Part of USS Ulysses: Wings of Salvation and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

CH13 – Visions of Choice

Bridge, Deck 1
June 2400
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Executive Officer’s log, supplemental.

 

After a long twelve hours, and with Romulan sightings in the nebula proving to be nothing more than sensor ghosts, Ulysses and her convoy have successfully arrived at Kunhri. All freighters have begun the process of unloading their cargo and, in conjunction with colleagues from the Starfleet vessels in the system, the expansion of the Kunhri security net has begun. I am relieved to report that there have been no attempted incursions into the system that we are aware of, with Romulan factions seemingly giving the system a wide berth. It could be due to the defences in place; it may be a response to the Starfleet presence. Either way, we leave safe in the knowledge that Kunhri appears to be in a much safer place than when we first arrived here aboard the Temeraire.

 

Despite my misgivings about her command potential, and the manner of her arrival aboard the Temeraire, Captain sh’Elas has navigated not only our crew, but the task group itself, through a dangerous time. Is it possible that this woman, much heralded by her own people but derided by mine, has earned my respect? 

Standing at the replicator on the port side wall of the Officer’s Mess, Commander Gor watched those who had been summoned with great interest. Conversation flowed freely, laughter ringing out as the staff shared a beverage and a bite to eat in their first bit of down time since they had left the Opra system nearly twenty-four hours earlier. Their continued experiences had brought them closer together, with the bonds of friendship clear for all to see, even the hard nosed Tellarite. He just had to figure out where he fit in all of this.

Linn and his counterparts from engineering and science were deep in conversation about the adjustments to the sensor suite. Doctor Zinn, the argumentative Deltan, even shared a joke with the Counsellor – something about a Rigellian and a Nausicaan walking into a bar. Most bizarre. But it was the interaction between Lieutenant’s Mitchell and Noli that caught the executive officer’s eye in this particular instance. Henry was slouched, feet up on one of the tables and nursing his beverage of choice when the Bajoran tactical officer sidled up to him and crouched beside him. She whispered something in the young man’s ear and then squeezed his left bicep, causing his whole demeanour to change. Rising back to her feet, brushing the hair out of her face, the blonde grinned as she took her own seat, leaving the helmsman somewhat red in the face. Whatever she had said to him, the Commander did not want to know.

He wouldn’t get chance to find out, either, as at that moment, the doors on the starboard wall parted and granted entrance to the Andorian commander of the ship. That was his cue. Reaching out for the two glasses he had replicated, Gor made a beeline for the Captain and offered her a beverage. “Captain,” he nodded as she took ownership of the glass.

“Thank you Commander,” Tharia smiled, then gestured for the man to join her, and the crew, around the table and sofa area. “Evening folks,” she greeted the staff, to a chorus of ‘hellos’ and ‘good evenings’. Sipping on her warm beverage, an Alcataran hot chocolate, she slipped down on to the sofa between Lieutenant Prida and Commander Gor. “Firstly, I want to congratulate you all on a job well done. I’ve spoken with Commodore Farrell, and he wishes me to express his gratitude for your efforts. A difficult task was completed thanks to your efforts, and now the people of Kunhri will have the protection they need as they determine their own path,” the Captain revealed, much to the muted delight of her tired people.

At this point, Noli sat forward in her chair slightly and caught the Captain’s eye. “Is there any truth to what we’re hearing, about the Romulan Republic?“

Tharia nodded slowly. “Talks between the Republic and the government on Psi Velorum have been brokered by Fleet Admiral Ramar. Diplomatic envoys from the Republic are present, which means an end to our responsibilities in the region,” she let out a sigh, reflecting her frustrations on the matter. “We’ll support the populace from afar, and maintain diplomatic links, but it is pretty clear that the Republic and the people of Psi Velorum are best positioned to support each other moving forward.”

Another sip of her beverage saw the Captain inch forward in her seat. “Now that our time in Romulan space is coming to an end, I’m afraid it is no rest for the wicked,” she continued, to some less muted groans. Throwing her hands up to stop the protests that she could feel coming her way, the Andorian elaborated somewhat. “You are being presented with a choice, my friends,” the Andorian told.

