Stepping out of the ready room with a mug of tea in his hand, Captain McCallister was taken back a bit by what he walked into. The bridge was almost empty which was not right for the start of alpha shift. What confused him further was seeing Master Chief Court sitting in his chair, with the holographic controls operational on either side of the armrests. It was rare for even McCallister to use them as they were primarily designed when there was a skeleton crew, or just even one person on board and the ship’s automation systems were pretty much operating at one-hundred percent.
“Tobias, where is everyone?” McCallister called over to him as he stepped up towards the middle. “And why are you sitting in my chair?”
Court pointed with his right thumb to the aft section of the bridge. “Blame Max for us being short on the ground here this morning, sir.”
Looking behind to where his master chief was directing him, McCallister noticed his first officer, chief diplomatic officer, chief strategic operations officer and what looked like his son. All of them had their backs to him as they operated the range of aft mission ops consoles.
Making his way over, he called to them. “Good Morning.”
Turning around they all replied with a similar greeting. It was Duncan who went further.
“Sorry, sir, you were busy in the ready room and with our arrival in the next few hours at Vorash, I wanted everyone to do one more check that we are ready for anything that awaits us. I ordered all department heads to conduct final meetings and tie up any loose ends. We’ll have a shipwide status update within the hour and before we cross the border.”
Appreciating the extra caution that Duncan had undertaken, McCallister agreed to it with a nod. Looking at what they were up to, McCallister inquired what he, Flemen, Tomaz and his son was doing.
“Final research and catching up on the last decade and a half of Romulan and Reman politics,” Duncan answered. “Plus, sharing some stories from our last visit to Vorash.”
“Anything of interest?” McCallister asked the group.
Tomaz spoke up to answer him. “Starfleet Intelligence hasn’t heard anything from the inhabitants on the Vorash system since Odyssey left it.”
“Well, that’s what they wanted, to keep to themselves and away from the galactic stage,” McCallister said referring to the refugees they helped save shortly after the ship was launched. “Any other dangers we should be aware of?”
“Nothing directly involving Vorash, sir, but now that the fleet is mobilised we are getting reports in about some worlds seeing some backlash from their inhabitants about the Psi Velorum Sector provisional government requesting Federation aid,” Duncan stated as he pointed at a list of reports that were on one of the screens. “It seems to be only low-level protests, nothing serious has taken place to hamper our relief efforts, however, I’ve just seen a report that the Endeavour was attacked upon its arrival in one of the systems.”
Knowing that Duncan had worked closely with Captain Rourke and his crew during the Archanis Campaign over a year ago, McCallister was aware that Duncan owed Rourke a debt of gratitude. “Casualties?”
“None on our side, thankfully, but it would seem the Romulan Star Empire forces that Captain Rourke engaged weren’t happy about seeing the arrival of one Starfleet’s finest,” Duncan advised. “I suggest we go to yellow alert the moment we cross the border.”
“Agreed,” McCallister said with confidence. He wasn’t going to enter former Romulan space and be caught not prepared. “Do we know how well the Endeavour has been received?” He asked further.
“We’re still awaiting further reports from them, sir,” Tomaz replied. “Nevertheless, we can safely say that the new Endeavour was able to hold her ground against the ships she dealt with. Hopefully the same could be said for the Odyssey.”
“I’m hoping we don’t have to fight anyone where we’re heading.” McCallister countered back as he started to glance over the reports his men were reviewing.
“Endeavour was supported by the local defence force, unfortunately, we’ll only have a Ferengi DaiMon covering our back.” Duncan remarked.
“Grand DaiMon,” Flemen said from his console as he turned around to face the captain and first officer. “The commander’s dear friend has received a promotion.”
“A Grand DaiMon?” McCallister questioned looking between Flemen and Duncan. “Is that like a Fleet Captain?”
“More like an honouree Commodore, sir,” Flemen answered as he brought up Deliaros’s file. “About five years ago she received a sort of promotion, from the Grand Nagus for her exemplary services to the Ferengi Alliance.”
McCallister turned to Duncan, “I hope you’ve got that dress uniform pressed and ready to go?”
“It’s already hanging up!” Court shouted from the centre of the bridge.
