Part of USS Challenger: New Beginnings

If I Had A Bar Of Latinum…

Starfleet Comand, San Francisco, Earth
October 2399
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Captain Forrester pushed the door open and stepped out into the sunlight. A gentle breeze began to brush his skin as he strode away from the building.. He took a deep lungful of the fresh air, a relief after the stale and sometimes hot air he’d suffered through inside for the past four hours. As he walked, his gaze fell upon a familiar figure pacing back and forth not far away.

“Have you been waiting for me?” Forrester asked as he approached his best friend.

The Captain watched as Mitchell came to a stop and his head snapped round to meet Forrester’s gaze. “Thought I’d stick around to see how your debrief went.”

“You thought you’d stick around to see if Starfleet gave me any hint about my next command.” Forrester replied with a smirk, seeing through the pilots lame excuse easily enough

Mitchell nodded. “It’s been almost three weeks since the Trafalgar docked at the San Francisco Fleet Yards. What the hell’s taking them so long?”

“They did have bigger fish to fry.” The Captain pointed out as he began walking towards the nearest transporter station with Mitchell quickly falling into step beside him. The Omega crises had been dealt with, the galactic barrier restored and life could finally begin returning to normal for Starfleet. “But I have a meeting with Commodore Vega tomorrow so I think we’ll have new orders soon.”

He glanced to the side as Mitchell threw his head back and looked to the sky. “Hallelujah.” The pilot exclaimed. “I’ve spent enough of this year sitting on my hands. I just want to get back out there.”

“I know what you mean.” Forrester agreed. “Even with the Grian mission, this past few weeks has felt more like a month and a half. I’m not used to living planetside for more than a week at a time anymore.”

The Captain’s words caused Mitchell to smirk. “Wow. You’ve come a long way from the farm boy I met when I arrived in San Francisco for my first year.” The smirk slowly became a genuine smile. “The one who’s only experience of space was the journey from Coltar to Earth. Whatever happened to him?”

“He grew up.” Forrester replied wistfully, caught up in their shared history.

Mitchell’s smile widened. “Grew up.” He repeated. “Got old is more like it.” The pilot raised a finger to Forrester’s beard. “Are those flecks of grey that I see?”

“Y’know what,” Forrester came to a stop with Mitchell following suit a second later, “screw you. We can’t all go to such extreme lengths to stay young.” He joked.

Tom could see the mischief in his friend’s eyes. “Whatever it takes.” He pointed to the Captain’s beard again. “The beard adds a few years too, especially with those greys.”

“I shouldn’t have to put up with this.” Forrester mumbled as he set off again with Mitchell close behind. “There must be some backwater assignment I can transfer you to.”

Expecting a witty retort, Forrester was surprised when Mitchell spoke again. “Uh-oh.”

“What’s wrong?” Tom asked as he looked over at his friend.

Mitchell was looking at something in the distance. “Incoming.”

The Captain followed his friend’s gaze, scanning the crowd until he finally spotted the incoming; his Executive Officer, Commander Kailir Tejara. As she approached the two men, Forrester called out. “When did you get back, Commander?”

“Last night.” She replied simply, placing her hands behind her back.

Mitchell quickly chimed in. “How was Bajor?” When she shot him an icy glare, he quickly added a ‘ma’am’.

“It was fine, Commander.” Kailir said coolly.

Forrester watched as Mitchell shifted his weight from one foot to another. “I…uh….I have a…a thing.” The pilot announced. “So I’m gonna go.”  He nodded at each of them in turn and offered a ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ to them before walking away.

Mitchell had only gotten a few steps before turning back and addressing the Captain. “Oh, I spoke to mom today.  Mitchell family dinner tonight.”

“Ugh.” Forrester let out a groan. “I don’t know if I have the energy for a Mitchell family dinner.”

Mitchell opened his arms and shrugged. “Yeah…well…boo hoo. Cry me a river. I had a hot date planned and now I have to cancel it and go to this thing instead.” He gave a small wave. “I’ll see you in Baltimore.”

“I don’t like him.” Commander Kailir announced once Mitchell was out of earshot.

Forrester rolled his eyes. “I’m aware of that, Commander.” He told her. “Even if you hadn’t told me at least once a week since he was assigned to the Trafalgar, it would be patently obvious because the tension between the two of you is so thick I could cut it with a knife. You’ve never told me why, though.”

“He’s arrogant.” Kailir replied immediately.

Forrester snorted. “He’s a pilot. Of course he’s arrogant. It’s a failing of their kind.”

