Commander Donar flinched at the momentary flicker of doubt. He had thought about contacting Juanita, but he didn’t want to bother her, and the idea of calling her merely to vent felt unseemly.
Sighing, he pressed the door chime. The doors swished open immediately. The Angosian stepped from the cool, sterile corridor into a rainforest.
If he didn’t know any better, he would think that Commander A’nurd’s domicile was a holodeck. He touched one of large leaves, hanging from the trees, lining the room. Despite the sophistication of photonic technology, Tai had spent enough time in real jungles to know what real plants felt like. He rubbed the leave’s dampness from his fingers, onto his pants leg. Droplets of warm, wet air splashed his face.
“Hello, hello Mr. Donar! This is a most welcome surprise!” Through the canopy of leaves, somewhere along the ceiling, he heard the Munzalan before he saw him. He caught glimpses of a series of bars spread along the ceiling as he saw A’nurd breaking through the brush and landing neatly on all fours before him. The Munzalan’s uniform was disheveled and he worked furiously to correct that.
“My apologies for my appearance Commander, but I wasn’t expecting company, and I like to hmmm…I prefer to tramp around my quarters au natural,” he said, giving Tai a mental image that was not asked for.
“If I am disturbing you,” Donar began, hoping that the engineer would provide him an easy out.
“No, no, not at all,” the Munzalan replied. “Please, follow me to my living area.”
“Oh, I thought this was your living space?” Tai asked.
“No,” A’nurd shook his head, “This is my work area, I do my best thinking, problem solving and designing here. The living space is more Federation standard.”
Tai nodded in understanding. “Lead the way then.” Once ensconced on a comfortable keres hide couch.” The Angosian patted the sofa pillow. “Keres hide, Chin’toka IV, how did you come by this?”
Sitting on the edge of his chair, opposite of Tai, A’nurd smiled, “I’ve got my ways,” he grinned. “I picked it up after the war, while I was assigned to Engineering Corps crew doing clean up in the Chin’toka system.”
The Angosian ran his fingers over the soft exterior, “Very rare indeed.” A’nurd shrugged.
“I like rare things, reminds me of how rare and unique we all are,” the Munzalan offered. “Care for some refreshments.”
“No,” Tai said after a pause.
“So, how can I help you sir?” A’nurd asked, his large golden eyes gleaming as he waited expectantly.
“I…uh…don’t know how to say this,” Donar found himself stumbling over his words, “Perhaps I shouldn’t have come here.” To that, A’nurd said nothing, maintaining the same serene expression on his face. He was content to let the commander work it out at his own time and pace, or not at all, and Tai appreciated that.
Rubbing his legs and patting his knees, his nerves fluttering in his stomach, Tai croaked, “I needed…to…ah…I needed,” he paused, scowling at himself, “I wished to talk to someone.”
A’nurd cocked his furred head to the side, “I’m all ears.”
“You know what we are likely to face once we reach the location of Ensign Kittles’ last message,” Donar said, referring to the information the captain dispensed at their last briefing. The Munzalan nodded in understanding.
“And you know as well that I will be leading a hazard team to storm the marauder vessel, if need be.” A’nurd nodded again. “Well, it’s…is this a confidential conversation?” Tai forgot to ask from the beginning.
“Absolutely,” A’nurd replied with rock solid assurance.
“I am concerned about the placement of Lt. Commander Norrbom on the team,” he finally admitted, feeling both a weight lift off his shoulders and his stomach muscles contracting at the same time.
“I see,” A’nurd stroked his chin, “What is the cause of your concern?”
“Though I didn’t put this team together, they are a tightly woven unit. They trust each other implicitly, and I had no qualms about taking over from Lieutenants Shashlik or Zaylen,” Tai began, “But with Norrbom on the team now, it just adds a combustible element.”
“So you think she will be destabilizing?”
The Angosian nodded his head, “It is a possibility. She is too much of a loose cannon, and though I trust the rest of the team to follow my orders without question, I can’t say the same of her yet.”
“It certainly doesn’t help that Helen is well respected among all of the crew and that she might sow dissension even among the hazard team,” A’nurd chimed in.
“I had that concern as well,” Tai admitted.
“Have you talked to the captain about this?” The Munzalan asked. Tai grimaced, before shaking his head.
“It was the captain that made the decision to place Commander Norrbom on the team,” Donar replied. “If I approached her with my concerns, it would be like I am second guessing her decision.”
“Which you are,” A’nurd gingerly pointed out. The Angosian scowled at the smaller man before shifting uncomfortably on the sofa.
“I know that,” he snapped, “but I don’t like the idea of voicing those concerns to the captain, of making my…discomfort known. I was trained to follow orders.”
“Ah,” A’nurd sighed, throwing his head back, “I understand now.”
“You understand…what?” Tai asked, with mounting suspicion.
“You were trained to follow orders, in the Angosian military,” the Munzalan began, “and perhaps later as part of Special Missions, and more than likely in the Security Division, but you are no longer in any of those things now. You are a first officer. It is important to share all of your views about things vital to the safety of the ship and crew with the captain, even if they go against what she thinks is best.”
“That is easier said than done,” Tai admitted.
“But yet it must be said and done,” A’nurd pressed. “Captain Redfeather is a great commanding officer, but she is just as fallible as the rest of us. I am certain that she thinks placing Helen on the hazard team will be a bonding experience. But if you feel that it could be too much of a distraction, it is your duty to inform the captain. Lives will be at stake when hazard team boards that outlaw vessel.”
Donar nodded, the tension in his stomach easing. “You’re right,” he said. He gave the wise lemur-like engineer a closed mouth smile. “I guess…I am still adjusting to my new role. I have been so used to following orders, of just internalizing the decisions of my superiors, and been so intent on simply carrying them out, that I forgot how important the advisor role of my position as first officer is.”
“Sounds like you didn’t forget, so much as merely misplaced it,” A’nurd chuckled. He shrugged, “It happens, you got a lot on your mind.”
Tai grunted in acceptance of the man’s characterization. “Thank for this A’nurd.”
“Anytime,” the Munzalan said, “Sure you don’t want something to drink or eat? I have tulaberries, lightly chilled in the refrigeration unit.”
“Perhaps some other time,” Donar said, meaning it. “I need to speak with the captain.”
“Understood,” A’nurd said, standing up. Tai followed suit. The Munzalan held up his hand and Donar grasped it firmly. Before either man could disengage, the lighting in the room flashed red seconds before a klaxon blared from bulkhead speakers.
“Red alert! All hands to battle stations!” Captain Redfeather’s voice commanded, “Red alert! All hands to battle stations!”
“I guess the talk is going to have to wait,” Donar said, now all business.