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Part of USS Mackenzie: Natalie Harris – The Academy Years (NHAY)

NHAY 008 – The Unthinkable

Mellstoxx III - Starfleet Academy
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“What did Captain Jacoby do well?” The angular instructor stood at the front of the simulator, his hands behind his back. Cadet Matthew Jacoby sat in the center chair, his face mixed with emotions. Natalie Harris sat at the operations station behind him and felt much of what was on his face. They had run a simulation in which their ship had been doing some backwater patrol work when an errant Klingon shuttle had swerved into their territory and straight for them.

A Vulcan hand belonging to Spirak went up, “Captain Jacoby identified the ship as behaving in a manner of escape and attempted to hail them.”

Instructor McCloud then narrated, “…and communications were not working on the shuttle for an unknown reason.” A Bajoran hand hesitantly inched into the air, “Cadet Horatio.”

She cleared her throat, “The captain then attempted various communication signals and methods to reach the shuttle.  Those did not work either.”

McCloud continued, “The shuttle continued on an intercept course. There was no communication, no readings. What else did he do well?”

Natalie raised her hand and spoke after he acknowledged her, “Captain Jacoby was instrumental in keeping us focused on the task at hand and away from the danger.”

McCloud changed direction, “Now the harder part.  What can he work on in the future?”

Spirak replied, “The captain could have requested a probe launch to do a closer scan.”

Horatio pursed her lips, “The captain should have considered the possibility that it was a hostile force.  Because it was.”  She turned in her tactical chair at the front of the bridge and gave Jacoby a long stare.  “We might have survived.”

Jacoby looked ready to jump out of his chair and challenge her, but the instructor waved him off and advised, “This mission scenario is one of the many you may encounter out there.  With the shift in Klingon leadership feeding into the Major and Minor Houses, never mind those outside that system.  We’ve all learned when the unthinkable becomes the reality crashing down around us.  Tomorrow, we’ll use Captain Kirk’s encounter with Khan and Picard and his crew’s experience with the Dyson Sphere.  You will need to read the details as we’ll be having an essay response quiz when you walk in the door.  You are dismissed.” The group dispersed until it was just Harris and the instructor. He glanced up from his PADD, “Cadet Harris?”

She stood from the console, “I…these kinds of missions are hard.”

Terry McCloud chuckled, “You think?”  He gestured for her to take the captain’s chair, “You performed your duties at the ops console, and your suggestions to Jacoby were worthwhile and helpful.”

She leaned back in the classic command chair, “Permission to speak freely, sir?” He gave a worried nod.  “Jacoby fucked up.”

He gave her a sharp, “Language, Cadet Harris.  Speaking freely isn’t your chance to impress with your explicit vocabulary.” 

“I’m sorry, sir.”

He sat down at the helm station, “He did screw up.  He was more worried about how impressed Horatio would be with his captain persona.  His attempt at Kirk’s swagger was unprofessional and will be a point of conversation not just with him but with the class tomorrow.  Why are you so concerned about him?”

She rubbed her hands, nervous for the words she considered voicing, “I…um…I would like to apply for the command track, sir.”

McCloud’s mouth dropped open, and he waited for the punchline.  “You’re serious,” was his first words after a few moments of shock. “You’re a gifted operations officer, Cadet Harris.”

She sighed, “I know.  My brother’s eyes would be as wide as yours are, sir.”  She pulled herself up and forward, “I just…I see others in this chair, and it makes me nervous.  Command officers set the tone for a starship.  They are the ones who make sure the culture of a crew is strong and connected.”

“Well, junior cadets are still a work in progress, Cadet Harris.  I’ve had enough experience with cadets turning it around to not give up on anyone.  I rarely flunk.”

She sensed some stories there. She threw her hands in surrender, saying, “I just…Sir, I’ve had some experience out in the field. I watched the commanders and captains. They were…it felt like that’s where I truly want to be.”

Terry pulled up his PADD and said, “I’ll send you the application. If they accept you, it will take some work to catch up on classes.”

Natalie Harris stood at attention, “If I want it bad enough, I’ll work as hard as they’ll allow me, sir.”  He dismissed her and wondered what the future of Natalie Harris looked like now as this decision swung into the mix.  As the door closed behind her, he could only hope it was for the best she had changed her destiny.