That sparked some muted conversations between the assembled staff, with Starfleet rarely presenting their people with choices. Orders were orders, afterall.

Tharia hushed the room with a simple look, then continued with her elaboration. “Ulysses will be departing for Deep Space Forty-Seven, whilst Temeraire will be remaining along the Romulan border. Starfleet Command has asked me to remain here, as commander of the Ulysses, in order to lead our exploratory mission into the Thomar Expanse and beyond. I accepted their offer a short while ago.”

There was that not-so-muted outrage again, with everyone asking a million questions at once. Tharia fought above the noise until she couldn’t any longer, and at that point, the XO chimed in with a response that surprised even him. “If you are to remain here, then so will I Captain,” he declared loudly, words that stunned the crowd into silence. The looks on the faces of people like Noli, Linn and Chiera said it all; not one of them expected the Tellarite to be the first to pledge his support for the Andorian.

Tharia looked at the man sat next to her, her cheeks slightly flushed and a minute smile on her face. “I appreciate that, Commander. Thank you,” she nodded in acknowledgement, before looking back at the shocked faces. “You, like the rest of the personnel from both commands, have been given the same options. You have until tomorrow morning to decide. If you choose to stay, I expect you on the bridge for the start of alpha shift. If you choose to return to the Temeraire, then I want to say thank you for your exemplary service and I wish you fair seas,” she smiled, then noticed the look on a few faces. “Don’t rush into a decision now; take some time, talk to your friends and family, see what fits with your ambitions and career plans,” and with that, she placed her hands on her knees and propelled herself to her feet. “Whatever you choose to do,” she concluded, “do what is right for you. Forget me, forget the ships, forget Starfleet.” 

And with that, the Captain was done. A look at the Commander and a jerk of her head signalled she wanted his company, so the Tellarite dutifully obliged, but not before a few choice words himself. “Whatever you all choose,” he spoke in his gruff tone, “it has been a privilege serving with each of you these last few weeks.” He couldn’t quite believe he had said it, and the looks on the faces of the senior staff echoed that sentiment perfectly. He’d let his icy exterior melt away twice during that meeting, and each time had hit them all. Hard. Unexpected moments of sentiment always did.

Catching up with the Captain in the corridor outside the Officer’s Mess, the Tellarite stopped next to her, arms clasped to his side.

“Thank you for your show of loyalty in there, Commander,” Tharia smiled sheepishly. “It is much appreciated and will never be forgotten, but I cannot accept your offer,” she shook her head slowly, sorry that she couldn’t accept his offer.

A tilted head and narrowed eyes showed the confusion the Executive Officer felt at the Captain’s statement. “I do not understand,” the man retorted.

“Starfleet Command has a different opportunity for you Commander,” the Andorian began her latest explanation. “They would like you to return to the Temeraire and assume command; a justifiable reward for your excellent service and a recommendation from Captain Ruas that I fully endorse,” she revealed, much to the Tellarite’s surprise.

Placing a gentle hand on the Captain’s arm, the XO guided her to one side of the corridor and spoke in a far more hushed tone. “I stand accused, Captain. Accused by myself of shameful behaviour in the wake of Captain Ruas’ departure. I made an already difficult situation worse with my behaviour and I offer you my apology,” now it was the XO’s turn to look more than a little sheepish as he spoke. “You have united this crew in the pursuit of our objectives, and as such, you have earned my respect and gratitude. I am sorry for any part I played in making your task more difficult.” His apology was short and heartfelt.

However, the good Commander had no reason to worry. Tharia reached out and tapped him on the arm in a reassuring way. “It was a difficult time for us all, Commander. Thanks to you, I was able to command this crew to success in a way that I could only have hoped for at the start of this whole, sorry affair in Romulan space. You have nothing to apologise for,” she assured him as best as she could.

