Commander Zh’tora stood on the far side of the ready room desk, her antennae seemingly focusing on Captain MacLeod. Curiosity, he thought, given the secret communication that he received.
“There’s a situation developing that I’m not authorized to disclose any details of,” he began. “Our mission isn’t changing, at least not for the moment, but if we are affected then I’m most likely going to be giving orders that I can’t give explanations for and that are not up for discussion. I just wanted to give you a heads-up on the situation so that it’s not … unexpected.”
She did not look happy. “I’m second-in-command of this ship and you can’t give me any more information than that?”
“I’m afraid not, Commander,” was all he could say.
“What if you’re incapacitated? I won’t know anything about what we’re facing.” She fixed him with a stern glare. “This puts the ship at risk!”
“In that case, you will command this ship to the best of your ability with the information that you have. You have proven your aptitude for Command in the past, including situations where you did not have any prior intelligence. My orders, or rather my obligations with regard to this situation, will not pass to you.” He hoped that the compliment embedded in his response would diffuse her anger at being kept in the dark.
“I understand,” She huffed. “This isn’t an ideal start to our working relationship.”
“That it is not, however I am counting on you Commander.” His statement made her raise an eyebrow. “In the event that you or I issue an order that seems odd, I need you to discourage any questioning of it or any speculation amongst the crew. Trust me when I say that Command has a very good reason for secrecy, so we have to try to avoid them figuring it out on their own.”
She shifted uncomfortably, perhaps realizing that she was going to be on the receiving end of the protests and concerns she just leveled herself. Such was the chain of command. “Yes, Sir.” she acknowledged with a tone of acceptance. “Is there anything else?”
“As a matter of fact, there is,” he replied as he offered a PADD of schematics to her. “Command has sent specifications for modifications that we need to make. I want you to oversee the modification of photon torpedoes to carry gravimetric charges.”
“Gravimetric charges?” The question left her lips almost immediately.
Struan let the question hang there and fixed her with a look.
“Right,” she huffed. “No questions, no speculation.”
“Now you’re getting it,” he smiled back at her. “Have them available to the ship herself and also to one of the runabouts. I’ll let you know which one when I’ve spoken to Engineering.”
She nodded and accepted the PADD.
“Thank you Commander, you have the bridge.”
She left the ready room and was passing orders to the Tactical officer as Struan headed for the turbolift on his way to Engineering.
Main Engineering had a certain comfort to it. It had changed a bit but was essentially still the same place where Struan had spent a lot of time as a junior officer. Lieutenant Commander Trehd was at the far end of the room, being shown something by a young officer attending a console by the warp core.
“Captain! What brings you down here?” Trehd’s tone was cheery, but Struan knew that wasn’t likely to last.
“I’d love to say I was just visiting for old time’s sake, but I have some modifications that I need to have implemented.” Struan gestured with the PADD that he’d loaded the specifications onto.
“Let’s see now,” Trehd replied as he accepted the PADD. He began subconsciously stroking his beard as he read through the schematics. “Multiphasic shielding around the warp core? Are we expecting some kind of subspace radiation?”
“I can’t answer that, and I have to ask you not to speculate on why it may be needed,” Struan responded, hoping that the conversation wasn’t about to turn into an argument.
“Humph,” the Tellarite snorted, unsatisfied by the answer. “Well I’ll need to run some tests first but..”
Struan interrupted. “I’m afraid there’s no time for that. I need work to begin on this immediately.”
Trehd seemed flustered. “No testing? Captain, I can’t just make modifications to the warp core unless I know they aren’t going to cause any problems. They can’t always be foreseen!”
“The specifications come from the Starfleet Corps of Engineers and are specifically for this class of vessel. You’re going to have to trust them.” Struan insisted.
“But Captain” Trehd complained.
Struan cut him off again. “That’s an order Commander.”
“I must protest!” Trehd growled, his frustration evident.
“I understand. Submit any protests that you feel you need to. I will include them in my log but you have to start the modifications now.” Struan felt bad insisting on it, as he knew he would have the same reservations if he were still in that position.
“Yes, Captain” Trehd snorted.
There hadn’t been the kind of argument that Struan feared he might have had to deal with, but his Chief Engineer was now as unhappy as his XO about it all. He couldn’t help but wonder how long the crew would follow him if he continued dismissing concerns and pulling rank. If only it hadn’t been the first request he was making of him.
“I also need a runabout modified in the same way, with hull reinforcements too” Struan added, drawing attention to the remainder of the specifications listed.
“I’ll put together a team to do the work. We’ll use the Carron.” Trehd agreed to that without complaint, but his face told the Captain that he wanted to.
“Whoever you select, I need you to discourage any kind of speculation about what the work is for. It’s classified.”
“As you wish, Sir.” Trehd’s tone indicated that he wasn’t happy about that either.
“Thank you Commander. Keep me informed of the progress.”
Trehd nodded as the Captain turned to leave. Struan could hear him summoning Engineers as he made his way back to the turbolift. He made a mental note to return and show appreciation for the work they’d done. He hoped that would smooth over some of the relationship damage he’d just done.