ST: Independence - "The Toltec"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Dnoth, Dec 19, 2008.

  1. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Author's Note: I usually don't like having two stories running at the same time, but after several years, "The Toltec" is hitting me hard. It just won't wait anymore. ;)

    Star Trek: Independence
    “The Toltec”​

    "For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae... but charting the unknown possibilities... of existence." – Q, TNG “All Good Things…”


    PROLOGUE

    Stardate: 53593.7 (5 Aug 2376)
    Starfleet Stockade
    Jaros II

    All the inmates wore the Starfleet desert uniform. It was a simple design: a white shirt with a single colored strip indicating division, white pants, and white boots.

    There were no ranks at Jaros II. Pips were not worn, not even by the guards. No one could attempt to pull rank or say, “You can’t do this to me. I’m an admiral!” Such protests were ignored here. Everyone was the same...and everyone bore a security anklet.

    Ethan Windslow was in his cell, behind a forcefield. He looked at his reflection. His short, terra cotta hair had grown thinner and grayer. He rubbed his goatee absently.

    Today was the last day of his four month sentence. He packed up what little personal items he had: a holo of his family, some engineering journals, and some other small things.

    The forcefield dropped and a guard showed up. The young man, only known to Windslow as “Joe,” said politely enough, “You ready, Windslow?”

    The inmate nodded, “Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready.”

    As they exited, another prisoner called out from an adjacent cell, “Ethan.”

    It was Ivan Cherenkov. He and Windslow often talked from across the hall. Sometimes, they pulled duty together. He arrived about a week after Windslow. He would be released soon as well. Both were reserved men, but incarceration has a way of opening people up. Misery loves company, after all.

    Ivan curtsied, “Take care, Ethan.”

    “Thanks,” he responded, “You too.”

    Windslow reached the final checkpoint. He knew his wife and sons were waiting for him outside. They had arranged temporary lodging on the planet while he served his sentence. Once a week, they were allowed to visit him. Nothing of any real substance was said during those short reunions. Ethan felt like he couldn’t look them in the eyes, not after what he’d done. He was amazed his wife, Susan, stuck with him. He wasn’t sure if he’d do the same if the roles were reversed.

    “Put your right foot on the platform,” ordered the guard.

    He did so. A moment later the anklet unlocked and dropped off.

    The security officer continued as if he’d done this a thousand times before and grew tired of it, which was probably true. “Put your thumb on this padd.”

    Ethan complied.

    “You will still be considered on probationary status for an additional six months. Your rank effective today is Lieutenant Commander and you’ll be reassigned to the USS Independence as first officer.” He handed over a padd, “Here is your travel itinerary. Our records indicate you have no personal items in stockade storage. Is that correct?”

    Windslow was a bit surprised by the impersonal nature of it all. He rejoined, “That’s correct.”

    “Very well,” continued the guard, “As of stardate 53593.74, you are hereby discharged from our facility.”

    A set of heavy nearby doors opened. Beyond was a waiting area. Susan, Paul, and Jeff were there. A joyous moment, it was not. Ethan didn’t know which would be worse, the time he spent here, or having to face his sons everyday.

    He walked hesitantly through the threshold.

    END OF PROLOGUE
     
  2. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    As I always say, you can't have enough Independence. ... Well, I'm starting to say it now.

    A Winslow focused story? I like it. I have a thing for disgraced officers.

    Looking forward to find out which strange and twisty roads you take us down on this one.
     
  3. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    One thing I am curious about in your universe is why Starfleet reinstates people who have been convicted of crimes, instead of discharging them for good. Even with what seems to be the Federation theory of restorative justice, such a person could make a life for themselves in the private sector without risking their presence on Starfleet vessels.

    (Now, I am saying that as a generality, not with Windslow in particular in mind. Just curious, that's all!)
     
  4. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    No cloak & dagger in this one. It's more of an 'expand your mind' story.

    In general, I thinks it's out of desperation. I think many of these 'problem people' would be kicked out if it weren't for the devastating losses of personnel Starfleet took during the war. At least, that's why it was explained in Windslow's case.
     
  5. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    We've had plenty of characters in the United Trek universe which were sent to the stockade temporarily. Winslow for one, half of Dark Territory's Aegis crew and Star Eagle's Tazla Star.

    I think the rationale behind this is that these are punitive actions not severe enough for a straight out dismissal. Ro Laren is another example.