“I’m a pilot.” The XO replied indignantly.

A smirk pulled at Forrester’s lips. “I know. I’ve read your service record, Commander. The word appears a number of times in your fitreps. Like I said, it’s a failing of your kind.”

“He thinks he’s untouchable because he’s the Captain’s friend.” She shot back, no sign of humour in her features.

AJ could be an arrogant SOB, sure, but he certainly didn’t expect special treatment just because he was the Captain’s best friend. “You and I both know that he’s not untouchable.” When the XO opened her mouth to reply but closed it again without saying a word, he promoted her. “Speak your mind, Commander. You’ve never had a problem doing that in the past.”

“I worry that where Lieutenant Commander Mitchell is concerned, you are,” Kailir hesitated for a moment and when she finally spoke she did so softly, “soft.”

“Soft.” Forrester repeated the word, shocked at his XO’s confession. “You think I’m soft?”

Keilir nodded solemnly. “Where Lieutenant Commander Mitchell is concerned, yes sir.” When the Captain didn’t reply and an uncomfortable silence stretched between them, she filled the void. “You were Academy roommates, best friends for twenty five years and then you lost him, spent the past ten years thinking he was dead only for him to miraculously reappear at the beginning of this year. I’ve heard you refer to him as your brother. I worry that all of that taken together suggests that you’re more likely to turn a blind eye to his misbehaviour.”

“Misbehaviour?” Given how much he was repeating what others were saying, Forrester worried that he was quickly turning into a parrot. “Has he stepped out of line since transferring to the Trafalgar?”

Keilir shook her head. “No, sir. He’s been a model officer since transferring aboard. But there are some incidents in his past that I’m worried about.”

“Oh my god.” Forrester rolled his eyes. “Are you talking about what happened on the Independence? That was a long time ago.”

The fire in the XO’s eyes was unmistakable. “For us, yes.  But not for him.” She pointed out. “Caught in a compromising position on multiple occasions.”

“Compromising position.” He scoffed, certain that he was becoming a parrot. “You make it sound like he was caught in flagrante delicto. He was caught making out with junior officers in a jefferies tube.” Not that that made what he did any better but there was no point in blowing things out of proportion.

“Can you honestly say that if he did it again while under your command that you’d punish him the same way you’d punish any other member of the crew?” Keilir asked.

Forrester sighed. “Yes, I would.” He folded his arms. It was a defensive move and he knew it but his command ability was being questioned so he was feeling pretty damned defensive. “You wanna take a guess who caught him the third and final time he was caught in a ‘compromising position’?”

“You.” Keilir replied after a few seconds, quickly realising why he’d asked the question.

The Captain nodded.  “Correct. I was looking for my deputy, who wasn’t answering his commbadge so I used the computer to locate him and when I found him, he was in the arms of my best friend. I placed them both on report and tore strips off of them.”

“I may let a few lapses in protocol slide in front of my senior officers, but AJ knows I hold him to a higher standard of behaviour” Forrester continued. “If he steps out of line then I will come down on him like a ton of bricks.”

Keilir nodded slowly and studied the Captain. “We’ll have to wait and see then. What is it you humans say? Proof of the pudding is in the eating?”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing, Commander.” Forrester shot back, before taking a deep breath and letting it out through his mouth as if he was riding his body of whatever tension the conversation had caused. “Anyway, what did you need me for?”

The Commander looked relieved for the chance to change the subject. “I was wondering if there was any news on our next assignment.”

“If I had a bar of latinum for everytime someone asked me I’d have-”

The XO quickly cut him off. “Two bars.”

“Only two bars? You forget I’ve been living with AJ and his family. He’s been asking me at least once a day.” He told her with a smile. “I have a meeting in the morning with Commodore Vega.”. Over Keilir’s shoulder he spotted an Andorian in a Starfleet officer with gold shoulders and two silver pips attached to her chest. “And here’s another member of our happy little band.”

The Lieutenant approached them. “Good day Captain.” She gave a nod first to the Captain and then to the XO. “Commander.”

“When did you get back from Andoria?” Forrester asked.

The Andorian zhen stiffly placed her hands behind her back. “I returned yesterday evening.” She told them.

“Everyone’s getting back last night.” Forrester mumbled. “So, what can we do for you, Lieutenant?”

The Lieutenant looked from the Captain to the XO and back. “Is there an update on when we can expect our new orders?”

Forrester hung his head and closed his eyes as a grin slowly spread across Keilir’s mouth. “There’s another bar of latinum for you, sir.”