One of the things Vice Admiral Seagraves had learned early on in her tenure as Director of Fourth Fleet Operations is that there was no “normal” when it came to Starfleet, not when the positioning of a hundred or so starships operating out of a dozen or so stations to accomplish two or three hundred missions at a time came down to a game of tri-dimensional chess. More often than not, she found herself not only playing against the crisis du jour but her own complex priorities. Finding the proper starship (in terms of position, capabilities, size, and speed) and the right crew (in terms of experience and specialization) for every mission was a delicate balance of compromise. Maybe a California-class utility cruiser would need to show the flag against a group of Orions testing Starfleet’s patience in the chaos the Century Storm approaching, if there wasn’t a Manticore-class heavy escort to be had, or a Sovereign would have to flex her medical muscles in the absence of a better-equipped Obena or Odyssey, for instance.
The delicate ballet of ships going to and fro across the Federation space was represented by dozens of blue deltas moving ever so slowly (in terms of absolute distance) between the stars on a map in the Operations Center. Out of an abundance of caution, she’d been ordered to decamp to the secure bunker buried beneath Starbase Four’s shore facilities, which was shielded against electromagnetic radiation and all kinds of other exotic dangers like subspace anomalies and temporal rifts. That way, if something were to happen to the orbital facility, at least part of the Fourth Fleet’s command structure would remain intact. The large room was supported by graceful duranium beams, and Starfleet had even fitted it with a holographic ceiling display to simulate the sky above, even though they were nearly a kilometer underground.
So far, ships were getting where they needed to go, and their missions were being accomplished well. Each hour, another dozen reports ended up in Seagraves’s inbox, filtered down from the hundreds that ended up in Captain Bancroft’s, and while there were challenges, the Fourth Fleet was acquitting itself well. She didn’t envy the task that was mounting for the Department of Temporal Investigations to clean up once the storm had passed, but that was thankfully beyond the scope of her role. All in all, the Stormbreaker Campaign was proceeding to plan, and they didn’t even have to violate interstellar law to accomplish that mission! She wasn’t fully satisfied sending a few of their smaller ships on missions a little too big for their capabilities, but even their Ravens were acquitting themselves exceptionally well.
Seagraves was sitting on a rather luxe couch in her temporary office; all of the senior flag officers had accommodations in the bunker because if the Borg or Voth showed up in orbit, they deserved to at least have something leather to sit on while awaiting destruction, right? She hated reading off of holos, so one of the few affectations she would admit to was a preference for reading paper reports. As luck would have it, though, the hologrid could accomplish exactly that function without sacrificing confidentiality or classification levels by allowing her to mark up the latest ship movement proposals with her red pen on simulated paper, all of which ended up in the computer automatically.
The glasses she wore were less of an affectation, though, and more an artifact of stubbornness. She didn’t want to go through yet another round of Retinax, not when she could still mostly see fine, especially with the black-rimmed “cheaters” she’d replicated for herself. Dr. Delacour would find it difficult not to be smug, anyway.
The door chimed, and she didn’t even glance up as Captain Bancroft entered, not waiting for her summons. They had settled into an excellent routine in their nearly two years together, and she would be sad to see him go, even though he’d earned a change of scenery.
“After all of this time, who would have thought that I’d end up in the secret bunker while Admiral Beckett remained free to roam above ground?” Seagraves quipped as she finished the last scribbles and changes on the deployment sheet.
“It’s unclear whether he’s a holographic projection or not at this point,” Bancroft retorted. He accepted the paper document from her, and it disappeared into the ether when he laid it on top of his own PADD, technological advancement indistinguishable from magic. “Admiral Dowd’s office has been having trouble getting through some of the interference still, but I’ll have these sent out right away.”
“There’s one more on the desk,” Seagraves noted, nodding over to a physical PADD that she’d left in the center of the desk. She gestured at the padfolio she was working from to summon another report, pretending to read it as Bancroft grabbed the PADD and started to leave. The captain was nearly out the door before he paused. “Something wrong?”
Bancroft stepped back into the room, letting the door close again. “I… I’m grateful, Admiral. I didn’t realize I was even in contention,” the young man said, trying to contain his glee visibly.
“You have put your time in, Marcus. Between myself, Knox, and Hayden, you’ve been a chief of staff for over three years now. You deserve a command of your own, and the Cerastes needs a captain,” Seagraves replied, standing up from the couch. “I want to make sure you’re taken care of before I retire.”
“What, haven’t I earned it by now?”
“Of course… I just didn’t see you as the type to slow down, sir,” Bancroft replied.
Seagraves shrugged. “I don’t know if it’ll stick, but I’ve been an officer for 38 years. It’s time for a step back,” she replied, crossing her arms. “Vice Admirals Belvedere and Kominek, along with Rear Admiral Hayden, are all in the running, but at that point, you’ll be on your own bridge and won’t have to deal with whatever in-fighting is left here.”
“The place won’t be the same without you, sir,” Bancroft replied. “I appreciate your faith in me,” he added.
The admiral chuckled. “I don’t do ‘faith,’ Marcus. I do trust, which is quite different. Faith is taken blindly, while trust is earned by proving yourself, which you have done,” she noted. “Once things have calmed down to as close as we can get to ‘normal,’ we’ll get you on that ship.”
Bancroft grinned. “Normal. The 32nd of Never-ary. Got it.”