    Tazla Star is actually an exception. She was released due to personal shortages during the war. I would assume many inmates would have received similar treatments considering how desperate Starfleet was.
     
  6. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER 1

    The Interceptor class ship, resembling a compact, mean-looking Intrepid class, was lit by the blue light coming from the nearby star.

    *****

    Stardate: 53605.3 (9 Aug 2376)
    USS Independence, MainBridge
    Regulus System

    “D’nas, come here. Look at this,” prompted science officer Tang Zian.

    The Tamarian helmsman looked back, “But I’m manning my station.”

    Tang examined the bridge. The only other person there was Lieutenant Chase. She was at operations. The blonde woman chuckled to herself and said to D’nas, “Don’t worry. I won’t tell.”

    There was no denying it was quiet. Captain Aurelia was in her ready room. Bin Nadal was pulling double duty as acting XO and security chief. He was in his office. The only other person on the ship over the rank of lieutenant was Doctor Zo’Kama and she was in sickbay.

    Cautiously, the Tamarian exchange officer got up and walked over to the science station. It provoked another round of chuckles from Chase.

    “Have Tamarians ever seen a star like this?” asked the Asian officer.

    D’nas studied the display. “That blue giant is spinning extremely fast. It fully rotates in 15.9 hours.”

    “Exactly,” confirmed Tang. “If it were rotating only 16% faster, centripetal force would overcome gravity and the star would tear itself apart.”

    “Amazing.”

    “It’s going so fast, it’s flattened out a bit.”

    The young Tamarian’s natural curiosity took over at that point, “Is there any life in this system?”

    “Regulus II has some plant and animal life. Regulan bloodworms are still used for medical procedures on some worlds.”

    D’nas somberly observed, “Intelligent life won’t be able to develop here.”

    “Nope,” agreed Zian, “This blue giant will fizzle out before that happens. I doubt Regulus will last another 10 million years.”

    “That might be enough time for sentient life to evolve from to point it’s at now,” suggested the Tamarian.

    Morbidly, Tang retorted, “Yeah, just in time to see their sun blow up in their face.”

    Lieutenant Commander bin Nadal suddenly joined the two. He looked over Tang’s shoulder. “I was under the impression Regulus II’s magnetic field isn’t strong enough to block all the radiation the star is emitting. That’s why most life lives underground.”

    D’nas was caught off guard. He snapped to attention, “Sir, I apologize for abandoning my post. I…I…”

    Karim’s brow crunched up. He looked at the Tamarian, then at the empty helm station, and back to D’nas. “I’ll let it slide this time.”

    “Yes, Sir.” Despite the commander’s playful tone, D’nas felt the need to return to flight control.

    Karim continued on. He shared a grin with Tang and a wider grin with Chase. She returned it and raised him a blown kiss. His smile grew even more but he didn’t return it and he didn’t stop to socialize with her. They had agreed to keep duty time duty time and personal time personal time. Besides, which, the captain summoned him.

    *****

    Supplemental
    USS Independence, Captain’s Ready Room
    Regulus System

    “You wanted to see me?” Karim started informally.

    She didn’t object for his familiarity. It was their normal interaction. “Yeah,” the dark-haired, Latin American woman said. “Two things; we have our new marching orders.” She spun the computer screen around so he could see, “It appears a Federation gallicite mine has been damaged by Nausicaan raiders. The Rhode Island was dispatched to clean the mess they made and we’re supposed to provide security.”

    The Persian glanced at the information, “The Maluria system, huh? That’s only about three light years away.” He straightened back up, “Any idea why the Nausicaans attacked it?”

    She shrugged, “The gallicite, I’d guess. It’s used for refitting warp coils. Since the war, it’s become even more valuable than it was.” She added, “Besides which, the Nausicaans never really accepted the Federation presence in that system.”

    “I can see why,” commented bin Nadal, “Their homeworld is only five light years away.”

    “I researched the system,” elaborated the captain, “Maluria VID is the moon where the mining facility is. It has a compliment of about 50 workers.” She made eye contact, “No one was killed in the attack, thanks for asking.”

    Helpless, Karim lifted his arms.

    Sintina continued, “And supposedly, there’s a human colony on the second planet.”

    “Supposedly?”

    “Yeah, they don’t really keep in contact with the Federation. The last official contact with them was in 2316.”

    “Sixty years?” Bin Nadal went on, “Well, it’s not that uncommon for colony worlds to be rather independent.”

