Once Counsellor Duncan had briefed Captain McCallister on what he had discovered from his chat with the Kraylor captain, the Odyssey’s skipper pushed his timetable of leaving up further. After speaking privately to Captain Donlar who had revealed more information to him, McCallister was quickly working on his next move and was currently finishing off in the tactical astrometrics lab. The suite itself was almost like the normal astrometrics lab, a huge wall monitor with a number of monitors and consoles dotted around the edge of the semi-circle shaped room. The main station sat in the middle, one that could be accessed by a group of officers if needed. The room was a recent addition to the ship after its recent overhaul on Earth. Replacing one of the many storage rooms, Starfleet had outfitted the Odyssey with the room to give their new strategic operations officer a place to work. Alongside this, McCallister had requested it after being impressed with what the USS Endeavour was able to undertake with its Combat Information Centre. The small team that now existed on the Odyssey under Lieutenant Tomaz’s direction had all been dismissed by the captain. The room was locked and everything he was doing was being encrypted by the computer as he went along.
The door chime went off and he quickly switched every console and monitor to standby with a single command to the computer. Allowing the person who wanted to see him to enter, McCallister turned his head to the left of where he stood. Not surprised to see Commander Cambil enter, he smiled friendly at her. The two of them had been at odds with each other ever since he had to implement the Omega Directive and he couldn’t share with her what was going on.
“Bexa, everything okay?” He asked as he saved the last of his work and sent it to the Aquarius’ computer.
Holding a PADD in her hands, the Bajoran woman nodded as she passed it to him. “Everything you asked of the senior staff is now complete. The last of the Kraylor have been recovered and are on the ship. Tremt wants to know if he is sending any more engineers over to their ship to undertake any further repairs. Their systems have been secured, but they’ve taken quite a beating.”
Considering his choices carefully, McCallister aired on the side of caution as he took the PADd from her and skimmed over the brief key points that showed everything completed. “That’s good to hear as I’m about to leave on the Aquarius.” He said first before answering her question. “Tell Tremt he can begin repairs, but I’m going to place a condition on it that neither him or you are going to like.”
“That seems to be a recurring theme lately.” Cambil sarcastically remarked as she crossed her arms against her chest. “Would it be out of line to ask where you’re going?”
Ignoring her first comment; he sympathised with her tremendously. It was the first time in almost eight years of her being his first officer that he couldn’t share their orders with her as she didn’t have the fourth pip on her collar. Without a doubt the two of them were two of Starfleet’s finest captains and first officer duo, but her knowing about Omega’s existence was not worth the risk to either of them. “I can tell you this. I’m heading to a place Captain Donlar called the Delta Hedalos Sector. It has several systems in it, one where the Kraylor has a secret research centre. One of two things is going to happen. Either I will succeed on my mission, and return thereafter or long range sensors will detect a massive explosion in subspace. If that happens, and this is where my condition for Tremt comes in, then you’ll have less than a few seconds to dump the Kraylor ship, jump to high warp and move quicker than a Ferengi trying to save their latinum. Head for the Alpha Quadrant and don’t look back, is that clear?”
Still annoyed at him for being so secretive with what was going on, Cambil shook her head in disbelief. “This is ridiculous. You’re expecting me to abandon my captain, my friend in the middle of the Delta Quadrant?”
“If I fail Bexa, you won’t be abandoning me.” McCallister said solemnly.
“Are you honestly telling me that Starfleet is sending you on a suicide mission?” She questioned. “I don’t understand why you can’t limit knowledge of whatever you’re undertaking to a few of the senior staff? Surely you can’t be expected to do this by yourself?”
“I’m afraid I can’t discuss that, Bexa.” He paused, “As I said before, you need to trust me on this one. You have your orders and I expect you to follow them.”
“You’re asking me to trust you with something I don’t know what it is and when it goes wrong to lead this crew as far away from you as possible with the assumption you’re dead. How the hell am I supposed to do that? And why can’t I head to the wormhole?” Cambil questioned further.
McCallister hesitated at first to answer that and he considered his response carefully, but his expression said it all.
“By the sake of the Prophets, this is bigger than us. Isn’t it? This is a coordinated effort by Starfleet across the quadrant, isn’t it?” Cambil guessed. In her mind the larger picture of whatever was going on was starting to form. “If you and others fail then the wormhole could be gone, couldn’t it?”
“That’s a possibility, yes.” confirmed McCallister. “Just keep heading to the Alpha Quadrant and if you can get in touch with Starfleet over hyper-subspace then let them know what happened. I can’t stress enough how important it is you have got to keep moving away from here.”
“You know, I could easily go and ask Captain Donlar what happened?” Cambil rhetorically asked. “I would know everything.”
Shaking his head, McCallsiter countered back with a “No you won’t and you can’t.” He said. “I’ve placed the Hazard Team on bodyguard duty. No-one, besides authorised holographic medical staff, who will be closely monitored on their interactions, are allowed near to the Kraylor, including Captain Donlar. She has also given me her word not to speak about any of it with anyone else on the ship besides me.”
“Are you kidding me JP?” Cambil threw back, throwing her hands in the hand in shock with his behaviour. “The Kraylor are an oppressed people who don’t deserve such treatment. Did you know the Annari have been blockading their homeworld for almost a quarter of a century? And now here you are stopping them from having their freedoms while they’re our guests! I feel like this isn’t a Federation ship anymore, it feels more like a-” She paused as she realised her anger was getting out of control and she would regret saying what she was about to say.
