- II -
“I know what you’re thinking, Captain. You think that I’m a difficult, hardheaded old-man who is looking at one last chance to have an space adventure before he’s cast aside and mothballed for good.”
“That’s not at all what I–“
But Doctor Elijah Katanga didn’t give Michael Owens a chance to speak. “And you’re probably absolutely right. I haven’t served on a starship since I was a chief researcher on the Billroth
back in ‘53, I think. Could’ve been ‘55.”
“’54 actually,” said Tazla Star who stood to one side in Owens’ ready room while observing the captain and the ship’s new chief medical officer’s conversation.
Katanga turned to look up at the red-headed Trill who offered a wide smile in return. The doctor didn’t seem quite sure what to make of that. “Yes, of course. Thank you, my dear.”
She nodded helpfully.
Katanga turned to face the captain again who was sitting opposite him behind his desk. “In any case, just because it has been a while since I’ve been on a starship, doesn’t mean that I don’t know my way around a sickbay anymore.”
“Doctor, nobody here is suggesting that you don’t know what you’re doing. In fact we are all very honored to have you onboard.”
“A lot of folks seem to be under the impression that space travel is a right reserved for the young,” he continued, almost as if the captain hadn’t spoken at all. “But we are too quick to forget that the real trailblazer to the stars were men and women of my generation. And we still have plenty to offer.”
Michael began to rub his forehead, Maya’s warnings coming back to the forefront of his mind. “And I would never suggest otherwise.”
“I’m glad to hear that, Captain. Very glad indeed,” he said and offered a grandfatherly smile, revealing rows of white teeth which stood in contrast to his dark skin. “Than you will have no objections with me spending time on the bridge.”
“Well yes of course,” he said. “I won’t be able to share my extensive wisdom with you and the crew on a regular basis if I’m hiding myself away in sickbay all the time.”
“Doctor Wenera preferred–“
“Oh yes,” Katanga said, interrupting Owens again. “I know all about how Jane liked to run things. And don’t get me wrong, she’s a very capable physician, in fact one of the most dedicated doctors I’ve ever had the pleasure working with. But she also had a tendency to close herself off and keep her thoughts to herself. As you can tell, that’s not like me at all.”
“I think that much is obvious,” offered Star again who continued to be greatly amused even though neither Owens nor Katanga could tell exactly why.
“I don’t think I would call Doctor Wenera closed,” said Michael, vividly remembering her inquisitive nature and her tendency to question things on a nearly constant basis.
At that Katanga grinned. “Well, I’ve worked on her over the years. I’m glad it shows.”
“Back to what you were saying about–“
“Me being on the bridge,” he said quickly, completely missing the captain’s frown at being interrupted yet again. “As my dear old friend Leonard McCoy used to say, you can’t very well make a difference if you’re not standing up for what’s right,” he said and then considered his own words for a moment. “At least I think Bones said that. I could be mistaken.”
“Listen, Doctor, if you like to be on the bridge from time to time, that’s perfectly fine. As long as you understand that there are certain rules and protocols we like to–“
“My dear Captain,” said Katanga as he stood. “I helped write half of those rules and protocols so you don’t have to worry about me not fitting in.”
“Talking about fitting in,” said Michael, now trying hard not to show his frustration at not being allowed to finish a sentence in his own ready room. “I’ve noticed that your uniform is not exactly standard issue.”
Katanga was still wearing his blue medical shirt without the gray-shouldered jacket which usually came with it.
“Tell you the truth, Captain, I’ve never been a great fan of uniforms. Always seems so needlessly militaristic to me.”
“The idea of a uniform is for everyone to look … well uniform,” Michael said.
“Of course that’s the idea, Captain,” he said. “Anyway, if you don’t mind I really should be heading back to sickbay now. I have plenty of work left to do down there and get things organized. Not that Jane has not done a great job with the place and the staff.”
“By all means, Doctor. And again, welcome aboard Eagle
“Thank you, Captain. I have a feeling we will get on just fine,” he said and then aimed a look at Star who was still smiling at him. “Commander,” he added, his confusion at her smirking face still not entirely dispelled, before he headed out of the doors.
After Katanga had left the room fell silent for a moment as neither Owens nor Star spoke up straight away.
“He’s quite something, isn’t he?” the first officer finally said.
Michael threw her a look.
“I know he likes the sound of his own voice but the man’s practically a legend,” she said. “He has single handedly revolutionized modern medicine and quite possibly helped shape Starfleet into what it is today.”
“And how much leeway exactly are we willing to extend to a living legend, Commander?
She took a step closer to his desk. “I can speak to him about that if you wish. Katanga and I have some history.”
The captain looked suspicious. “He didn’t seem to recognize you.”
“In his defense, I didn’t quite look like this last time we met,” she said.
Owens understood the implication. “Anything you could do to help ease Doctor Katanga’s transition onto a modern starship would be greatly appreciated.”
Star smirked again. “Leave it with me, sir.”