    She leaned back, “I think it’s time they had another visit. Just to make sure they’re still alive and kicking.”

    “Not a problem. When do we meet the Rhode Island?”

    “Tomorrow afternoon we need to be at the mining facility.”

    “Warp seven should do it. I’ll get us underway,” he said as he began to exit.

    Sintina stopped him, “I said two things.”

    He did an about face, “So you did.”

    Her expression became one of disappointment, “The Rhode Island is also bringing back Windslow.”

    Bin Nadal wasn’t sure how to react. He simply said, “Oh.”

    “Yeah,” Sintina blankly commented.

    “Hey, that’s ok. It’ll be nice to get more sleep again. I’m sure Zo’Kama will feel the same.”

    Aurelia shook her head, “I really don’t want to deal with him again.”

    He shrugged, “Who knows, maybe it did him good.”

    “I doubt it. People don’t often change.”

    Karim didn’t feel the need to add his opinion.

    She concluded with, “I just hope he got his head out of his ass.”

    END OF CHAPTER 1
     
  7. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Premium Member

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    An excellent beginning to what looks like is going to be a strong character study. Windslow has most definitely gone through his share of bad times--much of it brought on by himself, to be sure. And it's fun seeing the "old" Indy gang running around again too.
     
  8. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I've been avoiding this for fear of spoilers about the other story-glad I took a chance.
     
  9. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Oh Nausicans! Can't imagine any problems there!

    Hmmm and what about that colony ... :shifty: ? Surely there'll be no issues with the Federation and everything is just rosey they'll just have been pottering along as normal.

    Oh wait - this is an Indy story! i take everything back :rolleyes:
     
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Nice start and a nice departure from the intense, espionage, thriller you last published. Thank you for giving a shout out to Ivan.

    It is creepy reading the Nadal/Chase scenes knowing what's to come though.
     
  11. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    FWI, I'm having technical difficulties with my computer, so I don't know when I'm going to be able to post next.
     
  12. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    No worries. That will give us 'normal' writers a chance to catch up with our work. You're a machine and you make us look bad.
     
  13. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    :borg: ...resistence is...ah, never mind. It's been over done. :)
     
  14. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER 2

    Supplemental
    USS Rhode Island, Crew’s Quarters
    En Route to the Maluria system


    The Windslow family had been given, what would politely be called, the cold shoulder from the Nova class crew. After beaming aboard, an ensign escorted them to their quarters. There was no smile, no tour, no “welcome aboard.”

    For basically the whole trip, the four stayed in their cramped quarters. That would try the nerves of a happy family, to say nothing of the current dynamic of the Windslows.

    The golden-haired, German woman had just put the twelve and six year old to sleep. She emerged from the darkness of the boys’ room. She paused for a moment as her eyes met her husbands. It was the first time since the conviction that they were alone. Susan tapped the door shut to the kid’s bedroom and joined Ethan on the couch. She could remember a time when he was the best husband and father anyone could ask for. It seemed like a lifetime ago.

    The moment hung in the air like smog.

    “I know you don’t want to talk about it,” she began.

    “You’re right,” he coldly confirmed.

    Susan Windslow had an almost infinite amount of grace and patience. There was an aura of calm and acceptance that surrounded her, most of the time. It served her well in her role of teacher and mother. She didn’t often circum to her emotions. She couldn’t. Susan had to be strong for her family. Recent events, however, had strained her serenity. For two years, her family had been incomplete.

    In January 2374, Ethan accepted an assignment that he wasn’t made for. He took command of the Bismarck and took it to war. Susan didn’t want him to take it at the time. Not because she didn’t think he could handle it, but because he didn’t think he could handle it. Of course, he never said that out loud. He was a builder; not a destroyer.

    As the tide turned in favor of the Federation Alliance, Ethan reacted as a man a peace; not as a starship captain. During a relief mission on a recently subdued Cardassian colony, his away team came under fire. Instead of coordinating his team and fighting back, he ran. He left them.

    The real crime occurred later. Captain Ethan Windslow returned to the ship, rejoined the main fleet and acted as if it didn’t happen. Two weeks later, his ship and crew were destroyed in a skirmish with the Dominion.

    A log from his first officer was recovered from the flotsam. If it hadn’t been discovered, he might still be a captain.

