Here is a little more. I hope you enjoy it. I'm also glad you are enjoying Captain Redfeather. It was my hope to make the Erickson crew a bit more light-hearted than some of the other crews I've written about in past stories. Of course I can't go without having some interpersonal conflict.
“This is highly improper, not to mention unprofessional and unbecoming of an officer of your rank!” Lt. Commander Norrbom snapped, folding her arms across her chest, her gaze becoming wintrier.
Commander Donar set his feet as well as his jaw, ratcheting up his determination. But the Angosian did take a step back. He didn’t want to loom over the woman, or give her the impression that he was trying to intimidate her. “Commander Norrbom,” he started slowly, patiently, “we have been tiptoeing around each other too long. Since we have been largely on routine assignments, I was content to let the situation work itself out in time, but now that we are headed into a potentially hostile situation, I need to know where things stand. Our ability to trust each other might become the difference between life and death in the Caldera Expanse.”
Norrbom tightened her arms across her chest, and shifted her jaw, her expression totally unconvinced. “We have to get down to Main Engineering…sir.”
“Not until we hash this out,” he stated.
“Hash what out exactly?” She asked, her flippancy making his bottom lip twitch with frustration. He exhaled, quickly centering himself.
“I had no intention of denying you this position,” he said. “That wasn’t my plan.”
“But here you are,” she retorted, gesturing at him.
“There was nothing perfidious about my placement aboard Erickson,” he said, not liking his defensive tone.
The operations officer chuckled, the sound harsh. “Sure,” she said, her contorted features belying the words, “I can see no cronyism at all in the fact that you’re buddies with the newly installed Admiral Glover, a man who has the sympathies of the whole Federation for the loss of his father and for what he himself endured at the hands of the Romulans. The Admiralty would practically give the man anything he wanted, and it seems what Glover wanted to do was hook up his friends.”
Tai’s face flashed hot, and he tugged at his collar, in a vain attempt to give the heat rising throughout his body a release valve. “I think you have totally misconstrued what occurred…”
Norrbom blithely waved away the man’s denial, “Look sir, that’s fleet politics and I understand that, and I can’t be too mad about it, to be honest, because I know that you’ve had a distinguished service record. You’ve got a lot more experience than me.”
“Okay,” Donar said, cooling down a tick. “If you think I am qualified for the position…”
“I do,” she said, interrupting him for a second time. In the interest of furthering the dialogue, Tai let it pass. “Based on your Starfleet service record, I think you could be a great addition to Erickson.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Do you really want to know?” Norrbom leaned forward, spearing him with her stare. Her eyes raked over his face and eventually found his heads. She held his gaze, as if she was trying to burrow into his soul. He nodded, without breaking the hold.
“Yes, Commander, I want to know,” Donar said, trying not to bark the words.
“Despite how gold plated your record is, you’re a weapon, designed in a lab somewhere, no better really than the Jem’Hadar!” She hurled the words at him and he back stepped, feeling stung. It was like the woman had saw into his very soul and uncovered one of his deepest fears.
With a full head of steam, the woman continued, “Sure there was a purpose for a person like you during the war, but what about peacetime huh? You were made to kill, not to explore, not to look over ship reports, or build communities among the crew aboard starships, and Erickson is more than a job for me, more than a stepping stone, this crew is family, and having you around them is like having a fully charged disruptor lying around your house. Who knows when that weapon might go off?”
“Weapons generally need someone to utilize them,” Donar pointed out.
“Not from what I’ve learned about your some of the Tarsian War veterans,” Norrbom shot back. Her smile was cruel as she plunged the knife in deeper, “Oh yeah, I did some research. I know how they locked you and others like you away after the war. You couldn’t cope with the peace, you were a threat to the social order.”
“That-that was a long time ago, a different war,” Tai looked away from her, momentarily engulfed in sorrowful, terrible memories.
“It’s admirable how you have tried to put that war behind you,” he heard Norrbom saying, from someplace high above the well he now found himself in. “But what about the Dominion War, huh? Who knows what demons it’s conjured in you? Who knows what needs to be exorcised now?”
“I, like every other veteran, have undergone psych evaluations,” he said, his voice faltering. Norrbom shook her head, disbelieving.
“Our head doctors might be good, but obviously not good enough. You know that Federation News Service has been all over the rash of mental breakdowns that have affected war veterans, even some ‘cleared’ by the shrinks.”
Tai shook his head, hating the woman’s words but despising the truth in them even more. He had been troubled by the news reports, each one reminding him of old colleagues that had not made it home, even though they survived the war, and of his own struggles with adjusting to the hard won peace, then and now.
“I-I didn’t know the depth of your antipathy,” he said, “but now I do.”
“So, what are you going to do about it?” Norrbom was literally hugging herself, her arms were wrapped so tightly around her, and for the first time Tai could see beyond the anger, and he saw the fear that was melting the ice in her gaze. She was afraid of him, afraid of what he might do.
Admittedly Donar had used his size and the reputation of Angosians as super soldiers at times in the past when necessary in Special Missions, but he had often tried to be as nonthreatening as possible aboard Starfleet vessels and for the most part, he had thought he had been successful. He had never encountered this level of resistance on the Aegis, and he had even found a second chance at love with Juanita.
He didn’t know what to do, or how to allay the woman’s fears. Grasping for an answer, he fell back on what he knew, or had observed from a man who he considered a mentor, Terrence Glover. The admiral had shown a lot of faith in him and he wasn’t going to let him down. Thinking about how Glover might handle the situation, Tai formulated a reply. “Well,” he started slowly, considering his words, “I do appreciate your honesty, but let me be clear with you. I intend to continue in this posting and give my all to the Erickson and her crew. You don’t have to like me, but you will respect me, and the chain of command. Is that clear?”
It took Norrbom a moment to work her mouth to say, “Yes sir.”
“Further, I don’t have a problem with you extant, and I won’t have a problem with you if you respect my authority,” the Angosian continued. “But if you find yourself unable to do so, I suggest you take another starship posting. And is that clear, Commander?”
“Yes sir,” she said more quickly, the chill in her voice dropping to freezing levels.
After ordering the lift to resume to Engineering, Donar said, “I really do appreciate your honesty.” He hoped the woman saw his words for the olive branch that they were. “I hope that we can continue this dialogue.”
“May I speak freely sir?” Norrbom ventured.
“Yes,” he replied.
“Honestly…I don’t,” she said, just as the turbolift reached their destination.