Part of USS Arcturus: Paradise Found

Arcturus Prime

Flag Suite, Deck 10
November 2399
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Lieutenant Robinson was sitting on the reception desk in the flag suite, marveling at a holo Master Chief Yeoman Diemc’s family. He had no idea that the Zakdorn were so… prolific until he saw the image of her sitting amidst her 14 children and 21 grandchildren while holding her very first great-grandchild on her most recent shore leave. He turned around to hand it back to her, shifting on the desktop to cross his arms and look at her. 

“Zakdorn can live even longer than Vulcans. How do you all fit on one planet with families so big?” he asked. “I have six older brothers, and people think I must have been born into a cult or something.”

Diemc chuckled. “Oh, that’s easy. Zakdorn Prime is twice as big as Earth or Vulcan, but also half as dense,” she explained. “There are also seven other habitable planets in our system that don’t have sapient life of their own.”

“So you’ve got room to spread out. Got it,” Robinson replied. “Must be why your species has such a reputation at being so good at logistics. You’d have to be, with a hundred billion people.”

“Exactly,” she replied with a wink. “We’re whatcha’d call homebodies, though. We don’t have any colonies outside of our home system.”

“And the rest of the galaxy thanks you for that,” Robinson replied. 

For their reputation for being snobby, fussy, and generally unpleasant, Robinson generally liked working with Master Chief Diemc. She’d been with Hayden for decades, so they had a very effective working relationship, and Diemc was quick to tell Robinson when the admiral needed or wanted something done in a particular way, which kept him out of trouble. With that being said, he thought that the Zakdorn were probably amongst the ugliest races in the galaxy, with unusual pouches of fibrous tissue on their cheeks. 

“Do you think it’s true? That the Zakdorn are the best strategists in the galaxy?”

The yeoman laughed. “Well, I know I could kick your scrawny Human behind at chess, go, or strategema without breaking a sweat, and I’m just a simple secretary,” she replied.

“Scrawny?” Robinson asked, hopping up off of the desk. “My body is a temple, madam. Dr. Sheppard even complimented my form the other day in the gym.” 

“Oh, my mistake,” she teased. “I wouldn’t mention that within the captain’s earshot, ya know. Michael’s a sweet boy, but you shouldn’t play with fire around him.”

The idea that Captain Michael Alexander Lancaster could ever be described in any context as a ‘sweet boy’ intrigued Robinson, considering that he always struck him more as a ‘terrifying fascist,’ but he’d save that line of questioning for another occasion. He knew the two of them had served for seven years together under Hayden before the launch of the Arcturus, so if there was anyone aboard who had the scoop on him, it was her.

“I’m not stupid,” Robinson replied as he checked his nails. “Unfortunately, I think he was talking about my technique with the free weights and not my ‘form,’” he added, gesturing at himself. “I could be called at any time to hold a flag for the admiral, or carry her briefcase, or pull out a chair for an ambassador. I’ve got no choice but to hit the gym every day.”

“Better you than me. I’m turning a hundred in a few weeks, and I’m a great grandmother, so with all due respect to Starfleet’s physical fitness standards, they can deal with the fact that I have my own orbit,” the woman replied, which seemed like an exaggeration.

“When a human becomes a centenarian, we enter our final stage of life: twenty or thirty years of being a desiccated monkey skeleton, so you’re looking fabulous right now, momma,” Robison replied earning a smile. “Why didn’t you take leave time? Don’t you want to spend your birthday with them?” he asked, nodding to the picture of her family.

Diemc made a sort of equivocating move, looking at the image for a moment with a sad smile. Robinson momentarily regretted asking the question, as it seemed to bring up unpleasant memories.

“Oh gosh, I do miss them, but I like to save up my leave time to spend as much time at once at home as I can. Plus, she needs me. Not that you don’t take care of her, too, but the last mission was hard on her. She hates keeping secrets. The place I need to be is here,” the Zakdorn explained, cocking her head back to the door leading to the admiral’s office.

“And I need you, too, of course!” Robinson enthused. “If you’re extra nice to me, I won’t even mention your birthday to Her Majesty.”