    Then, events turned surreal. Ethan was contacted by Admiral William Ross. Ross gave certain assurances to him, if he just kept his mouth shut. The admiral made mention of a ship he wanted Ethan to captain. Reinforced by those promises, the Celtic man didn’t cooperate with the investigation.

    During this time, a temporarily demoted, Windslow served as first officer of the Independence. Physically, Susan’s family had been reunited. Ethan, unfortunately, wasn’t the same. He was distant and aloof. She assumed it was the burden of war and the atrocities he had seen. She tried to talk to him about it, but she didn’t want to press him too fast.

    The investigation was ready to be closed until survivors from his mission on the Cardassian colony were discovered in a Dominion prison camp. They changed the game. Ross, and the hope he offered, disappeared.

    Shortly after, Ethan was sent to Jaros II.

    Once again, Susan’s family was reunited…but it still was not whole. Ethan’s deception was exposed. Guilt and self-pity had replaced anxiety and subterfuge.

    Finally, she pressed, “We have to deal with this.”

    Ethan brooded and shifted his weight. He asked indignantly, “What do you want from me?”

    She moved closer and responded, “I want the real you back. I want you to be happy again.”

    Her gentle plea forced his eyes to water. He sucked it back. He said nothing except, “I’m still used to sleeping alone. I’m going to sleep on the couch.”

    *****

    Stardate: 53607.3 (10 Aug 2376)
    USS Independence, Main Bridge
    In Orbit of Maluria VID


    The image of a Nova class vessel with an ice covered moon in the background filled the main viewer. The gunship was only thirty meters longer than the science – in this case, repair – vessel.

    Captain Aurelia uncrossed her legs in the center seat and looked over her shoulder to communications, “On screen.”

    The Rhode Island captain, Jason Killian, nodded out of respect before starting, “Captain Aurelia, good to see Starfleet didn’t skimp on the firepower.”

    She grinned at the observation. Captain Killian was a rather old looking, light-skinned human. His wrinkled face didn’t obscure bright eyes and a good-natured smile. Sintina jibed in return, “We do enjoy the pulse phasers over here.”

    Killian let out a belly-laugh, “I bet. It’s hard to believe I once commanded one of the first Ambassador class ships when they came off the yard and it was top of the line. Now, it’s two generations old.”

    The mention of the forerunner to the Galaxy class prompted another smile from Sintina. “I’ll have you know, sir, my first command was an Ambassador. They’re damn fine ships.” As she spoke, she assumed Captain Killian was recalled out of retirement to support the war effort. He had a certain casualness that implied it.

    “That they are, Captain. That they are.” He nostalgically sighed, “Well, we should get down to business.” He leaned in and said without fanfare, “I don’t really know who’s technically in charge here, but I’ll make a deal with you. We’ll focus on getting the mine up and running and you cover our butts however you think is best.”

    Sintina decided she liked the man at that moment. Besides that, she had no desire to oversee the repairs of the facility. “Sir, you have a deal.”

    *****

    Supplemental
    USS Independence, Transporter Room Two
    In Orbit of Maluria VID


    The Windslow family materialized on the dais. Ethan was in his red-trimmed, duty uniform. Each held a bag of some sort. Most of their belongings were still in their quarters aboard ship.

    Lieutenant Commander bin Nadal met them. He offered a reserved, yet respectful nod to the returning first officer. “Commander Windslow, Mrs. Windslow, welcome back.”

    “I wanna go back home now, I’m tired,” complained the six year old, Paul.

    Susan placed a hand on his shoulder, “We’ll be there in a second, sweetie. Hold on.” She smiled at the security chief, “Thank you, Karim.” She and the boys stepped down, “How has Jennifer managed with the kids?”

    “To be honest,” he said, “I’m not sure. I know Ensign Macías has been helping out when he can.”

    “I wonder if they’ll let me teach again,” she joked.

    Karim rejoined, “I’m sure they’ll be happy to let you take the led again.”

    “Mom,” unenthusiastically requested Jeff, “Can we go now?”

    She relented as she looked back at Ethan, who still stood apathetically on the pad, “Alright, alright. Let’s go.” She regarded her husband, “Will you be along soon?”

    His answer was a practiced excuse, “I’ll be home after my duties are done.”

    Mild, but expected, disappointment filled Susan’s face. “Sure, ok.” She ushered the boys out of the room.

    A sudden subdued anticipation permeated the transporter room. Windslow – the coward, the disgraced captain, the liar – was back. How much respect did he garner? What would the role here be? Would anyone follow out his orders without second guessing them?

