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Old March 28 2013, 02:10 PM   #2
Zefram_Cochrane
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Re: Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead #7: "The Unreturned Prodigal"

Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead
By Michael D. Garcia and A. J. Gertner

Episode Seven: The Unreturned Prodigal

NCC-65420 (USS Phoenix)
Docked at Starbase 310
Stardate 43322
Starboard Airlock

"Permission to come aboard, sir," said Captain Krystine Leone as she strode through the inner airlock door.

"Permission granted, sir. Welcome aboard, Captain. It's a real honor to make your acquaintance." The lieutenant commander standing just within the door brushed back a strand of brunette hair before extending her hand. Her blue eyes sparkled above a light dusting of freckles.

Leone accepted the proffered hand, inwardly taken aback by the warm welcome. "Uh, likewise, Commander...?"

"Oh! Hayes, sir. Olivia Hayes."

"Good to meet you," said Leone with a smile of her own. "I'm Krystine Leone."

"I know."

The handshake continued for a while longer than normal, and the captain looked down. "Can I have my hand back?"

"Sorry!" said Hayes, dropping her hand as though it was on fire. "As I was saying, sir, your reputation precedes you."

Leone shot her an arched glance. "Does it, now?"

"Oh, no! I didn't mean it like that, sir. I just meant that I've been so looking forward to meeting you."

Unable to help the discomfiture presented by the commander's demeanor, Leone gestured toward the corridor. "Er, yes, well... I assume Captain Maxwell is awaiting my arrival?"

"Of course, sir," Hayes calmed herself noticeably. "I'm sorry about gushing like that."

"It's all right, I guess," she said, as they began down the corridor toward the turbolift. "I just wonder what you've been told."

Hayes grinned, as if she had just been waiting for the opening. "My cousin is Elisabeth Hayes, class of '49."

The information certainly changed Leone's demeanor, who now regarded her warmly. "You're Lisa's cousin? Wait a minute."

"Sir?"

"Her cousin's name was Janna, not Olivia."

A light blush settled upon Hayes' cheeks. "It's Olivia Sarjanna Hayes," she explained. "Janna is a nickname Lisa gave me when I was three."

Leone gave Hayes a wider and warmer smile than before. "Oh, well, gosh, you're practically family, then. No wonder I got the full court press back there. "

Hayes held her smile. "I apologize if I startled you, sir."
Leone chuckled. "Think nothing of it." As Hayes led her down the corridor into the ship, she mentioned, "I haven't spoken to Lisa in a long time. How is she doing?"

"Oh, she's doing fine. She's pulling shore duty right now at Starbase 10 for a few years to get some experience under her belt before she pushes for that fourth pip." They made it to the turbolift and entered. "Main Bridge."

As the car moved upward, Leone thought it over. "Last time I saw her, she was shipping out for a four year tour on Crazy Horse as their operations officer."

Hayes considered that. "She finished that tour not too long ago, with another solid pip on her collar and wearing red instead of gold."

"Good for her. I'll have to get in touch with her at some point and tell her we ran into each other," promised Leone, just as the doors to the lift opened to present the main bridge of Phoenix.

"I'll do the same," grinned Hayes. "This way, please, sir." She led Leone from the rear turbolift onto the bridge. It was nearly exact same module she'd become accustomed to on Farragut, with the notable exception that the navy blue trim was replaced with a bright, almost fire engine red.

Leone thought it looked bizarre against the beige tone of the carpet, and absolutely awful against the wood grain of the tactical horseshoe at the rear of the bridge. Nevertheless, she stepped down to the lower half of the bridge and waited for her escort to signal the commanding officer that she arrived.

The doors to the ready room slid open shortly after Hayes pressed the panel to the side. Like the bridge, the captain's ready room's trim matched that of the ship's signature color, and within sat Captain Benjamin Maxwell.