“She’s been threatening me with a centenary party for quite a while now. I think it’s inescapable. I just don’t want a lot of fuss, ya know?” 

“It’s okay for things to be about you sometimes,” Robinson countered, looking back at the door and tightening his crossed arms. “They’ve been in there for an hour. Why do we even need yet another captain around here?” 

“She needs another perspective with actual command experience, and that’s not something she can get from either of us,” Diemc reminded him. “I never thought I’d hear you objecting to having another attractive man around.”

Robinson laughed. “Are you calling me a whore, Master Chief?”

“Oh, no, hun. That would imply that your romantic escapades have been both profitable and successful,” Diemic replied with a saccharine smile. 

“Fuck. You’ve been practicing your shade,” Robinson replied.

“You know I do not appreciate that language within the admiral’s suite, Mr. Robinson,” the yeoman replied, shaking her head. Ironic, given that the most frequent user of that word was the admiral herself. “According to the definitions you provided me with on the topic, pointing out a fact is ‘reading’ while ‘shade’ would require significantly more wit.”

“I hate that I taught you about that,” Robinson said, rolling his eyes. “And that—what you just said—is definitely shade. Well done.” 

“I guess you can teach an old glorchuform new tricks!”

“I really hope that’s like a dog because the word sounds like some sort of ten-foot slug or something,” Robinson replied, wrinkling his nose at the sound she’d made. “You don’t think Captain #5 is going to push us out?”

“He’ll be in charge of her whole staff–the forty people who work in the CIC, the JAG office, and the mission support center,” Diemc noted. “But not me, my yeomen, or you. We take care of her, and we report to her. And he’ll take care of her by elevating her above the fray and handling the nonsense for her.”

That made Robinson stand up a little straighter.

“But don’t let that go to your head. You don’t want to get in a fight with him,” Diemc replied pointedly. “You want to be a bridge officer. A man in his position will want a ship of his own. Just do what you’ve been doing: be impressive.”

“Seduce him. Got it,” Robinson replied, winking at her. 

“Oh, no, sweetheart. I think working out your ‘daddy issues,’ as I’m told they’re called, is something you should probably save for the holodeck.”

Before Robinson could think of a response, the door to the admiral’s inner office opened. Hayden stepped out first, followed by her new chief of staff: Captain Blake Bennett. He was just at Robinson’s height of a lofty 1.9 meters, but about twenty years older with dark hair and blue eyes. Very handsome and very much at risk of proving Diemc correct, should Robinson slip up and check him out further.

“The heads of my personal staff: Master Chief Diemic, who you’ve already met, and Lieutenant Cooper Robinson, my personal aide,” Hayden said as a way of introduction. “I’d be lost without them.”

“I think you’d be okay, ma’am. You’ve got, what, three Christopher Pikes and a half dozen Silver Palms? I think you know your way around just fine,” Robinson quipped.

“Is he always this sarcastic?” Captain Bennett asked, looking at the admiral.

“Not always. I find the impertinence amusing, though,” Hayden replied, smiling at Robinson.

While the teasing was very gentle, it still made Robinson blush, feeling momentarily as if he were being described as a court jester. “Sometimes I’m sardonic and cynical, too, sir,” he said, deciding it was easier to push through the joke. 

“Well, it’s good to meet you, Lieutenant,” Bennet replied, extending his hand for a handshake, though he didn’t show any sign of having been amused by the banter.

Robinson accepted it; the gesture was short and perfunctory, making him blush more deeply. Evidently, something about him was found to be lacking.

“Cooper, I was hoping that you’d show Captain Bennett to his quarters and help him get familiar with the ship, so I can handle my scheduled call with the Sophia Danenberg,” the admiral said.

Robinson nodded, though he didn’t like that his first real interaction with Bennett would be as a jumped-up yeoman for a man who was in danger of displacing him in the admiral’s affection and patronage. 

“Of course, ma’am.”

“Thank you. I’ll see you both later at this party Dr. Sheppard is throwing,” Hayden replied, smiling and patting Robinson on the shoulder before returning to her office. “Oh, and for the sake of domestic tranquility, I’m ordering you both to have a good time tonight,” she added before the doors closed behind her.

