hand. “You do know the ship is on blue alert.” The gaunt, pale blue Andorian male smiled at her, completely unruffled. The antenna stalks just in front of his receding hairline undulated gently.
“I know captain and I find the blue lighting on the bridge a better color schema than the usual bright lighting, I don’t see how it doesn’t contribute to constant eye strain.” Though he was smiling, Wyoma knew that Dendron hybrid makeup, part Andorian and part Aenar, an Andorian subgroup of mostly blind telepaths, left him sensitive to intense lighting.
It was commendable how he had learned to cope with the situation during his various postings, and at least aboard Erickson the captain made sure to dim the lights in his presence. She didn’t have to make adjustments in the ready room this time because she generally bedimmed the lighting when she was reading over reports. She thought it added to the quiet that she demanded when she had to absorb lots of data.
“I am so glad you acceded to my request to not sit bridge side,” Dendron’s smile widened.
“And this is how you repay me?” The captain rolled her eyes before placing the padd down on her desk, otherwise empty except for the baseball signed by all players on the 2373 Cestus Comets Championship team, including her sister. “Please, have a seat.” While the man was acceding to her request, the captain continued talking, “I want you to know that I didn’t plan this blue alert to avoid getting out of our session.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Dendron chuckled, tapping one of his bulging temples. “I am a telepath after all.”
“Very funny,” Wyoma joined in the laughter. She knew that Dendron abhorred peeking into others’ minds without their express consent. The captain also knew that his pacifistic Aenar heritage had left Dendron vigilant about using his abilities in any harmful way. Sometimes to an extreme degree. It sounded almost like he needed a counseling session himself, but if she suggested that he would just redirect the conversation right back to her.
“How are things working out with the new first officer?” The Andorian asked, waving off an offer for refreshment. “I haven’t had a chance to get Mr. Donar on my couch yet, and we’ve only met in passing.” He stroked his graying goatee, waiting for her answer.
“I think Mr. Donar is adjusting well to his new duties,” the captain said, careful to choose her words.
Of course Dendron noticed her caution. “And how do you think the crew feels about him?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” Redfeather snapped, not meaning to be so sharp. She winced, “I’m sorry.”
“No, no, it’s perfectly alright, I am being a bit too coy after all,” Dendron admitted. “I think most of the crew is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t completely his decision after all. He was presented with an opportunity and he took it.”
“And what about Helen?” Wyoma decided to cut right to the quick. “She says she is okay with the decision, but she might be more…forthcoming with you.”
“If she was, you know I couldn’t reveal that to you,” Dendron leaned forward, a somber yet sympathetic look on his face.
“Not the details I get that,” Redfeather angled, “but what would be your impressions, hypothetically, figuratively, or whatever?”
“I…would think it could be difficult to be in line for the first officer position and then have it snatched away from you,” Dendron replied, “hypothetically speaking of course.”
“And she’s said this? To you?”
“I thought we were speaking in hypotheticals?”
“Oh, yes,” Wyoma leaned back in her chair and slouched down, suddenly feeling drained. Helen Norrbom was one of her closest friends, had served Erickson with distinction as chief operations officer, and was the captain’s pick to succeed the retiring Commander McDuffie. McDuffie had also thought Helen would be an excellent choice, but Starfleet Command, particularly Rear Admiral Glover, had other ideas. And he had inveighed upon her to consider an external selection.
After looking at the Angosians’s service record, Wyoma couldn’t help but both impressed and worried. He had displayed exceptional courage and leadership with Special Missions, fought on the frontlines in both the Klingon and Dominion Wars, been a senior officer on one of the most advanced ships in the Fleet, taught at the Academy, and also helped turn back the Talarians during their ill-fated incursion. With a record like that, Redfeather was surprised the man wasn’t angling for her job, and not just to be her second in command.
Of course his life before joining Starfleet had to have given the admirals pause about promoting him to the captain’s chair, as it had given the captain some hesitation about taking their recommendation to be her executive officer. The Tarsian War had been brutal and from what Donar had described, in his own words, of the actions he took in that war, they had chilled her bone marrow upon first reading.
