Part of USS Tesla: Lift Off and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

The Weight of Ethics

Bajoran Vessel
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The comm band on Akeno’s wrist chirped to life as a short message came through. They had located a Cardassian vessel and the Tesla crew members were being summoned to the bridge. Akeno had been careful to avoid John and Jovi as he took a moment to settle into his new quarters, pondering how he would approach them concerning his suspicions about the duplicitous nature of their Bajoran host and his use of the Cardassian prisoner. He was hesitant to inform John of the situation, knowing the hot-headed master chief well enough to predict the outrage and lack of logical reasoning that would follow such a revelation. John would certainly demand they storm the bridge, take over the ship, and bring Captain Vitinius to trial in chains. Yet Akeno hesitated to take such action till he had uncovered more of the details concerning this prisoner who the captain claimed had Organian blood. Akeno now ran a hand through his thick black hair as he headed for the bridge, not relishing what he suspected would await him. He hoped Captain Vitinius would deposit the prisoner back in a cell somewhere till he had a chance to talk to John and Jovi, but he doubted the brazen captain would consider such discretion.

Sure enough, as Akeno entered the bridge he immediately spotted the shackled figure. The girl was sagging in the chair, her face hidden by disheveled, dark hair that streamed down her body. Only a slight twitch of her fingers betrayed that she was still awake. Jovi threw a sideways glance at the girl chained to a chair but John was not afraid to broach the subject outright.

“Who’s she?” The master chief nodded his head at the slumped figure.

Alvaro glanced up at John’s question. “Did your lieutenant not inform you of our hunting dog?”Akeno felt both John and Jovi’s eyes burning into the back of his head, but he refused to meet their gaze.

“You said you’ve located a Cardassian ship,” he firmly changed the subject. He knew he would be having a conversation with John and likely Jovi later, but he had no desire to get into an argument with his childhood friend in front of their Bajoran host.

“She sensed a ship circling this planet,” Alvaro indicated the planet before them on the screen. “We came up on the opposite side of the planet to remain undetected. We are circling now to approach.”

“And who is she?”

Akeno was a little surprised by the challenge in Jovi’s voice as she addressed the captain concerning the identity of the captive girl. He had quickly recognized Jovi to be no pushover since their last excursion on Ryex, but the strength with which she demanded information from Alvaro sounded similar to a superior officer speaking with a subordinate. Alvaro seemed to receive Jovi’s demands with distaste, but he answered her regardless.

“Yael Nahareya, a Cardassian-Organian hybrid we use as a tracker. We know she can sense Cardassian ships but we suspect she’s capable of a lot more than that, she’s just not willing to cooperate,” Alvaro finished with a growl.

It was clear that Jovi wished to say more but Akeno once again steered the conversation in a different direction. “We’re coming up on the Cardassian vessel.”

The Bajoran ship rounded the planet and the bow of another vessel began to appear on the horizon. As the Cardassian ship came into view, Akeno’s brow furrowed. 

“It looks to be a loaded merchant ship. Not even heavily armed.”

Alvaro was already speaking over him. “Phaser cannons at maximum power. Fire!”

“Belay that order! We are here to determine if the Cardassians pose a threat to the-,” but the phaser beams were already well on their way before Akeno finished speaking.

The unarmed merchant vessel didn’t stand a chance against the heavy phaser fire and it was over in an instant. Akeno’s jaw tightened as metal shards floated through the air, slowly disseminating from the newly created wreckage. Akeno was about to lay into Captain Vitinius for not consulting with them before shooting the ship down, but Jovi’s swift approach towards the Cardassian hybrid prisoner drew his attention.

The girl named Yael strained against the shackles on her wrists, her body contorting in spasms, her eyes tightly closed. The lithe form tightened and relaxed in waves till the fit slowly seemed to subside.

“Are you alright?” Jovi knelt down to inspect the girl but the prisoner recoiled.

“She’s fine.” Captain Vitinius seemed annoyed by her concern.

“She seems to be in pain,” Jovi pressed the captain, showing no sign of intimidation before the hulking Bajoran.

Alvaro threw her a dark glare but answered. “The doctors have inspected her in the past. She suffers no physical harm. They surmise she simply feels it when the Cardassians die.”

