Captain's Personal Log
The treatment by Captain Maxwell aboard Phoenix the previous morning seemed to deliver a singular message to me of how I'm perceived within the fleet. At first, I felt like it was an unjust charge given recent events and I wanted to do nothing more than to march over to Admiral T'Cirya's office and demand reassignment to another task force. I very nearly did until he told me about Jesse's alleged son aboard the starbase.
While I believe that we need to find out the truth, part of me is very worried that Jesse will have to transfer off the ship. I think that he's just beginning to fit in around here as XO, and although Ariel performed well in that capacity previously, I don't feel she's ready for the position on a permanent basis. I'm concerned that she'll take that news poorly, if I have to tell her that I need someone with more experience in the position.
Abbie had let it be known to those that she commanded that they were free to come and speak to her about anything if she was having lunch in Ten-Forward. But if she needed to work, as she did today, she sought out the relative privacy of lunch in the wardroom. Large enough to house the entire officer contingent aboard, the wardroom was generally configured with table rounds for at least six people to use at any time.
Her use of one of the tables often went undisturbed by those officers she outranked as she had become adept at projecting an aura which stated, "Leave me alone while I'm eating." It was only those within the senior staff who dared break her quiet enjoyment.
"Good afternoon," said Greg, tray in hand. "I assume everything is going well?"
"Well enough," Abbie answered with a sigh at the interruption. She watched him unamusedly as he took a seat at her table.
"Did you hear about Commander Kincaid?" he asked. Greg drew a steak fry from his tray and held it between his lips as he spoke. "I guess I'm not surprised. He's a pretty good-looking guy. I'm sure he's got women falling all over him."
Abbie snorted. "He's not someone who would take advantage of that situation. Besides, he was in a very serious relationship at the time and is the last man in the quadrant who would be unfaithful."
Before Greg could respond, a pair of security ensigns approached their table with trays. "Hey, Greg," said one of them.
Greg looked up and smiled at the blonde that spoke to him. "Yvonne." He nodded to the quiet one. "Iris."
Both Yvonne Colby and Iris Wu settled in without invitation. Iris greeted them both as she sat down, "Good to see you, Greg, Lieutenant Atherton."
"Ensigns," Abbie greeted them both, then pointedly turned her attention to the PADD beside her tray.
Iris reached out to Greg's upper arm and patted it. "Are you doing okay?"
"Uh..." Greg started, "I'm doing all right. Thanks."
Yvonne added quickly, "If you're not doing anything later, we were going to go down to Holodeck Three and do the new Dorothy Darrington holonovel."
Greg played with his food as he answered. "Nah, I'm just going to go to my quarters and catch up on some sleep. I haven't been sleeping well lately."
The two ensigns merely gave him sympathetic glances. Yvonne changed the subject. "So, I hear that our Exec is a proud papa. Wonder if that means we'll have a replacement coming soon."
That caught Abbie's attention and she gave Yvonne a sharp look.
Iris noticed and cleared her throat conspicuously to get Yvonne's attention, but failed as her friend continued.
"Plus, he's so hot, I'm sure he's had his pick of anyone he wants."
"Do you always speculate about the sexual lives of your commanding officers or is this a special case, Ensign?" Abbie asked Yvonne pointedly.
Iris groaned briefly, then tried to help Yvonne. "Sir, I can assure you she meant no disrespect. It's idle talk and nothing more." She shot an angry glance toward Yvonne as she spoke, "I'm sure she will apologize for what she said, won't she?"
"I don't need an apology, Ensign. I'm just curious about how the crew conducts itself. Is the captain's personal life also for open discussion? You see, I've served on ships in Starfleet. This apparently is some other fleet where it's acceptable to speculate about senior officers and their private lives."
Greg lifted a hand. "I think it's safe to say that many other ships indulge in idle speculation from time to time."
"In their missions, sure. I'm not sure how common it is for officers to gossip about their commander possibly having an illicit child based on one inconclusive test. Suspicion is apparently all it takes here." Before Greg could intervene again, Abbie held up her own hand. "It's all fun and games for you, I'm sure, a nice distraction. But right now, the commander is facing an accusation that impunes his character in a way that is deeply insulting, that he was disloyal to his girlfriend at the time and that he negligently moved on without a care for the child he might have created. Which is likely, apparently, because he is very attractive."
