Chapter 9 <cont'd>
Acting Captain’s Log, SD- 55683.4 (September 7th, 2378)
Europa has set a return course for Galaxy Station to undergo further repairs to the battle damage suffered in our encounter with the Romulans and Ferou. Our casualties from that engagement are eight dead, nineteen injured, six of whom are still recovering in Sickbay.
The last vessels and resupply modules from Vanguard’s second wave have arrived at Galaxy Station, and I will be requisitioning additional security and Marine personnel, given the conflicts we’ve experienced thus far.
The Ferou have, surprisingly, agreed to continuing negotiations with Federation representatives via subspace, despite the horrors of the Romulan ambush. They’ve set a course for Federation space, although it remains to be seen if they’ll allow themselves to be settled on an available world, or simply transit UFP territory on their way to the far-spinward galactic territories.
The Ferou might be cautiously categorized as TFV’s second success story, counting the peaceful if glacial Buntai, who themselves are scheduled to arrive at the Federation’s outermost border in another nine months.
Even now, Captain Lobanov and the
Giacobini are en route to scout a potential First Contact with yet another approaching nomadic fleet. I wish them better luck than we’ve had.
There has been no further contact with the Romulans since our last encounter, and word will only now be reaching Starbase Bastion and Starfleet Command regarding the unfortunate circumstances surrounding that battle. I have no idea what the fallout may be for me, Lieutenant Juneau, or any of the other crew as a result. I can only hope those powers that be understand the context of what occurred.
In the meantime, I’ve asked Lieutenant Ashok to look into the possibility of reinstating Sandhurst’s transwarp modifications to the engines and navigational deflector, while excising whatever elicit back-channel access routines he’d established. It will be long, tedious work to comb through that much code line by line, but if the end result is making
Europa the fastest ship in the task force again, it will be worth the effort.
End Log Entry.
It was approximately twenty minutes after Lar’ragos had finished his log entry when the annunciator to his quarters chimed.
Juneau entered at his beckoning, the woman glancing around his quarters curiously as she stepped across the threshold. “Did I wander into Verrik’s quarters by mistake?” she joked.
Lar’ragos stood from where he’d been kneeling in front of a single candle flame, deep in meditation. He was clothed in a Vulcan robe and Juneau noted that a stylized IDIC symbol was displayed prominently along one bulkhead of his cabin. “I’ve adopted a more ascetic existence of late,” he revealed, giving his XO a warm smile as he gestured for her to take a seat in a cushioned chair near the viewports.
She seated herself, nodding thoughtfully in response. “I remember your quarters from Gibraltar
. They were full of all kinds of souvenirs and knickknacks from across the galaxy. For you this is positively Spartan.”
Lar’ragos removed the robe, revealing his red command shirt and uniform pants underneath, and draped the garment over a chair at the dining table. “Sorbak’s third rule of existential equilibrium, ‘embrace what enhances your life, discard that which does not.’”
Juneau looked impressed. “You’re really taken Vulcan philosophy to heart, haven’t you, sir?”
“Let’s just say that I’ve found it works to keep me centered, First,” he replied, using his new nickname for the executive officer. Some captains called their first officers ‘Number One’ or ‘XO’, and Sandhurst had always favored ‘Exec.’ Lar’ragos had settled on ‘First’ as an appropriately unique compromise.
Lar’ragos stopped briefly at the replicator to get himself a glass of water. Juneau demurred from anything for herself. He sat down across from her, raising his glass in a mock toast. “If I haven't said so before, that was damned fine work with the Romulans, Lieutenant.”
She inclined her head in response, seemingly ill at ease with the compliment. “That’s what I wanted to speak with you about, sir.”
“Be my guest.”
“I… I’m concerned about what… about the tactic I was forced to use on the Romulan ship, Captain.” Juneau appeared uncomfortable, and Lar’ragos detected an undercurrent of guilt in her voice.
“The Romulan ship was on an attack course, correct?” he asked.
“You’d warned them off, and you had no remaining conventional weapons at hand,” he assessed.
“Again, that’s correct.”
“If the level of force is justified, the means by which that force is delivered is of no consequence, Lieutenant,” Lar’ragos advised by rote. “It wouldn’t have mattered if you’d hit them with two dozen quantums, sling-shot them into the nearest star, or… in this case, cooked them with our sensor array. Lethal force was necessary, and you employed the only means at your disposal to deliver that force.”
In response Juneau nodded slowly as she absorbed the implications of that. Without warning, she blurted, “Is there something wrong with me that I don’t feel worse
about what I did, sir? I’ve spoken with Counselor Liu, and he and Taiee and everyone else are handling me with kid gloves, but I’m sleeping just fine.” Her eyes searched out his own. “Shouldn’t I be waking up at night with sweats and nightmares?”
“Not everyone does, Olivia,” he said softly. “You did what you had to do, and it’s okay to be fine with that. Don’t let anyone talk you into being traumatized over something you’re at peace with.”
Juneau grimaced slightly, still looking uncertain. “So… I’m okay?”
“That’s for you to decide, but from where I’m sitting, I’d say yes, absolutely.”
She appeared to relax a bit at that. "What happens to us when we get back to Galaxy?"
"How do you mean?"
"Are we going to be replaced, you and I? As the command staff on Europa
, I mean."
Lar'ragos took another sip of his water. "Not that I've been apprised. The task force is short on command officers as it is. Remember, despite the Romulans' actions, we still managed to make successful First Contact with the Ferou." He set the glass down, giving her his full attention. "I can't guarantee what Command will or won't do, Olivia, but I'm pretty good at reading between the lines, and so far I haven't sensed anything that would suggest either of us is bound for the chopping block."
The young woman smiled at that. "I hope I still have your confidence as XO, sir."
Lar'ragos looked surprised. "You saved the ship, First. You did everything in your power to rescue our away team, and that only failed because Chalois had already beamed us away. Everything you did while in command of the ship only served to strengthen my opinion of you and your abilities."
She sprang up from the chair and started for the door, pausing just long enough on her way past to place a quick kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Captain. You’re the best.” And with that, she was gone.
Lar’ragos touched a hand to his cheek, chuckling to himself. “Silly old man. You did not
see that coming.”