    Finally, bin Nadal offered evenly, “I’ve sent you copies of all the division reports, crew rosters, and other reports since you’ve been gone to your office, sir.”

    Windslow found himself nodding, “Good.” He stepped down, “I…ah…I’ll go report to Captain Aurelia.”

    The security chief simply said, “Aye sir.”

    END OF CHAPTER 2
     
  15. Nerys Ghemor

    Nerys Ghemor Vice Admiral Admiral

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    This looks like this'll be a good character piece. I've really been wondering about this guy since I read For the Empire, and now it looks like I'll be getting some answers...
     
  16. CeJay

    CeJay Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Yeah, this might fill in some of the blanks. Windslow continues to be such a fascinating character because his actions were so inexcusable. How is he going to deal with this ... how are his colleagues? Well, I guess we know what his shipmates think.
     
  17. DavidFalkayn

    DavidFalkayn Commodore Premium Member

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    Dec 13, 2003
    I like your portrayal of Windslow. CeJay's right, his actions were completely and totally inexcusable and he does deserve the opprobrium he's receiving. But, by the same token, he's also a very human figure and you can't help but feel empathy for his position. He was the wrong man in the wrong position at the wrong time and he knew he was incapable of doing that job. To an extent, he reminds me of the Union Civil War general Ambrose Burnside who, when Lincoln appointed him commander of the Army of the Potamac, flat out told the president that he was not fit to command this army. It's a shame that Lincoln didn't listen to him as Burnside really blew it at Fredericksburg. But, after being demoted and put back in command of a division, Burnside proved to be a very good commander--he was just given something he wasn't capable of handling. Same thing with Windslow--they should have kept him an engineer.
     
  18. mirandafave

    mirandafave Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    To repeat the others this is a really good character study of Windslow. It makes for a good read.
     
  19. Mistral

    Mistral Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I'm waiting to see if the details of his desertion come to light...
     
  20. Dnoth

    Dnoth Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    CHAPTER 3

    Supplemental
    USS Independence, Deck One
    In Orbit of Maluria VID


    Windslow had a good idea of what this tour – and the rest of his career – would be like from the walk from the transporter room to the bridge. If he was lucky, the crew members he passed avoided eye contact. If he wasn’t, they glared with disgust. He discovered his own eyes began to watch the carpet.

    He stepped onto the bridge. A few heads went up…and quickly went back down. Captain Aurelia wasn’t there. D’nas was at helm. Tang manned the science station. A blonde woman, who he didn’t know, was at ops. The captain’s Andorian friend, Kimula, approached him with a warm smile. It was then he remembered she was also the ship’s counselor. His stomach fell as he wondered if she was going to insist on seeing him. He had seen enough so-called counselors at Jaros II.

    “Commander Windslow,” she said, “Welcome back.”

    He managed a hollow, “Thank you, Lieutenant.” Before she could guide the conversation, he asked, “Is the captain in her ready room?”

    “Yes sir.”

    The former captain strode to the office without delay.

    Kimula spoke up, “Sir.”

    He reluctantly paused.

    She closed the gap and continued quietly, “Sir, I’d like to suggest we resume our sessions.”

    Ethan fidgeted and promptly blew her off, “I’ll consider it. Excuse me.”

    He tapped the enunciator and entered a moment later.

    *****

    Sintina lowered a padd she was reading in an unimpressed manner and looked up at Windslow as he entered. The doors shut behind him and he assumed a ridged stance.

    With as much dignity as he could muster, he stated, “Lieutenant Commander Ethan Windslow reporting, ma’am.”

    She leaned back and rapped the edge of the padd against the desk a few times before tossing it down. “Before you left, I said I don’t want to deal with a clinically depressed first officer.” She stood up and rounded the desk, “I don’t care about your personal life. I don’t care about your guilt. The only thing I care about is your ability to do your job. Can you do it or not?”

    Still at the position of attention, Windslow’s eyes shifted. He could feel Aurelia was beginning to see his uncertainty. He rejoined, “I will serve to the best of my ability…”

    “That’s not what I asked, Commander,” she interjected with malice. The petite woman stepped right up to the taller man. The size difference only steeled her resolve. “I’ve already put in a request for another XO. Unfortunately for both of us, Starfleet doesn’t consider reposting you a high priority. Frankly, I think they’re having a hard time finding a command that’ll have you.”