“Go on, say it!” McCallsiter encouraged her. “Like a Cardassian ship? Yeah?” Fuming that she would compare the Odyssey to that, especially with the relationship they had and how much he understood how hurt and passionate she felt about the Cardassian occupation of Bajor, McCallister shook his head. “I’m not going to justify my reasoning, my orders and how this ship will be operated at this time with you Bexa. I have my reasons and that is it.” He stated in a firm tone. “No one has a right to question me or have a say on the matter. That’s why we have the chain of command and that’s why it needs to be respected, especially in special extraordinary circumstances.”
“And what about Karyn and your boys? Don’t they have a say in this?” Cambil inquired with a fierce tone.
“That’s a low blow Bexa and you know I’m doing this to keep them safe.” He spat back as he answered her. “And it’s for them that I plan to do whatever it takes to return.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear the real James Preston McCallister I know is prepared to do whatever it takes to return home to his family.” Cambil stated, appearing to be lighting up in her mood through her tone. Their exchange was starting to become too heated.
“Whatever the cost.” McCallister said. He looked at her, knowing that neither of them liked being in this situation they were in. “You know Bexa, you and I have never been at each other like the way we have been recently.”
“I’ve hated it James.” She shared honestly, pushing a slight tear from her eye. “I hate that Starfleet has put you in this position.”
He nodded in agreement. “You’ll get no argument from me on that.” He paused as he collected his thoughts further and took a breath. “ If it were a simple matter of trust I wouldn’t have a problem in sharing with you what I know. Promise me this though, that the day you become a captain and you know what I know, don’t feel you have to keep this burden to yourself. Every captain and admiral in Starfleet carries it.”
She just nodded in return.
“I can’t ignore what I know and what I’ve been ordered to do. I won’t ask the crew to risk their lives because of my obligation or place their careers at risk because my moral compass told me otherwise. It’s nor fair. It’s not right. What I know is irresponsible to leave unchecked and not dealt with.” McCallister proclaimed while he looked away from her and up at the large wall monitor in the tactical astrometrics suite. “Bexa, there’s no one I trust more than you. You’re a fine First Officer and this is a fine crew.” Turning to look at her with the same seldom look as before, he asked her one question she wasn’t expecting to hear. “Are you ready to Captain this ship?”
Surprised with his frank question, she nodded. “Yes, but she’s yours until you get promoted or transferred.”
Appreciating the sentiment and avoiding adding on that she would become captain if he was killed in the line of duty, McCallister smiled at her as he crossed his arms against her chest. “Assemble the troops.” He ordered her.
Walking out on to the docking port from the turbolift with his sons either side of him and his wife holding his left hand tightly, Captain McCallister was pleased to see the entire senior staff gathered to see him before he left. He hoped this wasn’t going to be the last time, but if it was he would save this moment in his heart for a lifetime.
“Captain on the deck.” shouted Senior Chief Petty Officer Court.
Everyone turned to face him and all stood to attention.
“At ease.” The captain said as he continued to smile at them all as the McCallister clan approached them. He stopped before them and spoke up. “I’ll make this brief. Your orders are to complete repairs on the Kraylor ship and escort them to the nearest friendly outpost. However, if you detect a massive subspace shockwave coming from where I am going, then you are to use whatever means necessary to get this ship and crew back home safely to the Alpha Quadrant.”
“And what about you sir? Alone and left to live the rest of your life in the Delta Quadrant? Doesn’t sound like much fun to me.” Counsellor Duncan stated.
“I’m hoping to see you in a few days time Max, but if the worst case scenario happens then as I’ve told Commander Cambil, you’re not to come and search for me.” McCallister responded in a cool authoritative way.
“We’re not going to let you sacrifice yourself out here for something we don’t know anything about.” Lieutenant Commander Jen said, crossing his arms against his chest. “It’s not right, captain.”
Appreciating the support and loyalty, McCallister smirked at the joined Trill officer. Remembering the young man that sat on the bridge of the Triton all those years ago, recently fresh out of the Academy. “I’ve got my orders Lukiz, it’s not open for debate.”
“It just seems pretty lousy sir that we have to wait around.” Lenjir said, tugging on the end of his Tiburon ear lobe. “Surely a few of us could join you?”
“That holographic crew on the Aquarius can’t respond the same way a flesh and blood crew could.” Hunsen added.
“Enough!” McCallister said. “I appreciate your words, but you have your orders. Thank you.”
Everyone went quiet for a moment, which gave McCallister a moment to say his goodbyes to his family. Karyn placed a kiss on his cheek with a whisper of “I love you” in his ear as they hugged farewell. His sons were next with their embrace.
“Just promise to take care of yourself sir.” Slyvexs offered. The Denobulan doctor appeared sincere in her words as McCallsiter stepped towards the docking port to enter the Aquarius.
He stopped by Cambil, gave her a hug and as they let go she spoke, “May the Prophets bless you on your journey ahead and be with you always.”
Appreciating the sentiment, McCallister turned to everyone and gave one more wink at his wife and sons before the doors to the docking hatch closed and he boarded the Aquarius.
This was it. Come what may, he would remove the threat posed by Omega or die trying.
Whatever the cost.