Chapter 1 <cont'd>
The ship was less than twenty minute out from In’Drahn station, and DuaNam and his political retinue were awaiting the arrival of the Starfleet contingent. However, before that meeting came to fruition, T’Ser had one more piece of ship’s business to attend to.
Lar’ragos stepped into the ready room at T’Ser’s prompting, bringing himself to attention in front of the captain’s desk. Without looking up from her padd, T’Ser instructed, “At ease, Commander. Have a seat.”
As Lar’ragos settled into the chair opposite her, his features remained impassive. T’Ser continued to make notations on her padd for a few moments, but if Lar’ragos minded the additional wait, it didn’t show.
Finally, she set the padd on the desktop and raised her eyes to inspect the El Aurian. “Can you please explain to me, Mister Lar’ragos, why you felt it was necessary to try and undermine Commander Pell’s confidence in her own leadership abilities?”
"Permission to speak freely, Captain?” he asked by way of reply.
T’Ser dipped her head. “Granted.”
“In our present circumstances, the commander’s abilities are insufficient to meet the potential challenges we’re facing,” Lar’ragos said simply.
“And you felt it was necessary and prudent to share this revelation with her at this time?”
“I did,” he confirmed.
“Did you threaten her?” T’Ser asked pointedly.
“If you’re asking if I threatened her with physical violence, I did not. I did, however, point out some of the potential dangers she might pose to the mission and the crew if she continued to serve in the capacity of XO.”
T’Ser leaned back in her chair, eyeing Lar’ragos like something under a microscope. “With everything else going on right now, you do realize that this is the last thing I need? Our captain is missing, and my XO used to be romantically involved with him. She’s under more than enough stress without you adding to her burdens.”
“Your XO is a former freedom fighter whose past colors how she perceives the present,” Lar’ragos countered. “She has first hand experience with suffering under the boot of a merciless invader. As a result she won’t be able to bring herself to use one of our Alpha Weapons against a refugee fleet, regardless of our orders.”
“You don’t know that,” T’Ser snapped hotly in response.
Lar’ragos said, “I most assuredly do.” He crossed his legs and rested his hands in his lap. “Just as I know that Pell is unable to distance herself emotionally from Sandhurst, especially now. There’s a strong probability that she will do something to compromise the mission if it means possibly securing the captain’s freedom. She’ll defy your orders, she’ll put the ship and crew in danger.”
T’Ser shook her head minutely as she exclaimed, “That’s wild speculation.”
“Pell Ojana defied orders to rescue Captain Glover from Cardassian insurgents, sir. Glover is one of her oldest friends. Now try to imagine what she’d be capable of if it meant rescuing the man she loves.”
“Their relationship ended almost a year ago,” T’Ser offered.
A faint smile drew across Lar’ragos’ lips. “She still loves him and mourns the loss of their bond.”
“You can’t know that,” T’Ser blurted, sounding less-than-absolutely certain of that fact.
“And yet I do, just as I know you’d do the same if it were Dale McBride in danger.”
At the mention of her dead fiancé’s name, T’Ser rose to her feet, her face darkening with a decidedly greenish blush. “You are way
out of line, Mister!”
“The first time I met you aboard Bluefin
, you were practically oozing grief through your pores,” Lar’ragos said quietly. Suddenly it seemed like someone had sucked all the oxygen out of the compartment. T’Ser wanted to cut the El Aurian off and dismiss him from the room, but she couldn’t find the will to do either.
“Now, though,” he continued, “it surrounds you like a faint corona. It’s still there, and probably always will be, but it doesn’t infect the core of you like it once did. That’s where Pell is with Sandhurst right now, it’s still fresh, raw, still coming out her pores.”
T’Ser sank silently back down into her chair, at a loss for words.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I have more than my share of demons, Captain. The difference is, mine are in the distant past, like echoes of old pain. My head is clear, and I’m able to make the hard choices.”
“I won’t dismiss Pell out of hand,” T’Ser insisted.
Lar’ragos answered, “Nobody’s asking you to, sir. Pell’s duties as our diplomatic officer and the supervisor of the TOC keep her more than sufficiently busy, and she’s damned good at both. However, none of those responsibilities will force her to have to contemplate committing genocide.”
T’Ser regarded him cautiously, unsure whether she had just been brazenly manipulated, or whether Lar’ragos was simply making good sense.
“I’ll think on it,” she said finally.
“That’s all I ask, Captain.”