It made her wonder if the man shouldn’t still be on that Lunar V prison moon. She had expressed as much to Admiral Glover. He had expressed understanding before pointing out how Donar had tried to make amends after the Tarsian conflict had ended and how he had moved on with his life and career. Redfeather had then been blunt and brought up that Donar had served with Glover on the Aegis and that some cronyism was at play.
The admiral, whom Wyoma had heard could have a mercurial disposition, had allayed her concerns. He admitted to having caring about the wellbeing of the people once under his command-which she couldn’t fault him for-but at the same time he thought that Donar languishing and needed a new outlet, a new lease on life, and to learn new skills.
To sweeten the deal, the admiral had then let her in on what was happening with Taskforce Vanguard and the coming refugee crisis, and how Command wanted Erickson at the forefront. Glover added that Command, and himself included, felt more comfortable with having Donar out there to greet any potential hostile forces than cooped up at Starfleet Command or on some Starbase.
Taking Donar on would be a sign of Erickson’s rising reputation in the Fleet, and that kind of word of mouth would improve everyone’s careers in the long run, including Commander Norrbom’s, or so that’s how Glover had put it, punctuating it with a knowing, yet dazzling smile. Wyoma hadn’t seen a sign of the man’s prickly nature, but she had gotten caught a little in the magnetic field of his charisma.
Still it had taken her several days to give him an answer. Once she poured back over the man’s record, and after she talked to him via subspace, Wyoma had to admit that Donar had been an impressive candidate. He was more qualified than Norrbom, she had to be honest with herself, though Helen was more tied into the crew, and Redfeather liked the idea of a close knit unit. Perhaps a bit too much, she had reasoned, and throwing a curveball or two at all of them from time to time was necessary to keep stagnation at bay.
Pulling herself out of the wellspring of memory, the captain glanced at the small sphere, its white surface nearly covered by all of the squiggled autographs. She had clutched that ball before telling Helen the decision and held it while making the call to Admiral Glover.
Once the decision was made she didn’t question it, and she would make the same decision again, though she was disappointed that she and Helen had become more distant. Commander Norrbom stayed on top of her duties, perhaps even more efficient than she was before, but gone was the banter on the bridge or the late nights at Birdland.
Wyoma had leaned on Helen heavily after her lover, Lt. Commander Gavin Mohmand, had died in a terrorist attack on Point-Station Epsilon over a year ago. And now it felt like Wyoma had betrayed her, even if it was the best decision. She just hoped Helen would understand in time and dreaded that one day she would walk into the Ready Room with a resignation or reassignment request.
So far that hadn’t happened and Wyoma wanted to pick Dendron’s brain to see what she could do to head off what she knew in her gut had to be coming. “I’ve tried talking to this about her,” the captain admitted, “but Helen just says everything is fine and buries herself even more into her work,” she shook her head, and bit her lip. “I know she’s not fine, but I’m not sure how to get her to open up.”
“I think that’s going to take some time,” Dendron said, “She needs to reconcile all the emotions she is feeling and that process works differently for everyone.”
“I understand,” Wyoma said, a small sigh escaping her lips. Norrbom’s coolness hadn’t affected her job one bit, but Redfeather missed her friend. “So this is something I have to sit back and allow to happen.”
“Or not,” Dendron added with a slight wince, “My apologies.”
“No, no, you are right,” the captain shook her head. “She might not be able to reconcile her feelings regarding my decision.”
“That is a possibility,” Dendron stroked his goatee again. “I didn’t want to give you false hope.”
“Thanks Denny,” Wyoma’s smile was wan.
“Regarding the rest of the crew’s feelings regarding Mr. Donar,” the Andorian moved on smoothly, “there is one noticeable holdout.”
“Dr. Narsan,” the captain said. The counselor nodded, his smile receding. One blot on Commander Donar’s record had occurred during a botched rescue mission on Kesprytt III. Donar had been a part of Special Missions Team-9 which had conducted the mission.
Scores of Kes had died as a result. One of the Federation casualties had been Egren’s spouse. The Halanan had pulled from his own tragic experiences to help provide solace to Wyoma during her time of grief as well. The captain had made sure to seek out Narsan’s advice before making her final decision, and at the time the man had expressed no reservations. But now that Tai had come aboard, Narsan suddenly didn’t have time to do anything but the most precursory medical scan on the man.
