“And that’s it.” McCallister said solemnly.
The room had fallen silent the moment he had told them they were relieved of duty, effectively immediately and were expected to leave the Odyssey in the next twenty-four hours. The lead engineer for Odyssey’s repairs had informed them she wanted to carry out a baryon sweep once all systems were secure. Then after this the ship’s overhaul would begin. It meant that none of the crew could remain on board. McCallister had wondered if Admiral Bennet had used the sweep as a reason to ensure they all got off the ship.
His entire senior staff were assembled in the conference room. The captain was at the head of the table and everyone had taken their usual chairs on either side depending on their seniority or position on the ship.
“Does Starfleet genuinely believe we’re unable to perform our duties?” Samris asked, breaking the uneasy silence. The Romulan psychologist appeared to have taken the news that someone else was going to assess the crew to determine if his work in supporting them with their mental health during their recent ordeal had been good enough. It was either that or he didn’t care, McCallister was certain that was not the case with Samris.
“Does it matter?” Tomaz countered back with. The Barzan chief strategic operations officer and intelligence officer was almost slumped down in his chair, compared to anyone else. His mood reflected his tone of voice. McCallister knew that Tomaz was struggling to come to terms with what happened on the Quirennal in the final moments. The revelation that Jyster had created isomorphic projections of the other children to ensure her sons were not lonely and that she had tricked them all into believing that they were real had hit them all hard. For Tomaz, he took it more to heart. The child he had been given to care for, Jeddie, was gone. In an unexpected turn of events, Tomaz had risen to the challenge of parenthood extremely well and everyone had noticed how well he had taken on the youngster under his wing. Fatherhood had fit him well. A bond had formed between Tomaz and Jeddie, then for it all to be yanked away from him in an instant was hard to cope with. McCallister had read a report where Tomaz had lost his cool the moment he had been beamed back to the Odyssey during the rescue attempt. Storming onto the bridge, he yelled at Flemen to try to beam the children they had left behind on board the Odyssey. The revelation that they weren’t there had stunned those who had been rescued, no more than Tomaz in such a public way. Breaking down in tears, he had to be escorted off the bridge by Slyvexs and her husband. So hearing his remark in that tone was no surprise. Tomaz looked as though he had not slept, dark circles under his eyes and his dishevelled hair was enough to show he had not been able to deal with his loss.
“Who’s leading the team that will carry out the assessments?” Slyvexs asked towards the captain after subtly tapping Tomaz on the back of his hand. She was sat next to him, it was clear she had specifically chosen to as normally she would be sat closer to the captain.
McCallister looked at Samris and answered the counsellor’s question. “It’s not whether or not Starfleet believe we can or can’t do our jobs, this is about taking time to step back and reflect on what has happened to us.” Before answering Slyvexs, McCallister glanced at his first officer, knowing that what he was about to say may start the awkwardness they had spoken about privately earlier. “A Counsellor Louwanna Horin is leading the team. Apparently she’s an expert in supporting mass trauma at this level.”
“I trained with her back at the Academy.” Duncan added, avoiding eye contact with Hunsen and doing his absolute best to keep his thoughts clear. “She’s good.”
Hunsen had picked up the look and heard some vague thoughts from both his captain and commander. The chief engineer sat up and looked across the table at Duncan. “I know Louwanna too.”
Stepping in to avoid it becoming awkward between the two commanders, McCallister spoke up. “Well then I’m sure it will give you sometime to catch up.” The captain looked at everyone else. “I expect the entire crew to give the counsellor and her teams their complete cooperation and ensure that everyone gives this time offered to us the dedication and openness it deserves. Dismissed.”
Everyone all said their usual ‘thank yous’ as they got up towards the captain, but McCallister called out for Flemen to remain behind. Watching the door close behind the last soul, the captain turned his gaze back to his chief diplomatic officer and contact specialist. “Craigen, I’ve received further word from Rear Admiral Bennet about your battlefield promotion.”
Reaching for his three pips with his left hand, the Lumerian placed his hand over them to shield them and assure himself they were still there. “What about it, sir?”
“The admiral has said, now that your time as acting captain has come to an end, he wants to know if the promotion was too hasty on his point to place someone in command.” McCallister shared.
“Am I going to lose my third pip, sir?” Flemen asked. “That’s so unfair.”
Holding his hands up, McCallister calmed the young man down. “Listen Craigen, I don’t have an issue with you being at the rank. I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I did, especially as I got my four pips from a battlefield promotion. That said, I think it would help ease the admiral’s mind if we can show him that you are interested in command more.”
Crossing his arms against his chest, Flemen wasn’t sure what his captain was suggesting. “I don’t understand, sir.”
“I believe a former mentor of mine once wrote in your service file that one day she hoped to see you in the centre chair.” McCallister said with a smirk.
“Captain Rio Canção?”
“Captain Rio Canção,” McCallister confirmed. “So can I make a suggestion? Let’s get an application in for you to take the Command Training Program.”