“She feels their suffering?” There was stark horror in Jovi’s eyes as she reached this realization. 

“She needs help.” Jovi’s voice rose, strong and insistent.

“It will pass.” Alvaro brushed by them to exit the bridge.

“I won’t allow such treatment of a prisoner!” Jovi’s voice rung out harsh and demanding.

Alvaro whirled back to march towards her, stopping to thrust his face down towards her angry red visage. John’s hand slid to the sidearm at his belt but a warning glare from Akeno stayed his hand. 

“You’re not in command here, Jovi,” Alvaro snarled down at the little fearless little doctor.

Akeno threw John a questioning gaze wondering if he too noted the strange tension between the two, but John didn’t notice the look. His eyes were locked on the Bajoran captain who towered over the doctor, his hand still in the handle of his sidearm. However, Alvaro made no further advance toward Jovi but instead turned to stalk away.

Jovi was hot on his heels, marking after him with a look in her eyes that would have caused any normal man to be weak in the knees. John stepped forward but a blazing glare thrown in his and Akeno’s direction warned them both not to follow and they watched in silence as the feisty doctor strode after the ruthless captain.

“You haven’t changed a bit.” Jovi’s voice echoed down the hall as the door to the bridge slid shut behind her.

Alvaro’s broad shoulders halted and he whirled about to swiftly stride back towards her, thrusting his head down till his face was but inches from her flushed visage.

“What are you doing here, Jovi?” He asked her brusquely.

“I’m following orders, something which you clearly still haven’t learned to do,” she shot back.

“You’re not my commanding officer anymore.”

“And do your commanders know the truth of what’s going on here.”

The curled back lips gave a response she knew all too well. Alvaro Vitinius had always been one to press the bounds of his position and take whatever action he deemed necessary rather than waiting for approval. With a guttural growl he turned his back to her, but she called after the retreating figure.

“You haven’t changed a bit, have you?”

The brawny figure halted and turned back to stride quickly towards her, stopping but inches in front of her to thrust his strained visage down close to her face. “Everything I did in the past I did it all for our race.” Then for a brief moment, the hardened features softened a bit and his voice took on a tone that almost sounded like tenderness. “I did it for us. I did it for you, Jovi.”

But she knew better than to give in to soft words she had heard so often before. “No. Don’t you put that on me. I never wanted that.”

“Like you haven’t done the same.” Anger flashed across his face and the tenderness was quickly gone, but the little doctor didn’t back down an inch.

“I drew a line, Alvaro. I drew a line and I didn’t cross it.”

A snarl was the only response Jovi received before he turned on his heel to stalk away.

                                                                          *  * *  *  * 

Idrin entered the Captain’s office to find Tia standing before the large oval screen that gave her a view of the galaxy outside. A half-empty tumbler betrayed she had likely been surveying the floating stars for some time now.

“Was the officer’s briefing that bad?” Idrin questioned her in his usual bland monotone.

“Still attempting to decipher the engineering report.” The ice cubes in the glass clinked as she waved the whiskey glass at her desk where the offending report still shone on her screen.

“Anything I can assist with?” His offer seemed almost robotic and Tia wondered if he genuinely wanted to help or only offered from politeness.

“Why can’t Thatch just talk plainly as most officers do?” Tia spoke the question allowed, not really expecting a response.

“He does speak plainly, just in his own language.” The half-Vulcan turned his piercing gaze on her and as usual, she felt her heart shrink in her chest as she bore the full brunt of those cold eyes. “As a being who speaks several languages, I would think you would understand, not everyone expresses themselves in the same way. You must seek to translate each person individually.”

Tia rolled her eyes at the technically detailed response she was growing accustomed to receiving from Idrin. A balanced blend of Idrin’s overly intellectual way of speaking and Thatch’s simplistic ramblings would make for an ideal conversationalist.

“My last engineer just spoke MY language, I suppose,” she murmured half to Idrin and half to herself. Suddenly Riru’s face flashed before her mind’s eye and a reminiscent smile stole across her lips, her gaze growing distant.

“You cared deeply for her.”

