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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Exes and XOs

A New Star to Steer Her By – 2

USS Sarek, Bridge
Stardate 77621.6
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By the time the annular confinement beam released him, Commodore Uzoma Ekwueme finished his sentence, “–and this is the USS Sarek.”  His imposing figure appeared from a pillar of light, as the transporter materialised him at the aft of the Sarek‘s bridge.  Captain Andreus Kohl flanked him to the left and Captain Taes flanked him on the right.  The trio, in their command-red Starfleet uniforms, were boxed in by two massive freestanding LCARS consoles.  Protruding from the deck at an angle perpendicular to the viewscreen, the double-sided LCARS consoles were the size of master system displays.  The holographic viewscreen itself was a transparent viewport, of the style that had come back into fashion in recent years.  From the Sarek‘s docking station, the bulk of Deep Space 17 filled the starship’s forward view.

Unbidden, Taes took a step closer to the viewport.  After commanding a fifty-year-old starship, Taes had to squint at the gleaming shine of Sarek‘s modern bridge design.  The floors and bulkheads were furnished in reflective copper, brushed bronze and deep maroon, rather than the pink carpets and wood grain aboard the starship she called home.  A triad of command chairs were stationed on a raised platform, encircled by a silver arch.  Aside from the flight control station closest to the viewscreen, the bulk of the LCARS workstations were grouped to the port and starboard of the command chair.  From both groupings protruded a U-shaped conference table with LCARS panels set into every surface, offering two pairs of workstations facing one another, and further workstations set into the bulkheads

“The Sarek is one of our new Sutherland-class research cruisers, newly launched,” Commodore Ekwueme said by way of introduction.  Although Taes was listening to him, she had already wandered away to inspect the bank of science consoles grouped on the starboard side of the bridge.  She tapped at the nearest LCARS panel to scroll through the menu option of sensors.  Ekwueme continued to say, “Across forty-five decks, the Sarek is home to a crew of nine-hundred, a configurable mission pod, yottaFLOPS of bio-neural computing power, and large-scale scientific instruments you could only find aboard a starbase five years ago.  By far, the Sutherland-class are our largest science vessels in service.  While she can defend herself, the Sarek is lightly armed: her missions will not be on the frontline of exploration into the Typhon Frontier.  She will, however, closely follow those explorers to relish deeply in the scientific analysis that comes with second contact.”

Having hunched herself over a science console for too long, Taes stretched her back and unceremoniously dropped herself into the nearest chair.  She toggled through screens on the interface panel, investigating each of the claims Ekwueme had made.

Languidly following Taes to the science hub, Captain Kohl chimed in to say, “After the fall of the Romulan Star Empire and the loss of the Artifact, the Romulan Free State has made diplomatic overtures to the Federation once again.”  As Task Force Executive Officer, Kohl added, “Given our strategic position between RFS space and the Typhon Expanse, Task Force Seventeen has begun missions of cooperation with scientists from the Romulan Free State.  A team of visiting Romulan scientists have already boarded our flagship, USS Discovery.  Between the sheer size of the USS Sarek, and its ability to maintain long-term independent missions in every scientific discipline, we have invited a team of seventy five scientists from the Romulan Free State to join the crew of the Sarek.  Permanently.”

Taes’ aloof bearing shattered and the word permanently got a reaction out of her.  The Deltan spun her chair to face Kohl and Ekwueme, her eyes wide.  She retained enough self-control to stare at them without her mouth hanging agape.  “Permanently meaning… months?  Maybe years?” Taes asked, fighting to hide the incredulity in her timbre.  “Aboard a Starfleet starship?”

With a dramatic flourish, Kohl spread his arms wide and he declared, “It’s Starfleet’s next Great Experiment!”  The capitalisation of Great and Experiment could be easily heard in his pronouncement.  Ekwueme stepped around Kohl with a dubious raised eyebrow in the direction of the Argelian’s boisterous bearing.  Ekwueme’s pace was ponderous and his hands remained folded behind his back.  Guilelessly, Kohl continued, “We have developed extensive security protocols.  For both sides!  The Romulans have requested a dedicated computer core that Starfleet cannot access while they remain aboard.”

Ekwueme padded close to the dedication plaque, set into a bulkhead.  He ran a single finger over the metallic plate.  Reading aloud the dedication quote by the legendary Ambassador Sarek himself, Ekwueme intoned, “What greater source of peace exists than our ability to love our enemy?”  Ekwueme looked right at Taes and she saw him waiting until he held her gaze in return.  He said, “The USS Sarek is not only a mobile research platform.  She is a mission of diplomacy in all of the meaningful small moments that matter.  Can we share meals and recreation with the Romulans?  What happens if there’s a queue for the holodecks or competition over the lateral sensor array?  This mission will be to discover how we still come together for our joint mission of exploration.”

Feeling humbled, Taes said softly, “Like the Cardassian refugees being welcomed on Nivoch…” referring to the newly-established Deltan colony on her homeworld.  Taes rose to her feet.  As she began to pad towards Commodore Ekwueme, he waved a hand to guide her on a tour through the engineering and operations hub of consoles on the other side of the bridge.