"In all fairness, I think that was more of a dig at my gender than anything else," Greg said lamely.
"Oh, yes, because gender stereotypes belong in the twenty-fourth century," Abbie responded acidly. "If you can't respect the man enough to believe him, then respect the uniform he wears. Officers shouldn't automatically believe the worst about each other." She got to her feet, placing her PADD on her tray in preparation for leaving the table.
Alarmed at seeing Abbie prepare to leave, Greg rose from his seat. "Abbie, c'mon... we'll change the subject. Don't leave."
"I came here to work while having my lunch, Greg. I'm going to go back to doing that in a place where people aren't wildly speculating about another's supposed faults." Abbie turned towards the junior officers. "You haven't served with Kincaid for very long. Or at all, really. For future reference, you won't find a more loyal person serving in the Fleet and you shouldn't gossip about senior officers, but especially the XO or the captain, in a public place. The only reputation you'll damage is your own." With that, she lifted her tray and headed across the room to another empty table.
"And the hits just keep on coming."
From her seat within her counseling office, Isira tilted her head toward Kincaid as he spoke. "You feel this is another 'hit?'"
Kincaid did not lift his head up to look at her. "I don't consider this to be a good thing. Do you?"
"I think that remains to be seen."
"Does it? I think either way, my career aboard this ship is coming to an end."
Isira adjusted her seated position by uncrossing and recrossing her legs. She leaned forward to place her interlaced fingers atop her knee and admitted, "I'm not sure that I understand why you think that."
Kincaid lifted himself off the soft chaise lounge and walked around behind the tall arm on the back side. He leaned against it as though he were standing at the tactical station on the bridge, his arms outstretched along the pliant surface. "I'm sure that the rumor mill has gone to warp speed on my past affairs. I could tell them what I told the captain earlier, but I seriously doubt they'd believe me."
"Let's not worry too much about what others think. I'm more interested in hearing what you think is going to happen."
"That's kind of the problem, though, Counselor. I can't effectively lead unless I have the respect of those serving under my command," he explained while wearing a pained expression on his face.
"I see," Isira replied noncommittally. "Has the captain said anything about replacing you?"
He nodded once. "She mentioned it was a possibility."
"Do you agree with her?"
After a long sigh, Kincaid stood upright. "I think if I were in her shoes, I would be concerned. And yes, if there was a possibility, even slim to none, that this kid might be... you know?"
Isira grinned as she noted he could not bring himself to say it. "Go on."
"... then I suppose that I would have to have some sort of contingency plan, which I assume would be promoting Ariel to Exec."
"I also think that remains to be seen, but do you understand that right now, without a clear answer-"
Exasperated, he raised his voice slightly, "I've already given everyone a clear answer!"
"Think rationally. What constitutes a clear answer for the captain? What would you want to see before making a decision one way or the other?"
"I would want my chief medical officer to run scans to disprove the assertion."
"And what has Captain Leone ordered?"
"I get it." For perhaps the fifth time in this session, Kincaid agitatedly ran a hand through his hair. "Look, you know I've had...difficulty adjusting to Leone's command style. Including her inclusion of the second officer in nearly every meeting we have. I've received reports from department heads that she's been checking in with them as I do, as if that's her responsibility. And that was before this whole mess. She was very quick to name Ariel my successor and it's just one more signal to the crew that she doesn't have confidence in my ability, and soon, with this added on, neither will they."
"That's some complicated thinking," Isira began. "But, again, I'd like to focus on the current problem, not what you see coming from it in regards to your career. Would you like to hazard a guess as to why?"
Kincaid took in a breath and expelled it quickly. "Because there's a child."
"One whom, if I am understanding the current report correctly, does share some genes with you."
"Yeah. Yes. I get it. I'm probably, somehow, related to this kid."
Kincaid nodded. "Whatever happens, I've got to make sure he's going to be okay." He sat down again, leaning forward. "Isira, you know me. If he's mine, there's no way I wouldn't take responsibility for him. I just don't see how he could be mine."
