TUE: USS Pugnacious - "The Park Bench"

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by TheLoneRedshirt, Apr 28, 2020.

  1. TheLoneRedshirt

    TheLoneRedshirt Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    May 22, 2007
    Location:
    Here and now.
    TUE: USS Pugnacious – "The Park Bench"

    Stardate 2355.2 (14 May 2325)
    USS Pugnacious NCC-487


    Star Station Echo – Berth 7

    Lt. Commander January Sylvest (Jan to her friends) sipped a cup of Gwin'tja tea in the combination ward room, galley, and conference room of the Patrol Cutter, USS Pugnacious, known affectionately to her crew as “The Pug.” Across from her, Lt. Pasqal, her Denobulan Executive Officer, finished his third container of chocolate milk, and regarded his commanding officer.

    “A farthing for your thoughts, Skipper,” he quipped, wiping the milk mustache away with a napkin.

    “Penny,” she replied, absently. “Wrong unit of currency,”

    “Ah,” he said, making a mental note. Like many of his race, Pasqal was an extrovert with few social filters. He was also fascinated with all things Terran . . . cultures, customs, history, and especially, food. The Denobulan was quite adept at learning odd sayings that covered myriad cultures, going back centuries into Earth's history.

    As a joke, Sylvest had found a copy of Blaise Pascal's, Pensées, and given it to the XO since the ancient French philosopher's names sounded like his. To her chagrin, Pasqal read the entire book in one evening, committing its contents to memory, and peppeed her with random Pascal quotes for weeks after.

    Sylvest idly gazed upon the images of former commanding offices which lined the faux wood paneling of the ward room. The Pug was nearly a century old, so there were dozens of portraits vying for space. It felt a bit like they were looking down upon her with expressions of vague disapproval.

    Don't judge me, she thought. I know some of you screwed up.

    “Pasqal, what did you make of our meeting with Commodore Munson,” she asked, referring to their Squadron Commander.

    “It seemed straightforward to me. Prepare the ship for a visit by Admiral Lars Odegaard on the occasion of his 125th birthday.”

    “I got that part,” she grumbled. “But why us?

    “Perhaps, because he was the first commanding officer of the Pugnacious?” Pasqal gestured at the first and oldest image. It showed a young officer in a blue jumpsuit who looked far too young to command a cutter, much less old enough to leave home without his parents.

    “I know that, Pasqal. But Odegaard commanded several other ships, plus he was the driving force behind the Albacore-class and the Soyuz-class. He basically drug the Border Service kicking and screaming into modern times.”

    Pasqal grinned. “That's a wonderful expression! I must work it into my vocabulary.”

    "Hmm," she replied, non-committal.

    "How is your tea?" He inquired.

    She paused, considering. "Above average," she replied, not taking her eyes off the portrait of Lars Odegaard.

    * * *

    Finishing her tea, she stood, as did Pasqal. They were a study in contrasts. Sylvest was statuesque and fit, with curly copper hair that she tamed with a hair band. Emerald green eyes contrasted nicely with her fair complexion. Lt. Pasqal was nearly a head shorter than Sylvest, slightly pudgy, with mottled pink and orange skin, prominent facial ridges, and a large forehead that emphasized his receding hairline.

    Despite their physical and cultural differences, they had an abiding friendship with mutual trust. They worked well together, developing a near-telepathic link that served so well during critical moments.

    “Pasqal, work up a schedule for cosmetic repairs and deep-cleaning of the ship. And make sure to have all equipment stowed securely. God help us if the Father of the Modern Border Service should trip over an unsecured smart-line, or some crewman's tighty-whiteys.”

    “At his age, that might prove fatal,” Pasqal added.

    Sylvest winced. “Exactly.”

    “Then you may consider it as good as done.”

    “Thanks,” she said with sincerity. She wasn't worried so much about the work. Serving on the Pug required a strong work-ethic and a willingness to multi-task. If not, you didn't last long as part of her crew. Captain Sylvest's angst arose from another matter.

    “Might I make an observation.?”

    “You have to ask?” she kidded. “Go ahead.”

    “You appear overly stressed in anticipation of Admiral Odegaard's visit. Why don't you take some time to walk around the station to relieve your anxiety. Perhaps, you could imbibe too much alcohol or indulge in wanton sexual activities?”

    That elicited a laugh. “First . . . no. Second, hell no.” She thought a moment. “But maybe a walk in the Arboreum might clear my head.”

    “That's the spirit!” he said, spreading his mouth in the too-wide grin that always made Sylvest slightly uncomfortable. “And don't you worry; we'll have this ship in pristine condition before Admiral Odegaard arrives in a mere three days.”

    * * *

    “I'm not worried,” she told herself as she began strolling along the winding paths of the Arboreum. “If I were worried, I'd be talking to myself.”