Maxwell, like Leone, served during the Cardassian Wars, although as the commanding officer of the starship Rutledge. Leone, on the other hand, served as a junior operations officer aboard Intrepid. Maxwell's status as a hero of those wars far outweighed her contributions. She felt like she was meeting a living legend of Starfleet.

Hayes grinned widely. "Captain Benjamin Maxwell, it is my privilege to present Captain Krystine Leone of the starship Farragut."

"Thank you, XO. That will be all," said Maxwell tersely, without looking up from the terminal on top of his desk.

"Sir, I beg your indulgence-"

Captain Maxwell's eyes lifted to fix his executive officer with a cold stare. The chilling glare did more to interrupt her than his words. "That will be all."

Hayes' demeanor changed considerably at his second response. "Aye, aye, sir," she replied, taking a step back before twisting on her heels and exiting. Her abrupt departure seemed to suck all the warmth from the room, as the other captain sat behind his desk.

Leone waited for Maxwell to acknowledge her, let alone offer her a seat. She affected a subordinate stance while in his ready room, as she would expect of a visiting captain to hers. Aboard his or her own ship, the captain was the final authority over all those aboard.

"Thank you," he said finally, "for arriving so quickly."

She inclined her head succinctly, and allowed a smile to spread over her lips. "Of course, sir. I've been looking forward to meeting you."

Maxwell allowed his gaze to meet hers. She searched his eyes for any hint of cordiality, but found none. "Have you?"

Leone bristled at his tone and demeanor. "Yes, sir. I have a friend who served under you aboard Rutledge."

"Is that so?" he asked, dispassionately.

"Yes, sir. Lieutenant Commander Ariel Elannis. She's my chief of operations. She served as a third class master-at-arms during the war," supplied Leone, trying to find some way to make a connection with the senior captain. "She speaks very highly of you, sir."

The wrinkles around his eyes softened slightly. "I'm sure she does, though I wish I could say the same. I'm afraid I don't recall making her acquaintance."

"Well, sir, if you'd like, I'm certain she would love the pleasure."

"Perhaps, if there's time."

She nodded. "Of course, sir."

"Now, as you may or may not be aware, Admiral T'Cirya has assigned your vessel under my command for patrol operations along the Cardassian border."

"Yes, sir. I received my written orders this morning, shortly before receiving your request to see me."

The previous softness disappeared and his tone grew an edge. "It wasn't a request, Captain. It was an order."

In that moment, Leone felt like a first year midshipman once more, standing before the Academy superintendent's desk. She stiffened and stood at attention out of habit. "Yes, sir."

"I understand that you and Rear Admiral T'Cirya are old friends."

"I served under her command as executive officer of Potemkin, and before that aboard Victory."

"And you are the daughter of retired Vice Admiral Angelina Leone, the former Chief of Starfleet Tactical."

"Yes, sir."

"I also understand that your command was by order of the current chief of Starfleet Intelligence, Rear Admiral Alynna Nechayev."

"Yes, sir."

"And that you have connections with the family of Vice Admiral Joy Aspinall, the sitting vice-chief of Starfleet Operations."

"Yes, sir. Our families lived next door to one another for years. In fact," she added with mild pride, "her youngest son is my lead flight controller."

The word "controller" hung in the air as Captain Maxwell said nothing in response to that, seemingly content to consider her words in quiet repose. As the moments dragged, Leone felt herself becoming increasingly unsure of her footing within the suddenly cramped ready room.

"I see," he said, slowly. A gentle tap on the control panel of the desktop terminal rewarded him with a soft audio tone. The information that appeared on the screen widened his eyes noticeably. "I've been serving in Starfleet for over thirty years; fourteen as a commanding officer." He gestured at her toward the open seat before his desk.

"Thank you, sir," she said, seating herself accordingly.

Maxwell offered a sly grin that did not touch his eyes. "Your first mission as captain seems to have been placed on classified hold by three different admirals; two of whom I just mentioned. I attempted to access them, and was met with clearance requests above my current level. That level, I might add, that is considerably higher than yours."