"Fortunately, we have technology to answer that question."
"I should probably go meet him, either way," Kincaid allowed, drawing a small smile from Isira. When he noticed her expression, he gave her a rueful one in return. "I can't say I've never thought about having children."
"That's exceptionally true."
"Okay, yes, I thought I'd probably start having kids soon, but that was before when I thought I would be married by now."
"The order of those events is important to you?"
"Well, no. If the kids come first, well... I honestly wouldn't care. My mother did just fine without the marriage part."
Isira nodded, waiting for him to finish the thought.
"I didn't sleep with that woman, but if the kid is mine, or even just related to me, I'm going to take responsibility. I can't do anything else. My career just isn't as important as family."
Wilson paused at the door leading into Isira's office from the corridor. He had every intention of pushing the door annunciator, but had not yet lifted his hand to do so. The cycle of his decision began once more as he changed his mind and headed down the corridor in the opposite direction toward the turbolift. When he reached the lift, however, he did the exact same thing again; turned back around with a determined expression toward the counselor's office door.
But this time, when he turned around to return to the door, he heard the lift doors open and a familiar voice call his name. "Willie!"
Frozen in discomfiture momentarily, he turned around with a forced grin. "Good evening, Ariel." His eyes drifted down toward her civilian attire for the evening and widened. "Wow, hot date tonight?"
Ariel looked down at herself. "Krys invited me to her holodeck program tonight. Opera."
Wilson grimaced. "Opera's never really held my interest."
She began walking along the corridor with a quick gesture of her hand, and Wilson followed along to talk with her. "Me either, but..."
"But it's the captain, and she invited you."
Ariel sighed and lifted the hem of her layered gown up to walk more stridently toward her quarters. "Something like that, yeah." She turned her head to look at him and ask, "Hey, you don't live on this deck. What're you doing wandering around here?"
"Uh, I was kind of looking for you, actually," he extemporized weakly, glancing toward the counselor's office door as they walked past.
Ariel noticed and said so: "Ah, I see. You really suck at lying."
"If you want to go see the counselor, then go see her."
Wilson froze once more at the sudden exposure. "I was only going to ask her a question."
Ariel unlocked the doors leading to her quarters and entered. "Have a seat and get comfortable. It'll take me a day to get the hell out of this thing."
He found an empty chair amid the mess within her quarters, but did not sit down. PADDs, clothes, and some used drinking glasses were strewn about the room in a whirlwind fashion. He immediately began cleaning up by putting the glasses back in the replicator for recycling.
By the time Ariel returned to the front compartment, her PADDs were stacked and her clothes folded neatly upon the couch. "Aw, shit. I should've known you were going to do this."
Wilson smirked. "I thought you were using me for this purpose, actually. You know full well that I wasn't going to just sit in a dirty room and let my skin crawl while I waited for you."
"Yeah, well," she stammered quickly, then stepped aside to point back from where she entered. "You know, if you're on a roll, my bedroom could use some tidying up."
He narrowed his eyes at her. "Very funny. I thought they taught a modicum of discipline at Starfleet Academy."
"I'm sure they do, but I went through OTS."
"Preceded by boot camp."
"Many many years ago."
"I can't imagine that they would let you get away with being this messy when you're bunking with a bunch of other enlisteds."
Ariel chuckled. "Let's just say that I was waiting for the day when I would get my own set of quarters."
Wilson finished wiping down the glass table and looked around. "Obviously. See, this is much better, right?"
"Absolutely. I should have you drop by every other day to tidy up."
She sat down on a newly-cleaned armchair and asked, "So, what's up with you? Why're you wandering around the counselor's office?"
The cleaning rag still in his hand, he sat down next to the glass dining table and sighed. "Sephon and I had a big fight. He closed his transmission pretty abruptly."
He looked at her. "That's it?"
"You know I'm not going to pry into your personal life."
Wilson could not hold back a snicker. "Except that you like prying into my personal life for sport."
"Under normal circumstances, yes. I'm the league leader in that," she replied quickly. "But if you're considering seeing the counselor about it, then I'm thinking it's more serious than usual."
He nodded slowly. "I'm pretty sure he's going to break up with me."