Tia whirled about as the commander’s voice cut through her thoughts. Her cheeks showed a dark red flush against the green hue. This whiskey had loosened her tongue far too much. “Who told you that?” she demanded harshly.

A gentle grin tugged at the corners of Idrin’s mouth and he answered in his typical calm and level-headed tone. “You did. Just now.”

“So you haven’t heard rumors floating among the crew?”

Idrin gave a light chuckle and leaned an elbow against the back of a large armchair. His demeanor became more relaxed and friendly than Tia would have thought possible, but Tia refused to let her guard down. “Would it serve to put your mind at ease if I were to assure you that no such rumors exist?”

Tia continued to view him with eyes of distrust.

“You wish to say something.” It wasn’t a question when Idrin put it like that.

“Commander Vostugo, are you here simply to report back to command concerning my captaincy of the Tesla?” Maybe it was the alcohol or perhaps she was simply tired of playing games, but Tia chose to speak her mind and confront her operations officer concerning her suspicions. It was strange to see such a stony figure laugh outright, but he looked almost pleasant as a large smile broke across his normally granite features and his eyes twinkled with a level of humor that she had never before seen him display.

“I am sorry to disappoint you, Captain Savik, but I truly doubt Federation Command cares about either of our careers enough to assign us with our own personal surveillance.”

“So you really are here simply because you wish to be an operations officer under a green captain with no previous experience?” Tia still found this difficult to believe for someone possessing his career history.

Idrin’s eyes took on a pensive gaze and he now turned to study the stars. “Very early in my career, I used to perform in a training role, evaluating new recruits to determine who was fit for service and which officers should advance. I saw it as my duty to ensure the ranks of Starfleet remained pure, untainted by those who may prove unfit for service. During this time, there was one man who opposed me at every turn.” Idrin turned to study Tia. “I believe you served under him for some time aboard the Jupiter Station.”

“Rodbert Sgoc?”

“It was one of his soldiers, Cadmus Shadduck, who went on to captain the Effrenus.”

“I never knew Captain Shadduck served under Sgoc.” Tia’s eyes fell as she mulled over this new bit of information. “And you didn’t get along with Sgoc?” Tia found such a fact difficult to believe, as every memory she possessed of the man only served as a credit to his integrity and excellent service to Starfleet.

Idrin once again smiled and this time Tia allowed herself to believe the authenticity of the emotion. “I was very young and yet confident that I knew everything. At the time I did not understand him, but now I respect no human being quite so greatly.” Idrin turned from the stars to make his way towards her desk, pointing at the decanter of whiskey she had been quick to procure after the incident in the Brew Pub. “May I?”

She nodded and he helped himself to a glass before returning to her, casually swirling the brown liquid before taking a sip. He seemed in no rush to provide her with details but with her drink warming her chest and the stars floating before them, she felt in no mood to rush him.

“It was Sgoc and his Jupiter Station which first took on a project which Shadduck continued aboard the Effrenus. Sgoc and then Shadduck fought me at every turn, and due to their age and experience against my own greenness and naivety, they often won. Those two took all who the Federation would have deemed as unfit for service,” Idrin paused to correct himself. “Those who I would have deemed unfit for service.” He took another sip. “Sgoc trained some of the greatest minds and Shaddock developed one of the most tightly knit and productive crews in the fleet. I always wondered how they did it.” Idrin turned to meet Tia’s eyes. “Much of your crew is here simply because I evaluated them and rated them as unfit, so they ended up aboard the Effrenus and have now been assigned to you.”

“Why was I selected for this command?” Tia couldn’t help but feel there was a greater work at play here, but she still couldn’t quite grasp the particulars surrounding this unusual assignment.

“You are one of many green captains who has been saddled with undesirables on their first command, but you are the captain I chose to serve under due to your ability to logically and intellectually evaluate not only persons and situations around you but also yourself. I believe you will be one of few who can adapt and overcome the difficulties of navigating a crew with great potential but little discipline.”

“How did you gather all that from my file?” Tia pressed him, suspecting he knew more than he was telling her.

Idrin let out a slow sigh and turned away from her. “We have never met, but unbeknownst to you, I performed an evaluation of you before you were accepted into the academy. Evaluating you was one of my first assignments.”