His response elicited several chuckles from the others besides Duncan.
Trying to restore some calmness to the room, Duncan raised his hands up. “Well with the captain’s permission, I’d like to bring Lieutenant Commanders Flemen and Tomaz along for the ride when I deal with the Grand DaiMon herself.”
Smirking at his first officer’s intentions, McCallister gave him a look to say he loved his cruelty but went with it. “Sounds good to me, the extra training on the job for the Command Training Program will only help them.”
Both men were about to protest and then realised they had no choice in the matter.
“Talking about training, sir, Cadet McCallister has been assigned to my department for the upcoming month, I’d like him to remain by my side as my aide-de-camp.” Flemen requested as he look between his superior and his superior’s son who sat to the left of him.
McCallister frowned at that idea originally. “Craigen, the diplomatic department already has assistants, why would you need the cadet?”
“Seeing the diplomatic department in full swing is rare sir, I think he’d appreciate the opportunity.” Flemen reported.
Seeing how eager his son was as much as Flemen was, McCallister knew he couldn’t make that call. He wasn’t going to use his rank to favour his son, who was just barely a first-year cadet. Turning to Duncan, he asked his first officer to make the final decision. “As long as he doesn’t get sent into any dangerous situations, then yes for this mission he can be by your side but you are responsible for him Craigen.” Duncan acknowledged the thank you from the young cadet before he turned back to the captain. “Talking of cadets, everyone besides one department has submitted their response to your review of the impact of the cadet training unit we’ve had on board.” He passed McCallister a PADD that was sitting on the side.
McCallister took the PADD and began to skim read the summary points. “Which department have we not heard from yet?”
“Mine,” spoke Banfield who appeared at the top of the small ramp that helped anyone enter the small drop-down area where the mission ops stations were. Walking across the small distance between her and McCallister, the science chief passed a PADD towards the captain. “I apologise sir, but I’ve only just finished my report after hearing recommendations from my sub-department heads.”
Appreciating the better-than-late gesture, McCalister took the PADD and noticed how Duncan was irked by her tardiness. “I’m certain Commander Duncan wanted this in sooner, just like every other department head was able to do.” He remarked to the woman before him.
Standing strong in her posture before him, Banfield held her hands behind her back, feet just a few centimetres apart. “And normally sir I aim to be the first one, especially as I am your second officer,” Banfield told him, “however my time serving as a professor at Starfleet Academy gave me a unique opportunity to truly analyse the performance of the unit so far from the other department heads.”
“You’re out of line, commander,” Duncan said taking one step close to her. “That’s not the job you were asked to do as chief science officer.”
“But,” Banfield said emphasising that word, “my position as the second officer requires me to support you both with personnel matters. The protocol for this is quite clear. I felt combining my report along with my analysis and suggestions would be valuable.”
Not appreciating the tone she was taking, Duncan continued to hold his ground with her. “Commander, however much I appreciate your efforts there is still one factor you are missing with all of this.”
“I do not believe I am.” Banfield answered bluntly.
“Your husband leads the unit,” Duncan said. “Others may say your analysis may include some personal bias in your suggestions. Hence why I did not require you to fulfil that obligation with this matter.”
Realising that Duncan had won this round but had also done something to look out for her, Banfield bowed her head as a combined sign of respect and to show she was sorry. “My deepest regrets, sir.”
Duncan sighed. “We’re all on the same team here, commander.” He reminded her.
“Well now that’s cleared up,” McCallister said interrupting the exchange between his two most senior officers. “What’s the overall verdict?” McCallister gestured for them to walk out of the mission ops area as they headed towards where most of the science stations were located.
“The fourth and third-year cadets are performing extremely well sir; most department heads have concerns about the second-year cadets.” Duncan answered as he leaned against one of the consoles.
Banfield nodded in support of Duncan’s report as she crossed her arms. “I would concur with that assessment.”
McCallister then realised they were missing something. He turned them. “What about first-year?”
Duncan and Banfield looked at one another before turning back to McCallister. Both showed unease.
“Sir, your son is the only first-year cadet we have.” Banfield stated.