She decided to say nothing to that, giving him a blank look in return.

He continued, "In fact, these holds came about due to the fact that you were being investigated by the office of the Inspector General. Coincidence?"

Leone's expression did not change. "I wouldn't dare presume to debate the wisdom of Starfleet Command, sir."

His grin never dropped. "I'm sure you wouldn't, Captain. It's difficult to debate with a decision that works to your favor."

"I'm not certain of what to say to that, sir," she admitted, honestly.

Maxwell rose from his seat and stood before the viewport, looking out at the traffic surrounding the Starbase. "Perhaps it's better for you to say nothing, Captain. However, were our positions reversed, I would concern myself with my growing reputation within Starfleet."

Enough was enough, she thought. Out of respect for Maxwell, she got to her feet and stood behind him. She kept her tone respectful with her reply, "I'm not sure if I catch your meaning. Have I done something wrong?"

"The fact that you're unaware of it only makes it worse, Captain Leone," he said, refusing to face her. "Are you aware that some of your brother and sister officers have taken to calling you 'Princess Krystine'?"

Upon the mention of that nickname, Leone's gaze dropped to the surface of his desk. A ball of tension began to form in the pit of her stomach as the memories of ridicule from her Academy classmates during her first year surfaced at all once. Her hands moved to the small of her back as she clenched them together tightly. "No, sir, I was not."

"I see. Perhaps now that you are aware, Captain, you may take steps to reduce the scope of your political ties and prove yourself to be as capable an officer as the Admiralty believes you to be."

Leone did her best to maintain a stony expression of neutrality. She did not want him to see that he scored a direct hit on her ego, and in turn, she did not need him to perceive any sign of disrespect toward him. "I thank you, sir, for your kind advice."

"It is not kind, Captain," he corrected her sharply. "I have a vested interest in seeing those ships under my command working together as a cohesive unit. Unfortunately, I believe it will take some time for your ship to find its place within our task force."

She inclined her head. "Yes, sir. I understand."

He turned away from the view and reseated himself behind his desk. Maxwell tapped his desktop terminal and turned it around to face her. "Until I can be more certain of your ability to work in a unit with other ships, you will be tasked to patrol commercial traffic between Starbase 211 and Starbase 47."

Leone tilted her head and did nothing to hide her displeasure. "Sir, Farragut is a heavy cruiser, not a cutter. I assumed that we would be given an assignment as a command vessel for a region of the border, not for simple picket duty. That's a complete misuse of resources!"

Maxwell's upper lip twitched in response before he raised his voice. "That is for me to decide, Captain! I command this task force, not you."

Leone sat back as though he slapped her in the face. This was practically unheard of! And to have it coming from Benjamin Maxwell, of all people. "Sir, I respectfully request that you reconsider."

He did not hesitate. "My decision stands."

"Aye, sir," replied Leone. She mentally cataloged every word he said for her report to Aunt Alynna.

"There will be no further cover provided by your family and friends. Under my command, your 'royalty,' as it were, means nothing. We work for a living."

"Aye, sir."

"And should I hear that you complained to one of your highly-placed friends or members of your own family, and believe me... I will. It will only serve to reinforce your sub-standard reputation."

Damn.
"Understood, sir."

Maxwell reached down for a convenient PADD and offered it to her. "However, for a small bit of respite before you're apparently consigned to your would-be insignificance, your executive officer has a personal matter to attend to on Starbase 310. Until the situation is resolved, you will remain in port."

"Sir?"

Maxwell's tone was cold. "It seems you're not the only officer on board with a reputation. There's an orphaned child on the starbase and his DNA matches that of your Commander Kincaid. I hope you have a replacement for him aboard. The Border Service is no place for a child."
__________________
Michael D. Garcia
Head Writer, Star Trek: Full Speed Ahead (United Trek)

Visit my writing blog or my fanfic profile at Ad Astra.
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