“Fourth Fleet Command was impressed by your second-contact missions in the Typhon Frontier,” Ekwueme told Taes.  “A few were even amazed by your work with the Remans in the Kunhri System.  Word from First Consul J’mek assures Starfleet that the algae farms are thriving.  Kunhri’s food scarcity is on track to be eliminated by the end of the year.  You made mistakes, Taes.  Mistakes you’ll never make again, I expect.  The situation got away from you, and then you demonstrated resiliency, kindness, and a spark of brilliance.  We can’t ask for much more from our starship captains.  I know when the USS Sarek completed her shakedown cruise, you were the first captain I considered for command, Captain Taes.”

Ekwueme’s snaking tour around the bridge had deposited Taes at the foot of the command platform, looking up at the captain’s chair.  “I…” Taes started to say, but every other word in Federation Standard escaped her in that moment.  Her cheeks felt flush and she took a deep breath.

Perhaps impatiently, Ekwueme interjected, “The Sarek has been staffed with fresh Academy graduates and junior officers who have grown frustrated aboard Deep Space Seventeen.  You can hand-pick whomever you need from USS  Dvorak.”  For a heartbeat, Ekwueme’s eyes cut to Kohl.  Ekwueme didn’t smirk, exactly, but there was a lightness to his bearing, when he said, “The Great Experiment needs the best and the brightest.”  As soon as those words came out, his serious mien returned and his impatient gaze bore into Taes again.  “Otherwise, the crew of Dvorak will need to continue without you.”

“We even,” Kohl eagerly added, “installed the archaeology and anthropology mission pod,” –he waved a hand at Taes– “for one of Starfleet’s foremost experts in the discipline.”

Aside from the gentle breathing of the life support systems and the LCARS telltales chiming gently from the control panels, a new sound punctuated the quiet of the main bridge.  Turbolift doors hissed open and military boots rapped against the metal deck plates.  Looking over Taes’s shoulder, Ekwueme raised a hand.  He gestured at the woman who had stepped off the turbolift, beckoning her to join them.  “I believe you already know the Sarek‘s Romulan liaison officer,” Ekwueme said as a matter of simple fact.  “She will serve on the senior staff with authority over the science department, but no authority over starship operations.  Captain Taes, let me reacquaint you with Doctor Flavia of the Romulan Free State.”

The Romulan woman presented herself as a slight presence, as she came face-to-face with Taes.  Flavia was easily six inches shorter than Taes.  In her unflattering jumpsuit, her stature was relatively round in comparison to Taes’ military hard-edges.  Despite the nonthreatening posture, Flavia came at Taes with a killer grin and knives behind her eyes.  “Captain Taes, it’s my deep pleasure to finally meet you in person,” Flavia promised.

Taes scoffed in Flavia’s face.  In a snap of movement, Taes turned her head to boggle at Ekwueme.  “Her?  Commodore,” Taes spat out, “Respectfully, I can’t be expected to trust her.  She tried to destroy my credibility: everything I built across my entire Starfleet career.”

Flavia offered a sheepish shrug to Commodore Ekwueme and it made her dark ponytail bounce.  She flashed an apologetic frown at the man and then she flashed her killer grin at Taes again.  “Shaming you did get me promoted,” Flavia admitted.

“You lied and it backed me into a corner,” Taes grit the words out at Flavia defensively.  She could feel her face getting hot again, but it was for all the wrong reasons.  “Starfleet handed over every Romulan artifact in our possession to the Free State, regardless of their respective points of origin or cultural importance to the other Romulan factions.”

“And that was one of the first bricks,” Ekwueme said flatly, blinking at Taes impassively, “in the foundation of trust between the Federation and the Free State.  That trust made joint efforts like the Artifact possible.  Our friends in the Free State government have insisted that Doctor Flavia is their preeminent archaeologist.  Doctor Flavia is their only candidate for the Sarek‘s mission.”

“Think of the story!” Kohl added emphatically.  “If Captain Taes can forgive Doctor Flavia for that ion storm of media ridicule… if Taes and Flavia can build trust…  Anyone in the Federation can build trust with anyone in the Free State.  …Isn’t that what Starfleet is all about?”

Taes breathed out a “tt” between a clenched jaw.  Ignoring Kohl and Flavia, Taes turned her eyes on Commodore Ekwueme like he was the only one in the room.  “Commodore, If I refuse the Sarek, will I remain in command of the USS Dvorak?” Taes asked sternly.

He nodded.  A little too quickly, Ekwueme replied, “Yes.”  He hesitated longer before he said, “The USS Sarek and Flavia’s science team will be offered to another captain.”

“And if I say no,” Taes asked, her voice cracking, “will I ever be offered another research heavy cruiser?”

Ekwueme raised an eyebrow at that question.  “I don’t know.”

Taes nodded slowly.  “I don’t know either.”

Comments

  • I am adoring the lovingly-crafted beauty shot of the bridge of the Sarek. Full TMP vibes but for the interior, gimme that. Taes's apprehension about a permanent Romulan mission is appreciated - it's subtle but reasonable. Also, I know lots of people write Ekwueme, but 'you demonstrated resiliency, kindness, and a spark of brilliance. We can't ask for much more from our starship captains,' is Peak Starfleet and is definitely a sentiment that will impact how *I* see this character. Ooh, and I am excited by both Flavia's presence AND the questions - Endeavour's dallied a bit with questions of ownership of Romulan artifacts, the implications of studying a shattering culture and government politicising it... great stuff. But still, poor Taes. Forced into a corner and, ultimately, into greatness. Love it!

    September 2, 2022
  • Taes

    Commanding Officer