“He’s only four months into his training, sir. I think it’s a bit too premature to discuss his performance.” Duncan added, showing some appreciative look towards Banfield.
Rubbing the back of his head, McCallister sighed at how they were tip-toeing around the matter. “I don’t like it. He should be on Earth or Mellstoxx attending a proper campus and interacting with other first-year cadets.” He looked at Banfield. “Seriously, Corella, tell me, what does Carter think about Alfie?”
A bit startled she was placed on the spot there and then, especially with the captain being informal with her by referring to her husband by his first name and using hers as well. She recovered quickly. “Well, sir, he thinks Alfie is a very capable student and works extremely hard.”
“There’s a ‘but’ coming.” McCallister predicted aloud.
“You’re right, he is missing out on being able to share his learning with others in a similar position as him,” Banfield answered honestly. “He needs to be thrown in the deep end and outside of his comfort zone to see if he would sink or survive.”
Rubbing his chin, Duncan spoke up. “We knew this may come up, but with him and the rest of the family dealing with the loss of Karyn, we had to give him his time.”
Starting to feel awful for allowing Alfie to carry on when he knew he should have put a stop to it, McCallister sighed heavily. “Suggestions?”
“He’s already getting extra private tuition from others on the crew, just like Craigen is doing now. It’s just a shame we don’t have any other first-year cadets for him to share that experience with.” Duncan said, sounding like he was at a loss with ideas.
Banfield thought for a moment and then looked at them both. “I do have one other suggestion,” She mentioned as she looked at Duncan. “But I’m not sure if Commander Duncan or Master Chief Court would approve.”
Standing up straight instantly, Duncan knew where Banfield was going with her thinking. “It’s a no.” He said sharply.
“Hang on,” McCallister said holding his hand out towards his first officer to calm down. “What’s the idea, commander?” He posed to Banfield.
Lowering her voice, she answered. “We know that Commander Duncan’s son, Jorgeh, will join Starfleet eventually from the paradox. Have him start his career early so he and Alfie train together.”
“Absolutely not.” Duncan said again, sounding more assertive this time. He looked at Banfield, “And what happened to not discussing the paradox in public?”
“Everyone here has been read in, the temporal prime directive isn’t in play,” Banfield responded. She looked at the captain. “Sir, we know to maintain the timeline that Jorgeh will need to take this path.”
“We don’t know when though,” Duncan said, still not liking the idea. “Plus he has only been on the Odyssey for about five months now. He’s still in therapy and he hasn’t had much formal education. Throwing him into the deep end with Starfleet Academy is not an option.”
“From what I’ve read regarding his grades, he is achieving at the top of his class as is his brother Wylem. Doctor Slyvexs believes their species may possess an eidetic memory, this may be a trait of the Rylsant species we’re unaware of. Nevertheless, it’s a gift that I believe should be cultivated.” Banfield explained.
“He’s not ready,” Duncan said again more firmly. “He is trying to process the trauma of what he endured and throwing him into such an intense environment is not healthy for him.”
“Has he not developed a strong relationship with Cadet McCallister?” Banfield queried.
“Yes,” Duncan admitted. “The two of them are inseparable most evenings now.”
“Both of them share a keen intellect,” Banfield stated before looking at McCallister. “Sir, can I be frank and honest about all of this?”
McCallister was close to denying her request, the last time it had happened he had almost lost his complete cool with her, but he knew he had to remain objective as this included his son’s career. No personal bias was allowed. “Go ahead, but let’s keep it respectful.”
She nodded once before speaking. “Due to the unique situation that Cadet McCallister finds himself in, or will in the future, we agreed that he would remain on the Odyssey to undertake his initial studies as well as using this time to familiarise himself with the technical aspects of the Odyssey. This was agreed by the Academy’s admission panel. He will most likely go to Mellstoxx Campus later this year when the new year starts. My advice talking to one former Academy professor to another, as well as a parent, let Alfie use this time to prepare himself for what awaits him in this possible future. Have him sit his first year, properly when he attends the campus later on.”
“That seems a bit unfair.” Duncan stated.
Banfield looked at Duncan, “But it’s not unheard of.” She turned back to McCallister. “Others have deferred their time before and in the meantime why not provide Jorgeh with the opportunity to study with Alfie?”