“You evaluated me?” Tia pondered for a moment as a new revelation began forming in her mind. “Is that how I ended up aboard the Jupiter Station?”

“I believe I should turn in for the night, Captain Savik.” Idrin returned the now empty glass to its tray. “I hope you have a wonderful evening.” He gave her a polite bow and made his departure, leaving Tia to stare after him with her mind whirling.

                                                                          *  * *  *  *

Aboard the Bajoran vessel, Akeno was trying his best to keep John from immediately taking up arms against their Bajoran hosts. Akeno had informed John and Jovi of his hunch that Alvaro may not be acting under the council’s authority, but John seemed far more concerned about the welfare of the Cardassian prisoner.

“We can’t leave her here.” John’s voice held no uncertainty. He was not making a request and Akeno knew his superior rank would do nothing to stop John from disobeying orders if John felt he was doing the right thing. Akeno also knew that rash actions could get them in a lot of trouble, not only with the Bajorans but also with Starfleet.

“We know nothing about this prisoner or what she’s done to land herself in this position.”

“She didn’t choose her parents, Akeno.” The emotion in John’s voice betrayed that this situation hit a little too close to home, and Akeno worried about his judgement.

“I understand that she can’t help her lineage, and believe me, John, I know how you must feel about this but just because she’s a hybrid doesn’t mean the Bajoran’s treatment of her is entirely unjust. She could potentially be a homicidal maniac who they’ve learned to handle with extreme prejudice due to past experiences.” Akeno looked at John and Jovi to see if his argument for reason was having any effect. Jovi stared at the ground and John’s gaze was unrelenting.

“No one deserves that kind of treatment. Regardless of their past.” Jovi spoke quietly from where she sat on the wooden table, but her words hit hard.

“Look,” Akeno softened slightly but he knew any sign of weakness would have John diving headlong into a course of action he could not walk back, so he worked to remain firm in his resolve that the mission must come first. “I’m not saying we shouldn’t act. If Captain Vitinius is hiding details of his operation from the Bajoran Council, then we will bring those details to light and he will be forced to account for his actions, but that is for the Bajorans to judge and not us. Our mission here is to access the Cardassian threat and we can make no move to jeopardize our diplomatic relations till we have completed our mission.”

“Oh come on, please let me shoot him,” John groaned in annoyance. The master chief doubted he could last much longer in the company of the overbearing Bajoran Captain without drawing his weapon.

“We need him alive. He has to confess before the Bajoran Council or it will simply be our word against his crew.”

“Well, I won’t kill him. I’ll just shoot him a little bit.” John shrugged a bulky shoulder.

Akeno threw his arms out. “We’re gonna have to wait this one out to finish our mission. Besides, it’s not like they’d take prisoner a completely innocent woman. She could have the blood of many innocent Bajorans on her hand and Captain Vitinius’s treatment of her may well be justified.”

“You don’t know him,” Jovi spoke, finally raising her eyes from the floor. “I don’t enjoy talking about my past, but I left a position in the Bajoran militia to be a doctor for Starfleet. I can tell you I’m not proud of the things I was a part of when I was in the militia, and my past is something I’m still trying to atone for. When I say it’s highly likely that this girl has done nothing to deserve her current situation, I speak from a place of experience. Alvaro’s hatred for the Cardassians runs deep, and he will stop at nothing to eradicate their entire race from the galaxy. Many Bajorans support his goal and several will turn a blind eye to his methods as long as he achieves his goals.”

Akeno sighed, placing his hands on his hips. “Well let’s at least consider all sides and fully assess the situation before we act. We are close to a Cardassian ship. Once I’ve had a chance to parlay with the Cardassians and we are on our way back to the Tesla with a report, then we can discuss our next move concerning the prisoner and Captain Vitinius.”

Jovi made no movement to either agree or argue, but John slowly rose to his feet and headed for the door. Brushing past Akeno with his shoulder, he delivered a statement of intent with a heated gaze that refused to be quelled.

“She’s not staying on this ship.” With that, John was gone and Akeno was left with Jovi. As Akeno looked into the Bajoran doctor’s eyes, he saw no sympathy and knew he would have both of them to contend with once the Cardassian threat had been adequately accessed.