Captain’s Ready Room
Two days later…
“Captain, we have not found any survivors or a trace of the Ariane,” Commander Sheppard reported.
“Lost with all hands,” Tan grimly shook her head. The two settled into an uneasy silence as they contemplated the loss of the Ariane. Eventually, Erasia placed her hands on her desk and pushed up from her chair. “That’s that then,” she said. “This office is yours.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I can’t accept this promotion,” Sheppard shook his head. “I won’t accept it sir. The Empress has a perfectly good captain as it is.”
“If I’m so perfect why did I let Rhizzo countermand my orders and use outlawed weapons?” She charged, her anger coming to the fore. “Why was my only plan one that signed the death warrants of hundreds of my fellow crewmen?”
“Sir, the Kothlis’Ka presented us with a no win scenario,” Sheppard said. “There was little to be done that was different than what you did. I’m sure that Captain Tanaka told you the same.”
Erasia laughed bitterly. She had indeed gotten a similar talking to from Captain Tanaka. Empress had been able to beam out the K’mpec’s bridge crew. It had been one of the few wins from the battle.
“Don’t worry I’m not going to hunker away. I think I can still be of some use. With Dr. Segen’s loss, you are in need of a chief medical officer.” Unfortunately the Mazarite had been sucked into space through one of the hull breaches perforating Empress’s hull.
“You’ll be of more use to us in the center seat,” Commander Sheppard declared.
“I’ve already informed you of my decision,” Tan stood ramrod straight. “If you can’t handle the big chair, say so now and I’ll promote Lt. Moeller or hand off the reins to Captain Tanaka.”
“I think Captain Tanaka feels the same way I do,” Sheppard ventured. “He won’t accept them.”
“I guess its Katrina’s ship then. As soon as she returns,” Erasia said. Hours ago, Aarti had informed her that the shuttles sent out to retrieve any Narcissus survivors were on their way to the battlefield, and thankfully with some survivors.
“Permission to speak freely Captain?” The human’s jaw was tight. Tan waved her allowance. “I can’t believe that a woman who just faced impossible odds and came out on top of them is a coward.”
“What did you just say?” Erasia’s hackles rose at the accusation. But Sheppard held his ground.
“Perhaps the big chair is just a little too big for you right now,” the first officer charged. “We’ve lost a lot, but we’ve also survived, and we’ve sent a message to the Kothlis’Ka that even got a response from them.
Despite Rhizzo’s controversial methods, it’s arguable that they played a role in the Kothlis’Ka leaving us in peace, not as a symbol of their dominance but as an equal foe, someone that had earned their respect. I don’t know what that could mean in the long term, but it was your plan that brought that about, albeit with some tweaking from Commander Rhizzo.
None of us expected to be alive after that battle, but here we are, arguing now. It’s a miracle. So suck it up and treasure it.”
“After you finished?” She asked.
“There’s more I could say,” he admitted, “but I don’t want to have to clean any more nacelles with a toothbrush.”
Erasia eased, “It’s just, the responsibility, the weight of this…it’s just very immense, and I can’t help but second guess myself, wondering if this whole thing could’ve been averted. I’m also worried about the response from the Tholians and especially the Romulans.” Aarti had projected that the remnants of the Kothlis’Ka armada remained headed toward the Hobus system in Romulan space.
“Let Starfleet and the Federation Council worry about that,” Sheppard offered. “We did our duty and that’s all that matters.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Erasia said, a weight lifting off her shoulders. “About that captaincy…can I have it back?”
“Actually,” Sheppard grinned, “The big chair is awfully comfortable.” The two shared a welcome laugh.
“Thank you Mark,” Tan said, holding out her hand. The first officer clasped it.
“The least I could do,” he smiled. “We all need a good swift kick every now and then.”
“Excuse me?” She raised a reproachful eyebrow.
“Proverbially speaking of course,” he quickly added.
“I guess I better get out there and inform the crew that I’m sticking around,” she smiled.
“I think that is for the best, I’m sure that they will be glad, though I’m going to be a little sad about having to cancel my party in the lounge.”
“So you were preparing a party to celebrate your promotion?”
“Well, ah, it was all for boosting the ship’s morale.”
“Seriously. Honestly Captain.” Sheppard said, starting to get perturbed.
“Just joshing Mark,” the captain said. The man exhaled in relief.
“That’s good to hear,” he replied.
“As was your talking to. It helped put things back into perspective. No more pity parties, I promise.”
“Aye, aye sir.”
“And don’t cancel your party. I think we all need to celebrate, we need to treasure our victory.”
“That’s a very good idea sir,” Sheppard said.
“Don’t push it,” Captain Erasia good-naturedly chided as side-by-side they stepped onto the bridge.