“I may not,” he smiled a toothy grin, “but I owe you the same loyalty as I showed Captain Ruas. I never had any ambitions for command, and that remains true to this day. So, what is it Lieutenant Noli would say? Starfleet can take their offer and…” he paused, a toothy grin a response to the smirk and shake of the head from the Captain who knew exactly what Lieutenant Noli would have said had she been there.

“Well in that case, I welcome your decision to stay,” the Andorian grinned, gesturing for them to start their journey once more. “We’ve got a great deal of work ahead of us, Number One. Let’s get to it.”

“Vasoch,” walking alongside her, the Tellarite gave his final endorsement of her command, “you may call me Vasoch.”

[Several Hours Later…]

The magnificent hallways of the majestic Great Assembly Hall of Ashalla were beautifully lit as the midday sun beamed through the windows and glistened off of the highly polished walkways. The seat of political power for Bajor, the hallways of the Assembly were usually a buzz with chatter and footsteps as people went about their business, but today there was an eerie silence, broken sporadically by the odd set of footsteps and whispers among those that were inside.

On the top floor, and headed for the grand entrance to the building, the Bajassian engineer made her way towards the grand central staircase that linked the four floors of the huge building. She, too, had an eerie silence about her as she began to descend the stairwell towards the ground floor.

Sat in the shadows of the second to last step was Kai Lishan Noryl, a kind-eyed, pepper haired male. He smiled up at the woman as she grew closer. “Well hello there my child. You have requested an audience with your Kai, and the Prophets have made it so.” Slowly, he reached forward and cupped her left ear in his hand, and he caressed it softly. “Where shall we talk?” he removed his hand from her ear, his palm met the other as his pointer fingers touched, hands embraced and fell to his belly in rest.

“Perhaps the courtyard, Eminence?” Prida smiled as she relaxed a little. She defied anyone to be tense in the presence of Bajor’s religious leader. He was such a pleasant, calming influence even in the most troubled times. “It’s a beautiful day out and we’re stuck in here,” she stood to the side and stretched out an arm in the direction of the massive doors that had remained open to let in some much needed air.

“Yes, the courtyard, most favorable.” The Kai walked slowly by her side in silence as they exited to the luscious courtyard beyond the hall walls. “Well? Speak my child. Let the Prophets guide your lips and my shepherd’s hand as we sit,” his voice calm as if a father speaking to a babe. The Kai moved toward a stone bench and lifted the wasit ends of his decorative and elaborate robe and sat. He patted the spot next to him. The light warm breeze rustled his free flowing hair.

The Bajassian clearly looked troubled as she sat down, lacing her hands on the matching knees and let out a sigh. “I need guidance, Eminence,” she told as her eyes fell on some passers by in the distance. “I have been presented with a number of choices that I struggle to make sense with. Each opportunity is tantalising, exciting. Each has its merits and appeals, and not a single downside that I can see,” she pouted, her dark lips pushed together as she mused.

The Kai nodded as he looked into the distance, his ear clung to each of her carefully chosen words. “For a long while now, you have walked with the Prophets, done what had to be so, no matter how popular. You have helped bring two peoples closer together. Your efforts have helped the people of Bajor and cemented your legacy with the Prophets too,” he shifted his tone and looked toward her, his eyes reassuring, “But now you must put yourself first, something that is far from natural to you,” he reached towards her with both his hands. They were cold now, especially as he cupped her cheeks into them and pulled her face closer to him. He was gentle, fatherly, nothing about his actions jaring or alarming. He smiled at her, his eyes full of kindness, his voice but a whisper. “The Prophets have sent me a vision, Child. Your friends will need you in the days to come…”

Jolting awake in a cold sweat, panting heavily, Prida was more than a little concerned about what she had just experienced. Not only a statement from the religious leader of her people, a statement that her friends would be needing her in the days ahead, but also a vision in and of itself. It was more than just a simple dream; it was too prescient. A vision she could only liken to an orb experience of sorts, but with no orb present, it was surprisingly odd.

At least the vision had helped her make her crucial decision, even if she was concerned about what the message from The Kai meant exactly. Just how would her friends need her? Were they going to be in some sort of danger? Or was she reading into things just a little too much?

She’d find out in the days to come, that was for sure.