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Old December 25 2012, 09:23 AM   #126
Gibraltar
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UT:TFV - Part II - Scorched Earths (Chapter 5 continued)

Chapter 5 <cont'd>

USS Europa
In Proximity to In’Drahn Station


Pell Ojana and Olivia Juneau had taken their first showers in over two weeks, and although they were freshly scrubbed and dressed in clean uniforms, the exhaustion in both women was evident as they sat in front of Commodore Sandhurst’s desk.

A flotilla of ships was arrayed outside the ready room’s viewports, evidence of the coalition of local species that had gathered in response to the devastation visited upon In’Drahn station. Although the meager Starfleet presence at the station had little more than a handful of shuttles and life-pods to offer up to the recovery effort, it had quickly become clear that Starfleet was highly experienced at managing diverse workgroups in critical situations.

Pell and her people eschewed the longstanding political squabbles between the various local species, and were immune to threats or bribes by those who might seek to use the tragedy to their advantage. Thus, it was as much due to the mistrust between these competing races as it was Starfleet’s obvious management experience that resulted in Pell’s small group being awarded authority over the recovery mission by default.

“You’ve both done tremendous work under some of the most demanding circumstances imaginable,” Sandhurst said. “I’ll be recommending your entire team for commendations.”

“Thank you, sir,” Pell replied, trying to force some enthusiasm into her voice past the waves of fatigue threatening to overwhelm her.

“We’re rotating out your personnel, and assigning additional medical staff and more equipment, along with fresh survival supplies,” Sandhurst advised. “I can bring you two back aboard for a respite as well, if you wish?”

“No, sir.” both women answered in concert.

Pell looked askance at Juneau, giving her a tired smirk before turning back to Sandhurst. “We both know the players, the politics involved, and we’ve developed strong relationships with the Habertaem and the other former Husnock vassals that inhabit the station.”

Sandhurst nodded in response. “Okay, then. You and Olivia can stay with the mission here until such time as Galaxy’s saucer arrives on station.” He shifted his gaze to his computer display for a moment, calling up the established mission plans. “Did you have a chance to read over the brief I sent you on the new plan involving Galaxy?”

Pell smiled apologetically. “I tried, three times, actually. Every time I’d get a page into it, I’d fall asleep.”

That elicited a chuckle from Sandhurst. “Understandable, given the circumstances. I’ll summarize for you. Galaxy will become our forward operating base in this sector, in conjunction with In’Drahn station. It will give our task force a base of operations and a central hub for personnel rotation and shore leave. Incoming additions to IG-3 will drop out of warp here, rather than in deep space, affording us more operational security at this end of their trip.”

“I see, sir.” Pell replied. “Who will be in command?”

“Galaxy’s former XO, Commander Worf, is being placed in command of the installation. I’ve selected you to be his XO.”

“Me?” Pell’s eyes widened, and her earlier weariness had vanished. “Is that a good fit, sir? He’s a warrior, I’m a diplomat.”

Sandhurst smiled patiently, clearly having anticipated Pell’s reluctance. “Worf was Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire for almost a year. He’s served on DS9 as well as the Federation flagship. I have every confidence in his ability to be appropriately diplomatic when the situation calls for it.” Pell moved to speak, but Sandhurst beat her to it. “And should he need any assistance in that department, he’ll have you and your abilities to call upon.”

Pell took a deep breath, and then nodded affirmatively, not trusting herself to mind her tongue in the depths of her fatigue.

Sandhurst looked to Juneau. “Lieutenant, you’re dismissed. Go and get yourself some well deserved rest. Again, congratulations on a job well done.”

“Thank you, Commodore,” Juneau muttered, beating a hasty exit.

“Ojana,” Sandhurst said softly as the doors to the bridge closed behind Juneau. “You’ve been instrumental not only in forging a trusting relationship with the Habertaem, but helping to create this new interstellar coalition. Worf is going to need your insight, your understanding of these peoples in order to keep the flame you’ve ignited here alive.”

“You don’t feel I’m needed aboard Europa any longer?” she asked pointedly, her hesitation having evaporated now that their conversation was private. "I'd thought... I'd hoped that we could revisit some personal ground between us, Donald."

“You are both wanted and valued aboard, but not nearly as much as you’re needed here,” Sandhurst confided. “Your experiences on Velkohn make you the perfect candidate for this position. Besides, I can detach you from Worf’s command whenever I have need of your skills.”

His eyes softened ever so slightly. "And there can be no 'us' for the duration of this mission, Ojana. We've seen where that leads."

Something in her expression hardened in response to that, like a door slamming shut somewhere behind her eyes. "Understood," she replied curtly. "Your exec?” she inquired in the same frosty tone.

“Lar’ragos,” he admitted with just a hint of reluctance.

Pell cocked her head. “Bad idea, sir. You two have exhibit some pretty spectacular group-think in the past. You need someone willing to call you out when you’ve convinced yourself that you’re right, despite all evidence to the contrary.”

“I’m confident that Pava’s up to the challenge,” Sandhurst offered blandly.

Her expression was one of pure skepticism. “Did Pava hit you so hard you don’t remember anything about Velkohn?”

Sandhurst held up a hand. “Now, hold on right there—“

“He’ll tell you what you want to hear, because he so desperately wants and needs your approval, Donald.”

His face tightened as he said slowly, “I don’t recall having given you permission to speak candidly, Commander.”

“Funny,” Pell retorted, “I don’t recall asking, Commodore.”

The two stared at one another for a long moment in an unspoken stalemate. Finally, Sandhurst broke eye contact first and sat back with a sigh. “As much as I know you’d be the better choice, Ojana, I need you here, now. Lar’ragos will have to do.”

“Just promise me you won’t let him get you all killed,” Pell asked sincerely.

*****
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