“You don’t get to attend tonight, Master Chief?” Bennett asked.

Diemc smiled. “No, sir. I need to be here to monitor communications,” she said.

Bennett gave her a dubious look but then turned back to Robinson. 

“Shall we?” he asked.

“Of course, sir,” Robinson replied, walking with the captain out of the suite and into the corridor. “We have you on deck eight, which we can access through the atrium or direct via turbolift at your discretion.”

“I’ve been in a lot of starship turbolifts in my day, but never a starship ‘atrium,’ Lieutenant, so why not?” Bennett replied. 

Robinson led Bennett aft from the office complex towards the ship’s atrium. One moment they were in a standard corridor, and then after passing through a nondescript door, they were standing on a balcony overlooking the dramatic open space in the center of the saucer section.

“Most of our sister ships call it a ‘mall’ but the captain prefers ‘atrium’ because it sounds more ‘dignified.’ Some of the Galaxy and Nebula-class ships have them, too, but the Arcturus is the only starship in the fleet that has its very own steakhouse, Arcturus Prime,” Robinson noted, rocking on the balls of his feet as he watched Bennett’s reaction. “It’s meant to give the crew a sense of terrestrial living and connects deck twelve with deck eight.”

“More or less, any starship is the same as any other. I guess I should’ve read the briefing book,” Bennett noted. “I spent much more time preparing on the political and strategic situation than the physical arrangement of the flagship.”

“A ship like this is special, sir,” Robinson enthused.

“Is the steakhouse any good?” 

“I’ve… never been,” the lieutenant admitted.

“Let’s fix that. Lead the way, Mr. Robinson.”

“I… Well, the admiral told me to take you to your quarters.”

“Do you really think I couldn’t find my own quarters? She also ordered me to be nice to you because she’s worried you’ll see my presence as some sort of threat. So, let’s have some steaks and get on the same page,” the captain replied.

Robinson wished for a moment to be literally anywhere else, turning brick-red at hearing that Admiral Hayden was looking out for him, especially since it implied that she thought he wasn’t mature enough to handle another addition to the staff. He studied Bennett for a moment, though, and didn’t see any malice in the revelation, just absolute candor.

“Alright, Captain Qowat Milat. It’s one level down. This way,” he said. “But the rule here is that in a social space is that I get to speak my mind, so prepare yourself.”

A few minutes later, Robinson found himself seated opposite Captain Bennett at a table in Arcturus Prime, which was fitted out in antique-looking wood paneling, low lighting, and the other accouterments necessary to make its guests feel like they were eating in an authentic steakhouse on Earth. 

“I admire the admiral. She’s an impressive figure, no matter how you slice her record. I don’t plan on being in this job forever, but while I have it, I’m going to do everything in my power to make her life easier,” Bennett said, once the holo-waiter had delivered a glass of bourbon for him and a cosmopolitan for Robinson. “Whatever working relationship you have with her, I have no intention of interfering.”

“I don’t really know what to say to that,” the lieutenant replied, taking a sip from his fluorescent pink drink.

Bennett shrugged. “Alright, Robinson. That’s fair,” he noted. “All things being equal, I don’t think I’d care very much about your feelings about me being here, but since Admiral Hayden wants us to be sanguine, that tells me that she values you a lot, which means I also need to value you because you understand what she wants and what she likes.”

“So, you want to use me to further your own agenda,” Robinson replied with a grin.

“Nothing quite so transactional, but I’m the newcomer here. I need to understand the political landscape,” Captain Bennett admitted. “For instance, letting me know what to expect from this party tonight?”

“Well, you did buy me a drink, so I guess it’s the least a girl can do,” Robinson replied, warming up to the idea of being on his side. “It goes both ways, though. I can be your cha’DIch, but I don’t report to you, and I’ll never betray her. I want to be a bridge officer, and if I enter into some unholy pact with you, you’re taking me with you when you get that ship you’re looking for.”

“Prove you’re useful, and that won’t be a problem.”

Robinson grinned. “You really know how to make a guy feel special on a first date, sir.”