    The depression in his face was obvious. In desperation, he uttered, “I said I’d do my best…”

    “I don’t trust your best, Commander!” she snapped. “I don’t trust that you’ll put the well-being of this crew above your own. I trust your judgment at all.” She backed off a bit and went on, “You ran and lied about. You abandoned your people. You let them die to save your own ass!”

    His chin began to shudder as he forced himself to maintain his façade.

    She continued her diatribe, “How can I trust what you put in a report? How can I trust you’ll give me good advice?” She paused and added with emphasis, “And how can I possibly trust you with an away team?”

    He hoped his watery eyes wouldn’t produce a tear. He began to see how impossible the task ahead of him was. She had absolutely no sympathy for him. Maybe that’s how it should be. His torment was meant to last for the rest of his life. He deserved it. His voice no longer held any trace of confidence, “I don’t know, ma’am.”

    “You don’t know,” she repeated indignantly. She returned to her seat, looked at the poor excuse for an officer in front of her, and shook her head. She calmed down a bit before continuing. Windslow was still at attention. She had no intention of easing him. Sintina informed him in a tone that disqualified debate, “Here’s how it’s going to work. The mundane tasks of a first officer are yours, but you will not lead any away teams.”

    Windslow could have debated her on the regulations, but he knew it would only provoke her. He couldn’t dissuade her and he accepted his fate, “Yes ma’am.”

    “Your dismissed, Commander.”

    He acknowledged and walked out a broken man.

    *****

    Supplemental
    USS Independence, Security Office
    In Orbit of Maluria VID


    Karim’s face lit up when Nicole entered. She had a playful expression on her. He had seen it several times before.

    He smiled, “We’re not off duty yet.”

    The light-skinned woman seductively walked around his desk, leaned down and kissed him gently, but passionately. She purred, “Lucky for you, I’m here for a purely professional reason.”

    “It doesn’t look like it,” he joshed.

    Chase offered, “Just because I’m on duty don’t mean I can’t be really…,” she sat in his lap, “…really nice.”

    He mock-considered, “Since you put it that way…” They kissed again.

    A few moments later, Karim prompted, “So is there an actual reason for you coming here?”

    “Actually,” she started, “There is.” She stroked his hair as she elaborated, “Tang told me that Federation colony is on the far side of the star from our position, so we’ll have to take the ship there if we want to check it out.”

    “We can’t leave the mining station or the Rhode Island here alone,” observed the security chief.

    She continued to stroke him, “I’m just delivering the message.” She lean in, pecked him, and joked, “I just love giving you more things to worry about; that’s all.”

    The Persian chuckled, “So that’s why you came down.”

    Nicole grinned, “Now, you’re getting it.”

    *****

    Supplemental
    USS Independence, Captain’s Ready Room
    In Orbit of Maluria VID


    Aurelia placed Captain Killian’s coffee in front of him and she returned to her seat, “So how are the repairs coming?”

    Killian only had a few strands of color left in his hair. He reached for the cup, but decided it was too hot for the moment. He sat back, “Oh, not bad. A few of the miners are requesting to leave.”

    With a mock ignorance, Sintina commented, “Why? Don’t they think its safe living next to the Nausicaans?”

    He chuckled, “Imagine that.” The elder human went on, “So we’re behind schedule. We could use any engineers you’re willing to let go of.”

    “Sure,” she said, “I’ll have a team report to your XO.”

    “Thank you, Captain. That certainly would help us out.”

    She added, with some trepidation, “In fact, my XO was once an engineer. He even worked on the Defiant Project, I’m told. I could send him over…”

    “I appreciate your situation, Captain Aurelia,” Killian cut-in. His care-free expression faded. He knew full well her intentions. She wanted him out of his hair as much as anyone. He continued, “But I have no desire to have my people work with that man.”

    Her attempt to pawn him off failed. She nodded in understanding.

    The old captain offered, “Dealing with characters like that is never easy. I don’t envy you.”

    Aurelia’s brown eyes examined her drink for a moment. She spoke her thoughts, “If it weren’t for the war losses, I wouldn’t have to deal with him.” She took a sip, “It’s an injustice. He led…” She puffed ironically; ‘led’ implied leadership. She changed it to, “he left… all those people to their deaths; but he lived.”

    The off the cuff comment caused Killian to be introspective. After a moment of silence, he spoke, “As I said, I don’t envy you.”

    END OF CHAPTER 3