    She still wore her work coveralls, having rejected the idea of putting on the fancier burgundy jacket and black trousers for a walk in the woods. The standard duty uniform looked good, but wasn't really practical, to her way of thinking. Sylvest was a hands-on commander, willing and able to get her hands dirty, keeping the Pug's old but well-maintained systems running at peak efficiency. She embraced the adage, a C.O. should never ask any member of the crew to do something she wouldn't or couldn't do herself.

    Consequently, she was often mistaken for an enlisted crew-person when off the ship. That never bothered her, although it occasionally caused a senior officer to raise an eyebrow when noting her rank insignia. But thankfully, she never received a rebuke, so she figured it was okay, even if a bit unusual.

    The plants and trees were real, though many were genetically engineered to coexist with species from different worlds. It was an eclectic but beautiful mix of flora and fauna. She usually felt the tension melt away in this quiet, green space. But today, that sense of peace eluded her.

    Admirals made her nervous as a rule. She was a mere Lieutenant Commander, after all. But Lars Odegaard was more than just an Admiral (albeit, retired). He was a legend . . . a symbol . . . revered by generations of Border Dogs. He took a collection of misfits, losers, and scoundrels and created a professional military organization that fell under Starfleet Command as the interdiction and law-enforcement branch.

    She came to what she considered her “happy place.” When she was growing up on Mars, she often visited a similar Arboreum in Olympic City. Things were never very happy at home, so it had been her oasis, a place where she could think or not think.

    Jan continued the quiet conversation with herself, finally coming upon a familiar spot in a clearing of the trees.

    The park bench was Terran and timeless in design. Sylvest settled onto the wooden slats, sighing as she allowed herself to relax and draping an arm off a wrought-iron armrest. A small creature, similar to a Terran squirrel but with more fur and floppy ears, approached and chittered expectantly.

    “Sorry, little guy. I didn't bring any treats today.”

    The small creature stood on its hind legs, chittering with greater intensity before turning and scurrying up a nearby tree. Sylvest watched it as it climbed.

    “I believe you just got blessed out by a Rigellian Virta.”

    Startled, Sylvest turned to see a woman standing near the bench. She had not heard her approach.

    “Sorry, didn't mean to startle you,” continued the woman, who appeared quite advanced in years. She was Human, with snow white hair and a kind face etched with the lines of many years. Her bearing was erect in spite of her advanced age, and she exuded a quiet, dignified authority. The stranger was, in fact, quite striking for a woman who was nearing the century mark.

    Jan smiled. “No worries, I was just wool-gathering.”

    “May I sit down, Commander? My legs don't carry me as far without resting as they once did.”

    “Please,” replied Sylvest, indicating the space next to her.

    “Thanks.” The woman wore a shimmery translucent shawl over a trendy civilian jump-suit of a deep turquoise. Sylvest was impressed that she had noticed and correctly identified her rank insignia.

    “Did you serve in Starfleet? Not everyone knows what these flashes signify.”

    “Started out as a Fleeter,” replied the woman with a wry smile. “Was transferred to the Border Service back in 2259. I assaulted a fellow officer who was drunk and making untoward and unrelenting advances. I told him, 'no,' several times. I got his attention when I put his face into a brick wall and bent his arm the wrong way.”

    “Good for you,” replied Sylvest. She couldn't abide bullies, especially those who wore the uniform.

    She sighed. “It worked out for the best . . . mostly. I eventually ended up back in Starfleet, but left my heart in the Border Service.”

    “Which squadron?”

    She gestured around them. “This one . . . the Seventh. I was XO on the Merlin.”

    Sylvest felt her breath catch as realization dawned. “You're Admiral Sharlon Erdun.”

    The older woman winced. “Brooks, please. I always hated Sharlon. Long story.”

    “Admiral, it is such an honor . . .”

    Erdun chuckled. “Belay the 'Admiral' crap. I've been retired for decades, Lt. Commander . . .”

    “Sylvest. January Sylvest.” She extended a hand. “My friends call me Jan.”

    Eerdun took the proffered hand, her grip was surprisingly firm. “Nice to meet you, Jan.”

    “It's an honor to meet a living legend, ma'am. May I ask what brings you to Echo?”

    The older woman chuckled. “I like the 'living' part, though 'legend' is a bit much. The Border Service brass requested a few of us fossils to come out of stasis for Admiral Odegaard's shin-dig. My social calendar wasn't exactly full, so I said, 'why not?'”

    Erdun glanced around at the lush forest. “Wish they had this Arboreum when I served. The station is twice the size of when Sonny and I . . .”

    Her voice trailed off. Sylvest thought she saw the beginning of a tear in the corner of Erdun's eye.