"I'm sorry," she said at first. After a brief period of silence, she asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"It's nothing, really," Wilson said. His eyes did not leave the deck. "I was supposed to be on Risa after the ship launched, remember?"
Ariel nodded. "But you got asked to stay on."
"And you know that's what I had wanted since the captain became a captain. We'd always talked about serving together on the same ship when she got her fourth pip."
"Right. I'm guessing Sephon had other plans?"
"I had told him what happened; that I didn't get the job. He suggested that we both put in for leave and go to Risa so we could spend time together and he could see his family."
"Okay, well... I spent the first few days off to attend the commissioning and launch, and then right after, I would catch a shuttle to meet up with him. Except... that was like over a month ago."
"Oh, shit. Did you call him?"
"I called him, sure."
"So, then I'm not sure why he would be upset, now."
"Well, I kind of sort of didn't actually speak to him until yesterday."
"What the hell! Of course he's going to be pissed with you."
Wilson blanched. "I know. I'm not saying that I'm not at fault, here. I'm very bad with the long distance thing, but Sephon's been very understanding and very flexible about schedules."
"That's great for you, but don't you think that he deserves the same amount of consideration? You're taking everything he's willing to offer, but it sounds like you're not giving anything in return for it."
"The reason it took me so long to call is because I knew he would react like this, even if it had been the day after. Every time our service gets in the way of us, basically, he throws a fit but especially if it's my service or opportunity."
"Probably because it's clear to him that your career is the most important thing to you."
He closed his eyes, unwilling to admit that she was right. "I, uh... maybe I should go."
As he got up to depart, Ariel followed him toward the door. "Willie... you're not going to be happy unless you're honest with yourself."
He paused, but did not turn around. He nodded a couple of times. "I know. I mean, you're right... but I don't want to talk about it. I need to go think some more."
Ariel reached out with her right hand to touch his left shoulder and squeezed gently. "I'm here if you need me."
The large cabins typically assigned to guests of the starbase are located along the outer edge of the top, giving them all a spectacular view of the incoming and outgoing traffic to the massive orbital docking facility. From within the one of those cabins, a woman stood with arms folded, watching the ships travelling at sublight speed nearby.
The familiar alert tone and the subsequent soft alto feminine voice of the starbase computer broke the silence of the cabin, "Incoming encrypted transmission from Starfleet Intelligence."
The woman replied, "Acknowledged. Computer, route that transmission to this terminal."
"That file is restricted to Alpha-Two clearance and above."
She reached into her pocket and played a recording of a voice. The recording played, "Computer, voiceprint analysis requested for Alpha-Two clearance."
"Voiceprint verified. Alpha-Two clearance granted." The files contents appeared on a screen on the desktop terminal.
"Computer," she used her own voice, "using previously established clearance, display subfile Variable One."
"Variable One access granted." The screen shifted to display the insignia of Starfleet Intelligence before changing to the outline of an adjacent operation.
She scanned the contents and began to make changes to the plan. The change did not alter the file much, only to add a name to the department to which she would "assigned." The name and accompanying record were saved to the starbase's computer and transmitted back to Starfleet Intelligence, using the authority granted to her by the computer.
"Record stored and uploaded to Farragut
personnel manifest," replied the computer. "Starfleet Intelligence acknowledges the revision as verified."
"Disconnect uplink and erase any record of revision from Farragut
's main computer."
"Acknowledged. Logs modified."
"Put this terminal in stand by."
The screen dimmed as the computer carried out the order. She moved into the restroom and peered at herself in the mirror before lifting a wand-like tool from an open kit. With a wave of the wand over her head, she altered the color of her hair from black to a deep auburn. Satisfied with the result, she reached into a pouch within the kit and pulled out a set of lenses that she placed over her eyes. Next came a small circular object that went inside the roof of her mouth.
The formerly contralto voice she used with the computer now spoke in a higher range with a different timbre and a now-clipped British accent. With her now soprano voice, she called out, "Computer, confirm my identity using voiceprint verification."
"Voiceprint verified as Lieutenant Victoria Waltham, USS Farragut
The woman smiled at her reflection and spoke to it: "Good day, sir. I'm Leftenant Waltham."