“I have spoken with the Chief Medical Officer,” Dendron said. “He was very communicative. He knows he shouldn’t blame Commander Donar for what happened, and in a way, he doesn’t, he said that he thought he had moved on, but whenever he sees the man he thinks of his wife.” The Andorian stopped, his face contorting with frustration. “There is little I can do to help him at this stage except recommend continued sessions to allow him to express his frustration and anger.”
“Anger?” Redfeather asked, shocked; even though she shouldn’t have been. She had been very angry herself in the months after Mohmand’s murder. She had blamed God, fate, the universe, and especially the Cardassian militants. The anger had become so strong, so poisonous that for a time it had nearly imperiled her career. She had to take a leave of absence and Commander McDuffie had graciously stepped in, as well as out, when she returned. So she knew how stultifying unchecked anger could be. “Perhaps, I could speak to him as well?” she suggested.
“I think that would be a great help,” Dendron nodded.
“Is that the real reason you came to see me?” The captain was finally catching on.
“Absolutely. Not.” Dendron smiled. “I came to see that Tenarian Glow smile of yours.” The captain blew through her teeth.
“On that note…”
“I’m being dismissed, aren’t I?” The Andorian was already standing up.
“You’re a better mind reader than I thought.” The captain quipped.
The seat opposite Commander Donar was empty. Lt. Commander Norrbom, as acting executive officer, should have been filling it, but the woman had chosen to remain at her post on the deck ringing the command well.
The tall, willowy, ash blond woman was awkwardly propped over her standing console, gazing a bit too intently at her console. Tai knew when someone was avoiding eye contact with him. He had trained enough evasive recruits to know the signs. Of course, it wasn’t fear driving the woman’s behavior. He also sensed how rigid her body language became in his presence, how her throat constricted, and her expression grew impassive.
If he didn’t know signs so obvious that someone didn’t care for him he wouldn’t long been carrion food. Of course the real question was what was he going to do about it? On Angosia III, disagreements could be solved with personal combat and if necessary, lethal personal combat, but he was a long way from home. He was even a long way from Special Missions, which sometimes also solved disagreements in physical ways.
He knew that was not the appropriate course to take with the operations officer, though she might have been game. He smiled at the thought.
“Something funny Commander?” Captain Redfeather sauntered onto the bridge, a padd clutched in her hand. Before he could get up, she waved for him to remain sitting. “Have you seen A’nurd’s latest status report on multiphasic shield output?”
“Yes ma’am,” Donar said.
“Our current shield strength is good, but I think we can do better,” she said, “If we have to go into the expanse I want to make certain the multiphasic shield generation holds.”
“Understood captain,” the Angosian replied, shooting out of his seat. “I’ll see to it at once.”
Both senior officers were drawn to a soft, but noticeable throat clearing. “Something you care to add Helen?” The captain asked.
“Perhaps I can talk to A’nurd,” she suggested, looking only at the captain, as if Donar didn’t exist. “I know that Main Engineering has to be a mad house right now, and could also lend a hand. I did get my start as an engineer.”
The captain nodded, “Of course I remember.” She turned back to Donar. “What do you think Commander?”
Tai pursed his lips as he contemplated his reply. He wasn’t sure what the captain was angling at. He felt put on the spot and he didn’t like it. There was an expectant gleam in her eye, and he knew she was testing him on some level. He didn’t know what answer she wanted, and he didn’t care for obsequiousness. He had never been one for shipboard politics. He liked the direct, blunt approach the best. “Captain I think…”
The captain snapped loudly, interrupting him. The gleam took on a devilish twinkle. “How about you two both go inform A’nurd that I want the multiphasic projection matrix increased by 2000 cochranes to account for subspace compression factor if we for some unfortunate occurrence have to warp the hell into or out of the expanse.”
Tai looked at the operations officer before he replied. Her wintry gaze nearly gave him freezer burn. “We will see to it at once captain,” he said quickly, peeved at his delayed reaction. He met Norrbom’s icy blue eyes again. “After you Commander,” he gestured toward the turbolift.
Norrbom dipped her head and gave a pointed look at the captain before acceding to his gesture. She stalked toward the lift, barely hiding her impatience as she waited on the first officer to step out of the command well to join her. The Angosian couldn’t help but look back at the captain once more as he ascended the steps toward the lift. The woman eased into her command chair, a satisfied smile on her face.