    The retired Admiral forced a smile. “Enough of that,” she said, mostly to herself. She turned to Sylvest.

    “Are you on a ship or do you have a duty station on Echo?”

    “Actually, I'm C.O. of the Pugnacious,” she replied with more than a little touch of pride.

    Erdun's face spread into a grin. “The Pug! Hell, I remember her from my Merlin days.”

    Her brow furrowed in thought. “Let's see . . . it was Feyd Sahawneh . . . no,” She snapped her fingers.
    “Barton Jones was C.O. back then.,” she finished, with a note of triumph.

    Sylvest smiled. “Yes ma'am. His picture is in the ward room.”

    Erdun studied the young commander. “And Odegaard is coming to inspect your ship. No wonder, you're hanging out in the woods, talking to yourself.”

    Jan's face reddened. “You heard?”

    Erdun shrugged. “Had my ears upgraded when I turned 90. I can hear an ant fart at 20 meters.”

    Sylvest snorted. “Sorry. Yes, I'm a bit strung out over it. You know what it's like. We're blue-collar, beer-drinking, ball-busting, Border Dogs. We don't do the white glove inspection stuff.”

    Erdun surprised Sylvest by putting her hand up for a high-five, which Sylvest returned.

    “Amen, sister,” intoned Erdun, solemnly.

    The older woman continued. “Look, Jan, let me give you a little advice.”

    Sylvest leaned in. “Yes ma'am?”

    “Do. Not. Sweat. This. That's an order, Lt. Commander Sylvest.”

    Sylvest sighed. “Aye, aye, I hear you, Admiral.”

    “I sense a 'but,'” continued Erdun, with an arched brow.

    “Pug was his ship. He was the first C.O. I guess that makes it different than the run-of-the-mill brass inspection . . . no offense,” she added quickly.

    “None taken,” replied Erdun, with an impish grin. “Ya know, Odegaard was something of a legend even back in the day when I drove a cutter. He was still active duty, of course, but the squadron went to Defcon-four when old Odie would visit. He came aboard Merlin once. I thought Sonny . . . Captain Parker was going to have kittens. You know what happened?”

    “What?”

    “Not a damn thing. Oh sure, Odie walked around, told some salty stories, nodded and smiled a lot, and told Captain Parker to 'keep up the good work.' Then he and his entourage of P.R. hacks and officers went their merry way.”

    Erdun glanced at the younger woman. “You know the old saying about inspections, don't you?”

    “Shine the brass and kiss the ass!” they said in unison, then both laughed.

    “Admiral . . . Brooks . . . thanks. Seriously, this has helped. I wish I could talk longer, but I need to get back to Pug.”

    They both stood. “I understand, Commander. Duty calls. Thanks for the conversation and allowing an old Border Dog a little trip down memory lane. Glad I came in here . . . it will make the time I spend with stuffy flag officers the next few days tolerable.” She shook Sylvest's hand warmly.

    “Ma'am, if you have any spare time while you're here, I'd be honored if you would stop by Pugnacious for a visit.”

    Rear Admiral (Lower Half, retired), took on a pensive expression. “Ya know, Barton Jones used to keep a bottle of Saurian Brandy in a little hidy hole in his quarters.

    “Why, Admiral. Regulations prohibit keeping intoxicants on board Border Service vessels.”

    “I'll take that as a yes. See you around, Jan.”

    “Goodbye, Admiral Erdun. . . and thank you.”

    The older woman held up a hand as she walked away. “Brooks.”

    Sylvest made her way down the opposite path, this time without talking to herself. Sure, the prospect of hosting Admiral Odegaard was still daunting, but the terror had abated.

    Time to go back to work. Wouldn't do for the crew to think their Skipper was slacking off.

    END
     
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  2. admiralelm11

    admiralelm11 Captain Captain

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2009
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    Great story. I love reading about the Border Service and their days before Akinola, Bluefin, Strauss, Solly Brin, Leitjen, Silverfin, and all of that. It's awesome.
     
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  3. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2005
    Location:
    US Pacific Northwest
    That was lovely. Admiral Erdun had me laughing out loud! Good on her for helping to lighten Sylvest's load. Wonderful character work.
     
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  4. pio1776

    pio1776 Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2017
    we need more admirals like her lol
     
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  5. Bry_Sinclair

    Bry_Sinclair Vice Admiral Admiral

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2009
    Location:
    Orbiting Urectum
    Stories don't all need to be big explosions and epic battles, sometimes we can get the most out of one person's own struggles and doubts.
     
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  6. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2006
    Neat little introduction to the Pug and her crew, particularly her skipper who clearly didn't join the Border Service to have to worry about inspections. Particularly cool to see a character from your Merlin series make an appearance. Now I can't help but wonder how that inspection went.
     
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