McCallister and Duncan looked at one another. “What do you think, Max?”
Duncan sighed and requested permission for him to call Court over. McCallister agreed with it and before long Duncan had summarised their discussion. “Thoughts?”
Court shrugged his shoulders. “You’ve said it yourself all along Max, both Jorgeh and Wylem need some normality in their lives. We know that Jorgeh has expressed an interest in Starfleet. He’s always asking us questions about our time in the uniform at any chance he gets. I say give him a taste.”
“He’d need a recommendation letter as his Federation citizenship is still in process.” Duncan said, trying to hold onto anything straw he could grab.
“I can do that.” McCallister replied.
“I’d be happy to support it.” Banfield shared. “That said, I think to help Commander Duncan’s concerns we should discuss this with Counsellor Horin. I believe she’s been working with Jorgeh and Wylem since the incident in the Delta Quadrant. She’s the best person to tell us if this is the right idea for Jorgeh, as well as what we’ve discussed about Alfie. Furthermore, to avoid anyone feeling there’s any biassed treatment towards Alfie and Jorgeh, I’d be happy to tutor them.”
“I’d appreciate that,” Duncan said, sounding somewhat surprised at Banfield’s thoughtful idea. “I’m happy to speak with Louwanna about it.”
“Let me do it.” Court insisted. “You’ve got a Grand DaiMon to prepare for.”
McCallister concealed a smirk at Court’s little dig by placing his hand over his mouth. “Let’s keep this in the back while we deal with Vorath. Thank you, everyone.”
At that point, the turbolift doors parted out as the rest of the alpha shift started to arrive.
“Our peace is broken.” Court muttered sarcastically with a smirk as the four of them started to break away from their little gathering.
Before she could walk away, McCallister took hold of Banfield’s arm gentle. “I do appreciate your support with Alfie, Corella.”
For the first time since she joined his crew, Banfield smiled. “I know we’ve not seen eye to eye on some things, sir, but I am genuine when I say I only want is best for your son. I’ve lived with the after-effects of a temporal anomaly. They are never the easiest, so if I can prevent anyone from having to suffer from them then I will. That includes you as well, sir. You have my support.”
“Corella…” McCallister was slightly speechless and was about to compliment her when T’Rani (who had just sat down at the helm) interrupted him.
“Sir, we’re fifteen minutes away from the border and long-range sensors have picked up that warbird from the Romulan Republic. They appeared to have increased speed to their highest velocity towards Vorash.” The pilot announced.
McCallister appeared to deflate at hearing those words as his primary mission was now pulling him back in. He just smiled at Banfield before letting go of her as he walked across to the centre of the bridge to assume proper command. “When will they enter the system?”
“Two hours before we do, sir, but if we increase speed to maximum warp now then we can be in the system with approximately three point seven hours ahead of them.” T’Rani suggested.
Duncan, who had taken his chair to the captain’s right-hand side, spoke up. “Having that extra time might be worthwhile, sir. It does mean we miss the rendezvous with DaiMon Deliaros.”
“Grand DaiMon Deliaros.” Court corrected his partner from where he standing behind Lenjir at the tactical station.
Duncan just rolled his eyes at the teasing he was receiving.
McCallister, still slightly preoccupied with what he had just discussed with the others, glanced over to Banfield who was now sitting at the primary science station. Noticing his stare, she looked back and gave him a nod. He took that as her saying she would agree with jumping ahead to arrive before the Romulan vessel did. McCallister wondered that maybe his earlier presumptions about Banfield were wrong? Maybe he was also wrong about feeling alone. Was everything returning to some normality on the Odyssey? Was this now the new normal? Could the new members of his senior staff be starting to get used to how everyone else, himself included, operated as a unit? As a family?
“T’Rani go to maximum warp and let’s go to yellow alert, now.” McCallister ordered as he sat back and pondered those questions flying around his mind further.
For now, though, he knew he had to be ready for what awaited them at Vorash. They were almost there and he wasn’t going to go in blind and hopefully by increasing their speed he could avoid the same reception that the Endeavour had received.