“The CTP?” Flemen questioned as he took a step back. “Sir, I just about passed Advanced Tactical Training,” He remarked. “And that didn’t really help me out back in the Delta Quadrant when I was left in command.”
“The CTP will help you Craigen. What’s next for you anyway? A second officer posting, maybe the chance to be a first officer on a smaller ship? Do you want that?” McCallister examined. “I think you need to use this time while we take our mandatory shore leave and consider this seriously. I’d hate for the admiral to change his mind, especially as you’ve only been a lieutenant for two years.”
Realising that this could hinder his career, Flemen just nodded in acknowledgement and left the captain standing in the conference lounge by himself.
Stepping across the bridge towards Duncan, Hunsen approached the first officer where he stood at mission ops. Duncan noticed Hunsen’s presence and turned around. Leaning against the console, Duncan crossed his arms against his chest. “I suppose you want to know why I’ve never raised it before.”
The chief engineer just nodded as he copied Duncan’s movement and crossed his own arms too. “Yeah, I do Max.” He paused. “And I take it from what I could sense in there that the captain is aware of your past relationship and mine with Louwanna?”
“He does.” Duncan said, being honest.
“And does Tobias know?” He asked.
Duncan winced inwardly as Court heard his name and walked across the bridge to join them. “Does Tobias know what?” He questioned, looking between the chief engineer and his boyfriend.
Sighing heavily, Duncan looked at Court. “Tobie, Counsellor Horin is more than just an old classmate of mine.”
Court looked at him and then realised what he was saying. “Oh,” Court said, he appeared a bit taken back by that. “Okay, well we both have ex-partners. What’s the problem?”
Surprised at how well Court was taking the news, Duncan stood up and dropped his arms. “When I dated her, I only found out at the end she was betrothed to someone else.”
“Who?” Court asked.
“Me.” Hunsen answered as he looked at Court and then back to Duncan. “However, I stopped the marriage before it could take place.”
Confused as to why this was being made to be more than it seemed, Court glanced between the two men. “I’m sorry guys, again I’ll ask: what’s the problem? So Max dated her over twenty years ago? Why is that fact or that you were meant to marry her a problem?”
Hunsen sighed, “It’s not an issue, but it might have been nice if Max had said something sooner.”
“Why?” Duncan asked, defending his position. “I broke up with her years ago, she never told me who you were until we were no longer dating. In fact, she shared it with me before I left to join the Vendetta. I had completely forgotten about it when I joined Odyssey. Read my mind, I’m telling the truth.”
Hunsen glared at Duncan for a moment, squinting his eyes, and then released his look. “Fine, but this better not cause any issues between any of us.” Hunsen grumbled as he moved away.
Court watched the engineer stomp away and then headed over to stand beside Duncan. “Max, why is he making it out to be more than it is?”
“I’m not sure, it’s probably deep rooted in some sort of old Betazoid tradition we’re unaware of.” Duncan said as he placed his arm around the side of Court. “Let’s cross the bridge if it ever comes. In the meantime, one thing the captain didn’t mention in there was the news about the boys.”
“Oh? Good news, I hope?” Court wondered.
Nodding, Duncan assured him it was. “I think so, the Displacement Agency will meet with us but the admiral said he can’t see it being an issue if the boys wish to remain onboard.”
“Good.” Court said, sounding relieved. He placed his hands on Duncan’s hips. Normally, such public displays of affection wouldn’t take place but the bridge was now devoid of anyone else. “Talking of which, we still haven’t finalised where they’re going to stay.”
Pulling Court in closer, Duncan nodded his head in agreement with the issue Court shared. “I was thinking about that earlier,” Duncan said in a lower tone. “I was wondering, how about we use this time off to spend with the boys and we stay in one of those famous luxury houses that exist on Mellstoxx Three? Then when we get back, we look at moving in together? Commander Cambil’s quarters have not been taken over since her departure. It’s large enough for the four of us, if you’re up for it?”
Considering the proposal for a moment, Court just nodded. “I like it.” He leaned in and kissed Duncan on the lips to seal the agreement.
Walking off the turbolift and moving swiftly across the deck towards his quarters, Tomaz pushed past people as he made his way home. He could feel the tears in his eyes, stinging his vision. The undesirable pain in his chest was overwhelming enough. He just needed to get away from everyone and take a moment to breath in the privacy of his quarters.
The moment he was in and the door was closed he told the computer to adjust the environmental controls and set them to be compatible with the atmospheric pressures and gases found on his home planet of Barzan. Swiftly the computer obliged after he confirmed his voice authorisation and within seconds he was able to take off his breathing apparatus off his cheeks and breathe in the gases that would be toxic to others. His eyes colour changed as he moved across the room, stripping off his uniform jacket. Throwing his top on to the floor he made his way towards his private bathroom and went over to the sink. Activating it, he splashed cold water over his face and then looked up at his reflection in the mirror.
He wasn’t sure what he was staring at. Yes he looked like the same guy as before, but Tomaz couldn’t help but feel he was missing something. He knew what it was.
The son he had lost.